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Carpet Stores (From CHECKBOOK, Spring/Summer 2013)
 
Go to Ratings of 59 Delaware Valley Area Carpet Stores

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Carpet Cleaners

A first step in buying carpet, of course, is to plan: Think through questions such as how much carpeting you need, where it will go, how it will be used, and what will look good with your other furnishings. A good carpet store can be a helpful source of advice. 

You can see on our Ratings Tables that some stores were rated “superior” for the advice they provide by more than 80 percent of the customers we surveyed. But some stores are of little or no help, as indicated by their failure to get “superior” ratings from even half of their surveyed customers. 

You not only have to choose the best carpet for your home but also be confident that the carpet will be properly installed. We heard again and again of delivery delays and sloppy installations. Some outlets got top scores for installation work from less than 40 percent of their surveyed customers. Fortunately, some scored much higher. 

How much you pay—even for the exact same carpet—depends on how and where you shop. Although carpet stores make it extremely difficult to compare prices, you may be able to by doing the following— 

  • Find the make and style number of carpet and the type of pad you want at any store. Choose more than one make and style you can live with, since stores often carry different, but very similar, products. 
  • Then call other stores, explain that you are comparing prices, and ask for the best price it can offer you per square foot for that carpet and pad installed the way you want it. 

Most stores can order many styles that they don’t carry. One way to find stores that sell a particular brand is to check manufacturers’ websites. 

For one style, we found prices ranging from $3,283 to $5,530 among local stores. For another, the range was from $5,522 to $9,468. 

To make sure you pay for exactly what you need, make a sketch of the area you want carpeted, with accurate measurements. Show it or email it to several stores, asking them to explain how they would lay out the carpet and how much is needed. If different stores come up with different total square footage, find out why. Before placing an order, have the store come out to perform a final measurement. Many stores will do this for free, even if you eventually decide not to order. 

Make sure your sales contract includes in writing— 

  • Exact make, style name and number, fiber content, and color of carpet 
  • Type, thickness, and weight of pad 
  • Total square footage 
  • Who is responsible for taking up and hauling away old carpeting 
  • Reference to attached diagram of your space and confirmation that installation in accord with that diagram is included 
  • Total price 
  • Payment schedule (one-third in advance is reasonable, but less is better) 
  • Warranty on carpet and installation 
  • Promised delivery and installation date 

Make all payments by credit card to preserve your rights under the Fair Credit Billing Act. 

Additional important advice on how to deal with stores begins below, and includes advice on how to make sure you get the type and quality of carpet and pad you ordered. 

The white carpeting in your new home doesn’t match your decor—and certainly clashes with your kids’ inability to neatly consume food and beverages... 

Your pet has stained the carpet and strategically placed furniture can no longer cover all the spots... 

You’ve redone a room and need to cover the floor... 

Now that your kids have finally flown the coop you get to replace that worn, threadbare pile with something you actually like... 

Yes. It’s time. 

Unfortunately, buying new carpeting is seldom as easy as it should be. We hear from too many subscribers who find carpet shopping a miserable experience at many area stores. Salespeople are often rude or inept. Installation is often performed poorly. Delays are the norm, not the exception. Stores’ “private labeling” practices make it difficult to compare prices. And worst of all, some companies engage in shady business practices: incorrectly measuring spaces in order to maximize each sale; delivering lower quality product than what you paid for; trying to charge more than originally agreed; adding undisclosed fees—and refusing to remedy problems when they occur. 

Fortunately, several companies in the area provide good advice on selection, quality installation services, and honest business practices—for a reasonable price. Our ratings will help you find them. 

Laying Down a Plan 

Because carpeting dominates the decor of any room, lasts a long time, and can cost thousands of dollars, you need to take enough time to make proper decisions. You have to make decisions on many issues, including: color, style, pattern, texture, padding, and price range. Start by answering a few questions. 

How Will It Be Used (or Abused)? 

Will you be eating or entertaining much on the carpet? Do you have pets and/or children? If so, get carpeting with soil- and stain-resistant properties and colors and textures (such as tweeds and irregular textures) that show dirt the least. Ask a good carpet cleaning service for advice, since it will have first-hand knowledge of which carpet types and colors are easier to clean than others. 

Will the carpet be installed in areas with a lot of foot traffic, such as the front hallway, stairs, or family room? Low, dense piles generally wear better than deep, plush piles. 

Will you often sit on your floor or walk barefoot on the carpeting? Plush textures feel soft and project a sense of luxury and elegance. 

What’s Your Budget? 

Carpet prices vary tremendously—from less than $2 to more than $12 per square foot depending on materials, form of construction, brand name, and other factors. Price differences that seem small per square foot become great by the room. For example, 500 square feet of wall-to-wall carpeting at $2 a square foot—a total of $1,000—seems quite modest but at $6 or $8 per square foot—a total of $3,000 or $4,000—gets pretty intimidating. Charges for padding, installation, and other labor are often added to the basic carpet price. Establishing a budget forces some choices: Can you compromise on the quality of the carpet in some rooms? Can you live with less-expensive area rugs? 

Prices for area rugs also vary greatly—from a few hundred dollars for an inexpensive dhurry (flat-woven Indian rug) to thousands for an antique Oriental rug. 

