Carpet Specs 101: Backing is the Foundation

Jan. 1, 2008

Specifying the right carpet backing may be more important than you realize

By Jack Fiest

Facility professionals, take note: Specifying a backing is just as important as selecting the color, fiber, and pattern of your commercial carpet.

Why is specifying carpet backing important?
Just as steel girders are the foundation of a building, backing is the foundation of carpet and can protect its beauty and overall functionality for years.

How do I specify a carpet backing?
When working with a carpet manufacturing representative, always ask what backing options are available. Many manufacturers offer a variety of backings. If you ask, they should be able to show you their entire selection.

What is the difference between standard and high-performance carpet backing?
Standard backings are economical and perform adequately in low- to medium-traffic areas. They typically have higher filler loadings, which can affect performance in high traffic and can break down over time under the wet cleaning process.

High-performance backings are an upgrade and can endure high traffic. They have different characteristics that are specified based on end-use requirements such as performance, high comfort, noise reduction, rolling traffic, moisture barrier, and recycled content. Polyurethane technology for commercial carpet creates a unique molecular structure, forming a polymeric bond between the primary and secondary backing. The result is a unified composite material that improves the performance of carpet.

How does carpet backing help reduce noise?
Cushioned carpet backing made with polyurethane technology minimizes the sound of foot traffic, absorbs airborne sound, and reduces sound transmission to nearby rooms. It is ideal for open office plans, assisted living facilities, libraries, and schools - wherever it is important to balance the noise of activity with the need for quiet work and reflection.

Can high-performance carpet backing help reduce physical discomfort from long periods of standing?
Made of high-density polyurethane, cushioned backing is designed to increase comfort underfoot. It helps reduce heel-strike force and leg-muscle response (two prime causes of standing and walking fatigue).

What are the installation benefits?
Carpet with polyurethane backing provides an efficient, one-step installation alternative, requiring up to 40-percent less labor than the double-stick method. Polyurethane is both soft and tough, and is able to maintain flexibility over a wide range of temperature and site conditions. It is also more easily repaired and is breathable, which aids in drying and curing of adhesives. In addition, it facilitates seaming and pattern match in the installation process. Always refer to the CRI 104 Installation Guidelines provided by the Dalton, GA-based Carpet and Rug Institute for proper installation. 

Is polyurethane carpet backing durable?
Polyurethane's adhesion to carpet yarn maximizes the bundle wrap around individual tufts for the life of the carpet, minimizing edge ravel and disfiguring snags and pulls.

How long can carpet with polyurethane backing last?
A study by Provo, UT-based Brigham Young University (BYU) using polyurethane carpet backing technology revealed significant cost savings and life expectancy. Actions to lengthen the life of carpet continue to promote product sustainability. In the BYU study, it was determined that carpet with polyurethane backing can last 8 to 15 years.

Jack Fiest is senior account manager at The Dow Chemical Co. ( in Dalton, GA.

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