Carpets & underlay buying guide

 

Carpet adds a finishing touch to your home by ushering in textural detail, whilst accenting your room with a complementary tone or pattern.

Our range includes a diverse range of colours and styles, pile weights and materials, available in different prices to suit every home. Many of our carpets can be delivered and fitted in less than two weeks, so you can enjoy your new carpet in next to no time. Find out more about our estimating and fitting services (you can book an appointment online for estimating online once you've chosen your carpet) and watch our carpets video.

Your carpet needs careful consideration, as it needs to suit the different requirements of a room. Both practical and decorative, it may be used to add warmth through the rich colour and thick pile, or to be hardwearing and easy to clean. To help you make the right choice, free samples of our carpets are available in our shops, and you can order the most popular ones here

If you want to choose a specific colour palette, our Colour Unlimited service offers a custom-dyed carpet, choosing from a variety of different types of carpet pile to match your interior decor.

We also provide a wealth of underlay designs to suit the needs of your new carpet. From environmentally-sound to noise reducing types, we can advise on what’s best to go with your chosen floor covering.

 

Choosing woven or tufted carpet?

The two main types of carpets sold in the United Kingdom are tufted and woven carpets:

Woven carpet is made using the traditional loomed method, which creates a more premium finish. This carpet is made with all patterns and colours woven in rather than printed on the carpet. A more premium product than tufted carpet, it's made either in pure wool or a blend of wool and manmade fibres, normally 80% wool, 20% nylon. Choose from Axminsters, which tend to be patterned, or Wiltons, which are more likely to be plain or have cut and loop styles.

Tufted carpet is currently the most popular type of carpet, as the manufacturing process makes this a great value choice. It's made by a row of needles punching the pile yarn into a backing cloth. This type of carpet is springy, and comes in a great variety of finishes and colours, in pure wool, wool and manmade fibre blends, or synthetic yarns.

You might also want to consider natural flooring such as jute, sisal or coir; find out more here.

Carpet pile type

Carpets are produced in a variety of surface textures that affect the feel, appearance and performance of the carpet. The location of the carpet needs to be considered when choosing the type of pile, as all are designed for different degrees of wear.

Twist Carpet

Twist

Twist carpet is a cut pile made from twisted fibres, and is the most commonly-used style of tufted carpet. The twisted fibres have a coarse finish that creates a textured surface to the carpet. Twist carpet comes in two styles, either plain or heathered (slightly mottled). Heathered carpet is perfect for busier areas in your home as marks are less likely to show. It's a hardwearing carpet, and so suitable for most areas in your home, including halls, stairs, landings and living room.

 

Loop Carpet

Loop

Loop carpet is made from uncut loops of yarn. This type of carpet is great for busy rooms as the weave bounces back really easily. We don't recommend loop pile carpet though if you have pets, as the loops can get pulled by their claws. 

Velvet Carpet

Velvet

A velvet carpet is a softer and smoother cut pile. A velvet carpet will look great in all rooms, but particularly in formal rooms and bedrooms as it creates a luxurious and rich effect. Patterned carpet is hardwearing and traditionally woven, so is good at retaining its appearance. It will usually have a smooth velvet finish. A stripe design looks great in hallways and on stairs.

Two other popular carpet pile weaves are Saxony and Berber.

Berber twist carpet is made from a random blend of coloured yarns to give a multicoloured, flecked and slightly textured look. It can sometimes have a slightly striped appearance.

Saxony carpet has a deep pile which is popular for bedrooms as it has a sensuous feel and a look of luxury. The long pile may be tricky to clean though and can flatten easily, so it's not recommended for hallways, stairs or main rooms where it's likely to take the heaviest wear.

Natural floor coverings

Natural fibres such as jute, seagrass, coir and sisal are slightly porous and, like wool carpets, can stain, so they do need the kind of care and maintenance any carpet would. You can, of course, make this easier by choosing matting that’s treated to prevent staining.

We recommend that natural matting is unrolled and left to lie flat in the space it will be laid for at least 48 hours. This will allow the natural material to fully settle before fitting and help prevent any wrinkling or buckling afterwards.

Sisal is one of the strongest natural fibres, hardwearing and extremely versatile. With a tactile surface, sisal is available in a choice of muted colours.

Seagrass is naturally textured and stain-resistant, and a good choice in most rooms - though we don’t recommend it for bathrooms or where the floor may get wet. Its smooth surface makes it too slippery for stairs.

Jute is one of the smoothest and softest of all natural floor coverings. Its fine texture means it’s better suited to relaxing rooms rather than those with heavy traffic, so is ideal in a study or bedroom. Jute is more resistant to stains than sisal.

Coir is one of the most durable of natural fibres, made from the strong fibres of coconut husks. Coir has a lovely texture, is affordable and works well in most rooms of the house.

Carpet tiles

Carpet tiles can be laid in all areas of the home, and they’re ideal for awkward-shaped rooms as you buy for the area, not the width of the carpet roll. They’re much easier for you to transport and handle than a carpet roll, and you don’t need underlay.

