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Q: What are the various types of carpet available?

A: There are generally three types of tufted carpet construction: cut pile, loop pile, and cut and loop pile. In a cut pile style, the carpet loops have been cut to create individual tips. Examples of this style include velvets and textured saxonies. In a loop pile style, the carpet loops are not cut or sheared. Instead, the intact loops form the surface of the carpet. Examples include multi-level loops and berbers. In a cut and loop pile style, as the name suggests, you will see a combination of the previous two styles. This type of carpet can range from very striking patterns to subtle tracery designs. Advantages of each: Cut pile styles come in a tremendous variety, making them suitable for virtually any area of the house; some of the textured types do well at minimizing footprints. Loop pile carpets are very durable, making them well-suited for high-traffic areas. Cut and loop styles come in multi-colorations and random patterns and have excellent soil-hiding properties.

When selecting a cut pile carpet, you may want to look at the twist, which refers to the number of times the fiber is twisted together in each individual carpet yarn. The tighter the twist, the more durable the carpet will be. For loop pile styles, the measure of quality is the tuft bind, which refers to the relative strength of the attachment of yarn loops to the carpet backing. Higher quality carpets have a denser tuft bind.

Another factor to consider is type of fiber. Most residential carpet is made from four types of fibers or blends of those fibers: nylon, polyester, polypropylene or wool. Nylon is the most common fiber because of its durability, resiliency and soil resistance. Polyester is a soft fiber that provides great color clarity; it is stain- and fade-resistant and less expensive than nylon. Polypropylene, also known as olefin, is gaining in popularity due to its stain-, fade- and moisture-resistance as well as its low cost. Wool, the original carpet fiber, is more expensive and less stain-resistant than the newer synthetics. Yet, it is still sought-after because of its luxury and beauty.

Q: I have three kids, two dogs and one cat, so obviously I’m concerned about stain protection. How can I be sure my carpet will perform well in that area?

A: Many carpets today come with superior stain protection, soil protection and static resistance. Most homeowners clean their carpets about once a year. So, in the interim, you want the carpet to perform as well as possible in these three areas. While no carpet is completely protected, today’s products are better than ever. Check the labels on the carpet samples and ask your dealer how the carpet you’ve chosen will perform overall. Also, be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions when cleaning any stains that find their way onto your carpet via the three kids, two dogs and one cat. Remember: Any carpet will take a beating from children, pets, spills and day-to-day foot traffic. But a good carpet can withstand the abuse and typically outlast many other household items.

Q: What do I do when the inevitable spills and stains do happen?

A: Your course of action depends upon the type of stain and the type of carpet you purchased. Manufacturers have their own specific instructions, and it is best to follow those. However, a typical set of procedures will provide the following general guidelines.

First of all, a few general tips: Remove stains as quickly as possible to ensure optimum success. Absorb wet spills by blotting-never rubbing or scrubbing-repeatedly with white paper or cloth towels. Work from the outer edge into the center of the stain to avoid spreading. Also rinse thoroughly with soap and water after applying any cleaner to your carpet. Avoid using any harsh chemicals that may permanently damage your carpet.

For water-soluble stains, such as alcoholic beverages, milk, mustard, greasy food or latex paint: Absorb as much of the stain as possible with white towels. If any of the stain remains, spray a solution of clear, mild liquid detergent and water onto the stain (use one-quarter teaspoon of detergent to 32 ounces of water). For tougher stains, such as those caused by urine or coffee, use a solution of one part white vinegar and one part water before applying the detergent. For dried blood or wine, use a household solution of one tablespoon ammonia to one cup of water (except in the case of wool or wool-blend carpet) prior to the detergent. In all cases, rinse with clean water to remove the detergent residue.

For oil-based stains, such as crayon, ink, oil-based paint or auto grease: Absorb as much as possible with white towels. Using protective gloves, apply an oil and grease spot remover for carpets to a paper towel and continue to blot. Do not pour or spray this product directly on the carpet, since it could cause damage. Repeat as necessary. Follow with the steps for water-soluble stains to completely remove the stain.