How Much Will You Need? 

The amount of carpet you need determines what your budget can afford. Measure the length and width of the area. For protrusions such as doors and closets, always measure into the deepest point and count these protrusions into either the room’s total length or total width. 

For stairs, measure each step separately (from the back of one tread to the bottom of the riser below) and add one inch per step to allow for padding. Then multiply that figure by the total number of steps to determine the length of carpet needed for the entire staircase. Be sure to add in the length for any landing. 

Determine the total square footage of the area to be covered by multiplying length times width. Your own measurements will give you the basis for roughly estimating costs when you shop, but the store will measure more precisely before it puts through your carpet order. Since carpeting is manufactured in standard widths (typically 12 and 15 feet), you may have to buy more carpeting than the actual square footage of your room. 

Room-size and area rugs are sold in standard sizes, or cut to size and bound from carpet rolls. Consider the placement of your furniture in determining the size you need. 

How Will It Fit in with Your Tastes and with Other Furnishings? 

Wall-to-wall carpeting introduces a large area of unbroken color, expands a room’s appearance, and is often the strongest element in an interior design scheme. 

The carpet’s texture and patterns should complement the style of your rooms, whether formal or casual. As an initial step, bring fabric samples, paint chips, pieces of wallpaper, and even couch cushions to the store to help with your selection; and bring home carpet samples or rugs to see how they look with your furnishings in your home’s lighting. 

Since good-quality carpets and rugs last for many years, choose designs, colors, and patterns you won’t tire of quickly. 

Carpet colors should complement existing window treatments and furnishings, suit your particular lifestyle, and contribute to the mood you desire for the room. A bright-colored yellow, orange, or red carpet can liven up a room that lacks natural light; shades of blue and green can tone down an overly bright room. Lighter shades that make the room seem more spacious and look more formal show dirt quickly and are therefore best suited for relatively low-traffic areas. Darker colors such as dark grays or browns make rooms look smaller and are best as accents or in very large rooms. Such dark colors also tend to show lint. 

In addition to the wide range of residential carpeting, consider the commercial carpeting commonly used in offices and public buildings. Tightly woven for durability and relatively easy maintenance, commercial carpeting may, for example, be used in home offices, recreation rooms, and hallways and often costs less than residential carpeting. 

How Long Do You Expect to Keep the Carpet? 

Well-constructed carpets last 10 years or more with normal use and care. If you plan to move soon or change the use or furnishings of a particular room, consider rugs rather than carpeting because rugs are portable and wall-to-wall carpeting is not. 

Consider Your Options 

Carpets vary in fiber content, yarn formation, and construction. 

Fibers 

Wool 

Before the development of synthetic carpet fibers, wool was the predominant fiber for high-quality carpets. Now, however, wool accounts for only a small percentage of carpet sold in the U.S. Nonetheless, the feel and look of wool remain the standards against which other fibers are judged. 

Wool feels good to the touch, takes dye beautifully, lacks the shininess sometimes found in synthetic fibers, resists crushing or flattening even with extensive wear, and resists soiling (although it is not especially resistant to staining). But wool carpets can be expensive. 

Nylon 

When first introduced in carpeting over 50 years ago, nylon was not a very attractive or well-performing fiber. Nylon carpets looked shiny and readily showed dirt. They lacked the warm, soft feel of wool and tended to accumulate static electricity. 

But from the start nylon possessed certain excellent qualities, such as exceptional resistance to abrasion, crushing, and mold. And great advances have been made in succeeding generations of nylon fibers. The most-advanced-generation fibers are no longer shiny; they have antistatic qualities either built into the fiber (better) or applied to the surface (not as good); and they are treated with stain-resisting fluorochemicals (such as Teflon or Scotchgard) either built into the fiber (better) or applied to the surface (not as good). Brand names of advanced-generation nylons include Stainmaster (Invista), Anso (Shaw Industries), and Wear-Dated (Solutia). 

Carpets made of these brand-name fibers may also have to meet certain fiber-manufacturer requirements regarding density of pile and other aspects of carpet construction. 

But be aware that not all nylon carpet on the market today is made with the most recent generation of fiber. Lower priced carpets labeled “100 percent nylon” or with some other generic designation may not benefit from all the improvements of the late-generation nylons. 

Nylon is currently by far the most popular carpet fiber. Depending on carpet quality, prices range from inexpensive to as expensive as wool. 

Olefin (Polypropylene) 

Olefin, or polypropylene, is popular for indoor-outdoor carpeting and in low-pile commercial carpeting (which can be used in residences as well). This synthetic fiber is very resistant to static, soil, and stains even without special treatments. It also holds dye very well, has excellent abrasion resistance, and does not absorb moisture. Polypropylene might be the fiber of choice but for one failing: It crushes, or flattens, easily, a limitation that restricts its use to low-pile carpets. Prices are generally inexpensive to moderate. 

Polyester 

Polyester is often used in deep-pile carpets because of its soft, luxurious feel. Because it is not as resistant to crushing as nylon, polyester tends to be used for dense carpets in low-traffic areas, where the density supports the yarn. 

