The types of carpet pile explained

Feb 12, 2021

When buying flooring it can be daunting to choose the right one for you, as there are so many different types of carpet pile.  Each one has its pros and cons, so we thought we’d cast our expert eye on the subject and explain which types of carpet pile might work for you.

We cover the following different carpet types:

  • Tufted carpets
  • Woven carpets
  • Loop pile carpets
  • Berber loop pile carpets
  • Bonded carpets
  • Cut pile carpets
  • Frieze carpets
  • Saxony pile carpets
  • Twist pile carpets
  • Tip sheared carpets
  • Velvet pile
  • Cut and loop pile
  • Triexta carpets

Tufted vs woven carpet pile

In England we have a rich history of carpetmakers, starting in the 1700s in Wilton, Wiltshire.  The town’s first carpet weavers were smuggled out of France by the 9th Earl of Pembroke, and so began an industry which is still very much alive today.   Axminster, in Devon, started manufacturing its own woven carpets in the early 1800s, and both towns still produce some of the finest quality carpets, used mainly in prestigious installations.

This fascinating video shows how Axminster carpets are produced today

Although Axminster and Wilton still use the traditional woven method, the vast majority of carpets produced today are tufted.  Modern manufacturing techniques mean that it takes just an hour to produce a roll of tufted carpet, whereas it takes around eight hours to create a roll of woven.

Tufted carpets can produce a variety of different types of carpet pile too, depending whether their looped yarn is cut into tufts or left as loops.

Loop pile carpet

Loop pile carpets can have a level loop or multi-level loop finish.

Illustration of a level loop carpet pile

Illustration of a multi-level loop carpet pile

They are traditionally made with 100% wool but can also be found as an 80% mix with nylon or polypropylene. A loop pile is extremely hardwearing and forgiving in heavy traffic areas. They are not the most appropriate if you have a cat though, as their claws can get stuck in the carpet.

Living room with Southwold Chilton Canvas grey carpet, with wooden logs, a vase with plants, picture on the wall and other soft furnishings.
The Southwold from Cormar Carpets is a low level loop pile.

Berber loop pile carpet

Berber carpet is a tufted loop pile and named after the tribes in Africa and Asia who first devised the technique of threading yarn though the backing fabric to create small loops.  These days, the loops are made from either wool, nylon, polypropylene or a blended mixture to produce either a level or multi-level finish. 

Illustration of a Berber carpet pile

The lower the loop, the more hardwearing the carpet, and Berber carpet pile is extremely hardwearing.  A multi-loop can hide stains more than a level loop, so is ideal for busy family rooms.

A living room fitted with a beige Berber loop carpet
This Berber loop is from the Millstone range by Cavalier Carpets

A wool Berber is really soft and luxurious, but also more expensive than the polypropylene or nylon versions.   Polypropylene is also bleach cleanable, which is so useful if you have children or pets!

Bonded types of carpet pile

Bonded carpets are generally used for commercial carpet tiles.  The yarn is fired through the material into an adhesive layer – it doesn’t penetrate the backing material at all.   The adhesive keeps the pile in position, and the resulting carpet is extremely durable.  It is usually used in settings such as schools, offices and other heavy-traffic areas.

Cut pile carpets

There are a few different types of cut pile carpets, each of which has a slightly different finish.  They range from the hardwearing frieze to the elegant Saxony, the popular twist to the luxurious velvet.  There is something to fit every price bracket and room type, and if you’re not sure which one would work best for you then you can simply contact Craig Sargeant for advice.

Frieze pile carpet

Frieze is a twist pile carpet which has a thick and curly pile, and is extremely hardwearing.  Frieze carpets are great at hiding dirt, stains and seams, and they minimise footprints and hoovering marks.

Illustration of a frieze carpet pile

Frieze carpets are super-comfortable because of their loose construction, they are very soft to walk on.  They are great for insulation too, as it is a dense carpet which works for sound reduction as well as saving on your heating bills. They are sometimes more difficult to clean compared with other carpet pile types because their long fibres make it tricky to get to the stain.

Saxony pile carpets

Saxony is a type of carpet pile which is formed of straight fibres which are even in length.  Although it is a classic, elegant carpet, the downside is that the Saxony will show footprints and vacuum marks which makes them ideal for an occasional room.

On the plus side, a Saxony carpet is durable and classic, so it will never go out of fashion.

Twist pile carpets

Twist pile carpets are one of the most popular types that we sell, and are extremely versatile. 

Illustration of a twist carpet pile

They look great but they are practical too – a perfect, durable choice for a family room.  A twist pile carpet type will equally work well in high traffic areas such as hallways, living rooms and stairs.