For such stains as chewing gum and candle wax: Freeze the stain with ice or a commercially available product in an aeresol can. Shatter the ice with a blunt object and vacuum immediately. Follow this procedure with the oil and grease spot remover.

Many difficult stains – such as asphalt, coffee, grease, ink and urine – may require professional cleaning.

Q: Where should I go to purchase floor covering?

A: Always buy from a reputable dealer. If in doubt, contact the Better Business Bureau. Independent dealers are a good bet. They usually have a wide selection of custom goods at their disposal, plus better-grade carpet pads and qualified installers. Many also have decorators who will come into your home to help coordinate the carpet with the rest of the decor. Independent dealers also have the product knowledge to help you match the right carpet to your particular needs.

If you do check out the prices at a discount store, be sure to compare apples with apples. Many of these operations promise low, low prices but don’t always include the costs of installation, pad or tack strips in the cost. Also compare the quality of the the product you’re considering, including the pad.

Q: I’ve read a lot about indoor air quality. Does carpet contribute to “indoor pollution”?

A: According to the Carpet and Rug Institute, new carpet – like a new car – can have an odor for a short period of time after installation, yet it does not contribute to indoor air pollution. New carpet can emit low levels of chemicals, but they are extremely small when compared to other products used indoors. The vast majority of consumers are not affected by carpet odors or carpet chemicals. However, CRI recommends ventilating newly carpeted areas by opening up the windows and doors to let fresh air in. Also consider using fans and air conditioning for ventilation.

Q: What are some of the trends in carpets and rugs?

A: Current trends can be summed up with three words: pattern, color and texture. Today’s carpets and rugs come in a wide range of options, from rich cut piles and patterned berbers to fabric-inspired braids, that work well with today’s favorite looks. Berbers are especially popular, since they can be kept virtually footprint-free and are easy to care for. This carpet is suitable wherever a casual look is desired.

Area rugs, meanwhile, feature a blending of fabrics to create interesting styles. For instance, braided rugs today employ a variety of different fabrics-from wools to cottons to blends. They come in patterns and colors to coordinate with any decor.

Check with your local independent floor covering dealer for the best selection and latest trends.

Q: What are my choices in hard-surface flooring?

A: The choices in resilient flooring are greater than ever. Many times, resilient flooring reproduces Mother Nature with deeply veined marble, granite and stone looks, “plank-wood” flooring and other natural-appearing styles.

Resilient sheet flooring with inlaid color offers a handcrafted look of extraordinary depth and richness. The designs are made from millions of tiny color granules laid into hand-cut stencils, which create the pattern color by color, shade by shade. The entire structure is fused into a solid sheet under intense heat and pressure. These floors are scuff-, damage- and indentation-resistant. Designs today clearly show a combination of objects, prints, colors and textures that reflect a mingling of cultures from around the world.

Wood flooring also is gaining as a popular choice, as people strive to bring the beauty of nature inside their homes. Wood entryways and family rooms add tremendous drama and open-ness to a home. Add a dramatic area rug as an accent, and you have a classic, but timeless look.

Q: Where does floor covering belong in the decorating process?

A: Many people select their floor covering first and then coordinate other products with that selection. The reason: It covers such a large expanse of the room and draws the eye. Frequently, the carpet is done in a neutral color that will work with a variety of paint colors, wallcovering patterns and furnishing styles. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Bolder use of pattern on the floor can set the tone for a room and help set your overall decorating direction. Independent decorating centers have a full range of products-not only flooring, but also paint, wallcoverings and window treatments. With their help and guidance, you can put together a complete look for your room or home that coordinates from floor to ceiling.

Q: How long can I expect my floor covering to last?

A: That depends on many factors, including the makeup of your household and how much foot traffic traverses across a particular room. The average resilient floor covering is down anywhere from 10 to 15 years, industry experts say. Today’s vinyl flooring is very durable and easy to maintain. In many cases, the likelihood is that the homeowner will want to change the flooring for decorating purposes rather than because it has worn out. Carpet, meanwhile, is usually kept in a home for seven to 10 years, but many variables exist-not the least of which is the quality of the carpet you choose. Ask your floor covering dealer about longevity expectations and warranties whenever you buy floor covering.