DuPont manufactures a relatively new polyester marketed as SmartStrand (and sometimes called “triexta,” its generic name). Because it feels and wears so differently from other polyesters, and because it is partially made from recycled materials, it actually gets its own designation in the carpet business. In addition to being very soft, it is more stain-resistant and doesn’t flatten as easily as the older polyesters. Although it has built-in stain resistance, it can be difficult to clean and should be vacuumed more often than other carpet fibers. 

Most polyester carpets are inexpensive to moderately priced. 

Yarn 

Whatever fiber is used for carpet pile must be processed into strands; and the strands, in turn, must be twisted together into yarn. 

In cut-pile carpet, the tighter a yarn’s twist, the crisper looking and longer wearing the carpet. “Heat-set” twists last longer. 

In general, thin yarns give a smoother, more velvety look than coarse yarns. 

Construction 

The most common way to make carpets today is by tufting. To make a tufted carpet, a machine with hundreds of yarn-threaded needles pushes yarn through a backing fabric, forming loops as the needles push in and pull out. The loops are held in place with latex adhesive, and a secondary backing is glued to the primary backing to provide strength and stability. The specifics of construction vary in several ways. 

Density 

In some carpets, the tufts of yarn are spaced much more densely than in others. Density is determined by the number of tufts per unit of surface area and the thickness of individual tufts. All else being equal, the denser the pile the better the carpet. This is because the individual tufts in dense carpet support each other, so that the carpet is less likely to appear matted, and wear occurs only at the top of each tuft rather than along the tuft’s side. 

Texture 

Carpet surfaces come in many pile textures— 

  • Level loop—has a surface of loops of uniform height, creating a pebbly appearance. This is generally the most durable texture. Also, it is easy to vacuum and doesn’t show footprints. Most commercial carpeting and the Berber carpet style have level-loop textures. 
  • Multi-level loop—is similar to level loop except that the loops vary in height. Multi-level loop carpet hides dirt better than level loop but is more difficult to vacuum. 
  • Plush—is carpet with the tops of all the loops cut off. Because the yarn doesn’t have much twist, plush has a soft, luxurious look and feel, but tends to readily show dirt. It is also subject to shading, an apparent change in color tone that occurs when bent yarns reflect light in different directions. Shading can be minimized by vacuuming, making sure all yarn tufts bend in the same direction. 
  • Saxony—is similar to plush except that the yarn is more tightly twisted. As a result, individual yarn tips are more springy and more discernible to the eye. Saxony tends to be somewhat more durable than plush and less subject to shading. 
  • Frieze, or twist—consists of cut pile in which the yarn is so tightly twisted that the ends tend to bend over, creating a nubby appearance. This surface wears well and hides footprints and dirt. 
  • Shag—has yarn, either cut or uncut, 1 1/2 to more than three inches long. The pieces of yarn are widely spaced but fall over each other to cover the carpet surface. Shag hides dust but is difficult to vacuum. 
  • Cut-and-loop—has a surface in which some, but not all, of the loops are cut. The surface may be level or sculptured. This type of surface hides dirt and footprints well. 

Don’t Forget About the Pad 

Good padding minimizes carpet flattening and wear by absorbing part of the impact of traffic. Padding also creates a softer walking surface, insulates cold floors, absorbs noise, prevents carpet from shifting, makes irregular floors feel more even, and makes carpet feel deeper and more luxurious. 

The choice of padding depends on the type of carpet, where and how it will be used, your preference for greater or less buoyancy, and other factors. Carpet pads differ in content and performance, and each type comes in a variety of weights. 

As a rule, the heavier the pad the better the performance. High-traffic areas should have a heavy but relatively thin pad. For a bouncier, more luxurious feel, such as in a bedroom, use a thicker pad. But don’t confuse thick, soft padding with good padding. Bouncy padding can make a thin carpet feel more luxurious but shorten its life by letting the backing flex too much. The Carpet and Rug Institute recommends that padding be no thicker than one-half inch. 

Several types of padding are available— 

  • Rebonded polyurethane foam, also known as “rebond,” is made from bonded-together fragments of urethane foam and is usually heavier than prime urethane padding. A weight of five pounds per cubic foot at a thickness of one-half inch should be sufficient for high-traffic areas. Heavier cushion, up to 14 pounds per cubic foot, feels firmer. 
  • Fiber padding is recommended for high-traffic areas such as halls and stairs and for area rugs. It feels quite firm and not very bouncy underfoot. Fiber padding is made from jute, animal hair, a combination of the two, or a combination of jute and nylon or other synthetic fiber. A pad weighing 40 ounces per square yard is good for moderate-traffic area, but you’ll need a 48-ounce pad for more heavily used rooms or stairs. 
  • Sponge rubber padding works well in moderate-traffic areas. While a pad of at least 64 ounces per square yard should be sufficient for most home uses, sponge rubber padding is available in heavier weights—up to 120 ounces per square yard. Sponge in a flat sheet feels firmer than sponge formed into a waffled configuration. 
  • Prime urethane foam padding performs well in low-traffic areas. The less the pad weighs per cubic foot, the softer it feels. Urethane foam padding should weigh at least 2 1/2 to three pounds per cubic foot. 

