Rug Buying TipsWritten by Fred Remmers
Rug Buying Tips
What's the best way to choose an area rug? Simple. Take it one step at a time. We've created this guide to help you make sense of all the warps, wefts and weaves. Whether you're looking for a pop of color, a subdued statement or simply a plush feel under your feet, here are some simple tips you can sink your toes into.
Believe it or not, most modern-day rugs are made with the same techniques used by master weavers for hundreds of years. The finest hand-woven rugs still require considerable time and attention to detail. And while machine-made rugs can be made more quickly, the same basic techniques remain in place.
In most cases, the quality and price or your rug will be determined by the construction time and the talent of the weaver. But don't forget to consider texture and appearance when shopping. To help narrow your options, take a look at the unique features of these common rug types.
Hand-knotting is the most labor-intensive rug-making technique. Master weavers tie individual knots to the warp yarns that make up the length of a rug. Together, these knots form the actual surface, or pile, of the rug. In general, the more knots, the more durable and valuable the rug. Also, no two hand-knotted rugs are exactly alike.
Easier to manufacture, tufted rugs are created without knots. Instead, loops of yarn are simply pulled through a rug's backing material, either by machine or hand-held tool. The loops are then sheared to create a smooth, cut-pile surface. Since less work is involved, even the highest-quality tufted rugs can be produced relatively quickly and inexpensively. Note that tufted rugs tend to shed more than other rugs, which may require more frequent vacuuming.
Hooking is just like tufting, except the yarn loops stay intact. In a hooked rug, loops of yarn are pulled through the rug's backing material by machine or with a hand-held hooking needle. But instead of being sheared, the loops are left alone, creating a knobby, embroidered look.
Unlike the rugs above, flat-weaves do not have a pile. Instead, the rug's vertical yarns (warps) are simply woven through the horizontal yarns (wefts). Flat-woven rugs, such as Kilims and Dhurries, can be produced by hand or machine.
Braided rugs, like flat-weaves, do no not have a pile and are usually reversible. Yarns are braided into one continuous rope that is then sewn together in a spiral fashion. The result is a very strong, durable piece that holds up in nearly any environment.
How your rug looks, feels and performs is also dependent on the materials used. So, choose wisely, but remember: every fiber or fabric has its own unique characteristics and advantages. It's just a matter of selecting one that fits your needs. Will your rug be used in high- or low-traffic areas? Will it be underneath furniture or on its own? Check the fibers below to see which kinds of rugs might be right for you.
Produced from the fleece of sheep, wool is a natural fiber that is highly regarded for its strength, durability and luxurious softness. Higher-quality wools tend to come from New Zealand or Tibet, where sheep produce high levels of lanolin. This natural substance enhances the fiber's strength and texture.
Benefits: Soft, durable, easy to clean
Considerations: Prone to early shedding, color fading
A natural protein fiber, silk is often blended with other rug fabrics to produce a distinctive softness and sheen. The fiber's unique structure refracts light at different angles, giving it its shimmering appearance. Because silk is created from harvested larvae cocoons of silkworms, the production process can be tricky and time-consuming. Not surprisingly, even the smallest addition of silk can increase a rug's cost.
Benefits: Very soft, strong, distinctive sheen
Considerations: More difficult to clean, shows footprints
Taken right from the cotton plant, this natural fiber is both soft and strong. Cotton area rugs can easily absorb a variety of dyes, allowing for many color options and designs. The fabric also makes a great backing material, helping the rug keep its shape and lie flat against the floor.
Benefits: Easy to clean, machine-washable, biodegradable
Considerations: Attracts dust easily, wears quickly
Jute, sisal and coir are common examples of natural grass fibers used in area rugs. Extracted from their respective plants, these fibers are generally flat-woven to produce extremely strong, durable rugs. And, since the fibers are processed without the addition of harsh chemicals, the production of these rugs is also environmentally friendly.
Benefits: Extremely strong, durable, highly textured
Considerations: Coarse feel, prone to stains
Synthetic, or manmade, fibers are created from materials such as nylon, polypropylene, acrylic and viscose. In area rugs, these materials are often used to mimic the characteristics of natural fibers. For example, polypropylene is often used an inexpensive, but comparably soft substitute for wool.
Benefits: Strong, stain-resistant, great for high-traffic areas
Considerations: Crushes easily under heavy furniture
Before buying a rug, be sure to measure your space carefully. Use a tape measure-twice, to be safe-as guessing can easily lead to mistakes. You want your rug to not only fit the space, but also make the most impact possible. Here are some helpful tips you can use throughout your home.
Leave enough room so that the rug extends beyond the back legs of a chair when someone is seated. Otherwise, your chairs may wobble on the uneven surface-not the most comfortable dining experience. An 8' x 10' rug is the most common size for dining rooms, but be sure to measure your space and the area around the table with chairs pulled out.
Living & Family Rooms
Here, there's really no right or wrong way to place your rug. It's all about preference. The bigger the rug, the more it'll pull the other elements of the room together. Use the coffee table, or center of the room, as the primary focal point and plan outward from there.
Rugs are a great way to add extra softness and soundproofing to the bedroom. Simply choose a rug the fits the width of your bed. Or, if you're looking for something larger, find one that will cover the space beneath your nightstands, too.
Kitchen, Hallway & Foyer
Look for runners and round area rugs to fill the narrower spaces and nooks throughout your home. Remember to use a tape measure first, so that there are no surprises once you get your rug on the floor.
care & cleaning
You've done your research, measured your room and picked the materials you want. What's next for your new rug? Caring for it! Thankfully, it doesn't take a ton of work to keep your rug in tiptop shape. But here are some things to remember.
Spills, Spots & Sunlight
Clean spills immediately by blotting the affected area. Be sure not wipe or rub the spills, as this may worsen the stain and fray the yarns. If possible, keep your rug out of direct sunlight, which can cause some rugs to fade.
Regular Maintenance & Storage
Shake or vacuum both sides of your rug regularly. Rotating the rug every six months will prevent uneven wear from foot traffic and furniture weight. When storing, roll up the rug with the pattern facing out and place it in a dry, well-ventilated space. For extra protection, wrap the rug in a breathable cloth, rather than an airtight bag.
Not just for slippage, a rug pad can help preserve the life of your rug. Rug pads protect the rug from everyday wear by giving it a soft, supportive foundation that keeps it in place. Most rug pads can also be cut with scissors to match the exact size and shape of your rug.