Buying a carpet is easy. Making an informed decision about what carpet to buy isn't.
There'are many types of carpets and carpet specifications aren't easy to understand. And even if you understand what everything means, it's hard to know whether or not that's a good choice giving your lifestyle and carpet use.
Understanding your carpet specifications is the only way of knowing if your carpet will tolerate the level of traffic you have home and how long it will last.
If you want to know your the level of traffic, we have a calculator you can check out here.
In this post we're going to be talking about Carpet Pile, which is one of the most important Carpet Features you should know about. We'll take a look at the different types of carpet piles (with their pros and cons), how to lift carpet pile and what the best vacuums for carpet are depending on your carpet's pile height.
Let's get started!
Some Carpet Mills will hide or won't easily tell you what a the carpet specifications are. If that's something that you encounter, run away! If they're not willing to tell you, they must have a reason not to. And whatever that reason might be, it's surely good enough not to buy from them.
Carpet Piles are the name given to the carpet's fiber. Most people know that a carpet's fiber can be natural or synthetic. But many people don't know why some carpets seem to be cozier than others. Or why some may appear to be better quality.
That has something to do with Carpet Pile Height, Dentisty and Face-weight. Which are the carpet specifications we're going to be talking about.
Another very important carpet specification is "Carpet Tuft". And not many people know about it! We're not going to talk about it on this post, because it exceeds its purpose. But if you'd like to know more about this 4th specification, check our post on Carpet Tufts.
Carpet Pile Height is how "tall" a carpet's fibers are. This height does not include the carpet backing, just the soft part that's actually showing.
Pile height is not usually found on carpet samples, but you can easily measure it yourself using a tape measure. But don't include the carpet backing!
Pile height can go from 1/16 of an inch to 1 - 1/8 of an inch. So there's a huge difference between them. The shorter fiber carpets are called "Low Pile Carpets" and the longer, "High Pile Carpets". And the ones in the middle are usually refered to as "Medium Pile Carpets". Although some stores and manufacturers only distinguish between low and high pile carpets.
Capet Face-weight is the weight of the carpet's fibers (not including the carpet's backing weight). If it does include the backing it's called Total Carpet Weight. But knowing the Carpet Face-weight is more important than knowing the Total Carpet Weight. You'll see why in a minute.
Carpet Face-weight can start at 20 ounces and go all the way to 100 ounces. Although in residential carpets, face-weight is usually between 35 and 60 ounces.
IMPORTANT! Having a high face-weight value doesn't necessarily mean that it's good quality.
Carpet Pile Dentsity is how many fibers are in a carpet per square inch. And after the types of carpet fibers, it's the most important factor when it comes to deciding a carpet's quality.
Although some mills won't provide you with this information, you can easily calculate it! It's a simple math operation between pile height and face-weight.
What is the Carpet's Pile Height?
What is the Carpet's Face-Weight?
This being said, what most people are worried about when it comes to buying a carpet is the Pile height. So, let's take a look at the 3 types of carpet piles and what they're useful fo.
Best Carpet Pile for durability
Many people are worried about having their carpets last as long as possible. If that's the case, look no further! These are the carpet specifications for the highest durability:
Overall: Carpet Pile Height of 3/4" (or less)
For Stairs: Carpet Pile Height of 1/2" (or less)
High Pile Carpets are those that are between 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch. Although it could be even higher than 3/4 inche, it's uncommon.
- High Pile Carpets are extremely soft! It adds a lot of warmth and coziness to any house.
- It adds the "cushioning effect", which might be very helpful when having kids around.
- They're also good if you have neighbors and want to be as quite as possible because they isolate the sound a lot better.
- These carpets are harder to vacuum (although we do recommend some vacuums that work great on high pile carpets, later on this post.
- They're also not good for people who are very allergic because the longer piles mean that more allergens can get trapped in the fibers.
- It's easier for furniture to leave marks on the carpet because of the weight.
- Cleaning high pile carpets isn't harder (like many people thinkg). But since the fibers are longer you have more carpet to clean.
Medium Pile Carpets are those that are between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch.
It's very hard to determine the pros and cons of medium pile carpets because they sit in between the high and low carpet piles. Depending on whether they're close to the low pile or high pile carpets, they'll behave one way or another.
But they're a good choice overall always.
