A home wouldn't be homely without carpet. Carpet makes it cosy and comfy underfoot, and it's less draughty and more heat retentive and sound absorbing than many other floor coverings.

But with so many different types to choose from, it's hard to know where to begin.

Picking the colour of your new carpet, and whether you want it to be patterned or plain, is just part of the decision process.

While many carpets are suitable for use throughout the home, some have a more luxurious feel, perfect for areas of light foot traffic such as bedrooms.

Others are more hardwearing, making them ideal for areas of heavy foot traffic like hallways.

Having lots of different carpets in one home isn't a good look, especially if they meet in the hallway or landing, so bear this in mind if you're replacing one carpet and not others.

The carpet's pile affects its appearance, feel and performance. As a general rule, the more luxurious the carpet is (ie the longer the pile), the more care it will need to keep it looking good.

Choose from twist piles, which have a coarse, rugged finish; velvet piles, which have a smooth, luxurious finish; loop piles, which are similar to natural flooring, such as coir (avoid if you have pets, particularly cats, because of the damage their claws can do); and saxony piles, which have a sensuous feel, but aren't suitable for heavy foot traffic areas because they have a deep pile.

How a carpet looks, feels and wears also depends on what it's made of. Without a doubt, a wool carpet is a quality carpet, but wool can be blended with nylon or polypropylene (at least 50% wool is recommended) to improve the carpet's performance, make it more affordable, or create a special effect.

Wool carpet is warm and soft, with a luxurious feel. It wears well, is easy to maintain as it doesn't soil easily, and is naturally flame retardant, as well as being sustainable and environmentally friendly.

If you want to support our home-grown industry, opt for British wool - a staggering 70% of it goes into carpets.

"If in doubt, look for the Wool Rich Quality Mark - it's the only quality assurance initiative in the UK carpet industry and is your guarantee that the suitability claims made by the manufacturer are true," says Rupert Anton, of industry body The Carpet Foundation.

"You really can believe what it says on the label. Based on British Standards and international product tests, the quality mark looks at wear index, appearance retention, surface pile density, tuft density and luxury rating."

Nylon is often blended with wool in a carpet and is extremely hardwearing and easy to clean. Nylon also has great abrasion, stain and soil resistance and lends itself to multiple colours of carpet.

Similarly, polypropylene carpet is extremely hardwearing and easy to maintain - it's stain resistant and keeps its colour well. Polypropylene carpets can be very inexpensive, so they're a good choice if you're on a budget.

Just as it's important to have your new carpet professionally fitted (and measured), it's also essential to invest in new, good quality underlay, as it helps the carpet to sit properly and wear evenly.

In addition, it increases heat and sound insulation and reduces pile compression, so the carpet looks good for longer - new underlay can actually increase the life of a carpet by 40%.

To find out more about underlay and carpet, including Top Ten Tips on Buying Carpet, visit The Carpet Foundation's website, www.carpetfoundation.com, which is a mine of information.

How-to tip

When you buy a new carpet, you want it to last, so how do you know if you're getting a quality product and service? Industry body The Carpet Foundation has 800 independent retail members and they operate under a code of practice approved by the Trading Standards Institute. The code applies to all carpet sold by members and means that you're guaranteed impartial advice, written terms of business, a written quotation and free conciliation if there's a problem. Any deposit you pay is protected, giving you piece of mind.

Product of the week

To celebrate the launch of the B&Q Sentebale Forget-Me-Not Garden at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show (21-25 May) in London, B&Q is unveiling a brand new species of lily to the UK, as part of its Chelsea Collection of plants available in store from May 13.

The collection will help customers recreate the show at home, and the stunning Chelsea Lily (£10, B&Q) has been developed to grow bigger flower heads and be whiter than other lilies.

Twenty per cent from the sale of each lily will go to Prince Harry's Sentebale charity, which helps vulnerable children in the small African country of Lesotho.