Carpets and 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 assortment 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 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 one of seven 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 friendly to noise reducing designs, we can advise on what’s best.

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.

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.

carpet construction twist

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 hard wearing carpet, and suitable for most areas in your home, including halls, stairs, landings and main room.

carpet construction loop

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.

carpet construction velvet

Velvet

A velvet carpet is a softer and smoother cut pile. It's magnificent throughout the home, or a luxury for the bedroom. A velvet carpet will look great in all rooms, but particularly in formal rooms and bedrooms as it creates an effect that looks rich and indulgent. 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 is 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 is more difficult 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.

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
Recognised as 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.

It's a sustainable fibre, and it's recommended that wool should be used for 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, therefore little contact with outdoor shoes.

Carpets are graded according to durability and therefore 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?

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 work more effectively

Choosing the right underlay

There are a number of different types of underlay designs and materials that can cater the needs of your new flooring:

Sponge
This underlay is manufactured from a high performance synthetic rubber that has the characteristics of natural rubber, but it’s odourless and has greater stability. Sponge underlay gives a soft luxurious feel underfoot, but furniture indentation marks can be deeper compared to a firmer crumb rubber. Sponge underlay does arrive in flat form, such as John Lewis Green Sponge and John Lewis Red Supreme made from denser rubber and provide an even higher level of stability and support.

Flats
This underlay is made from denser rubber to provide an even higher level of stability and support. This underlay is designed especially for use with laminate and wood floors. It has a vapour barrier to protect flooring from any moisture from the floor. Timbermate Excel is a flat sponge, acoustic underlay specifically designed to reduce in-room noise.

Crumb
This underlay is our most popular and is produced in the UK using recycled car tyres into granulated rubber particles. These are bonded together to create a firm underlay with a high rubber content, offering outstanding durability in high traffic areas. Its density is also ideal for rooms with heavy furniture as it’s highly resistant to indentation marks. Rubber crumb is the most environmentally-friendly underlay as it’s the only type that is made from post-consumer waste, with over 80% of the product containing recycled content.

Crumb felt
This underlay features a felt layer on top of the crumb rubber for use with woven carpets to help minimise rucking.

John Lewis Multilux
A felt and rubber combination, bottom rubber layer is made from 80% recycled rubber crumb, provides excellent carpet protection and comfort underfoot. This underlay has 100% recovery, making it suited well to dining rooms, staircases and living rooms.

Recycled felt
This underlay is crafted entirely from discarded off-cuts collected by fitters and carpet mills, making it a great choice for the environmentally conscious. Made out of at least 50% wool, it has a thickness of 10.5mm, giving comfort underfoot and a great tog rating to keep in the warmth. It’s particularly great for bedrooms or rooms with cold concrete flooring or draughty floorboards.

‘Durafit’
This underlay is the brand name of a system in which the underlay is first stuck to the floor where the carpet is stuck to the underlay. It helps to prevent any movement of the carpet and so is ideal for use with natural fibre carpets such as sisals. The adhesive used on the floor allows the carpet and underlay to be removed easily and without damage.

Paper felt
This underlay is a type of paper that forms a barrier against dirt and draughts for your carpet. It should be used beneath underlay on wooden floors, and under foam backed carpet it’s essential to prevent the carpet backing sticking to the floor.

Recycled felt and rubber
This underlay is made by using cut offs of high wool content carpets collected by fitters so discarded pieces are reused to eliminate wastage. A rubber base from recycled car tyres is attached to give the best of both worlds, with the underfoot comfort of the woolly felt and the firm support of the rubber.

  Best Better Good Reason
Living room Recycled felt and rubber crumb Green Sponge Black Waffle Excellent combination of comfort underfoot. High tog rating keeps the room warm. Durability of the felt aids recovery under heavy items of furniture.
Dining room Blue Crumb Recycled felt and rubber crumb Multilux Good recovery under heavy furniture with good insulation for a room that is used less often.
Master bedroom Red Supreme Green Sponge Recycled felt and rubber crumb Great underfoot comfort with excellent insulation.
Staircase & landing Recycled felt and rubber crumb Green Sponge Multilux High tog rating and thick felt layer gives comfort underfoot and keeps the bedroom warm.
Hallway Timbermate Excel N/A N/A The assumption is that wood or laminate floor has been used in the hallway and so noise reduction and a moisture barrier are usually the primary requirement.
Conservatory Recycled felt and rubber crumb Green Sponge Black Waffle Ideal combination of comfort underfoot and durability for heavy furniture typical of a conservatory.
Spare bedroom Recycled felt underlay N/A N/A A slightly more economic version that has a tog rating to give warmth and comfort underfoot.

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, traditional 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 or wilton carpets are woven types. Typically patterned and multi-coloured they are usually hard wearing 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.