Carpet failure is an annoyance for a number of reasons. It can be an eyesore, a hazard for occupants, a distraction during repair or replacement, and most importantly, a more expensive problem than it needs to be. To avoid the inconveniences and costs associated with poor carpeting, learn more about failures and warranties.
The Most Common Carpet Failures
Making sure you are covered in the event of a carpet failure requires a broad knowledge of the various types of failures that can befall commercial carpet. Lew Migliore, founder and president of LGM and Associates Technical Flooring Services, identifies four main types of commercial carpet failure: matting, crushing, ugly out and soiling.
Matting and crushing are two of the most common carpet failures. “Both of these conditions are the compression of the face yarn of the carpet,” says Migliore. “The primary culprit is the product being incapable of withstanding the type of traffic it is being subjected to, and as a result it crushes. The key to preventing this condition is to employ a carpet that is dense, has a lot of yarn packed into a small area with a low pile height and has very little cut pile yarn.”
Both matting and crushing occur naturally with foot traffic, causing the yarn of the carpet to lose its initial form. In addition to heavy traffic, irregular carpet care and improper cushioning can cause matting and crushing to happen more quickly. One way to restore the pile thickness is to regularly vacuum the carpet, but that might have diminishing returns as it ages.
As opposed to wearing out, a carpet will ugly out when it loses its appearance. Most synthetic carpets do not technically wear out in terms of the carpet’s structure, but they can stop retaining their appearance. Consumers often cite carpet wearing out as the reasoning for a warranty claim, but carpet usually will ugly out before that. Change of color could be a common instance of this, for example.
However, most carpet manufacturers only cover abrasive wear, explains Migliore. There typically needs to be at least a 10% loss of fiber within a 5- or 10-year warranty to be covered for carpet actually wearing out, which virtually never happens.
Also not covered in most warranties is soiling. Compared to stained carpet, soiled carpet has discoloration that is not necessarily caused by something spilling, and it often occurs through foot traffic leaving behind particulate matter. Regular cleaning can often help reduce soiling, but sometimes it can become impossible to take out.
If you have soiled carpet in your facility, that doesn’t mean you absolutely need to replace it. According to the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification, “Floorings found in professional settings are often better at hiding soiled areas, and because there is more room to cover, it’s not always clear where the highest traffic zones are located. A thorough check will spot which areas need the most help. These problem zones are usually around entryways, bottlenecks and doorways.”
Use your discretion to decide whether any soiled carpet in your facility is soiled badly enough and prominently located before replacing it.
Finding Carpet that Meets Expectations
Because carpets that ugly out, become crushed and matted, or get soiled are usually not covered under warranty, it is important to outfit your buildings with carpets that resist these issues.
In order to find the right carpet for your facility, consider how it will need to work in your building. Identify higher traffic areas where you might need something that resists matting and crushing more effectively. Think about what you need carpet to do near entrances – areas with high rainfall and snowfall will likely require something different than locations that are hot and arid.
Ultimately, you don’t want to have warranties on your mind when buying new carpet, so the best way to do that is to be judicious during the selection process. Communicate exactly what you want for your facility, and that can go a long way in preserving carpet.
Migliore advises setting the following priorities: providing the right product for the right place, understanding your own wants and what can fulfill those prerequisites, and not being afraid to spend more for a carpet that will last longer. Moreover, he suggests creating small mock-up areas with the product that is up for consideration to see how it actually performs and whether it meets your expectations.
“It’s not about the money,” says Migliore. “It’s about quality, value, service, performance and then price.”
Keys to Installation
Some carpet failures occur simply because installation was not conducted correctly or precisely enough for long-term success. Make sure during installation that the following guidelines are met.
Different carpets and areas will require different installation methods. Establish whether carpet should be installed via stretch-in installation, direct glue-down installation or double glue-down installation. Each comes with its own pros and cons, so make sure the installation method you pick aligns with your goals and expectations for your new flooring.
Related: Four Tips for Carpet Replacement
Poorly made seams, carpet seams not being sealed, carpet not being properly stretched and cushion that is too thick are a few of the most common installation mistakes that lead to carpet failure, explains Migliore. Moreover, many who have experienced troubles did not adequately follow the manufacturer’s guidelines or other industry standards.
One resource that can provide guidelines for proper installation is CRI 104, a standard for commercial carpet installation. This standard addresses important installation topics including tools, materials, adhesives and dew point considerations. But superseding all other guidelines is the product manufacturer's instructions which must be followed.
Read and Understand the Warranty
If your carpet does fail, you will want to know what your warranty covers ahead of time. Many consumers expect their carpet to have a warranty that will cover whatever failure they are facing, but it often doesn’t address these problems, leaving FMs flummoxed.
Migliore advises buyers to closely read any potential product’s warranty information to eliminate any surprises that might come later. Like any other feature for carpet, consider warranty in the purchasing process. Granted, this does not mean that you should prioritize warranty, but it should be one of the factors to weigh when considering options.
“You have to read the warranty, understand it and figure out what it actually covers,” Migliore explains. “I would not buy on the warranty but on the quality of the product, the experience the dealer has with it and how he educates the consumer about the product and qualifies the appropriate product for their wants.”
Finally, knowing what your warranty does and does not cover can help you take better care of your carpet, thereby eliminating the need to use the warranty. Some include information about best practices to preserve it over time.
For example, you might find that a warranty policy requires regular maintenance actions to be valid. Make sure that if the manufacturer’s warranty hinges on regular cleaning or any other maintenance activity, you are keeping up with it. Otherwise, your warranty might be rendered obsolete before you actually need to make use of it.
Justin Feit was the associate editor of BUILDINGS. This article was originally posted in August 2017.
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