So—you want to add a little warmth and character to your bare-looking living room floor and you think a rug will do the trick. You have been browsing big box store selections, but haven’t been impressed. You want quality. You want something that will last for years. How can you tell if the rug you are buying is valuable?
Shop at the Right Stores
In order to find a great rug, you have to shop at the right stores. You won’t find hand-woven rugs made from natural fibers at your local Home Depot. You might find a high-quality wool rug at a chain store that will last a few years, but if you are looking for a valuable piece, you’ll need to do a little research. The best place to find rugs is through a rug gallery. Rug galleries sell hand-made oriental rugs and usually carry both new and antique textiles. Because rugs are their specialty, galleries usually offer buyers a larger selection than other furniture stores. This gives you a better chance to find a rug that offers quality while syncing with your style. However, beware that not all specialty rug shops are created equal. Some shops sell flawed merchandise priced like antiques. To find a store you trust, ask your local rug cleaner. They can tell you where to look for hand-crafted, high-quality pieces. You can also ask specialty flooring and furniture shops or local antique dealers.
Go for Hand-Made Rugs Instead of Hand-Tufted
Oriental rugs fall into three classes: machine-made, hand-woven (also referred to as hand-made or hand-knotted), and hand-tufted. The quality of your rug will depend on several factors, but as a general rule, machine-made rugs are the lowest quality of the three. Even expensive machine-made oriental rugs from top designers do not compare to the quality of a hand-woven piece. Rug weaving is an art form. If you are looking for a rug that increases in value over time, choose a hand-woven piece for your home.
Examine the fringe to spot a machine-made rug. If the fringe is sewn onto the rug, the piece is not hand-made. One common mistake people make when shopping for rugs is assuming hand-tufted means hand-made. The name is somewhat deceptive. It sounds similar to hand-woven, but hand-tufted rugs are actually more similar to machine-made rugs in quality. Hand-tufted rugs are made using a mechanized gun and premade patterns. This means, no knots are tied in the wool. Instead, a petroleum-based rubber is painted on the backside of the rug to hold loose strands in place. Not only does this sacrifice the rug’s quality, but it can also give off a strong odor that becomes unbearable to live with. Luckily, spotting a tufted rug is easy. Just look at the rug’s backing—if it is rubber, you know it’s not worth your money.
Choose Natural Fibers over Synthetic Rugs
As a general rule, natural fibers create higher-quality rugs. When shopping, look for rugs made from wool, cotton, or silk. Avoid synthetic fibers like nylon, olefin, polyester, and rayon. The best rug fiber is wool. Wool is actually more durable than silk. Its resiliency allows it to withstand years of foot traffic and carpet cleanings while remaining like new. It is also good at hiding dirt, dust, and soil better than other fibers. Additionally, wool holds colour well, so rug patterns appear bright and vibrant.
Silk is also an excellent fiber choice for rugs. Just know that when it comes to buying silk rugs, you get what you pay for. To find a high-quality silk rug look for one with a high KPI (knot per inch), vibrant colours, detailed patterns, and a thin pile. Most importantly, be careful to select a rug made with real silk, not fake silk. Many manufacturers sell rugs made with a rayon or viscose blend and call it silk. This is a scam. These fibers are incredibly weak and not at all comparable to the quality of a silk rug. You can spot a fake by looking at the underside of the rug. Silk rugs are thin and offer a very fine or thin-looking weave (pile). Fake silk rugs are thicker and the stitching will appear more crude and shaggy looking.
Examine the Weaving
Before buying a hand-made, wool rug for your home, ask yourself a few questions to determine if the rug you have in mind is high-quality and potentially valuable. Hand-woven does not necessarily equate to high-quality. It is the highest quality of the three classes, but the overall quality of the rug depends directly on the maker.
- If you answer yes to all of these questions below, you are likely looking at a high-quality rug.
- Is this rug symmetrical?
- Are all of the sides of this rug the same length?
- Does the pattern on the back of the rug look the same as the pattern on the front?
- Does the back of the rug feel smooth to the touch?
- Does the surface appear smooth?
- Does the rug lay flat without any puckering, bulges, or curling?