I would say that a week doesn't go by without us getting asked, "I'm thinking of buying new carpet. What kind is best?" Many want us to give them a manufacturer and a brand. But, this is not a question that can be answered in a word or even a sentence, although that's what most want. So what is the answer?
It seems to me that many people have the opinion that 'carpet is carpet', that all carpets are pretty much the same. Unfortunately, that could not be farther from the truth. Let's compare carpets to something else we all have, automobiles. Are all vehicles the same? Of course not. Not only are there different brands but also categories. What's best: a sedan or a pickup truck? A sports car or a minivan? Let's face it, it really depends on what you're using it for. Each one has a place and is suited for specific needs. It's the same with carpets.
Carpets are made with as much variety as cars and trucks. To determine what's best you really have to decide on what you're going to use it for, what your family is made up of and their habits, and what you expect from it.
For instance, a three-season room is very different from a formal dining room, a bedroom from a family room. Also, who's in your family: kids? pets? how many of each? The harder you will be on a carpet, the tougher it has to be. Also, how long will you be using it? If you're planning on moving in the next five years you may not want to purchase a carpet designed to last 20 or more years (yes, they will last at least that long!).
Although there are countless brands and lines of carpet, we can look at carpets by what they are made of. There are primarily four types of materials are used in carpet production: nylon, polyester, olefin(polypropylene), and wool. Each one has very different characteristics and properties, just as a pick-up is different from a car.
Nylon: the best overall material for carpets. It has excellent abrasion resistance so traffic patterns don't develop quickly, is fairly stain resistant, especially with Scotchgard Protection, and responds very well to steam cleaning.
Polyester: very stain resistant, but, we've noticed it crushes or mats fairly quickly and only lifts temporarily after cleaning. This carpet lasts a very long time. We clean some polyesters that are over 40 years old.
Olefin: the most stain resistant carpet. Some are bleach proof (although we don't recommend it for cleaning). This is an excellent carpet for indoor/outdoor settings, or areas where you need a lot of stain resistance, like a play room. These mat or crush almost immediately, so take that into consideration. It has been far overused in home settings. Personally, I think this is one of the reasons that people have torn out their carpets and installed other floor coverings in recent years.
Wool: no man-made fiber is a soft as natural wool. It resists crushing, is good for long term wear, is naturally fire-resistant, and usually offers rich colors. Unfortunately, it is pricey.
This is just a very short list on carpets. Within each category are numerous 'levels'; the type of material (nylon 6,6, PET, etc.), the density and backing just to name a few. I highly recommend the Carpet Guru's website, at www.carpetguru.com, for a very comprehensive but easy to understand explanation of carpet, padding, and manufacturing. Read it over before you purchase any carpet. Just like you do your homework before you purchase your car, do your research before you buy your carpets. You'll be glad you did.