They’re easy to fit because they can be put down without the need for gluing, and loose-laying also means that individual tiles can be removed for cleaning. They’re guaranteed for 7 years, with 4 collections and over 50 different options 

Pile fibre

The look, feel and quality of a carpet is largely dependent on the type of yarn fibres used to make it. Carpet suffers harsh treatment from shoes, furniture, grit, dirt and vacuum cleaners. The pile must retain its looks and density, and so must be very hardwearing.

Wool

Wool is the best fibre to use in carpet as it's naturally flame-retardant, durable, easy to clean and retains its appearance well. It offers softness and ease of cleaning, doesn't flatten easily and resists abrasion and dirt. It has natural insulation properties which is good for reducing both heat loss and noise. Over 90% of the John Lewis carpet assortment is wool-rich.

There are different qualities of wool. New Zealand wool is considered the best for clarity of colour as it is a whiter wool that takes to dyes better than other wools to produces great clarity of colour whether it be a soft or vibrant shade.. British wool is also strong and good for colour and heathered finishes.

Wool is a sustainable fibre, and it's recommended for use in carpet either in a pure 100% form or in a blend with other fibres with at least 50% wool. However, it's more expensive than man-made fibres, so the most common carpet fibre blend is 80% wool and 20% synthetic fibre mix, as this combines the best properties of both.

Polypropylene
Highly stain resistant, easy to clean, durable and with good colour fastness. It's very good value for money, and so can be a good budget carpet option. However, it flattens easily and doesn't retain its appearance so well.

Polyester
Warm, wears well and is easily cleaned. It's commonly used for Saxony carpet with its long pile, as it has a glossy appearance. It's often used in small quantities in a wool/synthetic blend to help provide tuft definition and reduce fibre shedding.

Nylon
Very strong, wears well and doesn't flatten as easily as polypropylene or polyester. It's highly stain-resistant and easy to clean. However, it doesn't retain its appearance as well as wool, and can soil. The same applies to acrylic, though that's the synthetic most like wool.

Carpet performance & grading

Carpets located in different areas experience different levels of traffic, subsequently receiving different amounts of wear. In a hall, people entering the house walk over the same small area of carpet, leaving grit and dirt from the street, while a spare bedroom carpet gets little use and little contact with outdoor shoes.

Carpets are graded according to durability and consequent suitability for each area of the home; for example, a carpet for an area of heavy wear has a denser, stronger pile which will not flatten easily. Our carpet ranges are designed for different degrees of wear. The pile fibre composition will be a major factor in affecting durability, but there are other variables that affect the quality and performance of your carpet.

All the carpets we stock are tested to ensure they meet our exacting standards, and graded as follows:

1. Very heavy domestic 
The most hardwearing of carpets, ideal for areas of heavy use within the home, or for commercial use - this grade is easy to maintain too. Areas like utility rooms or hallways, especially where muddy boots are involved, will benefit from this grade of carpet

2. Heavy domestic
Hardwearing and ideal for everyday use in living rooms, dining rooms and halls. Most of our carpets are of Grade 2 quality. Darker hues and richer tones are a good choice for very heavy domestic wearing carpets, especially in hallways where relatively small areas receive high levels of footfall.

3. Medium domestic
Most suitable for light traffic areas within the home, such as bedrooms, bathrooms and secondary rooms, where footfall will be less, and bare or slippered feet cause lighter wear and tear.

Why buy underlay?

 

It may not be your most exciting purchase, but we always recommend underlay when fitting new carpet, as it improves the life and durability

Better look and feel
Underlay cushions carpet and stops pile from flattening so it stays looking like new for longer

Insulates and protects
Underlay keeps in heat and reduces noise. It’s also an excellent shock absorber, helping carpets to sit properly and become more durable

Easier cleaning
By protecting a carpet’s pile, underlay makes it easier to clean and more hygienic, helping your vacuum cleaner work more effectively

Glossary

Action bac (also know as lo-bac)
All tufted carpets have a secondary backing which is adhered to the back of the pile fibres to give additional stability and a firm backing to fit the carpet with. Action bac is a synthetic/man made material used as secondary backing for carpets.

Axminster
A type of woven carpet and also a brand name, Axminster carpets are generally, although not exclusively made from wool rich blends and are usually patterned rather than plain. Their popularity has diminished as cheaper tufted carpet quality has improved.

Berber
Berbers are a distinctive, attractive and versatile variety of carpet that adapts well to any room decor. They can be loop or cut pile carpets and typically have a rugged, heathered colour appearance. Generally made from a wool blend, although cheaper manmade fibre versions can be found.

Blends
Refers to the blend of the yarns used in the face pile of the carpet; eg 80% wool / 20% nylon. Different blends have different characteristics and different uses.

Boucle
A generic term, used to describe heavily textured loop pile carpets.

British wool
Term used to identify that Britain is the country of origin for the yarn used. Yarn branded with the British Wool crook mark, must contain at least 50% British wool. British wool is know for its strength, and typically used in heather and berber carpets.

