Comfort comes with a price

Carpets have been getting a bad rap lately, due to their intensive cleaning requirements and potential for releasing harmful chemicals into the air. However, people still love them for their look and comfort, which is why they account for over half of all floor coverings purchased every year. What other floor covering doesn't require you to wear slippers or even socks, and protects your little ones from bumps and bruises when they take a spill?

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Sure, there's a risk carpets will off-gas VOCs (volatile organic compounds) like formaldehyde, or make life difficult for allergy sufferers, but nothing beats a cushiony fiber floor.

Luxurious loose pile carpets like shag can be difficult to vacuum. Tightly woven, shorter carpets last longer and are easier to maintain, making them a somewhat better choice. The best recommendation would be to choose resilient carpets for high-traffic areas like entrances and hallways.

Carpets are made in two main styles:

  • Loop pile -

    Yarns in this carpet are pulled through the carpet backing to make a loop. The shorter and denser the loops, the better the carpet blocks dirt and the longer it will last. Some carpets have multi-level loops that create texture and may also combine cut pile fibers.
  • Cut pile -

    A more durable carpet with a wonderful plush feel, cut pile is a carpet that's had the loops clipped. It comes in several styles, including textured and frieze, which are both known for hiding footprint traffic.

Vacuums are the easiest carpet cleaners, but intensive steam cleaning should be done every two years or so. Rental steam cleaners can be a cheap alternative if you know what to do, but hiring a carpet cleaning service is the best idea for most people. Depending on how much floor space you'll be getting cleaned, companies charge between 10 and 30 cents a square foot. Just make sure they give you an estimate first.


If you have a hard floor like tile, you're probably well aware that unless you have a floor heating system, you'll be walking around on a cold surface. That's where throw rugs, runners and area rugs come in handy. They can be as soft as carpet, but are much easier to clean, either through dry cleaning services or popping the smaller ones in the washing machine.

Have a hallway that's so cold you need to sprint across it on the way to the bathroom at night? A runner will be the perfect fit. They're long and thin and can be sized to most hallways, not to mention that there are so many gorgeous options you'll have trouble choosing.

Persian and oriental styles are some of the most popular, and also the most expensive with one-of-a-kind handmade pieces costing several hundred to several thousand dollars. With such high prices comes longevity, though; many of these pieces can be passed down for several generations. Manufactured replicas can be purchased for less than $100.

Under a chair in the living room or in front of the kitchen sink, a throw rug is the perfect way to warm the area under your feet without having to carpet the entire room. They come in square, rectangle, half-circle or even specialty shapes such as hearts or animals, making them a great choice for your child's room.

Kids will love standing on a monkey carpet in front of the sink while they learn to brush their teeth, or getting out of bed onto a throw rug that matches their comforter. The best kids' rugs also function as a play space. Some have woven roads they can drive their toy cars on, or an outline that lets them play a giant game of tic-tac-toe or checkers.

Sheepskin throw rugs are perfect beside the bed or in front of couches; the cushiony fur will keep chilly feet extra warm. Small versions cost about $250 to $350. If a throw rug isn't enough, area rugs come in sizes big enough to cover an entire room, serving as a carpet alternative or simply a decorative piece.

Many people with hard floors own several rugs which they place in high traffic areas or where extra cushioning is needed.

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