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Carpet Construction & Durability

Carpet durability depends on several factors, as a general rule the most important factors are fiber type, amount of twist on the yarn, pile weight relative to stitch rate and gauge which determines density. Judging durability based on any one factor alone can be misleading. Even a superior fiber like nylon will perform poorly if it lacks good twist and appropriate density. Other factors that contribute more to aesthetics than durability are color, softness, luster of the the yarn, and overall texture of the carpet. The appropriate pad and good maintenance will always increase the life of any carpet.

Carpets that perform well in a residential setting can be found in many different styles and construction types. Therefore, a good starting point in carpet selection is simply determining the style you like, then you can look at other factors that contribute to quality and durability.

Fiber Types:

Nylon
is an ideal fiber for carpet.  It is strong, has good resiliency, and is available in "soft to the touch" fibers. Topical stain treatments are often applied to nylon to increase stain resistance. Nylon is a good choice for all style types and is available in both staple and continuous filaments.
Triexta no longer called PTT polyester, is reported to have the resilience of nylon, greater stain resistance, is more color fast and is available in very "soft to the touch" fibers. Another ideal fiber for residential carpets. Triexta is always continuous filament.
PET Polyester
is generally less expensive than nylon and can be made from reclaimed plastic bottles. PET polyester is considered to be less resilient than nylon but more stain resistant. Is available in both staple or continuous filaments and in "soft to the touch" fibers.
Polypropylene sometimes called Olefin, is often used in "indoor/outdoor" carpets and most often in a looped pile construction.  Polypropylene is more resistant to stains than nylon, generates lower levels of static, is usually a continuous filament fiber, but has less resilience than nylon and other fibers used in manufacturing carpet. 
Wool is a natural fiber and therefore is not extruded in continuous filaments. The yarns are made by spinning short lengths of wool together to make the yarn, often referred to as spun or staple fibers. For this reason wool carpets will shed and sometimes pill. Wool is easily stained and holds protein stains such as blood and urine. Wool is also susceptible to mold and mildew, can be attacked by carpet beetles and moths and fades in direct sunlight.

Yarn Twist:
Yarn twist, particularly in cut-pile carpet is important to performance.  Generally speaking, a carpets appearance will deteriorate as un-twisting of the yarns occur. Therefore, yarns with higher twist rates (a tighter twist) will retain their original appearance longer. Heat setting of the yarn also helps in retaining twist and appearance. Today, almost all yarns used in cut-pile carpets are continuous heat set yarns.

Density:
In carpet, density refers to a numeric representation of how tall the yarns are (pile height), relative to stitch rate, gauge and pile weight per sq yard. This number may be more meaningful to commercial carpet buyers then residential end users because many popular residential styles are "shaggy" in appearance and are created by using taller yarns, tufted further apart and therefore have lower density ratings. A higher density number does not mean heavier carpet, the highest density carpets are often commercial carpets that are short, tight, firm and weigh less than most residential carpets. In the past higher density ratings indicated firmer or harder feeling carpet but with the introduction of soft yarns this is no longer always true.

Pile Weight:
The amount of yard used to make the carpet, measured in ounces per square yard. Pile weight certainly is a factor in calculating the density of a carpet, and does have a bearing on durability, but judging by weight alone does not address other major factors for durability such as, yarn twist, fiber type, and texture. Comparing carpet based on weight alone can be misleading. While a heavy carpet may feel thick and rich, if it has poor twist and fiber type, it will not perform well.

Carpet Warranties
The length or duration of the carpet warranty is not a direct indicator of durability or performance. Over the past several years the length of carpet warranties has increased significantly while construction of carpet has remained basically the same. As warrantees increase in length, so do the limitations, requirements, and conditions for maintaining the coverage. While the warranty is often an important factor in the purchasing decision, it is best to focus on construction characteristics for judgments in durability

Constructions Types 
Cut Pile Plush or Saxony Plush or Textured Cut Pile.  (picture)
Terminology keeps changing. Today any carpet with less texture than a frieze or twist carpet are generically termed Textured Cut Pile carpets. A cut pile carpet with a smooth, and lustrous finish (surface) may be called a Plush or Saxony Plush and if the carpet is also dense and lustrous, it may be called a Velvet. These terms are used less often today but are still useful. This type of carpet will show more footprints, vacuum tracks, and shading due to the uniform finish.
Twist - Heavily Textured   (picture)
Usually indicates more crimping or bending in the yarns resulting in much more texture than a Cut Pile Plush. Depending on how tall the yarns are and how close the yarns are tufted together, the appearance can vary from a shaggy look to a more dense but still textured appearance. In general, carpets with more texture show less foot printing, shading, and vacuum tracking than plush or saxony plush. 
Loop Pile Carpet    (picture)
When used in residential applications, loop pile carpets are often called Berber carpet. The loops can be of equal height (level loop) or multi-level.  Multi-level loops can be tufted to form patterns and flecks of color may also be incorporated. Since there are no cut yarn tips to untwist and tangle, loop pile carpets are considered more resistant to abrasive wear. Unlike cut pile carpets, loop carpets, if snagged can run as one loop is connected to the the next. 
Frieze   (picture)
Originally the term frieze indicated a cut pile carpet that derived it's texture (bent or curly yarns) from extreme twisting of the yarns. Today any carpet that has an above average twist rate and looks textured is likely to be called a frieze, even if the texture is derived from mechanically crimping or bending the yarns. These carpets show less shading and foot printing compared to plush cut pile carpets. Frieze carpets offer excellent durability and ease of maintenance.
Two Yarn Size Textured with Fleck   (picture)
Sometimes called a Cut Pile Berber Fleck even though it is not a Berber, which are looped pile carpets. Possibly called this because it has flecks similar to the original looped Berber carpets. It is a cut pile construction using two yarn sizes, and often has flecks of darker colors creating a casual textured look. Depending on how tall the yarns are and how close the yarns are tufted together, the appearance can vary from a shaggy look to a more dense appearance.
Cut & Loop or Cut & UnCut to create a sculptured carpet  (picture)
Yarns are tufted into large islands of taller cut yarns and lower loops to form a sculptured pattern. Usually informal look. 
Cut & Loop or Cut & UnCut to create a patterned graphic carpet  (picture)
Yarns are tufted in repeating, often geometric patterns. generally a formal look.

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