Carpet vs Rug: Which is Right For You?

Carpets and rugs — they’re not the same things. Or are they?

Regardless, it’s important to select the flooring options that work best for your needs. Do you know how to pick the perfect rug or carpet for your space?

These are questions floating through the minds of many shoppers. So today, we’ll cover:

What is the Difference Between a Rug and a Carpet?

Rugs are considered to be floor coverings that are portable or moveable, finished in standard sizes, and don’t cover every single inch of space. Carpets are mass-produced floor coverings that are sold off a roll, fixed in place, and go from edge to edge of a space.

Carpets and rugs are two different ways to cover your floor. For clarity, we’ll be using rug and carpet in this way throughout the rest of this post. That said, here are some generalities about what’s meant by rug or carpet within the industry:

  • Rugs are often considered to be under a certain size, or rather comparatively smaller in scale than carpets.
  • Carpets are usually made in significant quantities. As broadloom carpeting, it’s sold off huge rolls and cut to the required dimensions.
  • Handmade floor coverings usually fit into the rugs category.
  • Rugs are free-floating and generally don’t cover the entire floor area.
  • Carpeting typically goes wall-to-wall, has padding underneath, and may have adhesive to help secure it in place.
  • Carpeting can also be used to make rugs.

Why Are Some Rugs Called Carpets?

large persian carpet with old car from movie

As we indicated, there’s ambiguity or room for play in the definitions and usage of the terms carpet and rug. So, calling a rug a carpet isn’t wrong (and neither is calling a carpet a rug).

This probably happens more when referencing a larger area rug. For example, a Persian rug that occupies most of your living room floor could understandably be called a carpet.

You may also see cultural references to rugs being called carpets, as in “magic carpets” or “flying carpets.”

The opposite occurs, too. Sometimes carpets are called rugs. This is apt to happen when a piece of carpeting is fashioned into an area rug or runner.

Considerations for Area Rugs & Rug Runners

circle area rug with two chairs and coffee table

In this section, we’re talking about rugs not made from carpeting, also referred to as handmade rugs. These are the rugs that come to mind when you hear someone mention a Persian or Oriental rug.

This kind of rug is often individually-made by master craftspeople in a workshop in Asia or the Middle East. Many use all or mostly natural fibers — like cotton, wool, hemp, jute, or silk.

These rugs are one-of-a-kind statement pieces to be sure. But, it’s important to understand the good and bad before investing in a rug of this sort. 

There are also mass-market rugs that are machine-produced using synthetic materials. The considerations we’re sharing here don’t necessarily apply to those rugs.

Here are some of the pros and cons.

Pros of Rugs

  • Handcrafted. They’re knotted, stitched, and /or woven manually.
  • Built to last. Rugs tend to be significantly more durable than carpeting.
  • Unique. Because they are handmade, no two are the same.
  • Infinite design potential. As these are handmade and can be custom ordered, you can find or have rugs made in any color, motif, or style.
  • Easier to care for and maintain. You can more thoroughly wash rugs.
  • Greater longevity. Rugs can be repaired and restored so they can be enjoyed for many years or passed down as heirlooms.
  • No adhesives. This means you don’t need your rug professionally installed and it’s okay if it gets wet.
  • Moveable. You can reposition your rug, shift it to another room, and take it with you if you move.
  • Changeable. You can quickly and easily swap in a new rug if you get tired of the old one.
  • Better for the environment. Natural materials and planet-friendlier production results in a smaller eco-footprint.
  • Readily available. Flooring galleries often have many in stock to choose from. Landry & Arcari has over 9,000 rugs between our three showrooms.
  • Try before you buy. You may be able to borrow the rug to see how it looks in your space before committing to a purchase.
  • Resale value. Rugs, especially antiques, are typically worth something on the secondary market.

Cons of Rugs

  • Expensive. Quality rugs can be pricey, often more than carpeting.
  • Longer lead times. If you need to order a custom rug, it can take months to get the finished product.
  • Higher barrier to entry. Because rugs can be a sizable investment, they aren’t attainable by everyone.

At Landry & Arcari, we make sure to have a wide selection of rugs at all price points, including more entry-level options for those looking for more affordable rugs.

