When shopping for floor covering, how do you determine the best value for your money? This depends upon your lifestyle and stage in life. Are you a fashion-conscious consumer who decorates every three years, or are you more like the seven-year norm? You may find value in high-end wools that naturally repel soil, or the click-together laminate or durable engineered wood. You have lots of choices these days.

In the end, carpet is a tremendous value. From Saxony’s to textures, it can go just about anywhere, and it’s tough, especially the tight-twist Berbers and friezes that can take a lot of punishment.

Begin by assessing your lifestyle and talking to your flooring retailer. Are you doing a whole house or just a room? Low product price isn’t necessarily the complete answer. You must factor in warranty, installation, and how long you think your floor will take to “ugly out.”

To achieve and interesting effect, you may want to mix real wood or ceramic tile with the same look in laminate. Resilient flooring has now gone high-style, enough so it can be considered for bedrooms and dining rooms.

Some carpet manufacturers offer same-looking carpet in different grades to give you a consistent look throughout the house along with the ability to save by using lesser grades in your home’s low-traffic areas. If a carpet is your flooring of choice, remember that dirt kills carpet. Carpet mills say the number-one cause of the problem is consumers who don’t read the care instructions or their carpet warranties.

When choosing a carpet, be sure you understand the cleaning and maintenance schedule, including the professional cleaning cycles, typically every 18 months. Your first line of defense is a quality vacuum. Regular vacuuming, sweeping and mopping will do more than make your rooms look clean. These simple processes remove the microscopic particles that dull a floor’s appearance over time and contribute to premature wear.

Even in normal use, dirt dust and soil are attracted to and accumulate among carpet fibers in particular, and these hard particles can attack your floor like sandpaper until it just looks like high-traffic areas. That’s why frequent vacuuming with a quality vacuum is the single most important thing a customer can do. Using mats or area rugs at exterior entryways also helps to minimize soil tracking and accumulation.

There are many carpets in the marketplace with soil protection and stain release, but they are not foolproof.

Hard surfaces are very resistant to stains, but they are not completely stain proof. This also applies to the scratch resistance. When it comes to caring for your floors, there are three basic rules: Prompt pill cleanup, frequent sweeping or vacuuming and regular cleaning.

When it comes to installation, it is important to be able to review the details of the installation with your floor covering professional. Your installers should review the work order with you before the installation begins to make sure your needs will be met. Finally, the floor covering professional should make a follow-up call to see that everything has gone well and your expectations have been met.