Although most of the floors in our house are hardwood, Robin and I decided on carpet for our master bedroom. I like the look of wood floors. They are classy and classic. Yet carpet has advantages. It is soft, easy to install, less expensive than wood, and keeps you from suffering the indignity of wearing bunnies on your feet in the winter.
In this late chapter of the book, it is probably safe for me to make a confession. In spite of my insistence on doing everything myself, there was one job I did not do. I did not install the carpet.
My excuse? Many carpet stores sell their carpet on a free installation basis. This, of course, does not mean that they are giving you all that labor for nothing. The cost of the installation is simply absorbed in the cost per yard of the carpet. I am not one to pay for "free" labor just to throw it away.
There are many types of carpet: shags, deep piles and buzz cuts. All of these have to do with how much your carpet will resemble an Old English sheep dog in a few years. They have nothing to do with the quality of the product and are primarily a matter of taste. Shag, for example, went out of style with bell bottomed trousers and love beads.
In searching for a quality carpet, make certain you inspect the nap. The nap defines how many lines will be embedded in your face per square inch if you happen to fall asleep face down on the carpet. A carpet with a closer nap will wear better and have a quality feel.
To limit the carpet shopping search perimeter, I talked Robin into a general color before we even left the house. We settled on a burgundy that would match our furniture and the frames of the pictures she wanted to hang in the bedroom. In spite of my efforts to limit her, Robin found other factors to research: price, quality and the tap dancing ability of the salespeople. We hit every carpet store in town.
We looked at swatch after swatch. The selection was bewildering; the carpet stores keep small samples of many carpets not carried in stock but that can be ordered. Even I had trouble making up my mind. It is not easy to visualize what a four-by-four inch square will look like stretched out to cover three-hundred square feet.
Carpet stores, by the way, measure their carpet by the square yard and sell it by the linear foot. Naturally, all the calculations you have made will be in square feet. (Please see letter sent by a reader regarding this and other carpet matters.)
The conversion factor from square feet to square yards is not an obvious one. Everyone knows there are three feet in a yard. There are NOT three square feet in a square yard. If there were, carpeting would be very expensive. A square yard is three feet on a side. That is 36 inches; which means a square yard is 36 X 36 = 1296 square inches. Divided by 144 (a square foot in inches), the result is nine square feet (just enough space to set up a card table, but not enough to seat your poker buddies).
Linear footage is another calculation altogether and is dependent on the width of the carpet roll. To achieve square footage, multiply the length times the width. Then convert it back into square yards to figure out how much you will be charged.
The carpet salesman will impress on you the need to buy more square feet of carpet than you have floor space. He will do this by showing you that too many seams will be the result if you don't buy an extra linear foot or two or three. He may have a point, but salespeople are not always good at figuring which way carpet should lay. Every extra linear foot they sell means more bucks for them and every extra bit of carpet you buy is an extra bit of carpet that you have to get rid of when the installers are finished. The installers will leave your scraps piled in the middle of the room like so many beaver pelts.
Finding the carpet that both Robin and I could live with was no easy task. I would pick out a sample, and she would turn up her nose at it. "Looks too much like a collie," she said in reference to a piece I particularly liked.
When she came to me with a white carpet with curly fibers, I could not resist rejecting it. "French poodle."
"Yeah, it looks too much like a poodle. I don't want a bedroom that looks like some fancy smantcy poodle gave his life for the benefit of our feet. Besides, I thought we agreed on burgundy."
Robin did not press me on the poodle thing. She knew that my family had had a white poodle. It was tragically squashed by a snow plow in the dead of winter. "Well, what else do you like?"
I grinned broadly and held up a sample I had been eyeing for quite some time. I had only been waiting for the right opportunity to present it.
She cocked her eye quizzically. "It looks Irish setterish."
I dug my fingers into the pile. "Feel this. It isn't a bad carpet for the money."
Robin stuck her fingers into the small sample. "Not bad, but I don't think I've seen this color anywhere else. It's different, kind of earthy."
It was at this moment that the watchful salesman decided to strike. "Can I help you?"
