A carpet is only as good as its installation; this is a thought facility managers across the country readily agree upon. No matter how avant garde the design, no matter how impervious to wear the fiber or backing, improper installation will severely impede both the long-term performance and appearance of carpet.Understanding the most common installation problems can help facility managers anticipate and avoid potentially expensive headaches when installing new carpet.Seams: A Source of Potential ProblemsWithout question, seams present the greatest potential for problems in installation. Seams are inevitable, of course, but they do not have to be an issue. First, all seams must be trimmed using an appropriate tool for the specified carpet. Trimmed edges must also be sealed using either a latex or thermoplastic adhesive. It is critical that the sealer be applied to both the primary and secondary backing of the carpet.Failure to properly seal a seam can cause a number of serious problems, including edge ravel, delamination, tuft loss, and seam separation. These problems are more than unsightly, as they can potentially be safety hazards. Even properly sealed seams will not be totally invisible. Properly sealed seams will have tightly abutted edges without gaps or overlays. A good installation will also maintain a reasonable pattern match on patterned carpet, though exact pattern matches may be impossible to achieve throughout an installation.Avoid the LimelightWhen planning for seams, avoid high-traffic areas where possible. It is particularly important to avoid areas where traffic pivots. Seams should consistently run in the direction of the carpet’s length and, when feasible, also run with the flow of traffic and parallel to doorway openings. Areas where the carpet contacts a dissimilar flooring surface must be protected with an appropriate moulding to prevent edge ravel and delamination.A Breath of Fresh AirWhen installing carpet, it is imperative to maintain the quality of the air in the building. Ventilate the space with fresh air throughout installation; don’t re-circulate air in the building, but vent “stale” air to the outside. Vacuum the old carpet before it’s removed and then vacuum the substrate underneath to help control dust. If the carpet is glued to the floor, use low-emitting adhesives, which are identified in the Adhesive Program at the Carpet and Rug Institute’s website (www.carpet-rug.com).Beauty is More than Skin DeepThe condition of the substrate is another factor that can greatly affect the visual performance of carpet. Because carpet is applied like a skin to the floor, every flaw, every bump, or indentation in the substrate will be clearly visible once the carpet is installed.Don’t assume that all carpet installers are the same. Ask questions in advance about these issues that are a frequent source of problems. For more detailed information on installing carpet, refer to the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Standard for Installation Specification of Commercial Carpet. To locate a certified carpet installer, visit the Floor Covering Installation Board’s website (www.fcibcertified.com).Jim Keener is Installation Subcommittee chairman for the Carpet and Rug Institute and director of installation and maintenance technical services for Dalton, GA-based J&J/Invision (www.jj-invision.com).