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The Best Carpet Choice For Stairs

By Alan Fletcher- 30+ year Carpet Expert and Consumer Advocate since 1998


Carpet installed on Stairs endures the most abuse. It’s because stairs are narrow and receive a constant pounding from heavy foot-traffic focused in the center and on the leading-edge of every step.


Active children, dogs and cats and especially teenage boys and their friends are the main reason why carpets installed on stairs tend to wear out faster than carpets installed in other areas of your home. Kids and pets love to run up and down the stairs as fast as they can which is very damaging to the pile surface. Abrasion is the number one cause of carpet wear and tear.


What can you do to alleviate the problem? 


To start with, you can choose a more durable "grade of carpet" that can handle heavy foot traffic, and select a padding with a higher-density rating to provide better support for your carpet. Here are a few options that may help you choose the right grade and style of carpet and padding for your flight of stairs and other high-traffic areas.



The Best Carpet Fiber for Stairs?

For stairs, you can choose almost any carpet style you like as long as the "grade of carpet" is designed to handle your level of foot traffic, but the most durable residential carpets are made from 100% Nylon. There are various types of Nylon fibers available and some are more durable than others. The “soft” Nylon styles are not quite as durable as the standard Nylon carpet styles. 


What do I mean by "Grade of Carpet?" Carpet specifications determine the grade of the carpet you select. That means fiber type, tuft twist, pile height, pile density and face weight. All this information is available on another page on my website, but I highly suggest you take the time to Learn More About Carpet Specifications. 


Choosing the Right Carpet Fiber


The type of Carpet Fiber you select will determine how long it lasts, how soft it feels, what colors are available, how easily it cleans and how much it costs. This is one of the most critical factors homeowners face when choosing and comparing carpet. There are several carpet fibers available today and they all have their own unique benefits and pitfalls:

  1. Nylon - Two main versions are Stainmaster 6.6 and Anso 6.0 and available in various "soft" styles. 

  2. Sorona - also known as Triexta; Smartstrand; and PTT.

  3. P.E.T. Polyester - This is a soft and stain resistant fiber made from recycled plastic bottles.

  4. Polyester - A soft and yet inexpensive fiber to manufacture which makes it popular for homeowners who are on a budget.

  5. Olefin - Also known as polypropylene. A durable fiber that is inexpensive to manufacture but difficult to clean.

  6. Wool - A soft and natural fiber derived from sheep, is naturally fire-resistant but very expensive to buy and more costly to install and maintain.

You must compare apples to apples. For example, you cannot compare a NYLON carpet to a POLYESTER carpet, or a WOOL carpet to an OLEFIN carpet. This would be like comparing apples to oranges. You have to compare similar carpets and narrow it down to the one that best meets your needs and lifestyle as well as your budget.


No matter what, don't trust any salesperson that says a Polyester carpet is just as durable as a Nylon carpet. Nylon is the most durable fiber and most resilient carpet fiber available today. So if you want your new carpet to tolerate heavy foot-traffic and continue to look like-new for years to come, then nylon is the fiber you need to select.


Why You Should Consider a Nylon Carpet


Nylon is a generic name or designation for a family of synthetic polymers first produced in 1935 by the DuPont Company. As far as fibers go, Nylon is the most durable and the most resilient of all fibers. 


Nylon resists matting and crushing of the pile because it is very resilient. A "Resilient" fiber is defined as having the ability to return to its original form or position after being bent, compressed, or stretched. Nylon is the most resilient fiber used to make carpet today. Resiliency is what keeps a Nylon carpet looking like-new longer than any other fiber. 


Nylon costs more than other fibers. Nylon is one of the more expensive fibers second only to wool. I would consider choosing a Nylon carpet if you have a lot of foot traffic and longevity was my biggest concern. 


Q. Do Tactesse, Caress, Lisse' and other "softer" Nylons hold up as well as the "standard, non-soft" nylon fibers do?

This is an excellent question. From my experience, I have found that the "softer" Nylon fibers are not quite as resilient as a standard denier Nylon fiber. The higher the fiber denier, the heavier the filament. 


