Wall-to-wall carpeting first came on the market in the 1930s. By the middle of the 20th century, advertisements were hawking woven floor coverings that were, according to one 1955 slogan, “Fresh and gay and very today!” or extolling the “Fashion under your feet” virtues of blanketing your whole home in a garish maroon-and-blue floral print.

Although carpet has come a long way, it’s also slipped in popularity: Carpeting sales now account for only 30 percent or so of all flooring installed in the U.S.—in the Eisenhower era, it was something like 60 percent.

Still, carpet remains popular for bedrooms (it’s so soft underfoot!) and is cheaper than hardwoods. But tracking down someone to install and sell you quality carpeting remains a challenge. Many installers and stores offer inaccurate advice and unclear pricing—and make it a pain to shop around to avoid overpaying. To help you cozy up to new flooring—and to help you get in step with colors, styles, textures, and prices—you’ll need experts who know their fluff and price it fairly.

Before heading to a showroom, decide how much carpeting you need, where it will go, how it will be used, and what will look good with your furnishings.

A good carpet store can walk you through these decisions. We have identified stores that were rated “superior” for their advice by more than 80 percent of their customers. But we also found some area carpet dealers make the buying experience burn with inept advice, 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 it will be properly installed. We hear again and again of delivery delays and sloppy installations. Some outlets got very low scores on overall quality of installation.

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 do so by identifying a few brands and styles you like and then contacting several stores. Explain that you are comparing prices, and ask for the store’s best price per square foot for that carpet and pad, installed. You’ll find big price differences. To carpet an 810-square-foot area, our undercover shoppers collected price quotes from stores that were thousands of dollars more than their nearby competitors for the exact same carpet, pad, and installation work.

Make sure your sales contract includes exact make, style name and number, and color of carpet; type, thickness, and weight of pad; who is responsible for taking up and hauling away old carpeting; payment schedule; warranty on carpet and installation and promised delivery and installation date.

Make all payments by credit card. If there’s a problem, you can dispute the payment.