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Buying Carpet: Avoiding Wall-to-Wall Worries

A Baltimore woman had carpeting installed throughout her house. Within a year, the carpet began to bubble and she also discovered the carpeting in her bedroom was installed without any padding, although she had paid for it. The company refused to correct the problems or refund her money.

Wall-to-wall carpeting may feel good under the feet, but judging from the number of complaints the Consumer Protection Division receives each year, buying carpet can be a headache.

Carpeting is a long-term investment. Don't be pressured into making a quick decision.

How Much Carpet?

Before you shop, you should figure out about how much carpet you'll need. To determine the approximate amount, multiply the room's length (in feet) by the width and divide by nine. This will give you the number of square yards, which is how carpet is sold. Add about 10 percent to your total to account for room irregularities.

You'll still need to have the area measured by the seller before you sign a contract.

Choosing the Carpet

The next step is to determine what kind of carpet you want to buy. Do this before you actually start comparing prices. You should look at other people's carpet and talk to them about it. Look at how it has worn. Does it still look good or is it worn down and dirty despite proper cleaning. You also will want to look at sample pieces.

Most people choose carpet by color. When selecting a color, consider the amount of foot traffic the carpet will get. Some colors, like white, show dirt easily and are difficult to keep clean in heavily used areas.

In addition to color, you also need to consider density, height of pile, twist and heat setting.

  • Density: Generally speaking, experts agree that the denser the carpet the better. To determine how dense a carpet is, bend the sample piece and see how much backing is exposed. Density refers to how closely the yarn tufts are woven into the carpet's backing. The denser the carpet, the closer the yarn tufts and the less backing you'll see.
  • Height: Yarn woven together on backing is referred to as the pile. As a rule, short to medium pile will hold up better under traffic than high- pile carpet of the same density.
  • Twist: Individual yarns are twisted together to make them stronger. A tighter twist provides more durable carpet. The yarn should have neat, tight and well defined cut ends. Sometimes the yarn is looped instead of cut at the top. Dense, looped carpets are also good high-traffic choices.
  • Heat setting: This process locks in the twist so it can hold up under use and cleaning. Read the label to be sure the carpet you select has been heat set.


Padding is the shock absorber for your carpet. The type you need depends on the kind of carpet you buy. It is important not to skimp on padding quality because it helps curtail wear and tear on the carpet. Good padding can make a carpet last longer. Find out what type of padding is recommended for the carpet you've chosen and be sure to try it out before you buy. Place a piece of padding under a sample of the carpet you've chosen and walk on it.

Comparing Prices

After you decide on the kind of carpet you want, you must decide where to buy it. A good starting point is to look for satisfied customers. If you have a friend or relative who recently bought carpet and was happy with the results, consider buying from the same dealer.

Comparing carpet prices is difficult because the same carpet is often sold by different retailers under different names.

If you find a particular carpet you like, you may be able to compare prices at various stores by matching the style number. Although manufacturers put different names on the carpet for different retailers, the style number would be the same from store to store.

However, many large carpet chains carry their own line of carpets that aren't sold elsewhere, so you can't compare. In that case, you'll have to find a piece of carpet you like in a style you've chosen and get a price, then go through the selection process again at the next store. Keep in mind that some stores include installation and padding in their price per square yard and some don't. Get a written estimate that includes installation and padding and compare the total cost, not the cost per square yard.


Proper installation is important to ensure that your carpet looks its best. In fact, many carpet complaints deal with installation. Before you sign a contract to buy carpet, find out how the store will make sure that the installation is done properly. Some stores use their own installers and others hire installers on a piece work basis.

Try to find a carpet seller who uses the same installers consistently. If possible, ask for the names of some people who purchased carpet about a year ago and call them for a reference. (Don't rely on consumers who purchased more recently. It may take a year to tell if the carpet is staying in place and holding up under wear.)

Find out how the store handles installation problems. If you're not happy, will the store fix the problem? How will they fix it and what types of problems will they fix?

Be sure to check with the Consumer Protection Division at (410) 528-8662 to see if consumers have filed complaints about the business before you decide to buy.


Once you have selected carpet and decided who to buy it from, you need to have the area measured. Don't sign a contract until this is done and the exact amount of carpet you will be buying is determined. Request a diagram showing where the carpet will be seamed. If you are concerned about a seam, discuss it with the sales person or ask to speak to the installer. You may choose to purchase a bit more carpet so you can eliminate or move a seam to a less conspicuous spot.


You are now ready to enter into a written contract with the carpet seller. Be sure it includes:

  • The amount of carpet you are buying,
  • The manufacturers name, carpet color and style number,
  • The type and amount of padding,
  • The number of yards of carpeting and cost per yard,
  • The type of padding including weight and thickness,* The cost of installation,
  • An attached diagram showing where the carpet will be seamed,
  • Any extra charges for removing old carpet, moving furniture or shavingdoors,
  • The total cost of the job.

Make the smallest deposit possible and consider making it with your credit card. If the carpet is not delivered or you encounter any other problems getting your carpet installed, you have more recourse if you paid by credit card.

Maryland Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division
Consumer hotline: (410) 528-8662 or 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free


Attorney General of Maryland 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free / TDD: (410) 576-6372
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