Hallway with basket of apples, footstool and coat hanging up against a neutral cream painted wall and light beige carpet in Cornish Cream from the Oaklands range
This classic wool twisted carpet is from Cormar Carpets’ Oaklands range

The yarn is tightly twisted, and heat treated to maintain its twist, giving a textured finish which works really well with plain colours.  Twist pile carpet types are super-easy to maintain and will stay looking good for years if you look after them.

Tip sheared carpet pile

Tip sheared is made when some loops are tufted higher than others. The result is a textured, patterned carpet which is forgiving for footprints and dirt as they are hidden in the pile.

Illustration of a tip sheared carpet pile

The shearing process partially cuts the high loop tufts, leaving the lower ones uncut. When the carpet is sheared, the higher loop tufts are partly cut, but the lowers ones are not, making a pattern where the cut tufts have a darker appearance than the lower ones. The different levels in this type of carpet can hide dirt and footprints.

Random sheared carpet pile

Random sheared carpet pile is very similar to tip sheared carpet, except that the loops are sheared randomly.

Illustration of a random sheared carpet pile

The result is a cut/uncut texture, which looks similar to a cut and loop style.

Velvet pile carpets

Velvet pile carpet types are also known as ‘velour’ or ‘plush’, and will give you a luxury feel which is super-comfortable underfoot.  The surface pile is level, between 5mm and 10mm long, which is then sheared to give it a smooth finish.  

Illustration of a velvet/plush carpet pile

Velvet carpets can be made of natural or manmade fibres, and whereas they would traditionally be made from the best grade sheep’s wool, nowadays they are manufactured using synthetic materials. 

Velvet carpets are ideal for a room with light traffic such as a guest bedroom or formal lounge.

Cut and loop carpet type

A cut and loop carpet type is a combination of the two finishes, where some of the pile is cut and some left as a loop.  This makes interesting patterns and so these carpets come in a diverse range of colours and designs.  Because the surface is multi-level it doesn’t show up footprints, and stains can be hidden, so it is ideal for high traffic areas of the home. 

Shag pile carpet type

Shag pile carpets were the height of luxury in the 1960s and 1970s, with their soft, sumptuous feel underfoot.   They are made from long woven fibres, with a pile up to 50mm in length and a casual, loose texture. 

Although a shag pile carpet looks great on the floor, it isn’t as durable as some other carpet pile types, and can flatten underfoot.  It needs more maintenance than other carpets and you should consider your door height as the pile is higher than many others.  However, there’s no doubt these are lovely soft carpets, which look opulent, and provide great insulation benefits in the winter.

Woven carpet pile types

Woven carpet is made using a traditional loom method with a wool yarn being interlaced through backing material and then locking the tufts in place using a thin layer of latex. The result is an extremely high quality, hardwearing carpet, which is said to last three times longer than a tufted one.  They can display intricate patterns and are extremely comfortable underfoot.

View of stairs fitted with a stripy, patterned wool Axminster carpet runner from the Quirky Stair Runners range in Tribe Passion.
A vibrant Axminster fitted on stairs by Sargeant Carpets

There are three ways of manufacturing woven carpet pile types – Axminster, Wilton and flat weave.

Axminster carpet

The Axminster method involves inserting the pile of the carpet into the backing as it is woven.  U-shaped tufts are created by cutting it to length, with a result which allows for intricate designs, creating patterns with a wide range of colours.  Axminster carpets combine high performance with a luxury feel.

Wilton carpet

The Wilton method differs from Axminster in that a single continuous fibre is woven all the way through the carpet.  It can then be sheared to create a range of textured effects using cuts and loops to produce a high quality, hardwearing carpet.

View of a flight of stairs fitted with a light brown woven Wilton carpet in 80% wool and 20% nylon pile. Extra heavy domestic quality, moth proofed.
A flight of stairs fitted with a quality Wilton carpet by Sargeant Carpets

Flat weave carpet

Flat weave carpets feature a flatter pile, being manufactured using the Wilton method but as a loop pile which is woven across a wider area.  The effect is flatter and more textured.  Flat weave carpets are perfect for heavy traffic areas in homes and offices, and their striking patterns make them ideal for stair runners.

A living room herringbone flatweave carpet with table and laptop
A herringbone flat weave carpet from Fibre Flooring

And finally…  Triexta!

One of the newest carpet types on the market is the eco-friendly Triexta (or Smartstrand) range.  It was the first bio-based carpet and is partly composed of renewable plant-based materials which offer superb stain resistance, soil and spill protection.  It is great value for money, is water, mould and mildew resistant and extremely soft underfoot.   You can read more about this and our other eco-friendly flooring options here.

Not sure which type of carpet pile you need?

Craig Sargeant of Sargeant Carpets is always available to advise on which type of carpet pile would work best for your home.  You can text Craig on 07789 172303, email, fill in the form at the bottom of this page or visit our homepage and use the WhatsApp service using the green link at the bottom.

Other carpet guides

We have written a range of articles to help you choose the right flooring for your home, including:

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