The way they make a standard nylon fiber softer is to make the strand thinner. By doing so, I believe that some of the resiliency is lost. This thinner strand creates a carpet that is much more softer to the touch but as a result may be more susceptible to matting and crushing of the pile. 


Don't take this the wrong way, I'm not steering you away from buying a soft nylon, but if you want to have the absolute most durable and most resilient nylon for the money, I suggest you buy a carpet made with a standard denier Nylon fiber.


What is Carpet Fiber Denier?


Denier is a unit of measurement that is used to determine fiber thickness. Fibers with a high-denier rating tend to be thicker and more durable. Fibers with a low-denier rating tend to feel softer. 


To give you some perspective, a typical soft-nylon fiber is usually rated between 8 and 12 denier, A typical human air is approximately 20 denier. Standard weight non-soft nylon fibers are usually rated between 40d and 80d. 


Fiber denier is easiest understood if you have ever gone fishing and used a nylon filament fishing line. 


The thicker the fishing line is, the stronger it is. When fishing for Trout most fishermen use a thin 4 to  6-pound test fishing line. For catching bigger fish like Steelhead or Salmon, a thicker 8 to 10-pound nylon test fishing line may be used. The thicker the nylon fishing line, the stronger it is and the more durable it is.


Some Nylon carpet fibers are manufactured (extruded) thinner to make a carpet style that feels much softer to the touch, but in doing so some of the strength, durability or resiliency may be sacrificed. Therefore I believe a carpet made with a (standard or non-soft) denier Nylon fiber will be more durable and more resilient than a carpet made with a thinner strand as used in today's branded "Soft Nylons".


Read My Article: Lifestyle Often Dictates Best Carpet Choice



Sorona® PTT (AKA Smartstrand® by Mohawk)


If you want a carpet that is durable, soft and resist stains, Sorona® may be the fiber you are looking for.  Sorona has permanent stain resistance that is engineered into the fiber and will never wear or wash off. But remember, no carpet is completely stain proof. 


Sorona® also known as Triexta or PTT was developed by DuPont. It is a polymer derived from corn. It is said to have the best anti-stain properties and cleans easier than any other fiber. They also say it is very durable. Sorona is clearly more durable than PET or Polyester, but is it as durable as Nylon? I don't think so.


I do believe that Sorona may resists stains and clean a little bit easier than Nylon, but the durability and resiliency of Nylon is hard to beat. Either way, Sorona may be the fiber you need for your busy home and lifestyle when stain resistance is the utmost priority.


Sorona® is not a new fiber, it was invented back in the 1940's and was deemed too expensive to manufacture at that time to be able to compete with other carpet fibers like Nylon. Carpet prices have increased enough over the past 10 years to allow Sorona to be manufactured at a comparable cost. 


Mohawk™ has a line of carpet styles using the Sorona fiber and they have branded it and call it Smartstrand®TM. 


DuPont™ and Sorona® are a trademark and a registered trademark of E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company.



Carpet made of Polyester or PET Polyester


Polyester is one of the least expensive fibers to manufacture. 


A thick polyester carpet may feel nice and super soft, but it is not a resilient fiber, and it does not a make a long-lasting carpet. 


Polyester carpets mat down in a hurry, and that has always been the problem with carpets made from this fiber. When you walk on a carpet, with every footstep you bend, stretch and compress the fibers and soon they begin to fall over. 


Once polyester fibers are crushed, they won't spring back to their original upright position. This is why warranties for polyester carpets do not cover claims against matting or crushing. 


Don’t be fooled by salespeople who recommend carpets made with polyester. It may be acceptable to buy a carpet made with polyester as long as you know what to expect and don’t pay a lot of money for it. I wouldn't expect to get a life span of more than 5 years on a residential polyester carpet, regardless of its specifications or warranty claims. I might consider choosing a carpet made of polyester if I wanted to spend as little as possible on a carpet that looks nice for a very short amount of time. How much does carpet cost?