Low Pile Carpets are those that are under 1/4 inch.
- Low Pile Carpets are usually a lot stronger and tend to hold better than the High Pile Carpets.
- Vacuuming Low Pile Carpets is a lot easier and faster.
- The carpet feels less soft to the touch and less cozy overall than the high pile carpets.
- These carpet's aren't as nice to walk on. That's why some people don't like to put them on bedrooms or living rooms.
Although most people ask for the difference between the high pile and low pile carpets, there are other classifications too.
The second most common is the one that differentiates between the cut and loop pile carpets.
It's the same carpet, but what's different is the way in which the carpet is manufactured. The cut pile's end are cut (as the name implies) and the loop cut aren't. There're also carpets that use a combination of both cut and loop piles, although they aren't as common.
Cut Loop Carpets
These are very common in residentail carpets because they tend to have a softer and denser feel. There are many types of cut carpets available: Saxony, Velver, Frieze, Shag. But they're all very similar at the end of the day.
Loop Pile Carpets
Loop pile carpets offer a tighter construction and that's why they're usually more durable than a cut loop carpet. They're basically used on the high traffic areas of your home.
The bigges con that loop pile carpets have is what happens when you catch loop on furniture (or anything else). It's hard to fix and it's very noticeable.
Now that you know a lot about carpet piles you might be wondering how to take care of your carpet depending on what carpet you might own. Well, most carpets are the same!
You can either call a professional to help you, or you can do it yourself.
Can you can lift your carpet piles by yourself?
Yes, you can. But you have to do it often.
You might not need to spend your money on a professional if you raise your carpet pile often. But if you don't, then a professional is needed.
I do recommend owning a carpet rake because they're super inexpensive and can make a lot of difference (specially if you own a high pile carpet). They also remove a lot of pet hair (in case you own one).
These are the ones we recommend most of the time. You'll notice that one of them is a fur remover and the other one is a carpet groomer (which will help raise your carpet).
Calling a professional is the best option if you haven't taken care of your carpet for a while. They (almost always) use a very specific pile lifting machine that can make very old-looking carpet seem new.
How does it work?
The machine has a vegetable or nylon scuber that spins very fast while it vacuums the dirt and soil that it's released with the scrubing.
The machine looks something similar to this one (and they're all pretty much the same):
Owning one of these is not recommended because you won't use it that often. If you need such a machine, call a professional.
What we do recommend is owning a Carpet Steam Cleaner. I've said it before, but I'll say it again... Owning a Carpet Steam Cleaner is the wisest investment for any carpet owner. Take a look at the Best Carpet Steam Cleaners of 2021.
We already have a great post on the Best Vacuum Cleaners of 2021. We wrote that post after we tested and reviewed the most important vacuums available in the market today.
However, we kep getting questions about what vacuum was best depending on the carpet's pile height, so we decided to add this section.
High pile carpets are tough to vacuum because the vacuum tends to suck up the carpet's fibers. But don't worry! Thankfully many manufacturers realized some time ago that this was a big problem and we now have very good carpet cleaners that do a wonderful job on high pile carpets.
These aren't cheap vacuums (if that's what you're looking for, take a look at the post we just mentioned), but these are simple the ones that work best.
If you're tired of not having your high pile clean or other vacuums simply don't seem to have enough power, these are the vacuums you're looking for:
As we said before, medium pile carpets are somewhere in between the high pile and low pile carpets. Because of that reason we're going to recommend 3 vacuum cleaners that work great on medium pile carpets. Although they also work on other carpets (low or high pile carpets):
Low Pile Carpet Vacuums are not as tough to vacuum as high pile carpets. As a matter of fact they clean in a breeze! They're very resistant to pet hair or dust. These are the ones we recommend the most:
And there you go! We tried to write the best guide on Carpet Piles on the internet and I think we nailed it!
I really hope you liked it! We wrote this post because a reader like you asked us a very interesting question through our Ask an Expert section of the blog. You if you have any question you might need an answer to, let us know there!
I'm Tony and I consider myself a carpet cleaning expert! I've tried the 5 most common professional cleaning methods myself, and I've reviewed thousands of carpet cleaning & installation companies. I'm currently exploring the DIY Cleaning and Installation world. It's not that hard and it's a lot of fun!