Before contracting for installation of padding, check several points. See if the padding tears easily. Place samples on the floor covered with a carpet sample and walk on them to get an idea of the feel the padding will give your carpet. Make sure the padding is the right weight and thickness for the area where it will be used. If you can get a thinner padding that will perform properly, avoid a thicker one whose thickness may raise the carpet too high for doors to swing open into the room; if so, you may need to cut off the bottom of the doors. 

Like carpeting, most area rugs benefit from an underlay. Padding under area rugs helps secure them in places where people might slip and fall, and prevents the rub-off of color by non-dye-fast rugs such as some dhurries. A good fiber pad is usually best for area rugs. There are several varieties of useful anti-slip material, often made in a honeycomb structure. 

Many stores include padding in the price of the carpet. Be sure to check out the quality of what’s offered and, if necessary, find out if you can upgrade for an extra charge. 

Deciding Where to Buy 

Once you have determined the type of carpet you want, approximate square footage, and your budget, you’re ready to begin shopping. 

You’ll want to do your shopping, of course, at stores where you can get good advice, good selection, quality installation services, and honest business practices—at reasonable prices. The ratings reported on our Ratings Tables will help you find them. We asked area consumers (primarily CHECKBOOK and Consumer Reports subscribers) to rate carpet stores and carpet installation companies they had used as “inferior,” “adequate,” or “superior” on several questions. Our Ratings Tables show the percent of each company’s surveyed customers who rated it “superior” on each question. (Our Ratings Tables list all companies that received at least 10 ratings for either carpet selling services or installation services. For more information on our customer surveys and other research methods, click here.) 

Variety and Layout 

Stores vary in attractiveness and convenience of display. Most stores display wall-to-wall carpet samples on racks or in sample books, while carpet remnants and rugs are hung from racks, stacked, or stored in rolls around the store. It’s important that stores have good lighting and enough room to lay out a rug or remnant to see what it looks like open on the floor. 

The selection and size of remnants change frequently. Some stores have a hundred or more different colors and styles of remnants; others have very few. Our Ratings Tables report how surveyed consumers rated each store on “ease of looking at/testing products.” 

Convenience Services 

Once you’ve found carpeting you like, see how it goes with your furnishings before you make a final purchase. Shop at stores that let you take home carpet samples and/or area rugs; most stores offer this service. Also find out if the store will bind carpets for area rugs or arrange for custom-made rugs. Some carpet stores also offer carpet or rug cleaning, repairs, appraisals, restoration, or design services. 

Advice 

You’re likely to have a lot of questions about the carpets in the store and options for your rooms. Our Ratings Tables show how stores were rated for “advice on choice and use of products and related questions.” As you can see, some stores got very low ratings on this question. 

Reliability 

We also asked customers to rate companies on “reliability (standing behind products, delivering on time, etc.)” and “promptness of service.” On both questions, the portion of surveyed customers rating stores “superior” ranged from less than 40 percent to more than 90 percent. 

In addition to ratings from customers, for firms that were evaluated in our last full, published article, our Ratings Tables show counts of complaints we gathered from local Better Business Bureaus (BBB) for a recent three-year period. For more information on reported complaint counts, click here

Installation Service 

Unless you are a deeply committed do-it-yourselfer, you’ll want professionals to install your carpet. Almost all stores that sell wall-to-wall carpet offer installation services. Some use their own employees for the work; others contract out installations. 

Installation problems are among the most common source of carpet buyers’ complaints. A poor job, such as inadequate stretching of carpet, or uneven, bumpy, or loose seams, can ruin the appearance and durability of even an expensive carpet. 

Our Ratings Tables show what percentage of surveyed customers rated each company’s installation service “superior” for “doing work properly,” “promptness,” and “overall performance.” Several companies were rated “superior” on some or all of these criteria by 40 percent or fewer of surveyed customers, but others were rated “superior” more than 80 percent of the time. 

If you’re thinking about installing the carpet yourself, several good online guides and how-to books on carpet installation are available. DIY installation kits and other special equipment—such as knee kickers (to stretch carpet), seaming irons, and hot-melt carpet seam tape—are available at most equipment rental stores and for no extra charge at some carpet stores. 

Warranty 

The quality of a store’s warranty is a good indicator of the reliability of its sales and installation operations. Most carpet stores and installers offer written warranties on carpet installation work. Most warranties are valid for a year from the date of installation, but some are valid longer (up to three years, in some cases). Some explicitly disclaim responsibility for visible seams so long as the installation has been performed in a workmanlike manner in accordance with industry standards, but don’t assume visible seams are covered even in warranties that lack this explicit disclaimer. 

Getting a Good Deal 

Among reliable stores that carry carpets you like, choose one that provides the best value for the entire job—carpet, pad, and installation. 

Comparing carpet prices is not easy. Although carpets from several major manufacturers are sold at most stores, it is often difficult to find exactly the same carpet style and grade on display at any two stores, since thousands of styles are available. Comparing prices becomes even harder because many retailers (especially the bigger stores) change carpets’ style names from the names bestowed by the manufacturers, and some chains, Home Depot and Lowe’s, for example, have exclusive rights to sell certain carpet styles. 

Price comparisons are possible, though, if the manufacturer’s style name or number appears on the carpet label and you can find at least two stores that sell it. As long as you provide the correct style information, many stores will provide per-square-foot price quotes over the phone for carpet manufacturers they regularly carry. 