Additional reading: Rug Prices Explained: How to Determine the Value of a Rug

Considerations for Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

tan broadloom carpeting with blue couch

This section applies to industrially-fabricated carpet, the kind that comes on giant spools (or as tiles) and that you’ll probably need a professional to install in your home or workplace.

While carpeting is usually made of synthetic materials, it can also be made from natural fibers, like wool. It’s often made by machines and may be available in bulk quantities. Carpeting colors and patterns tend to align with contemporary design trends.

While not unique like rugs, carpets certainly have their place. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of carpets.

Pros of Carpeting

  • Economical. Carpets can cost many times less than rugs.
  • Variety and availability. A good showroom may have ten thousand styles to choose from.
  • Style options galore. You’ll find more than enough colors, textures, and designs to select from.
  • Very versatile. Carpeting can be used in many ways — on stairs, as wall-to-wall or as a custom fit area rug (fit around a fireplace or bay window, for example).
  • Customizable. A lot of carpets can be cut to all sizes and shapes and then edged (bound or serged) for a tailor-made floor cover.

Cons of Carpeting

  • Less durable. Carpets aren’t strong enough to withstand heavy cleaning (e.g., beating it with a broom, shaking it out, or dunking it in a tub) like a handmade rug.
  • Not as easily repairable. You might be able to patch a carpet, but it would be noticeable and the area would be more structurally vulnerable.
  • Shorter lifespan. Carpeting is only expected to last five to seven years. Because they can’t usually be fixed, you must put in new carpets periodically.
  • Excess purchase. People almost always buy more than they need, which can be wasteful (money, materials, energy, etc.).
  • Less unique. It’s possible someone else will have the same carpet in their space. 
  • Long lead times. If not in stock, lead times for carpeting can be extensive.
  • No resale value! Even if you could salvage and sell your used carpet, it wouldn’t bring in much money.
  • Professional cleaning needed. Since the carpet is fixed to the floor and has adhesives, you’ll have to hire a commercial service to get a truly deep clean.
  • Less eco-friendly. Synthetic-based materials and machine manufacturing are less green.

Decision Factors — Carpet vs Rug

two customers considering buying a persian rug

You’ve been shopping around, looking at rug and carpet options, and making a shortlist of your favorites. But, coming to a final choice — picking out The One — may still seem a bit daunting.

After all, it’s a big investment of your resources. Plus, you’re going to have to live with what you select for a long while. It’s also important to remember that how you decorate is a reflection of who you are and can influence how you feel and function in that space.

So, when it’s time to make your way along the decision tree, answer the following questions (bearing in mind the pros and cons enumerated above). Your answers just may reveal a clear winner!

Where will you be putting the rug or carpet?

It may make more sense to put spendy showpiece rugs where friends and family can see them, like in living and dining rooms. Alternatively, you may opt to put a rug in an area where you’ll get the most pleasure from it, such as a study or reading nook. Basement and bedroom are prime candidates for carpet because the flooring is covered by large furniture. Carpets also work well in less-decorative settings.

What kind of design appeals to you?

Think in terms of palette, patterns, pile, etc. Also, consider whether or not you want any customizations. Envision your options in the target space and get a sense of how it fits in and how it makes you feel.

What materials and construction method make sense?

If you like natural fibers and more sustainable production methods, rugs are better. If it doesn’t make a difference to you, carpeting could be the way to go — all other things equal.

What’s your budget and is it flexible?

Price may be a key component of the decision. While rugs cost more than carpets, they’re more hearty and enduring — meaning they might be a better long-term value. Carpets might be at the right price point, particularly if an expansive area needs to be covered.

Should You Get a Carpet or a Rug? Landry & Arcari is Here to Help!

deciding to buy a rug or carpet

This is a very personal decision — no choice is right or wrong for everyone all the time. Identifying and purchasing the floor covering that’s ideal for you depends on your needs, preferences, and means.

Ultimately, you should opt for flooring that best matches your tastes, space, lifestyle, and other key factors. It may be a rug that does this. Or, it could be carpeting.

Your best bet is to be thoughtful in your shopping and buying process.
We’re pleased to invite you to explore our vast stock of rugs and carpets. And, we’re here to assist you if questions arise or you want expert advice.

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