Glossary of Carpet Terms

Knowing what all the carpet terms mean when you buy your next new carpet.

It's also helpful to understand how carpet is made, recognize faulty carpet terms and make sense of any terminology prior to carpet cleaning and stain removal. If you can understand the descriptions on carpet sample labels and brochures and relate to what the carpet salesman tells you, then you should benefit from a better quality carpet with maximum value over the long term.

Action Back
A brand name for a woven polypropylene secondary backing used in carpet manufacture.

Anchor Coat
The latex or adhesive layer that is applied to the underside of the primary backing to anchor the base of the tufts and prevent them from working loose.

A type of machine woven carpet with a multicoloured, patterned pile. Usually produced with a high wool content. Produced in three styles: Spool Axminster with up to thirty colours, Gripper Axminster with eight colours and Spool-gripper, which is a combination of both.

Banding (or roll crush) is evident as dark or light lines across the width of the roll. It can also appear as compressed sections of pile caused by pressure from the leading edge of the carpet at the centre, or ‘core’, of the roll. The flattened pile can be caused by the weight of the roll in storage on shelves, or when several rolls of carpet are stored one on top of another.

Bulked Continuous Filament yarns are continuous strands of synthetic extruded fibres. BCF yarns are produced in polyamide (nylon) and polypropylene (olefin) without the need to spin the yarn from short lengths.

A term used to describe carpets with a cut-pile or loop pile construction that are made predominately of natural flecked yarns. A Berber style is attributed to the nomadic tribesmen of North Africa (Berbers) who use the fleece from the sheep they tend to produce multi-coloured rugs with a natural appearance. Berber is also thought to be any carpet style with a bold loop.

A blended carpet has a mix of two or more fibres such as an 80% wool/20% nylon or 50% polypropylene/50% wool.

Body Carpet
Before broadloom carpets that we are accustomed to today, the common widths available where in narrow ‘Body’ sizes of 27" (3/4 body) and 36" (full body). These were joined together by hand sowing or heat seaming into larger pieces to cover large areas.

Broadloom carpets are manufactured in wide widths of 3.66m, 4.00, 4.57, or 5.00 metres.

When a single tuft is cut its tip relaxes, causing it to splay out or 'burst'.

When a carpet pile is subjected to concentrated traffic, heavy furniture or storage conditions before installation.

This term relates to the density of pile that covers the primary backing. A light cover would reveal the primary backing causing it to 'grin' or appear to sparkle.

The process of shearing the tips of the carpet pile by trimming with blades to produce a uniform and level surface finish.

Cut n Loop
A carpet effect with high and low levels of pile, the high loops having been sheared to produce a cut-pile. The result is a structured, textured pile, which can be plain or overprinted with other shades.

Cut Pile
A tufted yarn produced from a continuous loop which has had the tip sheared off to form a surface that is soft and textured. Also presented in woven form as Axminster or Wilton weave. A tighter tuft density withstands heavy traffic best.

When the secondary backing of a carpet parts from the primary layer due to a poor adhesive bond.

The tightness or closeness of pile tufts in relation to each other. A 1/10th gauge pile is denser than an 1/8th gauge.

When synthetic molten polymer chips are forced through a metal spinneret, which has numerous holes in it, thereby producing continuous strands of solid fibre.

Face to Face
A method of producing carpet where to the yarn is sandwiched between two backing layers and then sliced into two by a sharp blade to produce two cut-pile carpets in a single process. This method is often used to produce Wilton carpeting.

Face Weight
The face (or pile) weight is the actual amount of surface fibre per square yard, and is usually measured in ounces. Often quoted in relation to a wool carpet: typical pile weights are 36, 40, 50 and 60 ounces.

The loss of colour in a carpet surface fibre, often seen when (but not specific to) the pile being subject to the UV rays of strong sunlight.

Felt Back
A type of cushioned textile secondary backing, which is bonded with adhesive to the primary backing of a tufted carpet.

A single strand of any type of fibre, natural or synthetic.

Fine Gauge
A tufted carpet with fine gauge rows of tufts that are packed closely together, as in a 1/10" gauge.

The appearance of loose fibres on the surface of a carpet, usually found in a carpet pile made from a staple fibre yarn. Prevalent in a new carpet when first installed and vacuumed.

