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area rug in living room area

When you shop for an area rug, appearance is just one factor. Other aspects like durability, thickness and maintenance all influence long-term performance, while rug pile and pile height represent its ability to last through years of use. Here’s what you should consider.

What Is Rug Pile?

Rugs and carpeting involve a series of fibers woven or looped into a material called the backing. Pile relates to the density and length of fibers, while pile height is the length of each fiber. This distance is measured from the backing surface to the tip of the fiber.

Rugs can have a short or low, longer or high pile, with medium pile striking a balance. Short-pile rugs tend to be more utilitarian, ideal for high-traffic areas. High-pile rugs can offer more texture and are ideal for decorative purposes, making rooms feel warm and cozy.

Low vs. High Pile

Short-pile rugs feature a fiber length of one-quarter inch or less, while medium-pile rugs have a one-half to three-quarter inch fiber length. Although high-pile rugs go beyond these lengths, it’s important to understand this doesn’t always translate to a denser rug. Based on material, these carpets have a higher tendency to shed.

Shorter piles have the upper hand in high-traffic areas or places where you need resilient carpeting. They offer a longer lifespan, as they are less likely to shed and are easier to maintain. Shorter fibers also pose less of a trip hazard, don’t trap dirt and are more stain resistant. Based on material, a short-pile rug only needs to be vacuumed periodically.

High-pile rugs can make a room feel comfortable and add more texture, yet the longer fiber length requires more maintenance. Vacuuming doesn’t always pick up all dirt, so occasional professional cleanings are needed. Wear also tends to show sooner and more prominently. Along with shedding, these rugs will display visible indents if furniture is left on top.

Considering these differences, short-pile rugs better suit common rooms and areas like entryways, hallways, living rooms, dining rooms and places where kids or pets play. High-pile rugs suit areas with the lowest amount of foot traffic – for instance, bedrooms and guest rooms. In between, mid-pile rugs are ideal for children’s rooms and entertainment spaces.

Styling Based on Rug Pile

Based on these factors, low-pile rugs can come off a bit plain. To make more of an impact, seek out a rug or carpeting with a more visible, contrast-heavy pattern. Short-pile rugs with brighter colors will have designs that are crisp and focused. With mid and high-pile rugs, play up the texture. Look for a solid color and visible fibers that will stand out against furniture, flooring and other rugs.

At the same time, try not to place furniture directly on a high-pile rug, as the indentations likely won’t bounce back. Resilient fibers such as wool will have a better chance of “springing” back to life as opposed to a synthetic rug. Also be prepared to clean this type of rug with a vacuuming attachment, as the rotating bar may get caught in the longer fibers.

However you choose to style your living spaces, find short, long and medium-pile area rugs and carpeting at our Guilford and Orange showrooms.