Carpet Construction | carpet construction basics

Carpet Construction

You probably care a lot more about how a carpet looks and feels than how it's made. But taking a moment to learn a little something about carpet construction can help you make a wiser decision about your carpet purchase, including the fact that looks can be deceiving...

Carpet construction consists of the following components:

  • Fibers
  • Backing
  • Latex used to hold backings together
  • Density of pile
  • Pile height
  • Twist level of fiber
  • Shearing or finishing
  • Stain resistant treatments
  • Dye (color)

There are several different fibers used in making carpet today, including: Wool, Nylon, Olefin, Polyester (P.E.T.), and Triexta. Some of the fibers include recycled products such as recycled plastic/polyester bottles or recycled carpeting. Each type of fiber has its own unique performance features, styling, and cost characteristics.

Backings & Latex
Most modern carpet is made using a method called tufting — a process like embroidery in which pile yarns are inserted into a backing material. This mechanized process makes production fast and more affordable. Imagine a sewing machine with 1,400 needles. The distance between the needles (the "gauge rate") determines the density of the carpet. Residential carpet is typically 3/16 and 3/8 gauge (measured in needles per inch across the width).

Pile height is measured from the surface of the backing to the top of the tufted yarn. The higher the number, the lower the expected performance. Like golf scores, a smaller number is better because a lower pile height provides a higher density construction, which equals better performance.

The number of tufts along the carpet length is called "stitch rate". Product performance, based on density, is measured by a combination of stitch rate, gauge rate and yarn pile height.

The backing you see when turning carpet over is a secondary backing used to "sandwich" the fiber between the primary and secondary backings using latex glue. Most backings are a web of plastic, rubber, urethane or jute. Jute is the best, but expensive in the United States.

Density Pile
Like a fine towel or bed sheet, the more fibers per inch, the better the carpet should perform. Dense piled carpets offer outstanding performance and longer-term durability because the pile resists crushing and matting. A simple test: press your finger into the carpet pile while touching the backing. The harder it is to touch the backing, the denser the carpet is.

Pile Height
Pile height is measured by how high carpet fibers stand above the primary backing. The taller the fibers stand, the less the carpet will perform over time. Never buy carpet based on weight, as "face weight" (the amount of fiber on the surface expressed in ounces per square yard) can be confused with "total weight," which combines face weight plus the weight of the two backings and latex.

Twist Level
Typically, carpet owners will tire of a carpet's color or texture long before the carpet actually requires replacement. Twist level is measured in turns per inch. Frieze carpet styles might have 7 or 9 turns per inch, while saxonies may have only 3 or 4 turns per inch.

Though twist level is rarely reviewed prior to purchase, it can have a big impact on performance. A carpet with a higher twist level has the tendency to hold its original appearance longer than its lower twisted counterparts. Lower twisted carpets can unwind at the yarn tips, resulting in a "trafficked" appearance.

Shearing or Finishing
If carpet fiber is not crimped, as in a frieze, a textured plush, a textured Saxony or a shag, it may have its tips sheared, resulting in a very dense velvety construction, a less dense plush construction, or an even less dense Saxony construction.

Stain Resistant Treatments
Stain resistance treatments are added to most modern carpets, but the reality is that light colors will always show soil. Most treatments wear off in 5 to 7 years, so it's important to use common sense. Both Triexta and solution-dyed nylon remain stain resistant.

There are two classifications of dyeing residential carpets: pre-dyed yarns (dyed before tufting) and post dyed yarns (dyed after the tufting is stitched). There are numerous methods of pre-dye and post dye — all can affect carpet performance and stain resistance. Additional types of dyeing include skein, stock dyeing, yarn dyeing, space dyeing, extrusion dyeing, beck dyeing, continuous dyeing and print dyeing.

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Overall Rating: 4.1 stars - 12 reviews

Date: October 30, 2016
Page Rating: (4.0/5)
I found the shearing and Dye information confusing. not sure what is better and why.
Date: April 28, 2016
Page Rating: (1.0/5)
Poor information on fiber, what is + &- on each fiber, what is best location for each fiber, how do they wear ect. All you said is they differ, How do they differ? Your information is good for shit, there is no information on any fiber. How do they compare in price and quality, do they give off odor?
Date: January 16, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Very informative. Thank you.
Date: September 8, 2015
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Thank you
Date: July 11, 2015
Page Rating: (2.5/5)
There are many spots where you say the item can have a big impact, but then fail to go into any detail. I cannot find a good source that really goes into detail on these topics.
Date: September 10, 2014
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Very, very helpful.
Date: August 31, 2014
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Wish I would have read this before I bought out carpet
Date: August 30, 2013
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Great stuff. I only hope the store people can relate.
Date: July 10, 2013
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Very informative and concise
Date: March 12, 2013
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Very informative & easy to digest! Thanks.

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