The Smiths Shop for Carpeting

by Gary Foreman

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"Wow! Over nine billion dollars worth of carpeting was produced in the U.S. No wonder there's so many people trying to help us spend our money!" Mary sat at the kitchen table. On it were pamphlets and other articles she had gathered to help the Smiths make an intelligent choice on some carpeting they were planning to purchase.

John hadn't really gotten involved in this project, yet. After they decided to investigate the cost of new carpet in their living room, Mary had gone off to do the initial information gathering shopping trips and research.

"It says that we need to begin by figuring about how much carpet we'll need. To do that you multiply the length of the room by the width in feet. That gives you the number of square feet in the room. Divide by nine and you'll know how many square yards. This brochure says to add about 10% for room irregularities and depending on the pattern we may have to add another 10% for pattern matching."

Almost as if on que, John began reading from an article Mary had saved. "Before purchasing, you need to consider where and how the room is used. For little used rooms that are away from entrances, less expensive carpet will hold up well. But for rooms that have outside access and carry heavy traffic, a better grade of carpet is a better bargain." He continued. "The carpet padding plays an important part in prolonging carpet life. The right pad can add 50% to your carpet's life. It also adds comfort. But a thicker pad is not necessarily a better pad. In fact, if it's too think it can allow the carpet's backing to flex too much."

Now it was Mary's turn to take over. "Hon, we'll need to learn how to check a carpet's density. This article says that you should fold the carpet back so that the yarn is on the outside. Then look and see how much of the backing shows. The less backing that shows the denser the carpet. Another way to check is to read the face weight on the label. That measures the amount of fiber that's used in one square yard of the carpet. The more ounces of face weight, the more yarn is used on the carpet." John listened, but quickly pointed out that you couldn't use this type of guide when comparing different styles of carpet. One with half inch deep pile would naturally have more face weight than one with a quarter inch pile.

"One thing that always worried me was stains. Let's face it, we're not easy on our floors around here! There's so many choices in materials. It's hard to know where to begin. I read somewhere that no carpet is truly stain proof. The best you can get is stain resistant."

John flipped through some of the stuff he had been reading. "Just a sec. I saw that here somewhere. Oh, here it is. According to the Carpet and Rug Institute, about 97% of all carpet is produced using synthetic fibers. They're designed for easy maintenance. Nylon is by far the most popular. It's resistant to soils and stains and stands up to traffic well. Polyester feels luxurious to the touch, but doesn't wear as well. Polypropylene is a good choice if moisture is a concern. In fact, it's used for stadium artificial grass. Acrylic imitates wool at a lower cost. Wool is still the luxury choice. Partially because it feels good and wears well. But it is more expensive."

While listening, Mary had gotten up and poured herself a glass of ice tea. "Looks like we'll probably end up with nylon then. One thing that surprised me was how the same carpet could cost more or less in competing stores. I found that most carpeting is made in the state of Georgia on big rolls. These rolls are too big for most houses to use all of it. So someone has to keep the rest of the roll and hope to sell it later. Sometimes I'd see one I liked at one store for $20 a yard. But it was from their sample book and they'd have to order it. Then I'd come across the same quality carpet. Sometimes even from the same manufacturer. But this store would have half a roll there and were willing to sell it for $16 a yard. In fact, I got the feeling that they might even bargain a little."

"That's neat, Hon." John was always glad when his bride found a way to save money! "One thing that occurs to me is that we'll have to make sure we understand who's doing what. I've heard horror stories about people who have paid to have a carpet installed, but no one said who was going to get rid of the old one! Another thing is the furniture. I don't mind moving it out before they come to install the new stuff, but I want to know how much I'm saving first."

Although Mary was listening, her mischievous grin betrayed the fact that she had found something interesting in the pamphlet she was reading. "Sweetheart...these people suggest that you do any preparation or painting before the new carpet is installed. That way any spills or damage will disappear with the old carpet. You know that woodwork could use some touch up. And I've been thinking. That room's been blue for a long time. Maybe it's time to consider something different..."

When John glanced up he had a distinct 'Gotcha!' look on his face. His mind played through two weekends of preparation and painting. Should have seen that one coming, he thought. But, after all, that's part of what he loved about his wife. She always found new ways to surprise him!

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Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money and Gary shares his philosophy of money here. You can follow Gary on Twitter or visit Gary Foreman on Google+. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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