Take the time to do some shopping. As Table 1 reveals, significant store-to-store price differences exist for the same products. Our shoppers called area stores and, without revealing their affiliation with CHECKBOOK, asked each to provide price quotes for 720 square feet of the same carpet, pad, and installation services. As you can see, for Masland Oceanside, we received price quotes ranging from $3,283 to $5,530. For Fabrica Dolce, we were quoted prices ranging from $5,522 to $9,468. For many of the 10 carpets we shopped, we found differences of at least 50 percent. 

Table 1—Prices Quoted by Area Stores for Illustrative Carpeting Jobs

Prices Quoted by Area Stores for Illustrative Carpeting Jobs Prices quoted for 720 square feet of carpet brand and style listed below, including specified padding, installation, and removal of old carpet
Shaw Sandy Hollow Shaw Ultimate Expression Fabrica Dolce Fabrica Serengeti Beaulieu/Bliss Velvet Touch Beaulieu/Bliss Chenille Mohawk American Beauty Mohawk High Regard Masland Oceanside Masland Miami
A & J Carpets, Turnersville, NJ$2,642 $5,522$5,278$3,038 $2,642 $3,283$3,758
Adams Carpet Center, Bensalem, PA$2,880$3,600  $3,038$3,038 $3,118  
Air Base Carpet Mart, New Castle, DE    $3,326 $3,679$3,535  
Anders Carpets & Flooring, Telford, PA$3,060   $3,852     
Angelo’s Carpet One & Floor, Levittown, PA$4,342$5,321$8,136$7,618    $5,501$6,394
Ararat Carpet & Flooring, Medford, NJ$2,902$3,600  $3,031$3,031$3,161$3,103  
AW Bergey & Sons, Harleysville, PA $5,112  $3,816$3,780  $4,212$5,004
Barb-Lin Carpet One Floor & Home, Doylestown, PA$4,097$4,961$9,065$8,561$4,097$4,097$4,241$4,241$4,889$5,753
Barton Carpet & Floor Covering, Bellmawr, NJ$2,909   $3,802$3,017$3,283$3,204  
Bee-Jay Carpet One Floor & Home, Lansdale, PA  $9,130$8,590 $4,205$4,334 $5,357$6,271
Big Marty’s Carpets, Penndel, PA    $3,924$3,672    
Bob Wagner’s Flooring America, Downingtown, PA$4,133 $9,317$8,813   $4,378$5,530$6,466
Bob Wagner’s Flooring America, West Chester, PA    $4,594  $3,730  
Bob’s Affordable Carpets, New Castle, DE$3,247$4,111    $3,463$3,391  
Boyle’s Floor & Window, West Chester, PA$3,650$4,622  $4,644 $3,910$3,816  
Burlington Carpet Carpet One, Barrington, NJ    $3,017$3,017$3,449$3,262  
Carpet Fair, Springfield, PA    $3,305     
Carpet Warehouse, Broomall, PA$2,837$3,881  $3,802$2,758$2,837$3,038  
Eldorado Carpet One, Broomall, PA    $3,154     
Fisher’s Carpet One Floor & Home, West Chester, PA  $8,395     $5,011$5,875
Floors USA, King of Prussia, PA$3,722$5,508$8,561$8,561$4,694 $3,571$4,291$4,889$5,796
Holland Floor Covering, Newtown, PA $5,112$8,474$8,150$4,630     
Kelley Karpets, Pitman, NJ  $8,028$7,884$4,428   $4,140 
Keystone Floors/Area Rugs Unlimited, Bensalem, PA$2,347   $2,297  $2,506  
King Carpet Mart, King of Prussia, PA$3,197$4,399  $3,038$3,038    
Lomax Carpet, Exton, PA$2,484$3,643  $3,535$2,628$3,132$2,988  
Lomax Carpet & Tile Mart, Philadelphia, PA$3,269$3,874  $3,334$3,182$3,686$3,542  
Maro’s Floor Covering, Ambler, PA  $8,568$8,352$5,004   $4,601$5,328
Miller’s Carpet One, New Castle, DE    $4,241$3,665    
National Floor Covering, Jenkintown, PA  $7,848$7,848$3,672 $3,600$3,600 $5,544
Norman Carpet One, Bryn Mawr, PA  $9,468$8,914  $4,334 $5,227$6,192
Oscar’s Carpet One, Williamstown, NJ        $3,845$4,349
Pandolfi Dante House of Carpets, Springfield, PA$2,837   $2,599$2,599    
Quality Carpet, Glassboro, NJ $3,456        
Roman Furniture & Carpet, Clifton Heights, PA      $2,642$2,642$3,283$3,758
Roy Lomas Carpet Contractor, Kulpsville, PA$3,118 $7,999 $3,521   $4,399$5,198
Tom Adams Windows & Carpets, Churchville, PA    $2,988$2,916  $4,140 
William H Fowler Floor Covering, Rockledge, PA$4,010$4,594  $3,370$3,370    
Wright Flooring, Silverdale, PA $4,975  $3,622$3,578    

Avoiding Trouble 

You may save money—and you’ll certainly reduce the risk of service foul-ups—by following a few guidelines when dealing with stores. 