Carpet made of Olefin (also called polypropylene)


Olefin is a very strong fiber. It is often used to make Berber carpets, commercial carpets and outdoor grass carpets. Olefin wears well and has good stain resistance when anti-stain treatment is applied. Olefin also has good anti-static properties. However, Olefin is not easy to keep clean and tends to look dingy when soiled. It has poor resiliency so smaller looped Berber styles wear better than do larger looped styles. 


Commercial looped carpets wear very well, as the loops tend to be very small which leaves little room for the loops to become matted or crushed. Wheelchairs roll easily over commercial level loop Olefin carpets that are glued-down without padding and may be a good choice for handicapped areas, hospitals and retirement home applications. When comparing Berber carpets made of Olefin smaller loops, in a tighter weave will yield a longer wearing carpet. 


All about Carpet Comparison



Popular Carpet Styles - Which Carpet Style Is Best Choice?


Which Carpet Style Should I Choose?



Plush style carpet is usually one solid color and has a smooth, even pile height. During manufacturing, the tufts of this type of carpet are sheared to make the pile surface perfectly flat and smooth. Plush is the most popular carpet style used in homes and apartments today. 


You can find practically any color imaginable. When made of nylon this type of carpet cleans easily and will wear well if properly maintained. Plush carpets will show footprints and vacuum marks. 



Textured Plush style carpet often has more than one color of yarn and has varying tuft height, thus reducing footprint and vacuum marks. It comes in many colors and has about the same cost as an even pile height plush style. 


This is a good carpet for kids, and when treated with a anti-stain chemical is easy to maintain and spot clean.


High / Low Carpet Styles (Sculptured)

Sculptured style carpet has both Cut and Looped tufts creating a sculptured or manicured look. Generally this style is made with a high cut pile and a low loop pile with a sculptured design. 


This style is usually made using two or more colors to help hide dirt and show less vacuum marks and footprints. The color usually varies in shade from light to dark and is rich in appearance. 



Frieze style carpet has very tightly twisted tufts and wears very well. The tufts are not straight like a plush style, rather they are crooked, or wiggly in appearance. I think it makes any room look fantastic. It is often used in heavy traffic areas and provides reduced footprint and vacuum marks. 


Typically more expensive than plush styles, this would be a durable and elegant selection for the home.



Saxony is a cut pile carpet with a relatively dense erect tuft configuration. Saxony has well-defined individual tuft tips, this means it is easy to see each tuft on the surface of the carpet, giving it a rougher look or appearance.  


Similar to a plush style. 



Looped Berber Styles have become quite popular in recent years because of its elegant appearance. In some styles the tufts are looped and aligned in rows for a clean uniform look. In other Berber styles there may be a pattern.


When choosing this carpet be sure to select one with smaller loops to get the best wear. Large-looped Berbers tend to collapse quickly and look worn-out sooner. Looped Berber styles may be prone to snags which is difficult to repair. For this reason those with small children or active pets my want to avoid a looped Berber style.


More about Berber Carpet Styles


CUT-PILE BERBER Carpet Styles aka "California Berber"


The "California Berber" style is not a looped Berber like most of you have seen, in fact it is more like a frieze. It does not have any loops because the loops have been cut which is why they call it a "Cut-Pile" Berber. It has a similar appearance of a Frieze style carpet but has a multicolored appearance, a speckled egg appearance. 


Buying a Cut-Pile Berber style made of Nylon is the best way to go if you want it to last the longest.  Usually the main color is off white (or a lighter shade) with colorful highlights and flecks of deep blues, reds and green colors throughout. Beautiful!



"Cut and Loop" Carpet Styles


cut and loop carpet styles

"Cut and Loop" is another wonderful style to consider. There are literally thousands of beautiful patterns to choose from and makes for a beautiful and elegant carpet in any residential setting. 


Here is a collage of a few "Cut and Loop" styles to give you an example of a few patterns that may be available. 



















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