You want carpet and you're on a budget. Can you afford to be choosy and cheap? That depends on how much carpet you need and whether you're willing to be flexible about color and style. With remnants and roll ends, shoppers often can purchase carpet at lower prices by buying by the piece instead of by the yard.
Remnants come from mills or carpet stores, usually when the remaining amount is less than 30 feet long. Smaller remnants occur when pieces are cut from the roll ends. Colors or styles are often discontinued, so ask before purchasing if you hope to buy more later.
Remnants may be a low-cost, convenient option when you have rental property, need to "neutralize" the carpet before selling a home, or just want to throw something on the floor.
Comparison shopping when buying carpet is getting harder. Most carpet stores are in the process of converting their pricing from square yards to square feet. Seeing a price tag of 99 cents per square foot may seem like a steal to shoppers used to square-yard pricing. To convert feet to a square-yard price, multiply by nine. The carpet at 99 cents a square foot converts to $8.91 per yard. (These are carpet-only prices. Most stores mentioned will set prices without installation and pad. Ask if the price includes pad and installation.)
To determine the number of square yards needed, multiply room measurements and divide by nine. Example: If the room is 12 feet by 10 feet, the calculation would be 12 x 10 = 120. Divide 120 by 9 to get the square yards needed (13.33).
Because remnants are priced by the piece and not by the yard, it's helpful to calculate the price per yard for comparison. To determine the price per yard on a remnant, compute the number of square yards first (described above). Then take the price of the remnant and divide by the number of square yards. Example: A 12-foot by 9-foot remnant is priced at $49. The number of square yards is 12 (12 x 9 divided by 9). Divide $49 by 12. The price per yard is $4.08.
Important: It's a good idea to determine the price per square yard or foot on a remnant to be able to compare prices remnant-to-remnant. If you're not sure of the calculation, ask the salesperson.
Have the unfinished edges of a remnant bound or serged for a cleaner look. Many carpet stores will send the remnant to the binder for you. Costs vary from 75 cents to $1.75 per linear foot for binding and 85 cents to $3 per linear foot for serging. Additional charges may apply for cutting or squaring. Some binders include Bob's Binding and Serging (9925 13th Av. N., Plymouth, 544-1177), Carpet Works (1453 1st Av. NW., New Brighton, 633-7380), Jan's Carpet Serging and Binding (852 Hadley Ln. N., Oakdale, 739-5211) and Rugs by Design (3731 W. County Rd. 42, Burnsville, 890-4461).
Put a smooth, protective surface beneath the remnant. Because many carpets are backed by a rough surface that will scratch wood or linoleum floors, a softer pad or backing underneath the carpet may be used to protect the floor and prolong the life of the remnant. Regular carpet padding may be used, but carpet and discount stores sell a thin pad in 4-foot by 6-foot, 6-foot by 9-foot, 8-foot by 10-foot and 9-foot by 12-foot measurements. Carpet sergers also can apply a permanent nonskid backing or a smooth backing called monk's cloth. Costs range from 90 cents to $1.75 per square foot. Some carpets are still sold with foam rubber already applied to the backing. GCO Carpet Outlet, Menards, Seestedt's and Stone Mountain generally have some.
Ask about widths larger or smaller than 12 feet. Some carpets come in 13-foot, 6-inch and 15-foot widths. If you're having the remnant installed, it may eliminate a seam. Stone Mountain offers a good selection of the larger sizes.
Don't buy too much. If a remnant needs to be trimmed substantially to fit the space, figure the cost per square yard. It may be cheaper to buy off the roll because there would be less waste.
Shop for best selection. Some retailers with the biggest selection of remnants and roll ends include: Big Bob's New and Used Carpet (Columbia Heights), Cheap Carpet (Hopkins), Dayton's Warehouse (Minneapolis), GCO Carpet Outlet (Burnsville, Coon Rapids, Eden Prairie, Little Canada, Maple Grove, Woodbury), Hamernick's (St. Paul), Home Valu (Bloomington, Fridley, Inver Grove Heights, Minnetonka), Menards (Apple Valley, Brooklyn Park, Burnsville, Coon Rapids, Cottage Grove, Eden Prairie, Elk River, Forest Lake, Fridley, Golden Valley, Maplewood, Oakdale, Stillwater, West St. Paul), Seestedt's (St. Paul) and Stone Mountain (Crystal, St. Louis Park, St. Paul).
Allow an extra 3 inches around the perimeter of a remnant if you plan to have it installed, in order to allow for stretching.
Ask about installation. Most carpet stores that sell remnants also sell pads and will install the piece. Installation prices range from $3.50 per square yard at Hamernick's to $5.30 at Dayton's. Extra charges apply over concrete and with berber or stairs.
General shopping tips
Ask about any extra low prices on a style purchased in large quantities. This works well if you're not picky about color and style. Examples: A low-level berber that sells for $8.99 a yard (carpet only) at some local retailers sells for $6.79 at Independent Carpet Services. A Milliken print that retails for $23 a yard is $12.88 at Seestedt's. Stone Mountain in St. Louis Park recently received a shipment of berber and saxony large-sized remnants from Masland that sell for approximately $23 a yard, regularly $75 a yard.
Do your own quality testing. Fold the carpet onto itself. Check to see how much backing is visible at the fold. Dig your fingers into the carpet to feel the backing. Denser carpet is superior for wear but may not feel as soft. Examine a single yarn in the carpet and count the number of twists. The more twists the less likely that it will mat down and crush. Loosely twisted yarn may feel soft but is a sign of lower quality.