Wool Carpet: Cost vs. Value

Discussion in 'Carpet Q&A' started by David Hunt, Jun 1, 2007.

  1. David Hunt

    David Hunt Charter Member Senior Member Published

    Re: What makes a quality carpet

    Wool is expensive?

    Compared to what?

    Seriously, I wish someone could explain this phase that seems to be tossed around far more than the myth 'carpet is toxic, dirty and bad'.

    You know who says wool is expensive?

    The synthetic fiber producers and manufactures who toss out this line as a last ditch effort to sell a lesser quality fiber. Sure, everyone agrees that wool has proven itself as the ultimate premium fiber, the benchmark by which all fibers are judged, but, simply because a lesser quality 'man-made' fiber can be produced at a lesser cost does not mean wool is expensive, it simply means synthetic fibers of lesser quality can be produced at a lower cost. And,.... we get what we pay for!

    Wool would only be expensive if it were equal to the synthetics it is being compared to and it is not. In fact, it's not even close.





  2. Mark in Tulsa

    Mark in Tulsa Pro Member

    Re: What makes a quality carpet

    The consumers with the check book are the one's that say it's expensive.
    A Ferrari is only expensive if you compare it to a Camaro. But i guess since the Camaro does not have the performance of, or the quality of a Ferrari, then I guess we can conclude that the Ferrari is not expensive. So in that theory we should all be driving Ferrari's, and we should all have wool carpet.

    You are right, wool is an awesome fiber. It does have it's cons. It can hold 10 times it's weight in water, so it makes it susceptible to mold and mildew. It can also shrink if wet. It will fade over time if not protected from UV rays.

    I've seen bare spots in heavy traffic areas with wool, due to it's staple yarn design that causes it to wear down.
    It's also trickier to clean, due to you having to use the right PH level cleaner. (don't recall the specs right now)

    Yes wool is a great product. But it is with it's cons, like all fibers.
    And it is expensive. There are no if, and, or buts about it. When you have a fiber that can cost 2 to 3 times as much, but doesn't perform twice or three times as better, then it is expensive.
  3. Peter Kodner

    Peter Kodner Inspector Floors Charter Member Senior Member

    Re: What makes a quality carpet

    Mark, quote a response.

    Actually the ability of wool to gain and lose moisture is an advantage. It is like having built in humidification control. While wool will provide food for mold, I have never seen a synthetic in such pristine condition that the soil trapped in it will not support mold as well.

    All carpets, except olefins engineered for outdoor use will fade from Uv, even with the normal Uv stabilizers. Further, nylons in particular will actually degrade from Uv. Most synthetics are replaced long before this becomes a factor due to appearance changes.

    Did a job in the late 80's for Purdue University. Their Auditorium which was acoustically is one the finest in the world. We just replaced the stairs and walkways that were a five frame Wilton that had been down since the building was opened in the early 30s. The areas at the seats still looked terrific. Been at this quite a while and have never seen a nylon job from the 50s (when DuPont 501 came out) still in service.

    Cost is NOT value. In a proper construction and application, I flat out state wool will outperform ANY & ALL synthetics.
  4. David Hunt

    David Hunt Charter Member Senior Member Published

    Re: What makes a quality carpet

    It's funny how the same customers who can't afford wool, can afford wood, ceramic and/or stone. They can afford plasma TV's, boats, RV's, ATV's and a host of other items. But they can't afford wool.



    BTW: The cost difference between a decent tufted wool and a quality tufted nylon is not that much. Certainly no where near the difference between a Ferrari and a camero. Guess we stuck a nerve. :eek:
  5. Harry Myers

    Harry Myers Charter Member

    Re: What makes a quality carpet

    In all actuality . This is what bothers me . When a contractor says. Your covering up that beautiful wood. I say yes but this cost more than the wood. But what make a quality carpet. To me it is the superior yarn (Wool) the resiliency. The softness . The carpet that pops. I dont really do to much nylon and when I do it is disaponting.
  6. Roland Thompson

    Roland Thompson Charter Member Senior Member

    Re: What makes a quality carpet

    If everyone started to just buy Wool could the industry keep up with the demand? I like to install a nice pc of woven wool and i like it that i can get more for installing it. If that is mostly what was being done i think people wold start driving down the prices.

