Cheap Rug Hacks That Can Save You Hundreds

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(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Investing major money into one measly item always hurts. Some items, though, are more painful than others. My painful everyday expenditure: floor rugs. For an item that endures near-constant contact by the likes of dirty feet, pets and mucky shoes, $600 to $1,200 seems disproportionate. And if you have kids, toss in the very real possibility that within weeks of purchase, it could be irreparably ruined by a pool of ketchup.

Faced with these very scenarios, I’ve cultivated a few floor covering get-arounds of my own that I happily share with you now.

Look Out

My favorite hack—the one that accounts for every floor covering I’ve employed over the past five years—is to use outdoor rugs. Outdoor rugs are more resistant, easier to clean, and often less than half the cost of their indoor counterparts. Yet day after day, folks pass them up, simply because they’re in a different section of the store.

If you spend more than half your evenings sprawled on the living room floor, the rough fibers of an outdoor rug might not make the comfort cut. For our once-weekly movie nights, my kids and I simply create our own cushions with layers of sleeping bags and pillows.

Flip Out

This clutch-move came about by accident after a nasty PB&J incident. As I began to roll up the rug for trash pick-up, I noticed its reverse side looked just as nice as the top, just lighter in color. Since then, I’ve employed this strategy twice more—both times following clumsy red-wine spills—to flawless avail. The most I’ve had to do is rip off a tag or two. I’ll admit, I’m forever-paranoid of some future guest calling me out, but so far, “Did you get a new rug?” is the only comment I’ve received.

In my experience, solid rugs and rugs without raised or decorative borders work best with this trick.

Get Scrappy

Carpet remnants—the pieces left over or over-ordered from wall-to-wall carpet installations—can be bound around the edges to match area-rug aesthetics. Put the call out to local contractors or renovating neighbors that you’re not above using scraps. Chances are, you’ll get one for cheap or free.

Next, find yourself a carpet binder, who will tidy-up the scrap’s jagged edges. My go-to guy binds for $1.35 per linear foot, which for an 8-by-10 rug (plus their $7.56 service fee), comes out to around $56. That’s hundreds less than a retail floor rug. The only catch: Remnants tend to come small, so you’ll have to search hard for anything bigger than 5-feet by 7-feet. And no matter the dimensions, keep in mind carpet binders require at least three inches of spare material around the perimeter in order to do the job.

Stitch It

Ask that same carpet binder whether they’d be willing to stitch/bind together several small area rugs to create one larger one. I haven’t employed this strategy yet, but I’ve been wanting to forever to make a runner for my stairs. My guy looked at me like I was nuts when I asked him, but in the end said he’d do it at a price similar to his binding fee.

Obviously, this hack isn’t going to result in a flawlessly even look. A purposefully imperfect “patchwork” design should be the goal here. For my stairs, I intend to use inexpensive rag rugs in different colors.