February 3, 2015

Carpet is resilient, quiet, comfortable floor finish. It makes a space feel homely and has a slower feel to it than spaces with harder floor finishes. Carpet is often associated with dust mites but some research as shown that carpet can improve indoor air quality by trapping potential allergy-causing particulates – if the carpet is properly cleaned and maintained.

The intended location for a carpet is one of the main factors in deciding how durable your carpet needs to be. The durability of a carpet is determined by the fibre type, density, twist, weight and pile height. Density refers to the thickness of the yarn and how close they are spaced together. The denser a carpet the more durable it will be. Twist refers to how tightly the yarns in each tuft are twister. The tighter the twist in the yarn the higher the number and the better the performance. Weight indicates how much fibre there is in the carpet. Weight is determined by both the pile height and density combined. Pile height is the distance from the backing to the top of the tufts. Deep pile carpets appear plusher but show tracks and vacuum marks. Lower pile height is firmer and ideally suited to rooms with wheeled furniture.

Tip: Carpets with a high proportion of synthetic fabric are prone to static electricity and can crush very easily.

The square foot or square metre price of a carpet can be misleading as it does not take into account the wastage caused by the shape of the room or features such as alcoves or projections in a room. Domestic carpet typically comes in broadloom format, i.e. on a 4 metre wide roll. It is near impossible to get a roll width to match a room’s width exactly and so invariably the roll will either need to be trimmed down or jointed. The key to economically carpeting a room is down to choosing a roll width that best suits the width of the room to be carpeted.

Tip: Some carpet suppliers charge extra for delivery, underlay and carpet grips so be sure to compare the fitted cost of carpets rather than the supply price.

Types of Carpet
Machine made carpet can be woven, tufted and bonded. There are two main types of woven carpet; Axminster and Wilton. Axminster carpet is made by weaving short pile threads into a prewoven backing, which is then cut. Axminister carpets can be made with an infinite number of colours.

Wilton carpet is made by weaving threads into a backing and them pulling them through in the form of loops. These loops may be left as loops or cut to create a velvet effect. Alternatively a carpet can have a combination of cut and un-cut loops to give a textured finish. Unlike Axminster, Wilton uses threads that run the whole length of the carpet therefore reducing the number of colours available in each carpet. Because of the way it’s made Wilton carpet is normally thicker than Axminster.

Tufted carpet is made by inserting tufts of pile yarns into a prewoven jute backing, which is then coated with latex to anchor the tufts in place. A final backing of hessian is then applied over the latex coating. This is the most economical type of carpet and it comes in a wide variety to colours and patterns. Pattern can be printed on the surface of the finished carpet or formed during the tufting stage. The latter being the more durable method of the two. Tufted carpet can be cut or loop pile, or a combination of the two.

Fibre-bonded or needle-punch carpets are made by adhering a prewoven core with felt-like fabric or synthetic fibres. It is usually made with a high proportion of polypropylene and is the cheapest type of carpet. Patterned versions normally have the pattern printed on the surface.

The term Berber carpet actually refers to a type of carpet construction that originated in North Africa but in recent years the term has been employed to describe any flecked carpet. Berber styles are typically produced using light, natural colors such as cream colored loops with flecks of tan and brown. Berber carpet is a woven or tufted combination of dyed and undyed fibres. Many Berbers are made of olefin fiber which is impervious to water-based stains, even bleach! Others are made with classic wool or durable nylon. Berber generally is made of a thicker yarn than other level loop pile carpets and so maintain an even appearance under heavy foot traffic.

Haircore carpet is composed of 80% animal hair and 20% nylon. It is made as a continuous corrugated fabric bonded to a hessian backing. It comes in 2m wide rolls or 500x500mm tiles. It has a distinctive ribbed effect and can be stuck directly to floor without underlay, which makes it very hard underfoot. Tretford is an Irish company that makes haircore carpet

Tip: Joints in carpet should be located in the least trafficked area of the room. This reduces the risk of the joints opening up due to wear and tear.

Tip: Colours look different in natural daylight and artificial light so try to view the samples in both types of light before making a final selection.

