8 Tips for Buying Your First Area Rug

Oh, pretty rugs!Oh, pretty rugs!I have very little experience buying area rugs. The rugs I have purchased were cheap and quick problem-solvers to near-slip accidents, time-consuming sweeping duties, and heavy (and loud!) footsteps. But I'm a big girl now, and I've been doing my research on how to buy an area rug like an adult.

Here's what the experts say we all need to know before buying a rug:

Set a budget
Rugs are an investment. It's important to know what kind of investment you realistically have to spend before you go out and are wooed by a hand-knotted Persion antique carpet. If your investment is low, like under $100 or $200, you will have options, and it might be better to think about what you need out of that carpet for the next couple of years. If your investment level is higher, be sure to do your homework before you step foot into a store where the options can be overwhelming.

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Assess the room
Why do you want floor covering? Is it to block out unruly dinosaur-walking neighbor sounds? Or to muffle your own romps? Do you need a softer place to rest your feet? Or more comfort while you do Pilates? Write down WHY you want an area rug and that sentence will help inform what you dismiss and what you consider from the piles of products.

Measure the space
Before you even start looking at rugs, measure the room and then determine the space the area rug will need to cover. If you can't visualize how it will look, buy a cheap tarp or tape together/cut up an old shower curtain and place on the floor. This will help you get a feel for how big the rug needs to be and how it might be placed.

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Get honest about wear and tear
The small shag area rug in my bedroom, that once looked like a polar bear outstretched between my bed and closet, now looks like beautiful white fur that's been smeared in grayish-black footprints. As much as I'd like a dainty, Zen-like, sanctuary of a space to sleep in, I also need a carpet that can stand up to a parade of stilettos, boots and broom handles to bang on the floor when my neighbor's out of Breathe Right strips. What kind of rug does your room really need?

Consider color, light and pattern
I love turning the giant "pages" of rugs at the store, flipping through contemporary designs to classic patterns to bright and bold colors and on to simple and soft hues. While I love the florals the most right now, they might not be my favorite next month. Consider your taste, furniture and colors that won't overpower what you already have going on in your room (or will, if you are doing a complete makeover). Also, pay attention to the lighting and natural sunlight in the room and how it may impact the color and print you place on the floor.

Choose a fiber
Nylon? Wool? Cotton? You will probably be drawn to certain kinds of floor coverings based on the style of your room, the way the rug feels to the touch, the styles available in that fiber and the price point. Think about whether you'd prefer synthetic (like nylon) or natural (cotton or wool). More affordable fibers, like cotton and sisal, are easier to clean. Choose the quality that is the best fit for your wallet, room and needs.

Determine density
Density is one element in considering how well-made and durable a rug is. Note any manufacturer guidelines ratings to help you narrow down for foot traffic. Do take note of density, which measures the amount of yarn packed per square yard. Experts say that the higher the number, the less likely the carpet will collapse as you walk across it, making it last longer. A great cheat is holding a carpet sample in your hands, pulling back the edges and seeing if you can see the backing of the rug show through. If so, it's not a high density and wear will show in two to four years. Twist level is also a factor to consider -- the tighter the twist, the less the tip will unravel, look messy and get tangled. Look for numbers in the 3.0 - 5.0 range.

Don't put off the padding

Don't underestimate the spongy stuff under the floor covering and don't be tempted to skip rug padding. Padding softens the feel as you walk across the rug, muffles sound, is a thermal insulator and aids cleaning. Polyurethane padding will last a long time but is not recommended for higher-quality rugs. Rebound padding, constructed from both recycled materials and polyurethane foam, is longer-lasting and suitable as a bottom layer for all types of rugs. Vinyl sheeting adhered to the padding will offer even more protection from spills. Waffle rubber padding relies on air pockets to provide cushion, but is sometimes not enough support for a rug. This is an affordable choice and it is best to opt for a high-quality, denser waffle rubber pad.

- By Jessica Ashley

For 10 gorgeous rugs that cost less than $200, visit Babble!

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Jessica Ashley is author of the single-mom-in-the-city blog, Sassafrass. She is a parenting and healthy living expert, a former senior editor at Yahoo! Shine, and has contributed to AOL, ParentsConnect, CarePages, GalTime and Huffington Post. Jessica wears inappropriately high heels to the playground and is the mother of one boy, and the proof is in the pile of Star Wars Lego guys at the bottom of her purse.

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