  7. FlooringGirl

    FlooringGirl Senior Member

    Re: What makes a quality carpet

    I'm seeing a lot of talk about wool carpet. Although it is a great fiber, wool isn't exactly a fiber which accomodates the present world. It is extremely pourous, therfore leading to numerous problems. In today's living, having a repellant on a carpet is preferable. As my store is a Stainmaster Master Gallery, I am tuned in to the advantages of this type of stain repellant and have complete faith in it. Also, having grown up in homes built in the 1800s and filled with wool carpets, I've definitely seen the negatives. People still want it and buy it, but certainly not for practical reasons.
  8. David Hunt

    David Hunt Charter Member Senior Member Published

    Re: What makes a quality carpet

    Please don't take this as a personal assault, but so many of you kind folks are very-very mis-informed about wool, what it is and how it performs. We can't use single issue items to disqualify one fiber over another. There are downsides to every fiber. However, when we look at a fibers inherent characteristics in it's totallity, it is my contention that wool is, hands down, not only the best fiber, but also the best value on the market. Yes, value, even though it costs more!

    Now, with that said, perhaps this thread should be split and a new thread begun?

    In addition, my ability to reply is constrained by time and it may take several days in between replies. Even so, I will do my best to reply to each and every aspect of wool and will be the very first to point out the limitations of application/specification of wool. Again, with fare warning, there will be lapses between my replies.

    Does anyone want to have a serious professional educational discussion on wool? With professional being the key word!

    What do you think?


    Last edited: Jun 10, 2007
  9. Peter Kodner

    Peter Kodner Inspector Floors Charter Member Senior Member

    Re: What makes a quality carpet

    Dobby, I was hoping you would step up to the plate (like I really had any doubts:D ). I have started two new threads in the Professional Forums Flooring Potpourri (I was gonna put them in Inspections so I had editorial control, but it is so hard to be humble... :cool: )

    Let's have some fun, learn something and respect each other :D

    I do hope we don't forget this original thread where the point was to assist a consumer through the confusion about different factors in buying carpet.
  10. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Owner/Founder Administrator

    Re: What makes a quality carpet

    Sorry for any confusion over Peter's last post. I copied or moved all of the above posts from their original topic to begin a new one about wool. This was Dobby's idea and a good one. This can help the consumer make their decisions about wool and I hope they will also get involved in this conversation.


  11. bosephus

    bosephus Pro Member

    well i may aswell throw another point in,i live in the uk where we are getting flooded by poor quality wools,so telling a customer to buy wool has to be given with some caution,i can buy a 50 oz 80%wool carpet in for about $7 sq yard where as five years ago it would of been nearer $20 sq yd,american man made fibres are our bench mark in the poly/nylon for quality,where as we try to sell british wool as its 40% harder wearing on average than new zealand wool,that been said in a berber new zealand wool would be a better option due to the white colours been easier to dye leaving a better looking product,like i say thats my experience in the uk but may be different to you over there,would be interesed to know,ps just replaced an exceptionally poor quality polyprop soft back after 1 week due to flattening in the walk way!wish the belgiums would learn how to manufacture some quality!
  12. David Hunt

    David Hunt Charter Member Senior Member Published

    Two very quick points.

    1.) It is not my intention to dissuade anyone from using or selling any fiber they choose. This is an educational forum. The objective of these posts is to provide clear and accurate information about wool as a carpet fiber.

    Because nothing will destroy our credibility as a trusted professional quicker than inaccurate and/or false information. It is also important to keep in mind that, simply because one fiber may out perform another, does not mean one is ‘good’ and the other ‘bad’. It simply means they are different.

    Furthermore, as a professional, having correct and accurate information about the other fiber options will only enable us to do our job better. If you want to sell nylon, learn about wool, but at least let’s show our customers the respect they deserve by learning about it accurately and being honest about it. When we do this, not only will our confidence increase, so too will the customers trust in us and our abilities.

    2.) No topic on wool can be discussed without first understanding and appreciating a basic wool fact. As our friend Bosephus pointed out, not all wool is the same.

    Wool, in it’s simplest description, is the hair on sheep. Different breeds of sheep, like segmented groups of any species, have different attributes and/or characteristics. With regards to hair, sheep are not unlike we humans. Some have long straight hair, while others may have flowing curly hair and others may have tight kinky-curly hair. Likewise, not every hair quality lends itself to every application.

