Buying Guide: Floor Coverings

Our professionals share their interior design knowledge in this floor covering buying guide to ensure you're ready to begin your design project.


Buying Guides

Flooring can feel sleek and modern, soft and contemporary or warm and cosy depending on whether you choose carpet or hardwood.

The flooring you choose will be dictated as much by personal taste as by practical considerations about your family and lifestyle; of all the elements in the room, floors will receive the most direct wear and tear.

Before you begin looking at colours, patterns, stains and finishes, first you need to decide what material will go below your feet and why. What a room is used for, who uses it and how often, will all have an impact on your choice – you rarely find carpet in a kitchen, for example, because it’s not a practical material in a space where you are regularly cooking and eating.

Think about your room in the context of everyday living. Do pets and children use this space? Is it a room for relaxing or one that serves a specific purpose, like a kitchen or bathroom?

Floors aren’t simply decorative, either; you can use carpet to help insulate heat or a glossy stain over hardwood to brighten a space that struggles for natural light.

Most people use a combination of carpet and hard coverings around the home to respond to the different functions of each room. Here we’ll focus on some of the key considerations for each that are worth thinking about as you explore your options.

floor covering buying guide - designers guild

01.Carpet benefits

Carpet acts as great natural insulation. It can reduce heat loss and minimise noise, and offers endless options in terms of colour, pattern and texture. Carpets are also soft and comfortable underfoot; there are few feelings more luxurious than stepping onto a soft, warm carpet, particularly in winter! For this reason we tend to gravitate towards it for spaces in the home where we do the most relaxing, like the bedroom or living room.

Tufted and woven carpets are the two most popular types of carpet – woven carpets are made using traditional loom methods, while tufted is made using more modern manufacturing methods and is typically more affordable.

floor covering buying guide - eichholtz carpets

02.Different carpet materials

The pile you choose will impact the look and feel of your carpet and are each suited to different degrees of wear.

Wool’s natural properties make it ideal for carpet production as not only does it look and feel luxurious but it is also hard-wearing and easy to maintain. Pure wool or wool rich carpets are usually more expensive than those with synthetic materials however, as it can last longer than many other fibres, it can be worth the investment.

This man-made fibre is cost effective and resistant to staining making it a popular and practical choice for carpeting – particularly in areas that are likely to experience spillages.

Polyester carpets are also easy to clean and feel soft to the touch, however they can be prone to flattening.

Polyamide (also referred to as nylon) carpets are extremely hard-wearing and are considered to be the most durable of the synthetic carpet fibres. As such, polyamide carpets can be more costly but their excellent longevity can offset against the cost.

Natural fibres
Materials such as coir, sisal and seagrass can also be used for domestic carpets and are durable and anti-allergen.

Many carpets are made of mixtures of more than one material which means that the carpet benefits from qualities of multiple fibres.

floor covering buying guide - carpet fibre types

03.Types of carpet

The room you are laying carpet in and the amount of traffic it gets will impact on the kind of carpet that you choose. Spaces like hallways, stairs and landings will need more hardwearing carpeting while occasional rooms such as the dining room or spare room can have a less heavy duty covering.

Twist pile
As the most popular type of carpet, twist carpets are available in a huge range of colours and styles. A twist pile is made from twisted fibres making it hard-wearing enough for use in the busier areas in the house.

Loop pile
Created from uncut loops of material, these offer a rich texture – particularly when loops of different lengths are used. Loop carpets are also durable enough to use throughout the home although snagging can occur.

Cut & loop pile
These are created from a both cut and uncut fibres which creates a tactile texture.

Velvet pile
Velvet pile carpets are cut piles and are rich and luxurious with an extremely smooth finish. These are perfect for use in bedroom although they are tough enough for use in other rooms too.

Renowned for high quality and durability, Axminster woven carpets have a cut pile and are strikingly luxurious.

Saxony carpets have longer fibres than traditional loop or twist carpets which makes them feel soft and luxurious. The fibres are heatset so that they don’t untwist but, due to the length of the fibres, they can begin to look a little flat in high traffic areas.

Shag pile
With an extra long cut pile, shag pile carpets feel wonderful underfoot but are best used in occasion spaces as they can be trickier to clean and maintain.

floor covering buying guide - carpet types

04.Do I need carpet underlay

To ensure that you get the best out of your carpet and to make sure it sits correctly, the right underlay is crucial. As well as increasing the lifespan of your carpet, underlay will increase the amount of insulation and noise reduction that your carpet offers and help retain the feeling of softness underfoot.

05.Carpet calculator

In order to ensure that you have enough carpet to complete your project, it is important to calculate this correctly. Our carpet calculator will help you to ensure you order the correct amount. It is often worth ordering a few centimetres extra to allow for trimming too.

06.Hard floor coverings

Hard flooring can add a clean, fresh look to your home and has a few big advantages over carpet. It’s practical, decorative and, crucially, easy to clean. Hard coverings also tend to be more durable – with care, wood floors and other hard surfaces will long outlast carpet.

Depending on the materials you choose, hard flooring can be prone to scratching and can be troublesome with pets and small children – you will need to use felt pads or castor cups to protect the floor from dents and furniture scratches.

Floor covering buying guide - hard floor

There are dozens of different materials to choose from, and each will help you bring a different style to life. Some of the most popular include:

Tiles are a popular choice for kitchens and bathrooms owing to their durability and ability to cope with temperature changes and moisture. From ceramic to marble or travertine, tile options are almost endless meaning that you can add colour and texture to your space.

Concrete or eproxy
Concrete and epoxy flooring is a great way to add impact to your contemporary room design and is extremely durable and is difficult to scratch or mark but easy to maintain. Concrete has a cool, deconstructed looks and can be polished for a high-shine effect that reflects light.

Solid wood flooring
Good hardwood is more expensive and comes with its own unique character. It will never be completely uniform – instead, through wear and sun exposure, the colour will change over time and give off a beautifully lived-in look that simply can’t be replicated by other manufacturing methods. Made from oak planks, solid wood flooring offers a beautiful finish that has wonderful longevity. However, solid wood in kitchens and bathrooms can become stained by water marks.

Real wood top layer flooring
Also known as engineered wood flooring, this is made with a real wood top layer and strengthening bottom layer, this is stronger than solid wood flooring and copes well with atmospheric changes.

Laminate flooring is an affordable, durable and more resilient alternative to real wood flooring. Available with a range of woodgrain finishes and textures, laminate flooring is perfect for areas that experience high traffic.

Vinyl flooring if a more cost effective alternative to wood flooring and is extremely easy to clean and can be fitted anywhere in the house. Vinyl flooring is made from PVC and comes in a whole range of colours and finishes. As well as being easy to maintain, vinyl is quieter than wood flooring and offers insulation.

floor covering buying guide - hard flooring materials