What is Indoor/Outdoor Carpet, and is it Right for Your Space?

As we near the halfway mark of the winter season, it’s tough to not already be looking forward to its end. For those of us in the colder northern climes, thoughts of warmer weather, sunny evenings, and long nights on the patio become a borderline obsession—the only thing that gets us through the winter. And while we can’t do anything to accelerate the arrival of al fresco weather, one way many of us pass the time is by thinking and rethinking about what we want to do to maximize the comfort and utility of our outdoor spaces. One oft-overlooked way to improve both the looks and feel of a patio, porch, or balcony is with indoor/outdoor carpet. Curious whether having carpet installed outdoors is a good choice for your space? Read on!

What is Indoor/Outdoor Carpet?

First things first. What exactly is special about this type of carpeting, and how is it different than traditional home carpets? To the surprise of many shoppers, indoor/outdoor carpet is actually quite similar to the soft stuff you might have installed in your family room. Indoor/outdoor carpet is closest in construction to Berber carpeting, the low-pile carpet most often installed in busy areas of a home. Like Berber, indoor/outdoor carpet is a loop pile carpet—the fibers are formed into low-profile loops of a consistent height. This lends the carpet a dense feel and uniform look while giving it extra durability and resistance to crushing and matting.

Indoor/outdoor carpet is constructed with short, looped fibers—similar to Berber carpeting.

There are two main differences between this outdoor carpet and normal indoor carpet, however. First is the fiber material. Indoor/outdoor carpets are constructed of extra-tough synthetic materials like olefin or polyester, which prioritize fade and moisture resistance. While both indoor and outdoor carpets share a similar need to be resistant to wear and fading, the carpet outdoors will be exposed to all manner of precipitation and long days in direct sun. Using materials that can endure this exposure helps ensure that the carpets won’t start to deteriorate after a season of intense weather. The water resistance also helps make outdoor carpets highly resistant to mold and mildew formation.

In addition to the material differences, outdoor carpeting is not installed with a layer of padding like your bedroom carpet is. Most carpet padding is made from porous foam or rubber materials, and having an absorbent material under an outdoor carpet would compromise its weather resistance. So it’s important to know that, while it will add significant comfort to your porch or patio, outdoor carpet won’t feel quite as cushy as the Berber carpet in your home.

Indoor/Outdoor Carpet vs Artificial Turf

Much of the confusion about indoor/outdoor carpet comes from it getting mixed up with other popular outdoor flooring options like artificial turf and grass substitutes. Though they’re both soft surfaces suitable for outdoor spaces and they may look the same from a distance, indoor/outdoor carpeting and artificial turf are actually quite different.

Unlike indoor/outdoor carpet, artificial turf is crafted specifically to replicate the look and feel of natural grass. That means instead of looped fibers, turf is constructed of thousands of individual blades of fake grass. These are free-standing blades, generally much thicker than carpet fibers, and not looped at the end. This construction gives artificial turf a loose, flowy feel similar to natural grass—but makes it much more likely to show crushing and matting marks than low-pile indoor/outdoor carpet.

It may look similar from a distance, but artificial turf is a completely different material than outdoor carpet.

Where can Indoor/Outdoor Carpet be Installed?

As the name suggests, indoor/outdoor carpet is suitable for a wide range of spaces inside and outside the home. The most popular application is in transitional spaces like a sunroom, three-season room, or covered porch. These spots are not directly exposed to the elements but will typically get indirect splashing from rain or outdoor messes tracked in on shoes that would quickly destroy a regular carpet.

And yet these spaces value comfort enough that a hard-surface floor often feels too cold—both literally and figuratively. Indoor/outdoor carpet strikes the perfect balance between durability and comfort, while also improving the look of a space. It’s built to last and helps make these rooms feel like a main part of the home.

Indoor/outdoor carpet is a popular flooring choice for sunrooms and other transitional areas of the home.

Of course, indoor/outdoor carpet works just as well in fully exposed areas, like a typical concrete backyard porch or front patio. The simple act of having carpet installed on these hard surfaces can have a profound effect, transforming them from cold and sterile into welcoming gathering places.

Can I Have Indoor/Outdoor Carpet Installed in Rooms Inside My Home?

Yes! Indoor/outdoor carpet can actually be an ideal flooring option for certain spots that are completely indoors, like the basement. Many homeowners keep their basements in a semi-finished state—oftentimes the space has enough issues with dampness or water seepage to keep it from being a fully livable area of the home. But they still want to outfit it with enough creature comforts to make it welcoming as a man cave, workshop, or other usable room. Indoor/outdoor carpet adds a bit of style and comfort to basement floors without the worries that traditional carpet would bring with regard to occasional basement seepage.

Indoor/outdoor carpet can be a good choice for rooms of the home that entirely enclosed and insulated against the elements, but which are used mostly for recreation and open directly to the outdoors.

Or perhaps your basement is fully unfinished and used only for storage and laundry. Though no one actually hangs out down there, you still need to pop down a few times a week to grab something or put a load in the washer. Having indoor/outdoor carpet installed on just the stairs can help increase safety by adding a bit of traction and goes a long way to keeping your shoes clean from any of the dust, dirt, and dampness they’re likely to pick up while downstairs.

How is Indoor/Outdoor Carpet Installed?

Unlike a typical patio rug, indoor/outdoor carpet is permanently affixed to the floor—just like your indoor carpet. While the carpet in your home is installed using tack strips, indoor/outdoor carpet is typically secured with an industrial adhesive. This method works well on the most common surfaces you’d want outdoor carpets installed, like a concrete patio.

Securing indoor/outdoor carpet this way helps keep it from blowing away in a strong wind, and keeps the carpet surface looking and feeling smooth regardless of how much traffic your space sees.

The tufts of indoor/outdoor carpet will often be woven in a distinct pattern that both adds a visual element and makes them a bit more effective at cleaning the soles of shoes.

Is it Right for My Space?

Indoor/outdoor carpet is a great choice for most outdoor areas and many traditional spaces within the home, but it won’t always be the best choice. If you’re on the fence about having it installed and still need some guidance with your decision, we’re here to help! Contact us via phone or any of the “Schedule In-Home Appointment” buttons on the site to set up an in-home consultation with a flooring pro. In addition to samples of the indoor/outdoor carpets available from Empire Today®, they’ll bring a variety of products that might work well for your situation—helping ensure you end up with floors that fit all of your needs.

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