    Age is another factor. Ever notice the difference between a toddlers hair and your grandmothers? The young hair is soft and more lustrous, while the old hair is coarse and brittle. The same is true with wool. Lambs wool verses sheep’s wool. And is it true virgin wool comes from ugly sheep? No it is not, but we’ll get to that a bit later.

    Another important factor in understanding wool is that keep in mind that wool {the sheep’s hair} is intended to keep the animal protected from the elements. This brings up two very-very important issues. The first important issue is the regional climate. Where is the sheep raised.

    Certainly we can all appreciate the fact that a sheep’s coat {called the fleece} will be much thicker if it is raised in a cold damp climate verses a dry desert. It’s natures built-in protection of the species.

    The second important issue is diet. The quality of hair, on any species, is directly impacted by the quality of it’s diet. Ever see a sick or malnourished animal and notice it’s dull, coarse and mangy coat? Where a sheep lives and what it eats are as important to the quality of a fleece as is the breed of sheep itself.

    This brings us back to our friend Bosephus statement about low priced wool carpet. There are many vendors, on both sides of the pond, that will gladly sell 100% wool pile carpet for less than a dollar a square foot. {wholesale} While there are other vendors who sell a carpet of similar construction for four times that amount. What’s the difference? The difference is in the quality of the wool.

    So how do we know which is which?

    The best way to ensure the quality of the fiber is to purchase a branded fiber. The two most trusted brands in wool carpet fibers are the British Wool Board and the Wools of New Zealand. These are independent entities that test and grade the quality of the wool to ensure it meets the physical requirements for it’s intended use.

    The next best means of ensuring quality is to deal with reputable manufactures who specialize in wool and other natural fibers and have a proven track record of producing quality products.

    The third means to ensure the quality of the wool is to become educated on wool fiber characteristics, qualities and finishing. Including spinning and dying.

    Make no mistake, it is a buyers beware market and there are unscrupulous persons and companies in every facet of life. Floor coverings is no exception.

    Don’t forget to take notes because we will be revisiting the afore mentioned items before this is done. Oh, by the way, yes, there will be a test!


  13. to da lou

    to da lou Pro Member

    I'm excited to read this thread and learn more about wool and the impressions different people have of it. Unfortunately, I can't really contribute any wisdom from past experience. (I'm very new to the flooring world.) The training program I'm using doesn't give nearly as much information about wool as Dobby does, but what it does say agrees with him.

    My mother is looking at carpets now, and asked me: "Wouldn't wool attract bugs and moths and stuff that want to eat it?" I told her I don't know for certain, but I'm pretty sure they treat just about everything to resist bugs these days.

    What would you respond to a customer that asks that question?
  14. to da lou

    to da lou Pro Member

    Next question: It seems that one of the major selling points of wool is that it lasts a lot longer than other carpet fibers. These days, though, customers aren't very interested in long-lasting. Flooring is more of a fashion item (like most home improvement items), and therefore customers buy it expecting to change it out -- or move to a completely different house -- within just a few years.

    For the people that don't value a "forever floor," what would you say is the major selling point of wool? Does it out-perform synthetic or other natural fibers on a day-to-day basis?

    For the folks who only want a "fashion floor," are there wool products out there that will give them the desired effect? Is there something you can tell them that will make them say to all their visitors, "Yes, I just got new carpet... and it's wool!"?
  15. David Hunt

    David Hunt Charter Member Senior Member Published

    Let’s jump right in...

    Anytime wool is discussed the moth issue is bound to come up, so now is as good of time as any to address it. Because wool is a natural protein fiber, it is an appetizing snack for specific types of developing insect, mainly the moth and beetle larvae.

    Interestingly enough, the possibility of a larvae dining on our carpet fibers depends greatly on where we live on the planet. For this reason insect resist treatments are classified on five levels. One being the minimum and five the maximum. With different levels being applicable to different regions of the world. For example, in Europe ,attack by beetle larvae is uncommon and only moth resistance is required. However, in Australia and New Zealand resistance to treatments has built up to the point where a level five application is required. In North America, a level two treatment is specified.

    Now, all this talk about insect resist treatments is getting kind of scary. Makes us want to ask, what is it that the yarn is actually being treated with and how does it work any way?

