Carpet Piles Explained

Pile defines the height of carpet fibers, measured from the carpet surface to the backing. A carpet is either a high, medium, or low pile.  You can measure a carpet pile using a ruler. Low pile carpet is less than 1/4 inch high, medium pile carpet is 1/4 to 1/2 inch tall, and high pile carpet is over 1/2 inch tall.

Types of Carpet Piles

Types of Carpet Piles

High Pile Carpet

A high or deep pile carpet has tall fibers with a height of ½ inch to ¾ inch. Shag rugs are one example of high-pile carpet.

Deep pile carpets feel soft underfoot but are challenging to vacuum. They’re best for low-traffic areas.

Medium Pile Carpet

Medium pile carpets have a fiber height ranging from ¼ to ½ inch. While medium piles are easier to maintain than deep pile carpets, they can trap dirt between the fibers. Choose a medium pile carpet if you want a soft underfoot that withstands high foot traffic without matting.

Low Pile Carpet

A low pile carpet has dense fibers with a height of ¼ inch or less. The shorter piles are easy to vacuum. Because of the thick fibers, crumbs and dirt sit on the carpet surface. It’s also easier to remove stains on a low pile than on a medium or high-pile carpet.

These carpet types are best for dining areas, living rooms, and kids’ playrooms. Loops and Berber-style carpets are examples of low piles.

Woven Carpet Pile

Woven carpet piles are made using a traditional loom. The machine interlaces two or more sets of yarn to form a carpet. Common materials include wool, cotton, and silk.

1. Flat Weave

Unlike other carpet types, flat weave carpets and rugs lack a tufted pile. The carpet fibers (weft) are threaded through the warp vertically, creating a flat weave. The carpet backing also has the same pattern.

Most flat-weave carpets are made from natural fibers like wool, cotton, and jute. Because of their flat surface, flat weave carpets are easy to clean using a vacuum. You can also blot stains using a towel.

2. Axminster

Axminster carpeting has a traditional weave design. The technique involves weaving yarn through a loom. The loom selects a yarn, cuts it, and attaches the U-shaped tuft to the backing.

Axminster carpets are unique, with a blend of colors and patterns. They are ideal carpets for any space, from high-end hotels to small apartments and receptions.

3. Wilton

Wilton carpets also use a traditional weaving method. Yet, for Wilton carpets, yarn is woven into a continuous loop. The yarn is cut after attaching the pile to the backing.

Wilton carpets are available in simple patterns and various textures. They are stable with a strong construction, suitable for high-traffic corridors and rooms.

Cut Pile

A cut pile carpet has cut yarns that stand straight up in a cluster. The pile resists crushing and matting and has a soft underfoot. When selecting a cut-pile carpet, you should check its twist. A good quality cut pile carpet will have a tight twist with a high face density.

1. Cut-Loop Pile

Cut & loop pile is a blend of looped yarns and cut ends. It mixes cut and uncut loops that form uniform or varying heights. Cut and loop pile makes different designs, patterns, and textures. Manufacturers use this style to create three-dimensional and sculptured effects.

The downside to this pile is that the fibers tend to have a worn-out appearance. For this reason, cut and loop style makes stunning area rugs. 

2. Velvet

Also known as velour or plus, velvet pile carpets are popular for their elegant feel. They’re sheared to give them an even finish. Velvet feels comfortable underfoot. Unlike twisted yards, its fibers are straighter and have cut ends at the top. Its surface level is smooth and ranges from 5mm to 10mm long.

Velvet carpets are made from natural or synthetic fibers like nylon or polypropylene. They’re ideal for areas with moderate foot traffic. Having a luxurious finish makes them pricier than other carpet types.

3. Shag Pile

Shag pile carpets were mainstream in the 70s. As the name suggests, they have a fuzzy appearance. Shag rugs consist of straight loops or yarn strands. They feature long woven fibers with a pile of up to two inches long.

Their loose texture makes them feel soft underfoot. But, shag piles are prone to flattening. They’re also difficult to vacuum.

4. Saxony Pile

Saxony is a conventional cut-pile carpet with straight fibers cut into even lengths. The pile is compact to make the carpet feel soft underfoot. 

Textured Saxony carpets have thick layers to prevent color fading. The layers also help prevent vacuum marks or footprints. To create a smooth texture, Saxony pile carpets are woven in loops. The loops are sheared off to give them a tufted look.

