By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon

If you are ready for a new look but not ready for a major project, flooring is one of the easiest and least invasive ways to renovate any room. Flooring comes in all shapes and sizes — from carpet to tile to bamboo to cork — and each choice brings a range of design possibilities. This week we’ll focus on just one of your options: carpet.

Carpet is one of the most commonly used flooring materials and has many virtues, including comfort, versatility, durability and insulating properties. The first thing to consider when choosing carpet is fiber. There are four types of carpet fiber: wool, nylon, polyester and olefin. Wool is the only natural fiber used for carpet, which means it can cause allergic reactions in some people. It naturally resists soiling and stands up well to foot traffic. The luxuriant feel of wool is prized by homeowners, and is the most expensive carpet at up to $80 per square yard.

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Carpet is an easy way to update a room. It is available in numerous colors, styles and patterns, giving homeowners a wide range of design possibilities. Plus, it’s warmer than tile and quieter than wood.

By contrast, nylon is $12 to $24 per square yard, but the price has been volatile lately because of its dependance on the price of petroleum. Nylon is the most common fiber, accounting for 90 percent of carpet sold in the United States. Nylon is tough and stain resistant and stands up to heavy traffic and regular cleaning, making it a good choice for stairs, halls and playrooms. The finer the fiber, the softer nylon carpet will feel.

Polyester is the least expensive fiber. Priced as low as $6 per square yard, it has had problems with matting and stiff texture. Manufacturers have addressed these problems, and polyester carpet has improved significantly. Some polyester carpets are produced from recycled materials, such as plastic bottles, which appeals to the environmentally conscious.

Finally, olefin fibers are made of polypropylene. These carpets are not very soft, but they are tough and work well for high-traffic areas. Olefin carpets range from $8 to $12 per square yard. You may also see combinations of fibers, such as olefin and nylon which result in carpet with more softness and greater durability.

Some other carpet terms you’ll want to know include the pile (the height of the fibers), density (the number of fibers per square inch), and texture (the way the fibers are looped, twisted or cut). Cut pile construction indicates the carpet yarn is stitched through a webbed backing then sheared across the top. Loop pile carpet has the yarn stitched through the back with the loops left intact. The loops can be level or varied in height, and some carpets mix both loops and cut pile for a more sculpted look.

Carpet comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns to suit any design style. Patterns impact design, and they can also hide dirt and wear. Darker shades make a room feel more intimate, but show more lint. Lighter colors show more dirt but can brighten up a space and make it seem larger.

Finally, a pad is required under all wall-to-wall carpet. A good pad can make a huge difference in the feel and wear of the carpet. You know the feeling of sinking into carpet — that’s a plush pad. Carpet pads come in man-made materials such as polyurethane foam and recycled bonded foam or natural materials like felt, animal hair and jute. When choosing carpet, make sure to clarify if the pad is included in the price quote. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

Learn facts about carpet before purchasing