A cut pile style that has a very high twist. Each strand of yarn is twisted so tightly that the tip curls over. The result is a textured surface with a loose, coarse, knobbly appearance. A style best suited to medium wear areas.

Pile fibres working loose to give a hairy effect on the carpet surface, brought about by foot traffic or slack yarn filaments. The cause can be poor adhesive penetration at the tuft base, poor yarn spinning, inadequate twisting and heat setting, or improper maintenance. Using an upright vacuum cleaner with a beater bar on a loop pile carpet can aggravate this condition.

The number of individual tufts across the width of a tufted carpet for a given unit of measure: i.e., 1/10" has ten tufts per inch and 1/8" has eight tufts per inch.

When a carpet has a low tuft density, the primary backing is often visible between the tufts. A woven polypropylene primary backing can be seen to 'glisten’ in certain light conditions.

A gripper is a length of plywood with embedded sharp pins, set at angle, at the right height to hold the backing of a carpet in place. Gripper is also a term to describe a method of producing an Axminster carpet.

Hard Twist
A carpet yarn with a hard, tight twist applied.

Heat Set
Heat is applied to the yarn strand to fix a permanent twist into it.

The natural fibre yarn from the jute plant is woven into a sheet and used as a secondary backing for tufted carpets.

High Tufts
Individual tufts which stand proud of the carpet surface. Often loose (but can also be firmly fixed at the base of the tuft) they are best trimmed level with a pair of scissors or knapping shears.

A method of producing tufted carpet using an electronically operated process (which controls the needle bar) to give a patterned effect. Often seen in carpets as a linear zigzag effect.

A mechanical device invented by Marie Jacquard using punched cards to control the pattern produced by a weaving loom.

A natural liquid found in plants, particularly the rubber tree, which is used as an adhesive to bond and seal carpet backings. Synthetic latex is also used as an alternative.

Loop Pile
A tufted yarn that is continuous and uncut to form a surface that is dense and hardwearing, often used in commercial carpeting and carpet tiles. A low profile loop pile carpet withstands heavy traffic best.

Meltbond is a term that describes a process of encapsulating staple yarn with a fine ‘web’ of fibre. This web has heat applied to it to shrink it slightly. As a result, the tufts have improved strength, crush resistance, tuft definition and shedding is reduced. Meltbond usually makes up 10 percent of the total yarn fibre mix.

Carpet produced by mechanically binding loose fibres together with rows of barbed needles. Needle punched carpet is normally made with solution-dyed yarns and is a very dense, hardwearing and low cost product. It is commonly used in heavy contract applications, such as schools, shops, offices and outdoor carpeting.

The term Nylon is a generic name for the synthetic polymer, polyamide – a fibre which is derived from the petrochemical industry. First produced in 1939 by the American company DuPont. Nylon is produced as a BCF (bulked continuous filament) fibre for use in both loop pile and cut pile carpets. Staple nylon is spun into yarn for use in cut pile carpets.

Piece Dying
Tufted carpet that is dyed after tufting, but before other finishing processes such as latexing or backing.

Pile Pressure
The loss of pile thickness by compression caused by foot traffic and heavy pressure from furniture. All carpets demonstrate this condition but a resilient woollen pile tends to recover much better than synthetics.

Pile Reversal
A change in the direction of the cut pile in some areas resulting in an obvious visual shade difference. A cut pile carpet that has pile reversal will show random areas of lighter or darker shading than the adjacent area. Its cause is not understood and remains unexplained. It can be seen in tufted or woven carpets and rugs, whether made from nylon, wool, acrylic, polyester, polypropylene or blends of these fibres. Also described as pooling, watermarking or shading.

The tendency of some fibre strands to work loose from the pile to form small balls of matted filaments that remain attached to the carpet surface. These small pills or balls can trimmed off with scissors or a de-fuzzing comb: they should not be pulled from carpet.

Pile Weight
The pile (or face) weight is the actual amount of surface fibre per square yard, and is usually measured in ounces. Typical pile weights are 36, 40, 50 and 60 ounces.

The number of strands of yarn that are twisted together to form a single yarn, as in ‘2 ply’ or ‘3’ ply. Cut pile carpets made from plied yarns must be heat set to prevent the tufts from unfurling when trafficked.