5. Twist Pile

Twist pile carpets have a textured look. They’re made from compact, twisted yarn and are ideal for large living rooms with high foot traffic. The textured design makes the carpet suitable for hiding vacuum marks.

It’s easy to maintain twist carpet piles. They’re durable with dense fibers, which reduces the rate of flattening and softens the tufted ends.

6. Textured Cut Pile

Unlike cut pile carpets, textured types have uneven fiber lengths. Some manufacturers may use the terms “cut pile” or “textured” to describe the same carpet style.

Twisting the fibers creates an uneven look that makes the carpet style durable. Cutting the yarns to different lengths creates a thicker feel. As a result, the carpet style has a solid resistance to footprints.

Loop Pile

Loop piles come in different colors and patterns. These carpet piles are popular since they are durable and versatile. Loop pile carpets can either be Berber, textured, multi-level, or level loop.

1. Berber Pile

A Berber pile is a short thick construction looped together. Berber carpets are available in wool, polyester, and nylon materials. Due to their low pile, Berber carpets handle high foot traffic and resist wear.

A Berber loop carpet is distinct for its multi-color flecks spread through the carpet Most Berber carpets are stain-resistant and less quick to absorb spills. Though it appears outdated, Berber is one of the best carpeting styles for hallways, stairs, and office buildings.

2. Patterned Loop Pile

Patterned loop pile carpets have slight height variations in the loops. This style is also known as textured loop pile. Combining two or three-loop pile heights creates a textured finish on the carpet.

A patterned loop carpet conceals footprints and vacuum marks. Its attractive patterns and textures make it the ideal carpet for a high-traffic family room.

3. Multi-Level Pile

A multi-level pile features varying loop heights with several color combinations. The carpeting style is similar to patterned loop piles but different in loop sizes. Its loop height difference results in a textured pile. Multi-level pile carpets are ideal for medium to high-traffic areas.

4. Level Loop Pile

The fibers in a level loop pile are all the same height. A level pile creates a smooth and even carpet surface but makes the carpet less soft. Level loops can be thin or thick. Smaller loops that are tightly woven are resistant to matting and crashing.

A drawback to level loop pile carpets is that the loops can pull and are difficult to restore. There might be better carpeting styles for households with pets and kids. Nonetheless, level loop carpets are easy to clean and do not trap dirt between the fibers.

Flat vs. Shaggy Pile

Flat pile carpets are suitable for homeowners who value a uniform tidy look. Vacuuming and removing stains on a low pile is more manageable than on a shaggy pile. Moving furniture on a low pile is also more practical due to the flat surface.

Shaggy carpets are best for low to medium traffic areas and work well as design accents. They can cling to dust and allergens, though, so it if you deal with respiratory issues, a low-pile carpet is a better choice.

Tufted vs. Woven Carpet Pile

Woven carpet piles are more durable than tufted carpets. They’re often made of pure wool or a blend.  They come in three types—Axminster, Wilton woven, and flat wave.

Since tufted carpets consist of synthetic materials like nylon, they’re cheaper to produce. Tufted carpets are available in two types—hand-tufted and machine-tufted. Hand-tufted carpets are of a higher quality.

Tufted carpets are second to woven carpets in durability. Woven carpets have a deeper texture since the yarns are pre-dyed. Printed tufted carpets may fade over time as they use color injection.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What’s the best carpet pile for high-traffic areas?

Short pile carpets are the most durable in high carpet areas. They have shorter fiber strands that show minimal signs of shrinking. Short pile carpets made of wool are ideal for places like your living room or stairs.

High-pile or low-pile, which is better?

While high-pile carpets are soft and cozy, it’s more difficult to vacuum them. Low-pile carpets are more suitable for busy households and commercial buildings. Tall fibers on high-pile carpets offer durability in low-traffic areas. They are best for guest rooms and bare spaces.

What’s the most suitable carpet pile height?

A ¾-inch pile should suffice for most rooms. An ideal pile height for high-traffic areas is 0.5 inches. If the pile is thick, your carpet will flatten when exposed to high foot traffic.

Which is the best mold-resistant carpet material?

Nylon carpets are treated with chemicals to make them mold-resistant. They also have a solid resistance against stains and abrasion.