Glossary of Carpet Terms and Definitions

Home Glossary of Carpet Terms and Definitions

What’s a frieze? What does design repeat mean? While some people assume carpet is a simple matter, it can be surprisingly complex and comes with its own lexicon of carpet-related terms. This helpful glossary from the team of Chicago carpet experts at Carpet Capital lists some of the most common carpet terms and their definitions, so you can reference it whenever you come across a carpet-related word you’ve never heard before.

A

Abrasive Wear: Damage to an area of carpet that causes a texture change due to friction from foot traffic.

Anchor Coat: An adhesive or non-slip coating that is applied to the backing of a tufted carpet to hold the tufts in place so they can’t come loose.

Antistatic: The ability of some carpets to release or dissipate an electrostatic charge before it reaches a level that can be perceived by humans. Antistatic carpet includes additives such as graphite or carbon that give it electrical conductivity so it’s able to release a static charge faster.

Attached Cushion: Underlayment that is attached to or bonded with the carpet backing to form a single unit.

Average Pile Density: A measure of the weight of the pile yarn in a unit volume of carpet, expressed in ounces per yard. The formula to calculate average pile density is Density = Pile Yarn Weight x 36 / Pile Thickness or Pile Height.

B

Backing: The fabric, yarns and other material that make up the underside of a piece of carpet. Tufted carpets have primary backing and secondary backing.

Berber: While this term once referred specifically to carpets hand-made by the Berber people, it is now more of a generic term for any loop-pile or cut-pile carpet manufactured with naturally-colored yarn.

Bleeding: Color loss in carpet yarns that have become wet, due to improper dyeing techniques or poor quality dye.

Bonded: Unlike tufted carpets, bonded carpets are manufactured by gluing the pile yarns on to the backing rather than tufting them with a needle.

Bound Carpet: A type of carpet that is cut and stitched or serged around the edges to prevent fraying and is not attached to the floor or subfloor.

Broadloom: Carpets made in a wider than average width, typically either four or five meters wide.

Bursting: When the end of a tuft is cut off and the twist unravels a bit, causing the end of the yarn pile to spread out or “burst” open.

C

Color Fastness: The ability of carpet fibers to retain their color when exposed to fading factors such as ultraviolet light, crocking or atmospheric conditions like high humidity.

Color Matching: The process of finding a piece of carpet for patching that is precisely the same color as the existing carpet or similar enough that the difference can’t be easily detected by the human eye.

Continuous Dye: A carpet-dyeing technique where the fabric is continuously moving throughout the dyeing process.

Crocking: Fibers losing dye through friction from rubbing or foot traffic. Crocking can occur under wet or dry conditions and it happens because of poor dye penetration, faulty dyeing methods, poor dye fixation or inadequate post-dye treatment. 

Crushing: When pile yarns collapse due to pressure from foot traffic or heavy furniture items. While crushing is similar to matting, it usually doesn’t involve the fibers tangling together to the same degree.

D

Delamination: A type of deterioration in which the primary backing and pile of a tufted carpet separate from the secondary backing.

Density: A measure of the number of tufts or amount of pile yarn in a given area of carpet.

Design Repeat: A measure of how long a stretch of carpet is before its design is repeated.

Differential Dye: A dyeing process in which yarns are modified in a way that causes dye absorption to vary along the length of the yarn, creating a mottled or flecked appearance on the finished fabric.

Drop Match: A carpet pattern that extends diagonally across a piece of carpet or at a 45-degree angle from the edge of the seam.

E

Embossed: A carpet with a relief design that appears engraved because the tufts are cut at different lengths to create a pattern.

Extrusion: The fabrication of synthetic fibers by forcing fiber-forming materials through a hole in a spinneret to create a single filament strand of yarn.

F

Face-to-Face: A carpet manufacturing process in which the yarn tufts are attached to a backing on both sides and then cut down the middle to create two cut-pile carpet units.

Fading: When color in yarn or other dyed fabric becomes fainter or more dull due to exposure to ultraviolet light or some chemicals. Fading can also be caused by friction from foot traffic.

Fiber: Thread or filament that forms the fundamental unit of a carpet and other types of fabric. Carpet fibers are typically fabricated from acrylics, cotton, wool, polyester, nylon and recycled composite materials.

Fluffing: The process of shedding small fibers that were not firmly secured into the backing during manufacturing. This is a typical occurrence after installation that does not harm the overall carpet and can be cleaned up by vacuuming.

Foam Back: A type of carpet with a secondary backing made of foam material.

Foot Traffic Unit: A measurement of foot traffic that represents a pedestrian walking across a section of carpet once. Less than 100 units of foot traffic in a day is considered light traffic, while heavy traffic is between 1,000 and 10,000 foot traffic units in a single day. Foot traffic in a residence is usually light to moderate, while foot traffic in commercial or industrial settings is typically heavy or extra heavy.