The synthetic polymer polyamide invented by the American company DuPont. More often referred to as Nylon.

Also known as Olefin. Polypropylene fibre is a by-product of petro-chemical refining. Cheaper than nylon, it is used extensively in low cost domestic and commercial carpets. Polypropylene is a lightweight BCF fibre that bulks well and provides a good ‘cover’ and handle. Less hardwearing or resilient than Nylon but anti-static, stain resistant and the least absorbent of all synthetic fibres.

Primary Backing
A pre-woven primary backing layer has the carpet yarn tufted directly into it. Tufting needles push the yarn through the primary backing layer, which is then held in place with underlying “loopers”. A layer of adhesive or latex is then applied to anchor the base of the tufts.

A Saxony carpet has a soft and luxurious feel with a long pile and a knobbly twist finish. Saxony’s are not suitable for high traffic areas because they can show flattening.

Secondary Back
The secondary backing serves to secure the base of the surface tufts in place and at the same time helps the carpet retain its dimensional stability. The secondary backing is bonded to the primary backing with a synthetic adhesive. Hessian secondary backings were once the norm but now the majority of tufted carpets use a woven polypropylene backing.

A carpet that demonstrates shading will show areas that are lighter or darker than the surrounding pile. This difference is caused by the reflection of light from the tips of the pile tufts that lay in different directions.

Shedding is a term used to describe the release of loose fibres (usually unsecured staple fibres or sheared/cropped fibres) from the carpet surface. This condition is common with a new carpet but it usually diminishes within a few weeks or months with regular vacuuming.

Carpet yarn that is a single strand.

Individual tufts or yarn ends that stick out above the pile surface. These tufts should be cut off with scissors, level with the surrounding tufts, never pulled out to leave a gap. May be clipped with scissors.

Spun Yarn
Yarn that is made up of short lengths of fibre, either synthetic staple or natural staple fibre.

Staple Yarn
Staple yarns are produced in short lengths, spun, and twisted together to form long lengths of yarn, which are then tufted into carpet. Nylon is produced in both staple and BCF yarn. Polypropylene is produced in BCF only. Wool and cotton are natural staple fibres.

Stitch Rate
This is the number of tufts or ‘stitches’ for every inch of travel along the length of the roll. Sometimes referred to as the SPI, i.e. stitches per Inch.

Tip Shear
Shearing the tips off the high loops of a tufted, multi-level, loop pile carpet at the finishing stage. This creates a cut and loop texture or sculptured patterned effect. A Tip Shear carpet is often a tight, dense pile compared to a Cut & Loop, which can be much softer and looser.

Tuft Anchorage
The strength of bond at the base of a tuft. Any adhesive weakness (or lack of latex or adhesive) on the underside of the primary backing will allow the tufts to work loose.

A manufacturing process where a pre-woven primary layer has yarn tufted directly into it. Tufting needles push the yarn through the primary backing layer, which is then coated with a layer of adhesive to anchor the base of the tufts. At the same time, a secondary backing layer is applied to cover the base of the tufts and to give the carpet strength and stability.

A term describing the number of turns per inch, and the direction of twist, of either single or multi-ply yarns. The twist direction is either right or left-handed. Most carpet yarns have 3 ½ to 6 twists per inch. The performance of a cut pile carpet is dependent on the twist in the pile yarn. Spun yarns need more twist than BCF yarns for good performance.

A velvet pile is short and often dense. The tufts are fine, with a highly twisted nature applied during the spinning process. This helps the tips of the tufts to ‘burst’ thus creating a velvety surface appearance. This style is often likely to show footprints and vacuum lane marks.

A weaving term for yarns that run lengthwise in woven fabrics and carpets.

The backing yarn that runs across the width of a woven carpet which is held in place by the warp yarns. Often made of brown jute.

A type of woven carpet and the loom used to manufacture it.

Woven Carpet
Carpet produced on a loom using a weaving process. The lengthwise warp yarns intertwine with the width wise weft backing yarns, which serve to secure the pile yarns in place. Weaving is a slow, expensive, labour-intensive process. Woven carpets such as Axminster are well known for their intricate patterns and soft textured surface. Wilton’s are well known for their dense hardwearing surface pile.

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