Selecting Your Carpet
We’ve all done it. Every time we invest in new carpet, we take an internal oath and solemnly swear we will take care of this brand new carpet, and rightfully so. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to know that for most folks, the third largest investment after the purchase of our home and cars is the home’s interior.
So we read the manufacturer’s warranty and notice that it says to vacuum often. Daily might be the frequency in the high traffic areas. But who has time any more to spend maintaining carpets on a daily basis? The only time you see people vacuum that frequently is in the hotel and motel industry.
Rarely does one actually see the carpets being replaced at the hotel and motel industry unless there is a major remodeling project happening with new color schemes to match. So it would serve one well to learn from the hospitality business.
How do we usually buy carpet? In most cases it comes with the home already installed. It will either be a newly built or a previously owned re-sale home. If a new home was built, if you are in the beginning stages of construction, you have a choice to upgrade to the better carpet and padding offered. Or you can choose the cheapest carpet known to mankind commonly referred to as ‘builder’s grade’ materials which also includes the cheapest, thinnest carpet pad also known as ‘FHA grade’ 2 lb. rebond.
Sure the carpet is fuzzy and comes in a light color and the padding might as well be called foam because it easily crushes to the sub-floor when any weight is applied on the carpet’s surface. After all, carpet is just carpet and pad is just pad, right? WRONG. Once again the old adage “You get what you pay for” still rings true.
DuPont, one of the top four major fiber producers, conducted a study years ago about the behaviors of the consumer as related to the way they make a purchase decision when it comes to picking carpet. I suppose human behavior still has not evolved that much since. Please note that the following results are not a misprint.
They rank from number one to number five in order:
While not disclosed, the first three might have been trying to color match the hard surface flooring like tile, hardwood flooring or stone. The second might be for the paint in a given room and the last color match to compliment the home’s other furnishings such as window treatments, and furniture.
Texture refers to the ‘feel’ also known as the hand of the carpet referring to how it feels when you touch the carpet by hand. It would also take into account the weight of carpet measured in ounces. For example, a carpet weighing 32 oz. per square inch has more carpet fibers then say a 16 ounce carpet. A good way to test this principle is to go to carpet a retailer and ask to see two different swatches.
For example with all things being equal, such as the same Carpet Fiber Producer manufactured by DuPont, same carpet fibers milled at Shaw Industries, same color dye lot, etcetera, you can perform this simple comparison test side by side.
Simply form your fingers like a claw and push directly straight down from top to the bottom of the fibers using your fingertips only. You should notice an immediate difference in carpet density. It will also reflect in the price per square yard. The difference is the number of stitches per square inch. On a much more dense carpet, it will be difficult to see down to the primary backing where the carpet is stitched in.
Here’s the benefit:
If there are more carpet pile fibers, then each carpet fiber actually supports one another side by side on all four corners of the fiber forming a nap. The less pile there is opens up the potential damage for gritty soil to ‘cut’ the fibers at the base of the pile where the primary backing is. This cutting effect comes with every step, pivot and turn on the carpet nap’s surface. This also causes thinning, pitting and marring of fibers making carpets dull in appearance even after restorative cleaning.
It is also worth mentioning that 60 percent of the soil that falls into the carpet can be removed safely and effectively with routine dry vacuuming of high traffic areas such as halls, stairs, entry ways and traffic paths in front of furniture. This single process alone can greatly extend the performance and life use of the carpet. Remember the hospitality industry housekeepers?
The second most fatal mistake a carpet purchaser can make is ignoring the quality of the carpet pad. Padding for the subfloor is like the spine of the carpet. It provides support to aid in preventing indentations left by heavy furniture legs after re-arranging a room.
It also has the job of holding water like a sponge whenever a copious amount water floods the room such as a broken water pipe. It provides the comfort under our footing so our feet and backs don’t ache. This is the one place you don’t have to worry about the color matching as the carpet will cover all the pad.
Pad is also measured in ounces and pounds. Once again, the higher the number, the more dense the pad. The density can range in feeling. By using a pinch test between the top and bottom of the pad you can compare densities. There is foam all the way up to feeling like a large pencil eraser. The higher the better.
Try to stay away from rubber based products like a waffle print as they have been known to dry rot where hot water pipes run through the concrete subflooring. They also don’t provide any absorption for collecting water spills. In fact in a typical flood scenario, the water just continues to migrate further by saturating a greater area of carpet space.
It would also be wise to choose the right carpet for the right application. If you were born during Baby Boomer era, you would have ran into carpets that were made from polyester. Those fibers were dyed first before they were extruded as fiber. They never faded from the sun or bleach spills and lasted forever but were harder to clean.
Nylon came around and was softer to the hand and cleaned up better but spills could permanently stain the fibers and due to costs, generally come in lighter colors. Almost all darker colors will be more expensive to produce due to more dye in the process. More dyes prevented stains due to the lack of dye sites available.
Fourth Generation carpets removed the nuisance of static electricity when walking across a room and touching anything conductive to release a jolting shock.
Fifth Generation carpets involved the incorporation of stain resist carpets. The key to this technology was to create a transparent dye. Normally after dyeing half of the carpet’s dye sites in a light color the remaining dye sites would be open for stains once installed. The solution was solved by re-dyeing the remaining dye sites with a transparent dye. Dye sites are like skin pores on your arm.
If all dye sites on a fiber are filled, then no stains could penetrate immediately. This would give the end user time to remove the stain later even if it dried on in many cases.
The last point to consider is the primary backing of carpets. For a number of years, India exported to the United States jute which is what ropes are made of. An unfortunate deadly industrial accident involving chemicals at Union Carbide’s battery plant, cause strained relations between both countries and jute stopped being exported.
Jute backed carpets also occurred when they became wet from flooding. The natural fiber made of plant (organically)based material released a tannin dye similar to coffee and bled into the carpet’s surface; thereby causing it to permanently discolor the carpet and ruin it.
It was also a food source for mold and mildew and if not treated quickly, it would dry rot causing the primary and secondary backing to delaminate and destroy the carpet.
Since the mid 1980’s polypropylene backing has become the norm. It’s a tough as fishing line and can hold up to most abuse end users give it. It’s also cheaper to produce. In fact, 70 percent of all carpets involved in a clear water food damage loss can be dried, cleaned and re-engaged with no evidence of a pre-loss condition.
Good luck on your next carpet purchase as you now possess more knowledge than most of the carpet cleaners and retailers in the industry. And don’t forget to vacuum!