Frieze: A type of carpet with tightly twisted yarn that gives the surface a bumpy, rough appearance and texture.

Fuzzing: When carpet yarns come loose from snags or a weak twist and create fuzzy particles on the surface of the pile. 

G

Gauge: A measure of the number of pile yarns per inch, expressed as a fraction of an inch. For example, a one-tenth gauge means there are ten yarns per inch.

H

Handle: The tactile qualities of a carpet, such as softness, smoothness and pliability.

Homogenous: An item or substance made of all the same type of components. For flooring materials, this term is typically applied to smooth flooring such as hardwood because carpet is rarely homogenous.

Hybrid Carpet: A carpet made of a combination of two or more types of yarns.

L

Loop Pile: A tufted or woven carpet surface that is formed by uncut loops of yarn.

Luster: The brightness or reflective nature of fibers such as carpet yarn. Synthetic fibers are manufactured in luster categories such as semi-dull, semi-bright and bright.

M

Matting: Damage caused by foot traffic and other types of friction, as well as ground-in dirt, that causes fibers to tangle together in a solid mat. Matting is usually not reversible and indicates that the carpet needs replacement.

Multi-Width: When a manufacturer offers the same style and color of carpet in a variety of widths so installers can avoid wastage as much as possible during the installation process.

N

Naturals: Carpet material fabricated from natural fibers such as jute, seagrass or sisal. Manufacturers sometimes mimic the look of naturals with synthetic or composite fibers.

Non-Woven: Carpet fabric in which the fibers are held together with chemical bonding agents rather than being woven or tufted.

Nylon: A synthetic fiber used in carpet manufacturing (and many other applications related to fabric) that is composed of plastic polyamides with high molecular weight. It is referred to as polyamide in Europe.

P

Pile: 1. The visible surface of a carpet installation, composed of yarn tufts that may be either looped or cut. 2. The density of carpet fibers, as determined by the height, weight and thickness of the tufts of yarn.

Pile Reversal: A visual phenomenon that occurs when cut-pile carpet is pushed in differing directions by foot traffic, causing it to appear lighter and darker in areas. Pile reversal can be corrected with vacuuming, though it can be prohibitively difficult to get the pile all laying in the same direction.

Ply: The number of yarn strands that are twisted together to form a single strand. For example, three-ply carpet features yarn strands composed of three single strands.

Plush: A type of carpet with a single level cut-pile that has a greater height than velvet but is more sparse.

Power Stretcher: A motorized device used to install carpet without ripples, or to repair carpet that has become rippled over time due to heat and humidity exposure.

Primary Backing: In a tufted carpet, the primary backing is a woven or non-woven fabric or material that the yarn tufts are inserted into with a needle.

R

Resilience: A measure of how well a carpet can spring back to its original form and pile height after being compressed by foot traffic, furniture or other heavy items.

S

Secondary Backing: In a tufted carpet, the secondary backing is a sheet of fabric or material that is laminated to the underside of the primary backing for reinforcement and to help it lay flat.

Shag: Carpet with an extra long pile length greater than three-quarters of an inch. Shag carpeting was widely used in the middle to late 20th century, but it has fallen out of favor and is rarely manufactured or purchased in current times.

SPI (Stitches Per Inch): The number of stitches per unit length in a tufted carpet.

Sprouting: When an individual piece of yarn or fiber sticks up above the overall pile height. Sprouting usually only happens to a couple fibers here and there, so it can be easily corrected by snipping the “sprouts” with scissors.

T

Texture Retention: The ability of a carpet to retain its shape and height under normal levels of foot traffic.

Tufted: A type of carpet construction in which individual yarn tufts are inserted into a pre-made backing with a needle. The tufts can be looped or cut.

U

Underlayment: Also referred to as underlay or padding, it is a thin cushioning layer of material such as rubber, foam or felt that is placed beneath carpeting to give the floor a soft, cushioned feeling underfoot and provide support for the carpet so it suffers less wear and tear damage.

V

Vinyl: Also referred to as polyvinyl chloride or PVC, vinyl is a synthetic polymer that is used as a non-slip backing on carpet tiles.

W

Warp: Lengthwise yarns that are held stationary on a loom during the weaving process. For carpet fabrication, the warp yarns are typically reinforced with wire.

Waterfall Installation: A method of installing carpet on a staircase where it is only fastened to the floor at two points, on the back of the tread and the bottom of the riser. When it becomes worn out from foot traffic, it can be removed and repositioned with the worn part on the riser and the part that hasn’t been stepped on on the tread to make it look new again.

Weft: Transverse yarns that are woven through warp yarns on a loom during the weaving process.

Woven: Carpet material that is produced on a loom rather than being tufted. The weaving process is more labor-intensive and time-consuming than tufting, and therefore is significantly more costly. However, weaving generally produces a higher-quality, more intricate product.