Mainline Floors is an american carpet company. We are not your home depot carpet center, but we hope to be your hometown carpet provider of fine carpets and wall to wall carpeting. For years I worked at empire carpet, other flooring centers, and manufacturers while dreaming of opening my own shop.
I have found that educating the consumer is the best practice, and I am happy to do so to put my textile engineering degree to good use.
What is a carpet par rating?
Most of us care more about the look and feel of carpet than how it’s made. However, taking a moment to learn a little bit about carpet construction can help you make a better decision on your carpet purchase. Let’s look at some basic elements involved in carpet construction to asses a carpet par rating.
Carpet construction: the basic elements:
- Dye (color)
- Tufting & Guage
- Density of pile
- Pile height
- Twist level of fiber
- Backing & Latex
- Shearing or finishing
- Stain resistant treatments
Fibers are the basic “building blocks” of textiles, or in this case carpet. There are several different fibers widely used to make carpet today. There are natural and synthetic fibers that are used in production, however the synthetics predominately own the market share because they are highly engineered to function for specific end-uses in carpet. Typical fibers used today are: Wool, Nylon, Olefin, Polyester (P.E.T.), and Triexta. Some fibers come from recycled products such as polyester bottles or recycled carpeting. Again, each type of fiber (or mixture of fibers) has its own unique performance feature that contribute to style, performance, and cost.
In the carpet industry, there are predominately two technologies used for dyeing residential carpets. First, the use of pre-dyed yarns (dyed before the tufting process) and, secondly, the use of post dyed yarns (dyed after the tufting process). There are numerous methods of “pre” and post dyeing performed across the textile industry. Each method can affect a carpet’s performance and stain resistance. Additional types of dyeing include skein dyeing, stock dyeing, yarn dyeing, space dyeing, extrusion dyeing, beck dyeing, continuous dyeing and print dyeing.
Most carpet produced today for the mass market is made using a method called tufting. The process is somewhat similar to embroidery in which pile yarns are inserted “or, tufted” into a backing material. This process has been used for many years and has been highly engineered to make production incredibly fast and more affordable.
The distance between the needles used for tufting (referred to as the “gauge rate“) determines the density of the carpet. Residential carpet is typically 3/16 and 3/8 gauge (measured in needles per inch across the width).
“Picks per inch, anyone?”
Like your fine dress shirt or bed sheet, the more fibers per inch, the better a carpet will perform. Dense piled carpets offer outstanding performance and long-term durability because the pile resists crushing and matting. A simple test: press your finger into the carpet pile while touching the backing. The harder it is to touch the backing, the denser the carpet is.
Pile Height (Nap)
Pile height (also referred to as “nap height“) is measured from the surface of the backing to the top of the tufted yarn. Similar to a golf score, a smaller number is best because a lower pile height in carpet provides a higher density construction. And, this equates to better overall performance. The taller the fibers stand above the backing, the less the carpet will perform over time. Remember, the higher the number, the lower the expected performance.
The number of tufts along the carpet length is called “stitch rate”.
Carpet par performance, based on density, is measured by a combination of stitch rate, gauge rate and yarn pile height.
Never buy carpet based on weight, as “face weight” (the amount of fiber on the surface expressed in ounces per square yard) can be confused with “total weight,” which combines face weight plus the weight of the two backings and latex.
Backings & Latex
The backing you see when turning carpet over is a secondary backing used to “sandwich and enclose” the fiber and yarn between the primary and secondary backings using latex glue (a high strength enriched polymer). Most backings are a web or simple weave of either plastic, rubber, urethane or jute. Jute is the most durable performer, but has a slightly higher cost.
Twist level is measured in turns per inch (“TPI”) of a yarn. Though twist level is rarely reviewed prior to purchase, it can have a big impact on performance. A carpet with a higher twist level has the tendency to hold its original appearance longer than its lower twisted counterparts. Lower twisted carpets can unwind at the yarn tips, resulting in a “trafficked” appearance.
Frieze carpet styles might have 7 or 9 turns per inch, while a Saxony may have only 3 or 4 turns per inch.
Shearing or Finishing (Crimping)
If a carpet fiber is not crimped, as it is in a frieze, a textured plush, or a textured Saxony or the common 1970’s term, “shag”, it may have its tips sheared, resulting in a very dense velvety construction.
Stain Resistant Treatments
Stain resistance treatments are added to most carpets today, but the reality is that light colors will always show soil. Most treatments eventually wear off and this has to do with traffic and cleaning, so it’s important to use common sense.
Typically, carpet owners will tire of a carpet’s color or texture long before the carpet actually requires replacement. And there you have it, seven years of college down the drain.