Make a Diagram of the Spaces to Be Carpeted Before You Shop 

You can’t get a realistic cost picture without knowing how much carpet you need. To calculate that amount, a salesperson will need to see a carefully prepared diagram of the area to be carpeted, showing doorways and closets and other protrusions. It should also indicate the height and depth of steps. 

Get a Reliable Estimate of the Amount of Carpet Needed 

One way some stores take advantage of customers is by charging for more carpet than they need. 

Using your diagram, ask salespersons at several stores to estimate how much you’ll need. Getting the “grain” of the carpet to look right, and to locate seams in acceptable places, usually requires more square feet of carpet than the exact area of the room. So while some waste is inevitable, a good store will plan installations that keep waste to a minimum. 

Ask all salespersons to explain their measurements. If estimates differ, find out why. 

Decide on the Full Specifications of Your Job and Compare the Bottom-Line Price for the Entire Job 

To get a realistic cost picture, you must have a clear understanding of exactly what services are to be performed. Before making final price comparisons, determine— 

  • What type and grade of padding you want; 
  • Whether delivery is to be included in the contract price; 
  • Whether you want the store to do the installation; 
  • Whether the installer will have to move furniture; 
  • Whether the installer will be expected to pull up old carpet; 
  • Whether the installer will be expected to haul away old carpet and any debris from the new job; 
  • Whether replacement of quarter-round molding at the base of the woodwork is included (usually not); 
  • Whether metal or wood strips are to be provided where carpet ends at doorways; and 
  • Whether the price includes the cost of cutting off the bottoms of any doors that don’t clear the carpet (usually not). 

Since stores price jobs differently, it’s important to get the bottom-line cost for the entire package of product and services. If you are willing to do some tasks yourself—such as pulling up old carpet or hauling away debris—you can often save money. 

Get Stores to Compete 

Once you have decided on a specific style of carpet, note the style name or number: It should appear on the carpet sample tag. Then contact five or six of the stores rated favorably on our Ratings Tables and ask for their installed price for that style and your choice of padding. Let each salesperson know that you are calling several stores, and that they have only one chance to bid. Although stores will seldom stock the style you want, many will be able to get it from the factory. If you can’t find stores that sell your style, ask the manufacturer for names of local stores that sell its carpets. 

Negotiate 

Salespersons at many stores are authorized to negotiate price. If you need a lot of carpet, argue that this should entitle you to a good price. But even if you are buying very little, negotiation can save you money. Just make sure salespersons know you are prepared to buy elsewhere—for that reason, it’s best to negotiate by phone so the salesperson will believe that you will hang up and call someplace else. You can find out the lowest price for a particular style—a starting point for your negotiating—by checking prices at mail-order outlets. 

Beware of “Free” Offers 

The cost of “free” installation is often built into the price of the carpet. You are likely to get a lower price for the carpet itself somewhere else where installation is not free. As previously noted, if the price of the carpet includes padding, check the quality of what’s offered and, if necessary, find out if you can upgrade for an extra charge. 

Beware of Advertisements Quoting Prices by the Room 

The rooms envisioned by those ads are likely to be a lot smaller than yours. And there is a good chance that what you consider one room—an L-shaped room, for example—will be considered two rooms by some stores. 

Have the Area Measured and Check the Installation Plan 

Although your diagram will provide an estimate of required square footage accurate enough for most of your shopping, you need an exact measurement and installation plan before you finally contract to buy. Many stores will send someone to your home to measure and prepare an installation plan at no cost and no obligation to buy. Have more than one store do this, to make sure you don’t pay for more carpeting than you need. 

Examine the store’s installation plan to make sure the locations of seams are as inconspicuous as possible, that closet interiors will be carpeted (if that’s what you want), and that the carpeting will cover all the areas—and only the areas—you want to cover. 

Also, make sure the plan utilizes carpeting as efficiently as possible. If you think the carpeting can be arranged differently to reduce the amount required, press the point. 

Make Sure the Correct Carpet Is Delivered 

Because some stores have taken advantage of consumers by delivering carpet of a different style and quality than what the customer ordered, be ready to make sure you get what you paid for. You can purchase a labeled sample of the carpet you’ve ordered, which most stores sell for less than $20, and compare it to the item they deliver. 

Unfortunately, however, even experts can’t be certain that two pieces of carpet are the same. A store may try to pass off a carpet that looks about the same as what you ordered, but won’t wear as well. 

If the store orders directly from a mill, make sure your purchase contract requires the store to provide a copy of its factory invoice for the carpet, showing your name and the style, color, and amount of carpet the factory shipped. If the store provides such an invoice, you can be reasonably confident that it will bring the proper carpet to your home. 

If you purchase a remnant or a style of carpet the store has in stock, make sure you get what you paid for by writing your name in marker or crayon on the back of the remnant or roll. 

Make Sure You Get the Proper Pad 

As with carpet, once you get a sample of the pad you’ve ordered, it’s relatively easy to compare that sample to the pad that’s actually delivered. 

Agree on a Delivery Date 

Stores are often more optimistic about delivery dates before you sign a purchase contract than after. If prompt delivery is important, reach an agreement upfront. 