"Sure," I said. I figured it was about time we made a decision on the carpet. Since Robin did not stop me, I proceeded to order it. We went home that evening, congratulating ourselves on our purchase.
It typically takes several weeks from the date of purchase for a carpet to be installed. Often, it must be ordered from the factory, then scheduled by the carpet layers. For my carpet, an estimator came out in the midst of this procedure to map out the job. He commented favorably on the work I had done on the addition. He had seen the carpet, and told me how well it would look in the space. "I would say your wife has good taste."
"My wife?" I asked. For once, I was determined to receive due credit for having taste. "I picked it out."
"You did?" The man looked at me strangely, squinting as if this would induce X-ray vision and allow him to see something beneath the surface of my skin that was not otherwise evident. "You don't look like the type." He shook his head.
"Well, I am." I insisted. "I can pick out carpet as well as anyone."
The big day for installation came. This was one of the last jobs before our two-year trek to a new bedroom and bath would be complete. As much as I like this kind of work, I was ready to be done with it, mostly so I could begin another project. Perhaps I would buy a classic car and restore it. Maybe I would build a greenhouse near the garden. I didn't want to do anything major, just something to keep me occupied for the next couple of years.
The van came early on a Friday morning. I handed the house-keys to the crew foreman and told him I would come back at noon to see how the job was progressing. He smiled and gave me a sly wink. "Say, I heard you were the one who picked out the carpet color."
"I was." I said proudly.
"Hmmm," the man hummed to himself.
My wife rushed off to work, and I went to run errands. I was cheerful when I returned at noon. As I entered the house, I could hear the slam of hammers and the pounding of knees. There is something satisfying about the sound of hard work.
I mounted the stairs, wondering how the burgundy/Irish setter-colored carpeting would transform the room. I swung open the door to the master bedroom and my jaw dropped to the floor. I could not believe that this was the carpet I had ordered. It was PINK. I would never order pink carpeting. I would die before I would order pink carpeting.
"This isn't what I ordered!" I shouted at the foreman who was banging away at a corner of the room.
The man glowered as he rose to face me. He had not expected to be attacked for installing the wrong carpet. He walked across the room. "What did you say?"
"This is not the carpet I ordered." I stated more calmly. The man looked at me out of the corner of his eye, then glanced at the carpet color. He acknowledged the possibility that a mistake could have been made. He pulled a work order form from his pocket and showed it to me. "Did you order lot number 1207?" He asked.
I dug into my breast pocket and produced the carpet contract. I had to nod my head. Yes, 1207 was in the blank describing the carpet. It suddenly occurred to me why the estimator had looked at me strangely when I had said it was I who had picked out the carpet.
"You're going to have to talk with the salespeople to straighten this out."
I jumped into my pickup and drove straight to the carpet store. By the time I got there, I was steaming. Why would the carpet store sell me one color, then install another?
I singled out the salesman who had sold the carpet and explained the situation.
"Mr. Rayment, there must be a mistake."
"You're right about that. I know I didn't order Pink carpet. I'll show you what I ordered." I dug through a pile of samples and produced the one that I had picked out. It was the familiar Irish setter sample. I turned the swatch face to the counter. On the back side was printed "1207". "This says 1207," I said, "but it sure isn't pink." I cannot say the word "pink" without spouting a light spray of spittle.
The man blushed as violently pink as the carpet they were laying at my house. "You see, Sir. This really is pink." He took some water from a glass and rubbed it against the fibers. Some dirt came off in his hands. "It's just a little dirty that's all...from people trying it out with their shoes on."
The phone rang. It was the installer calling the store to let us know that the installation was complete. I fumed, while the salesman tried to think of something to say. Finally, he came out with. "At least you know it hides the dirt well."
To assuage my anger, the salesman talked the manager into giving me a throw rug if I would forget the whole episode. The throw rug is dark green and black. You could never mistake it for "girlie" carpet. I keep it in my study so that every morning, after having slept in a room surrounded by a sea of pink, I can walk into a room that will reassure me that I am, indeed, a man.
By the way, Robin loves the new carpet.