    Since 1980, permethrin {{aka: Eulan}} has been the active ingredient most commonly used. Sound nasty. Actually, it’s not, unless your a larvae, fish or other aquatic invertebrates. You see, permethrin is also safely used on vegetable, fruit, field crops and cereals around the globe.

    The way it works is, when the larvae consume or ingest portions of the treated fiber, they die. End of insect. While the existence of larvae is beyond the control of the fiber processor, the evolution of the larvae into an adult insect, be it moth or beetle, is easily preventable. In fact, the application of insect resist treatment on wool fibers has become such common place, it is extremely difficult to find commercially produced wool that is not treated.

    Now what was that about fish or aquatic invertebrates... glad you all caught that. Permethrin, aside from being toxic to insect larvae upon consumption, is also toxic to fish and aquatic vertebrates. For this reason, the application of insect resist treatments is applied late in processing, always post scouring in the dye-bath or later. In addition, other advancements have led to more environmentally friendly treatments like bifenthrin.

    Now I know how sharp you folks are, and your thinking, if it’s toxic to fish and aquatic stuff to the point that it needs to be kept out of the waste water. This must mean it is, to a point, water soluble...and if it is water soluble, does this mean the treatment is removed in the inevitable cleaning carpets will experience in the normal life cycle?

    That’s a great question and the answer is both yes & no. Yes, some of the insect resist treatment will be lost. However, the degree of loss is minimal. Nonetheless, the amount of anticipated loss from normal cleaning cycles has been taken into account and global standards adopted for application in anticipation of normal reductions through attrition. In simple terms, they know some will be lost in normal cleaning so they apply more than needed to compensate for the loss.

    So, like the lawyer said to the politician, why say something with one word when you can use three.

    In summary, yes, wool fibers used in the production of carpet are treated for insect resistance. The treatment is proven safe and effective over decades of use and study. Nonetheless, tremendous care is taken to ensure it’s safe application.


    With kindest regards,


    PS: For those who would enjoy more study on this subject, might I suggest Woolmark Specification E10 and Chinese Specification HJBZ and expanded searches on the trade names permethrin, Eulan, Larvanil and bifenthrin.
  16. David Hunt

    David Hunt Charter Member Senior Member Published

    Once we get some of this technical stuff out of the way, we can deal with more of the esthetic aspects & attributes of wool as a carpet fiber.

    Because beauty without substance is an illusion.


  17. to da lou

    to da lou Pro Member

    Solid gold.
  18. FlooringGirl

    FlooringGirl Senior Member

    You know, I think the carpet industry has put a lot of effort into reproducing many aspects of wool carpet while adding more modern requirements, such as stain-resistance, the ability to resist insects, etc. However, wool has not been duplicated. Nor has sisal. Just as you can never replicate the beauty of true cork. However, I do find some of the modern replications to be more practical and just as beautiful. Just my opinion ... Tia
  19. kwfloors

    kwfloors Fuzz on the brain Charter Member I Support TFP Senior Member

    I have seen $3 a sqyd and $300 sqyd carpet and the cost doesn't effect the quality or the value. Just as I've seen inexpensive wool and nylon perform better than something that costs 10 times more and vice versa. Every carpet is different and there are many other things to consider like high pic backing, woven, etc.
  20. David Hunt

    David Hunt Charter Member Senior Member Published

    As stated earlier, it is not my intention to dissuade anyone from selling or buying non-wool products. My only objective is to provide accurate and factual information concerning the use of wool as a carpet fiber.

    At the same time, it is not my intent write a book on the subject and I know my posts can get quite wordy. With this said, please feel free to jump in with questions and/or comments and remember, we don’t have to agree to have a great discussion. We simply need to communicate.

    FlooringGirl posed an interesting observation with “I think the carpet industry has put a lot of effort into reproducing many aspects of wool carpet while adding more modern requirements, such as stain-resistance, the ability to resist insects, etc.” and followed with “However, I do find some of the modern replications to be more practical and just as beautiful.”

    Personally, I believe these to be statements that reflect a view shared by a majority in the flooring business. But where does this shared view come from? Is this a view based on fact or convenience?

    It is my contention that this is a view chosen by convenience. How can I make a statement like this? The answer is found in the answer of the following question:

    If the industry has put a lot of effort into improving the wonderful stain resistance, texture and appearance enhancements for synthetic fibers. Why has this same technology not been applied to wool yarn?

    And the answer is...



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