Agree on a Payment Schedule 

You’ll have more leverage to push for speedy delivery and insist on corrections of product and workmanship defects if your store is waiting for payment. Most stores will accept a deposit—typically one-third to one-half—with the carpet order and expect the balance when the job is completed. Some stores are flexible about the deposit amount, depending on the particular job, so try to put down as small a deposit as possible. 

Check the Warranty on the Carpet 

Fiber companies provide most carpet warranties, which cover two areas. The first is manufacturing defects, such as holes or color bleeds, which are usually limited to first-quality carpets, not seconds. The second area is carpet wear, with manufacturers’ warranties typically guaranteeing not more than 10 percent (20 percent in some cases) loss of surface pile fibers within a period of 10 years. Warranties seldom cover tears, burns, pulls, cuts, spills, matting, soiling/staining, fading, odor, or damage due to improper installation or improper cleaning methods or agents. Because carpet usually becomes permanently matted and dirty long before it wears out, fiber warranties are not as valuable as they might seem. In some cases, a fiber company will offer an additional warranty on another feature of the carpet, such as stain resistance. Carpeting installed on stairs and in hallways is typically excluded from product warranties. 

Some stores offer warranties covering the same carpet problems addressed by manufacturers’ warranties. 

Check the Installation Warranty 

The best guarantees are in effect for a long period and have few, if any, qualifiers. An example of a good warranty is the following: “[Installer] guarantees the installation of your carpet against defects in workmanship for the life of your carpet.” If your installer doesn’t ordinarily offer a written warranty this good, ask it to include one in your written contract. 

Get a Contract Incorporating All that You’ve Agreed on 

Your contract should cover, at least— 

  • Full price; 
  • Full description of the product and services included in the price; 
  • Style name and number, color, fiber content, and manufacturer of the carpeting you are purchasing; 
  • Weight, thickness, and type of padding; 
  • Brief description of the kind of use carpet will be subjected to—to serve as evidence that the store said the carpet was suitable for this purpose; 
  • Delivery and installation date; 
  • Warranty; 
  • Reference incorporating the installation plan; 
  • If carpet is ordered from the mill, a promise to deliver factory invoice for carpet showing your name, style name, and color; and 
  • If the carpet is a remnant, a promise to provide the specific piece of carpet you have marked as yours. 

Carefully note any disclaimers of store responsibility. Several of the contracts we reviewed contained boilerplate language relieving the store of any responsibility for damage to walls or furniture. In order to get your business, a store may allow you to strike language you consider unacceptable. 

Prepare Your Home Before the Installer Arrives 

If you’ve agreed to move furniture or pull up old carpet, for example, don’t make the installer wait for you to do your part. 

Check the Carpeting and Padding Before It Is Installed 

Better to find any defects before installation. Look for discolorations, dye spots, streaks, holes, or yarn flaws. Also check to see if color or quality is significantly different from the retailer’s sample. If you’ve demanded a factory invoice, check it. Reject the carpet if it’s defective or not what you ordered. 

Check the Installation Job Before You Pay 

Look for wrinkles or ripples, gaps between wall and carpet edge, unusually conspicuous seams, irregular seams, inconsistent shaping of carpet on steps, failure to match the “grain” or pattern of the carpet, glue on walls, unusual damage to walls or other furnishings, stains or glue on the carpet itself, and other defects. If there’s a significant installation defect, get it corrected before you pay. 

Pay by Credit Card 

If there is a problem with delays or you receive incorrect or defective merchandise, paying by credit card gives you the right to withhold payment under the Fair Credit Billing Act and the policies of most credit card companies. You will first be required to make every reasonable effort to resolve the dispute on your own. 

How to Care for It 

After you’ve spent hundreds, and maybe thousands, of dollars on carpeting, you’ll certainly want to prolong its life. 

The most important carpet-care practice is regular vacuuming. Another key to carpet life is to clean up spills quickly and get an overall professional cleaning when the carpet becomes visibly dirty. Click here for our article on area carpet cleaners. 

It helps to understand the causes and cures of other carpet problems: 

  • During the manufacturing process, yarn ends can get buried in the carpet pile and later “sprout” up above the pile level. Use scissors to cut the sprout even with the carpet surface. Don’t pull a high tuft out of the carpet, as you may pull out other fibers as well. You can snip off carpet snags the same way as sprouts, but very large snags may need professional attention. 
  • The surface of some types of carpet can develop small balls of fiber known as “pilling.” As with sprouts and snags, you can snip off pilling. If the problem covers a large area, though, call in an expert. Another problem, “fuzzing,” occurs in older loop carpets when fibers break due to wear and tear. Clip excess fuzz, but call your carpet store if fuzzing continues. 
  • To prevent spots of pile from becoming crushed or flattened, place rubber or plastic glides, cups, or other special carpet-protector pads underneath heavy furniture. Also, periodically rearranging your furniture helps avoid flattened spots—and changing traffic patterns promotes more even wear. You can often bring crushed pile back up by releasing steam from an iron a few inches above the flattened area, allowing the steam to penetrate the pile, and then brushing briskly. 
  • Damp weather and humidity can cause wall-to-wall carpet to buckle or ripple. These problems are usually temporary, but if they don’t disappear soon after the weather becomes drier, you’ll need to have the carpet restretched. 
  • Weather can also contribute to problems of static in carpets. If your carpet does not have antistatic protection, if necessary use a humidifier to help control static buildup. 
  • Exposure to direct sunlight causes fading, with reds, blues, and dark colors the most susceptible. Closing drapes, blinds, or shades—especially on windows that receive direct sunlight—reduces fading. 
  • Foot traffic and vacuuming cause pile fibers to change angles, making the carpet appear shaded. Shading is particularly noticeable on luxurious cut pile carpets, especially plushes in solid colors. Vacuuming the pile in one direction will temporarily fix shading. 

