Okay, I know that sounds dramatic, but,… let’s call it passion. The deal is, my wife sits and watches the Property Brothers and similar shows (House Hunters, Rehab Addict, etc), and being the wonderful husband that I am, I will sit and watch them with her. HOWEVER, I started noticing a pattern that has been making me uneasy. They are ALWAYS taking any carpet that they find OUT of the house, and they are NEVER putting new carpet INTO the house. Now to be honest, I think they are still using carpet in the bedrooms at times but just don’t really talk about it very much. Anyway, in much the same way a stranger who observes an animal being mistreated will step in to protect it, I am stepping in to protect CARPET from these vicious attacks. But first, a quick review of “who am I” to step in on this issue, like, what gives me the right to comment on this at all? Glad you asked!
I started way back when I was about 7 and started vacuuming my own bedroom carpet. No, I’m lying. The truth is I grew up in Sacramento, CA in the 60’s and we didn’t even have carpet. I can’t even remember a particular time my wife claims that we rented a machine to clean the carpet in our apartment in Lewiston, ID and since she’s never lied yet, I’m sure that is true. But then in 1974 I started working for a janitor company here in Moses Lake, WA, which involved cleaning all sorts of floors including carpet. About two year later I had a brief 2 year stint as a corporate pilot and a flight instructor and then I started my own carpet cleaning/janitor business in Dayton. After two years I sold that and came back and took over the business in Moses Lake I had used to work for and which was now exclusively carpet (and upholstery) cleaning. Since that time I have personally been on over 10,000 carpet cleaning jobs. During that time I then also became a certified flooring inspector for the northwest USA. This includes looking at problems with carpet, laminates, hardwood, tile, vinyl, etc. and have performed several thousand inspections over the last 20+ years. I have written a book and numerous articles about different types of floor coverings as well. So all that to say, I know a “thing or two” about the subject, so there!
Now I am not naive. I understand that when a culture has certain preferences, etc it is almost impossible to come against that. And in our culture here in the United States at this time in history, carpet is just not, well,… “cool”! That doesn’t mean it isn’t better or worse, it is all about perception. So, here is my case for carpet over alternative flooring.
Just to throw you off, I am going to start with how carpet is NOT as good as other floor coverings.
1) You can NOT install it yourself. Don’t even try. Laminate? Sure! Hardwood, tile? You will have a lot better chance with that than carpet.
2) Traffic areas. There, I said it. You will rarely get traffic areas in the hard surfaces, but you often can get that in carpet. And, the traffic areas may or may not be from dirt. Let me explain. When I am inspecting a carpet for a “wear” complaint in the traffic areas, I will hold a bright light above the “wear” area. If I can still see the dark area in the traffic area, then that is dirt. It just needs to be cleaned out. That is GOOD news. However, if it doesn’t look dark anymore, then it is from fiber abrasion. Here’s the deal. When carpet is constructed, the yarns are composed of numerous “filaments” that are thinner than a human hair and have a smooth surface. If a carpet is not maintained properly with regular vacuuming and cleaning, then particulate in the fibers can start scratching the smooth surface of the filaments, and of course this happens mainly in the TRAFFIC areas. Eventually you will have a dark area that may have dirt in it also, but even after cleaning will still look dark because it is now WORN. Like I tell my clients, we can clean the dirt out, but we can’t do anything about the wear.
3) This is not a physical/technical benefit, but a wood floor especially can add to the resale value of your home if that is in the plans for the future.
4) Carpet will typically not last as long as a hard surface, although some people like knowing they can change out their flooring every 10 or 15 years as new designs/tastes come out on the market instead of being locked into a “50 year” wood floor.
Okay, here are the advantages of carpet over a hard surface floor:
1) You can’t slip on it (especially great for stairs!).
2) Regular maintenance is easy. Plug in the vacuum, go vacuum, put away the vacuum. However, I am not a fan of the Roomba type of robotic vacuum as its suction/particulate removal capacity is VERY limited.
3) Total cost including installation is cheaper than the hard surfaces.
4) Carpet is very forgiving with any moisture/humidity issues as compared especially to hardwood and engineered wood. This is especially true over a concrete subfloor.
5) No clicking/tapping annoying sounds with normal foot traffic, and also adds a thermal barrier to the home’s floor, especially over a concrete subfloor.
6) Is more aesthetically pleasing. Well, to me it is. Here is what I’ve seen over the years. In the 70’s we had carpet in all of the rooms, even the kitchen and bathrooms. We had drapes on the windows along with sheers. We even had bean bag chairs! Wait, who cares about bean bag chairs?? Anyway, fast forward to today. When is the last time you saw drapes in someone’s windows? I still do occasionally but not very often. And now, carpet in the kitchen/bathrooms is very rare indeed, and of course that makes sense. However, I’ll go into someone’s home in Seattle for a flooring inspection, and they have vertical or horizontal vinyl type of shades, and Pergo throughout the entire home. The problem for me with hard surfaces is that they are, well,… hard. Our homes I feel have gotten less inviting as a place to escape the hard world outside, have become less of a soft cocoon of comfort and protection from the outside world as they used to be. For me, the ideal home would have tile in the bathrooms, kitchen and utility room, hardwood/laminate in the living and dining rooms with perhaps a rug in the dining area, and then carpet in the family room, hall, stairs and bedrooms. But, there is another issue that is coming up more and more with our aging population.
7) Many people are starting to notice that their joints and bodies in general are hurting when living in a home with hard surfaces. There are many stories out lately where a couple is talked into getting rid of their carpet ( in relation to allergies, etc) and now are almost completely immobilized from the jarring of walking on hard wood/tile floors.
And then 8) which I was saving for last. What many people think is a weakness of carpet is actually a benefit, if the carpet is properly maintained. Carpet has been accused of generating dust. What carpet DOES do is trap dust/allergens that come in through the air and from people’s shoes, that is one of its BENEFITS. Rather than that stuff floating around in the air, it is trapped in the carpet until it is removed through vacuuming (with a HEPA filter of course), and eventually with a professional cleaning. Some procedures that help also would be wearing “house” shoes/slippers while leaving the regular shoes at the door. It is amazing all the stuff your shoes will get on their soles when you use them. It is best to keep that out of your house as much as possible. Another is having entry rugs (outside and inside) the entry points. I would even suggest having entry rugs that are made with olefin face fibers. Olefin “likes” oil-based residue such as you get on your shoes when walking through a parking lot. Instead of all of that coming into your home, olefin entry rugs/mats will take much of that off automatically as you enter your home.
So, those are some of the basic pros and cons of carpet vs. hard surface floor coverings. If you opt for wood floors because that is what you like, then that makes perfect sense. Maybe you like the new vinyl planks that are so popular (Allure, etc.) But what I have noticed as a flooring inspector is that ANY type of flooring can have problems and will have problems a certain percentage of the time. Any information you can get beforehand is vital and fairly available although I would avoid websites where every product they describe is “wonderful” and “amazing”. Rather, a third-party site where they aren’t trying to make money from selling what they are describing makes more sense. Freeflooringhelp.com is one of those places you could at least start your research. And by the way, don’t tell the Property Brothers about my challenge as I think they are a lot taller than me!