Broadloom tufted
A method of manufacture developed in the 1960s. More efficient and cheaper than woven carpets most modern carpets are made this way.

Count
A number used to identify the weight/thickness of yarn. The higher the number, the finer the yarn.

Gauge
This is a measurement of the number of stitches per inch or per centimetre across the carpet width. The more stitches present, the more dense the carpet is likely to be and this will have benefits in how well the carpet will last and perform.

Heather
An effect created by blending two or different coloured yarns together to create a patterned effect. Can be useful in hiding dirt or camouflaging wear and tear.

Jacquard
An apparatus for a carpet-weaving loom that produces patterns form coloured yarns.

Jute backing
All tufted carpets have a secondary backing which is adhered to the back of the pile fibres to give additional stability and a firm backing to fit the carpet with. Jute is a natural material, traditionally used as secondary backing for carpets.

Loop pile
Where the pile of a tufted carpet is left uncut to form a loop. Loop pile carpets are popular because they offer textural appearance. They tend to feel harder under foot and in some cases are not recommended for use on stairs.

Naturals
This generic term refers to any carpet with a “natural” colour i.e. beiges and pale shades.

Natural fibres
Carpet fibres produced from natural sources. Wool is the main carpet fibre used in the UK.

New Zealand wool
Term used to identify that New Zealand is the country of origin for the yarn used. Yarn branded with the Wools of New Zealand fern mark must contain at least 60% New Zealand wool. New Zealand wool is known for its whiteness, and softness, and is recognised as the finest wool used to make carpets.

Nylon
The generic term is polyamide. Nylon can be used on its own or blended with wool fibres adding to the carpets durability.

Pass tufted
A traditional method of manufacture typically used to produce high quality/custom carpets.

Pattern repeat
The distance from a point in a pattern figure to the same point where it occurs again, measuring lengthwise.

Pile
The term used to describe the face yarn which is visible when the carpet is laid on the floor.

Pile weight
The weight of yarn per square metre of carpet.

Pile height
The term used to describe the length of the pile standing above the backing.

Pile reversal
This term is used to describe a phenomenon which is caused, so many believe, by natural and man made electrical energies which cause the pile of the carpet in certain areas to change direction. Often looks like a watermark. This phenomenon is not a manufacturing fault.

Polyamide
See nylon

Polypropylene
Generally used in low priced carpets this man made fibre represents good value for money and is inherently stain resistant. Not as durable as other fibres.

Polyester
Polyester is a manmade fibre typically used for deep pile saxonies where luxury is looked for at a modest price. Not as durable as wool or nylon.

Pom
A tight bundle of carpet fibres usually used to show a colour before the carpet has been made.

Ply
The number of strands of either twisted or otherwise cohesively entwined, intermingled or entangled.

Riser

The upright part of a step between two stair treads.

Saxony
A style of carpet usually of longer pile height than the usual twist. Ideal for any area where softness and luxury underfoot is required.

Seams
The term used to describe the joining of two carpet widths (or lengths) together to fit very large rooms. Modern seaming methods are strong and dependable.

Shag pile
A style of carpet usually of longer pile height than the saxony. Popular in the 1960’s this style has recently come back into fashion. The longer pile shags need to be combed and specific guidance should be obtained for their care and maintenance.

Shedding
This term describes how some carpets will naturally shed some fibres in the early stages of life. This is quite normal and you should not be unduly concerned.

Stain protection
A carpet treatment applied during manufacturing which helps protect the surface fibres from soiling and spillages. Scotchgard and Guardsman are branded on stain protection.

Stitch rate
Along with “gauge” this is used to calculate the density of a carpet and is not normally quoted in the retail shop. Ask your retailer to explain this term and how it affects your chosen carpet.

Twist pile
The most popular style of carpet in the UK today usually denoted by its relatively short pile length - can be very durable in the right construction.

Underlay
The pad made from a variety of materials but usually rubber or felt, which helps cushion the carpet against wear. A good underlay will help prolong the life of your carpet.

Velvet or velour pile
Describes the appearance of a carpet. Velvet carpets are super-soft so generally for luxury use and not suitable for every room or heavy wear.

Warp
In woven carpet, yarns running lengthwise.

Wall to wall carpet
A carpet that covers the complete surface of a floor in a room. Normally the carpets are 4 or 5 m wide.

Weft
In woven carpet, yarns running crosswise between warp yarns.

Weight
Often used to compare the merits of different qualities, the pile weight of a carpet is usually measured in grams per square metre. Ensure you are comparing figures of the same type if using this as a comparison.

Whipping
A type of finish to the edge of a carpet. Typically used on hall or stair runners, or on rugs.

Woven
Axminster and Wilton carpets are woven types. Typically patterned and multi-coloured, they're usually hardwearing but more expensive than equivalent good quality tufted carpets.

80/20
The most popular yarn construction used today. The 80% is usually wool and the 20% usually a synthetic yarn added to either improve the characteristics of the wool or to bulk it out.