Friday, June 26, 2015

Thrifty Thinking: How to Choose a High-Quality Rug for Any Budget

By Shelley Little for The Home Depot

As a self-declared design addict, my home is in constant flux. I’m always trying a new paint color, sewing curtains and moving my furniture around. Through this constant motion, I’ve made plenty of mistakes and become a student of the “decorating do’s and don’ts.”

I experienced a particularly educating ‘aha’ moment when I went searching for a new area rug for my living room. Longevity wasn’t on my mind at the time—I just wanted a pretty rug that accented the room. When faced with a showroom of rugs, I discovered I had a lot to learn.

In order to avoid a costly mistake, I had to learn a few things about rug buying. Hopefully this informational rug-buying guide can save you a lot of wasted time, money and frustration.

Not All Rugs Are Created Equal
There are a lot of hidden factors that affect rug quality that cannot be seen with an initial glance. You have to know what to look for. All of these hidden factors combine to result in a rug that either lasts a lifetime, or one whose fibers flop after a few months of use.

How to Choose a Material
What is best for your home—wool, nylon, sisal, silk, polyester? First, consider the manner in which the rug will be used. Will it cover 200 square feet of a heavy-traffic living room, or will it be used as an accent in a rarely used guest bedroom or sitting room? Here is a break down of natural fibers versus synthetic, and where they work best:

Natural rug fibers
Wool, cotton, silk, and sisal are all common natural rug fibers. All of these natural fibers are eco-friendly, but usually cost more than their synthetic counterparts.

·      Wool is a resilient fiber that readily bounces back after compression. My first lesson after buying a wool area rug was its tendency to shed, but this will minimize over time. Wool is not very stain resistant and will readily absorb spills, but it is highly soil resistant, meaning it will resist the oily residues of bare feet.
·      Cotton readily accepts dyes, resulting in a brightly colored, vibrant rug. This absorption quality is bad news for spills, though. And while cotton is soft underfoot, its resilience to wear and tear is lower than most fibers.
·      Silk is a luxurious fiber that absorbs rich hues and comes with a high price point. Its strength and resiliency are highly rated.
·      Sisal is one of the strongest natural fibers, but its coarse qualities are tough to walk on, and its high absorbency is also bad news for spills.

Due to their absorbent qualities and higher price tags, natural fiber rugs are best for rooms where spills are unlikely, such as formal sitting rooms or bedrooms. They also work well as accent pieces—perhaps as an area rug placed at the base of a grand fireplace or the foot of a bed.

If you opt to use one of these natural rugs in an expansive, high-traffic room, then seek out a professional cleaner to deal with serious spills, or consider buying a wool blend that combines the stain resistance of synthetics and durability of wool.

Formal Sitting Room. Source: Alexander James Interiors

Synthetic rug fibers
Nylon, polyester and olefin are the three most common synthetic rug fibers. The cost and durability of these synthetic fibers make them good choices for high-traffic rooms.

·      Nylon is a strong, resilient fiber that stands up to heavy use and can easily be revived with a steam clean. It is, however, very absorbent, so it is best to pretreat it to resist stains.
·      Polyester is less expensive, more lustrous, and more stain-resistant (due to its closed-cell fibers) than nylon, however, it is usually not as durable as nylon.
·      Olefin is highly stain resistant but not highly soil resistant (soiling is caused from residue build-up of oils or cleaning solutions). It is valued for its wool-look but is not very durable when compared to other synthetic fibers.

Nylon and polyester rugs are perfect for high-traffic areas due to their durability and stain and soil resistance. Olefin is best used in lower to medium traffic areas, or in basements and outdoor areas, due to its low absorption qualities.

Outdoor Rug. Source: SMW Design

Fiber Twists and Face Weight
Two other terms you should be familiar with before venturing out on your rug shopping expedition are twist and weight.

·      Fiber twist indicates the number of times that strands in a one-inch length have been twisted together. The higher the twist, the stronger the rug. Three to six is a common range for twists, but friezes can reach up to eight twists, making them very durable.
·      Face weight is the weight (measured in ounces) of the carpet pile per square yard. But, face weight is of no use when comparing different style rugs. A polyester rug may have a lower face weight than a nylon rug, but this does not necessarily mean the nylon will out perform the polyester. The only time the higher face weight indicates a higher quality is when comparing otherwise identical rugs.

As you can see, rug quality is determined by many hidden factors. These factors must all be considered in unison, before deciding on a rug that suits your individual needs and style.

Shelley Little writes on home design and décor for Home Depot. When Shelley isn’t busy writing about home design, she’s often designing or decorating her own home in Iowa. To view Home Depot’s broad selection of rugs for the home, you can visit

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