When you decide to install wall-to-wall, you can count on it having a big impact on the look of the space. But carpet can also affect how a room feels—and not just to your feet. As a natural insulator, wall-to-wall carpeting prevents warm (and cool) air from escaping and absorbs sound. And, unlike hard flooring, it can also inhibit slips and cushion falls, important considerations if you live with roughhousing kids or an aging parent.

Wall-to-wall carpeting, which first came on the scene in the 1930s, now accounts for half of all the flooring sold in America. The majority of carpet is made here too—how many things can you say that about these days?—mainly in Dalton, Georgia, where the industry began. Most is tufted, but some carpet is woven on looms for a tighter, more durable construction.

Unlike hardwood and stone, carpeting can be laid over damaged or uneven surfaces, a concrete slab, and many types of existing flooring, so you may save money on prep work. And once it’s in, you’ll find it a cinch to care for, thanks to advances in fibers and stain-resistant treatments. Not to mention there’s an almost endless variety of styles, from nubby, looped designs to closely clipped “velvets” with a silky feel and sheen. You’ll find patterns, too, including florals, faux bois, damasks, and “sculpted” looks that combine different pile heights.