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Preventing Carpet Problems

Q: How can I make sure my carpet looks as good as possible for as long as possible?

 

A: Last month we addressed some problems that often occur in carpet in regards to shedding, static, tufting, crushing, texture surface retention and depressions and indentations. This month I thought it would be good to talk about the steps you can take in order to try and avoid those problems as much as possible. You should be aware that some problems with carpet just naturally occur, but keeping these next few things in mind might help alleviate how soon those problems occur.

 

Power Streching

Wrinkles are a combination of the following factors: humidity and temperature at the time of the installation, improper use of the power stretcher, improper cushion and the quality of the carpet. In Kansas, the humidity and temperature can vary greatly making the carpet hard to work with in cold weather and causing the carpet to loosen with the change in seasons. Ideally, carpet has time to acclimate before installation and heating is absolutely required to allow the installer to work with the carpet to get a proper installation. CRI (Carpet & Rug Institute) standards require that stretched in carpet be power stretched. Power stretching is a tool with a head that has pins, a pump handle and poles that are braced against an opposing wall. While a knee kicker is a useful tool during the installation it is impossible to get a proper stretch without the use of a power stretcher. CRI standards state that an inappropriate use of cushion may result in wrinkling and buckling and that the cushion thickness should not exceed 7/16 inch. Most manufacturers suggest a firm dense cushion for the best performance. Higher quality carpet will normally have either a higher pic backing or “softbac” that are construction methods that help reduce the need for a re-stretch, however, these enhancements do add to the price of the carpet. Any reputable installer or retail store offers a re-stretch as part of the installation warranty to account for the known factors that cause this wrinkling. Re-stretching your carpet does require the rooms to be emptied and involve an installer using a power stretcher to remove the wrinkles and to trim back the excess carpet.

 

Seam Placement

Assuming your seams are constructed to CRI (Carpet & Rug Institute) standards by a qualified installer, seam visibility is part of a broadloom carpets appearance. Most rooms are wider than 12’ wide, thus requiring a seam and visibility cannot be guaranteed. The largest factor in determining how visible a seam will be is to analyze the lighting in the room. Seam construction perpendicular to a light source will create a shadow that will be easily seen. When determining the material necessary the estimator should provide a scale drawing and note any significant windows, doors or other light sources. Every effort should be made to reduce the number of seams by reducing fill pieces or considering a carpet that comes in 15’ or 13’6” widths. This will help remove seams. Many times, by purchasing a couple more yards, a seam can be removed or moved if seam visibility is a big issue. The style of carpet being chosen also has a significant effect on seam visibility, looped carpets or those with pattern matches are more difficult to hide then a textured or a frieze piece. An improperly made seam may also be the culprit if the edges are gapped or overlapped. A seam may be remade at least once, however, this is usually not going to solve the problem. Proper planning and discussions with your retailer and installer are the best way to ensure that you will have the best seam placement possible.

 

Padding

When purchasing carpet, the proper cushion is an important factor in the long-term wear and satisfaction of the installation. Proper cushion provides additional support to the carpet improving seam performance, reducing buckling or the need for re-stretching and most importantly, improves the comfort of the carpet as you walk on your floor. Cushion is measured in thickness and weight. Generally most manufacturers suggest a firm, dense cushion no thicker than 7/16”. The most popular forms of construction are re-bond cushion, solid polyurethane and rubber cushion. Re-bond cushion is taken by using recycled foam primarily from furniture manufacturers. It is the most economical and popular but can have inconsistencies including hard spots. It is also likely to breakdown over time. Solid polyurethane is also a foam cushion but does not have the inconsistency problems. Rubber cushion is the firmest and densest cushion available. Generally it is a good idea to replace the cushion whenever you replace your carpet considering all the dirt and spills that accumulate over the years. However, some cushions are now treated to be antibacterial which helps prevent the growth of odor and stain causing mold, mildew, fungus and bacteria before they become a problem.

 

Cleaning

The absolute most important part of the long-term satisfaction of your carpet comes from how well you maintain the carpet. The most overlooked is simple vacuuming. Frequent vacuuming is important with the minimum of once a week. High traffic areas such as around doors or in living rooms will likely require more vacuuming depending on the number of people entering the home. It is also important to have a vacuum powerful enough and in good working order. Each particle of dirt has hundreds of razor edges that act to cut your carpet fibers creating traffic patterns if not properly vacuumed. Vacuuming alone does not remove all the dirt embedding in your carpet. There are a number of different methods of cleaning available ranging from dry powder cleaning to hot water extraction. Most carpet manufacturers suggest, and some require, a specific method as outlined by the IIRC at least every 18 months in order to maintain the manufacturer’s warranty. Hot water extraction or “steam” cleaning is a method that involves pre-spraying the carpet with a cleaning agent and then removing the agent and dirt with clean hot water. While there are several do-it-yourself options available on the market, it is suggested to use a professional to ensure that there is enough suction power to properly remove all of the cleaning agent and the water. Leaving any of the agent in the carpet will actually attract dirt and make the carpet look dirty quicker.

 

More next month…