Extra Advice:
Best Choices by Location 

Halls and Family Room 

In these high-traffic areas, good choices are a low, densely packed cut pile or a level-loop carpet, such as a Berber or a commercial type. 

Nylon or (in a level loop) polypropylene wears well. A neutral or “tweedy” color minimizes the visibility of dirt; avoid lighter colors in the family room, where food might be spilled. A firm fiber or rebond pad is best. 

Living Room 

A plush or Saxony usually holds up. An advanced-generation nylon or wool looks good—in any color that fits the rest of the decor. A good-quality, firm rebond pad feels comfortable and wears well. 

Dining Room 

Unless use is heavy, same as for living room—but treat carpet for stain resistance and buy medium or darker colors. If use is heavy, consider options similar to those for a family room. 

Bedroom 

Because use is generally light, a less-expensive carpet will do. Deep pile, even if not especially dense, can be used with a relatively spongy pad that feels soft. Polyester, an advanced-generation nylon, wool, or wool mix feels good. Any color will do. 

Extra Advice:
How to Check Carpet Quality 

There are several keys to carpet and rug quality— 

  • Fiber type. Wool is generally considered a very high-quality fiber, as are the most-advanced-generation nylons. But depending on their purpose, other fibers, such as olefin, may better serve your needs. Carpet labels indicate the type of fiber. 
  • Twist. Yarn should have a heat-set twist to hold its shape over the long run. Labels usually indicate whether a yarn’s twist is heat-set. 
  • Density. The density of the yarn tufts on the face of carpeting is very important for minimizing wear and preventing flattening, or matting. Because labels seldom disclose density, you have to check it by digging into the carpet with your fingertips to see how easily they push through to the backing. Or conduct the “grin” test by folding the carpet onto itself, with the backing on the inside of the fold; then check how much backing is visible between the tufts at the fold. You may also be able to obtain some information on density or “face weight” (a combined measure of density and pile height) from a store salesperson. 

Extra Advice:
Breathing Easy 

Chemically sensitive or allergy-prone individuals have complained of watery eyes; runny noses; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; headaches; rashes; and fatigue related to gasses caused by newly installed carpet and pad and the adhesives used in their installation. This problem led to the creation of the Indoor Air Quality Carpet Testing Program conducted by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), which develops ways to reduce emissions from carpet. Under the program, carpet manufacturers submit carpets to an independent laboratory that measures emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). If emissions do not exceed a specified level after 24 hours in a testing chamber, the manufacturer can attach a green-and-white “Green Label” shown above. Carpets meeting an even higher standard are eligible for “Green Label Plus” certification. 

Look for carpet carrying at least the “Green Label.” Although these carpets still give off some emissions, the CRI says the average level of emissions from carpets tested has dropped dramatically since the program began. 

Even carpet meeting CRI standards must be installed properly to achieve specified emission results. Write into the installation contract: “Carpet must be installed according to Carpet and Rug Institute Standard 105.” 

You can take other steps to reduce carpet’s exposure to air problems: If adhesives and/or a pad will be used, request that they have low chemical emissions. Water-based, environmentally friendly adhesives with low emissions are available from numerous manufacturers. Vacuum old carpet before it is removed; this will reduce airborne dust, dirt, and mites. Also, vacuum the sub-floor before new carpet is laid. Finally, ventilate the room where the carpet is installed for several days, if possible with an exhaust fan. 

Extra Advice:
Common Carpet Complaints 

Carpet stores and their installation crews make a lot of their customers unhappy. Below is a summary of the various kinds of complaints in reviews by surveyed consumers. 

  • Poor customer service—Staff was incompetent, rude, or disorganized. Mentioned in 44 percent of complaints. 
  • Subpar installation work. (41 percent) 
  • Reliability issues—Company did not fulfill promises, did not promptly address problems raised by customer, did not stand behind its products, or did not work with customer to satisfy billing disputes. (31 percent) 
  • Promptness—Company missed appointments or took longer than promised to complete work. (20 percent) 
  • Bait-and-switch or overcharge—Company tried to charge more than originally agreed, attempted a bait-and-switch sales strategy, added undisclosed extra fees, increased sale by ordering too much product, or used false sales prices. (14 percent)  
  • Price—Too expensive. (7 percent) 
  • Product switcheroo—Company tried to supply a lower quality carpet or padding than customer ordered. (6 percent) 
  • Poor product quality—Company supplied defective product. (6 percent) 
  • Limited selection—Company did not offer enough selection to meet customer’s needs. (4 percent) 


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