Installed in 60 to 70 percent of American homes, carpet is by far the most popular choice for floor coverings. In addition to providing better insulation and temperature control in a space, carpet also serves as a sound damper, muffling the footfalls and other ambient noises that can be amplified by bare, hard flooring. A carpeted surface is also more resistant to slippage than a hard floor, and the underpadding offers some cushioning in the event of a mishap. Carpet, furthermore, has the distinct advantage over hard surface flooring of being significantly less costly per square foot to purchase and install.

Critics of carpeting charge that carpets hold on to dirt and allergens, exacerbating air-quality problems, particularly in homes where children and fur-bearing pets coexist. However, new studies suggest that, because carpets can hold allergens in place rather than allowing them to spread, as long as carpets are vacuumed regularly, they can actually improve air quality. In addition, modern carpets are treated with stain-resisters that can make them easy to spot clean, thereby keeping them both visually appealing and less likely to attract more surface dirt. Most carpet manufacturers suggest that residential carpets should be vacuumed once or twice per week, depending on traffic patterns in the home, and should receive a professional cleaning once a year at a minimum.