If you’ve done any internet browsing for rugs, you might have stumbled across the fact rugs are, more often than not, really freaking expensive.
Even if we exclude handmade oriental rugs, which can easily fetch upwards of several thousands of dollars, a standard 8×10 rug from popular retailers can still cost you a month’s rent. We’ve had more than a couple customers ask us, “Why are rugs so expensive?” But then, occasionally, you’ll stumble across area rugs for under $200. So, what gives? Is a rug’s price totally arbitrary?
The short answer: No. While area rugs cost anywhere from $100 to over $2,000, there’s actually a lot that goes into the production of a rug that is reflected in the price tag. What’s it made of? Where is it made? How big is it? Are we talking machine-made rugs or hand-tufted and hand-knotted rugs? Rugs made of synthetic materials or natural fibers?
To help shed some light on the subject, we’re taking a look at all the reasons why rugs are so expensive. We’re hashing out what factors make up a rug’s price so you can decide which are important for you and ultimately figure out how to choose a rug for your space.
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Factor #1: What the Rug is Made Of
What a rug is made of matters. The material a rug is made of will determine the quality of the rug and affect how long it lasts. The main difference between materials often lies in their durability and clean-ability. Materials that are more durable, as well as those that are more difficult to source, drive up the price of the rug.
Rugs are most commonly made of either natural fibers—like wool, cotton, or silk—or synthetic materials, like nylon or polyester. Since the natural fibers in these rugs involve a growth process, these rugs tend to be more expensive. Curious to learn more about different rug materials? Here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of each material, which can help you decide between natural versus synthetic rugs.
A sturdy natural fiber, wool rugs are generally a more expensive option. This is because wool rugs last for decades, are highly durable, and keep their color and pattern over time. (Just a few of the benefits of wool rugs!) In general, wool rugs have a softer and more plush texture than their synthetic counterparts.
Soft and fluffy, cotton makes for very soft rugs. Cotton rugs are easy to clean, but they lack the durability of wool and even some synthetic fibers. Because of this, they’re not great for high-traffic areas. But they’re a great option for homes with kids and pets! And if you want a rug made of natural fibers, these are less expensive rugs than wool or silk.
Jute rugs tend to have chunky weaves, offering a lot of visual texture to whatever room they’re placed in. A material that’s naturally light brown, jute can also be dyed in a variety of colors. However, this material does shed quite a bit, which might bother the neat freaks. Two other materials of natural fiber rugs that are very popular are sisal and seagrass, which have the same natural woven look as jute, as well as a ton of durability.
Second to wool in their durability, silk rugs are coveted for their high-shine and luscious texture. Steering away from a super expensive rug? Skip the silk. Silk rugs tend to be extremely expensive and they require professional cleaning—so, not the best fit for homes with kids, pets, or rooms with heavy foot traffic.
A less expensive and synthetic alternative to wool or silk, nylon is known for its durability. This makes it a good choice for high-traffic areas. Conversely, the material is highly absorbent, meaning a nylon rug can be easily ruined by spills.
Another inexpensive synthetic option, polyester (or PET) is a less absorbent material, rendering it more stain-resistant. It’s also the most eco-friendly synthetic option, as PET is made of recycled plastic bottles! That said, polyester is a less durable material, and rugs made from it tend to have a shorter lifespan.
A great synthetic-fiber dupe for wool, polypropylene rugs are soft, sturdy, and affordable. And they’re also stain-resistant! However, they’re the chemicals they’re treated with to make this happen are of concern to some households.
Factor #2: What the Rug is Dyed With
Fabric dyes are a really important factor in the price of a rug. Rugs are generally given their color with either natural dyes (usually vegetable-based) or chemical dyes.
Natural dyes tend to be more lightfast, meaning they will not fade over time. This plays into a rug’s durability—and therefore impacts the price. Rugs dyed with natural options also take more labor to produce, making them more expensive.
Chemical dyes are a much cheaper alternative and result in very vibrant colors. However, depending on the dye and method of the dying process, these options tend to fade much quicker (even after a few months of foot traffic and sun exposure).
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Factor #3: How the Rug is Made
The rug production process, or the method by which a rug is made, is also an important factor in determining its price. A rug can be completely handmade, fully machine-made, or a mixture of the two.
The more expensive options tend to be loomed by hand and can take days to months of labor to complete. Often, these are referred to as hand-knotted rugs. These rugs contain a high knot count, which results in that amazing plush texture and their rich colors. Handmade rugs are more durable and can last decades if cared for properly.
The alternative to costly handmade rugs are machine-made or power-loomed rugs. While they tend to sit at a lower price point, these options have a lower density of knots and a looser weave, causing them to be less durable in the long run.
You may also hear the term “hand-tufted rug,” which is a process of weaving a rug partly by hand and partly by a mechanized tool.
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Factor #4: The Rug’s Size
It might seem obvious, but the larger the rug, the higher the price point. That’s because rugs are priced by the square foot or square meter. The natural result? Larger rugs will be more expensive. Check out our rug size guide if you’re wondering how to choose a rug size.
Factor #5: The Rug’s Country of Origin
In the rug industry, labor costs and the skill of workers varies quite a bit. What does this mean for how much rugs cost for the consumer? Consider this: a hand-knotted rug made by a third-generation rug artisan in Morocco will cost more than an area rug that’s power-loomed in China, where a specialized skill set isn’t required and labor costs are lower.
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Other Things to Consider When Rug Shopping
The Ethics Behind Rugs
Another component behind the cost of rugs is the ethics behind their production. Rugs made in factories with child labor are able to be sold at an extremely cheap price point. Before you purchase a rug, consider doing a bit of research on its production methods.
Value Over Time
While not so much a factor in the cost of a rug, another point to consider before you make a purchase is that rugs keep their value over time.
Like investing in a piece of art, high-quality rugs, when cared for properly, will last for decades and can be passed down as a family heirloom. They can even be resold later and retain much of their original value.
But you may not be in the market for an heirloom. If you just need a quick fix or a rug that will last a couple of years, consider that in the rug (and price point) you choose.
So, why are rugs so expensive?
When it comes to the question of “why are rugs so expensive?”, the materials, the dyes, the method of production, the rug’s size, and the country of origin all impact a rug’s price. The decision to splurge or skimp on your next rug? That’s up to you.
Need help finding your perfect rug?
Modsy designers are standing by to help you find the perfect rug—or sofa, dining table, or bed frame—for your style and budget. They’ll show how different options look and fit in your exact space, so you can shop with confidence and skip the stress.
This post was updated on July 9th, 2021