Pile Finishes
The yarn loops of carpet can be finished in one of three ways. They can be cut, which give you cut-pile carpets, left uncut, which gives you loop carpet, or a combination of both, which gives you cut & loop carpet.

Tip: Seams are slightly more apparent with loop pile carpets than with cut pile styles.

Cut & loop carpet pile comprises of uncut loops of fibres and has a highly textured finish, which gives the finished product a rugged appearance.

Tip: Typically the more texture a carpet has the less wear it will show.

Cut-pile Carpet. There are three main styles of cut pile carpet; Velvet, Saxony and twist / frize, and the density and twist of each style looks, feels and performs differently.

Velvet (velour or plush) pile is a smooth, soft version of cut pile. They are the densest, most luxurious cut pile carpets. Each yarn in a velvet carpet has little or no twist to it so as to create the appearance of an uninterrupted sweep of color. Because of that, they feel very soft and are perfect for the more formal and low traffic areas of your home. As is the case with velvet fabric, the direction of fibres in a velvet carpet determines how light reacts to it giving rise to shading. Velvets will tend to show vacuum cleaner marks but to many people, shading lends character and richness to the carpet.

Saxony carpets are a little more durable than velvets. The tufts of saxonies are made of slightly bulkier yarn and are twisted a bit more than those in velvet carpets, making them more resistant to crushing and matting but still very soft and pleasing to the touch. Because of its nice feel and durability, saxony is the most popular carpet choice and can be used in many different areas in a home. Shag pile carpet is a type of saxony with a pile of up to 50mm long. Shag pile carpet is hard to keep clean and tangles easily.

With twist / frise carpet the fibres are twisted and set to give a tighter texture that does not fluff. Frieze carpets have tufts which are so tightly twisted they curl back on themselves in random directions. This means that instead of standing close to form a smooth surface, each tuft stands alone creating a nubby or ‘pebbled’ look. This type of carpet is highly resilient, truly trackless, easy to clean, and crush resistant. They are also the most rugged of the cut pile carpets which makes them perfect for high traffic areas. Two-Fold Twist is a superior technique of carpet making that takes two ends of yarn spun to half the thickness of a singles yarn, and twists them together in the opposite direction for a denser pile with better recovery.

Carpet Fibres
Carpet can be made from synthetic or natural fibres or a combination of the two. Top end carpets are typically a blend of 80% wool and 20% nylon as this is the optimum blend. Synthetic fibres can be acrylic, nylon, polyester, polypropylene or viscose. Natural fibres can be wool, linen, goat’s hair, or sisal.

Tip: Natural Fibres can rot when exposed to damp and coir, sisal and jute need to be treated with a stain-inhibitor.

Acrylic fibre is cheaper than wool but more expensive than nylon. It dries-out easily when wet and is moth, mould, oil, chemical and fade resistant. It can however be flattened easily, has poor flame resistant and has a tendency to fuzz or pill.

Nylon is a soft, strong, durable fibre that is stain, abrasion, oil and chemical resistant. It does not absorb moisture easily and can also be treated to be less static. It does however melt when burnt and isn’t biodegradable. It is possible to recycle carpet but this facility only really exists in the US and mainland Europe. Ordinary carpeting nylon is called Type 6. Antron’s fibres are type 6.6 which claims to be tougher, denser and more resilient.

Polyester is soft, hard-wearing fibre that’s easy to clean and quick to dry. It is not as springy as acrylic and is often used for shag pile carpet. It is resistant to chemicals, mould growth and abrasion but it has poor flame resistance.

Polypropylene (Olefin) is a hard wearing fibre that dries easily when wet, does not create static and is mould, stain and fade resistant. It does however flatten easily, is highly flammable and does not dye well. Sometimes olefin fibre has air added to give it some bulk but this gets crushed out of the carpet quite quickly once laid.

Viscose is a man-made fibre similar to silk and is based on natural materials such as cotton or cellulose. The material is very soft and is therefore an important element in artificial silk (rayon). A relatively inexpensive fibre, viscose is not particularly resilient and it has a habit of flattening fairly easily. It is also flammable. Its properties mean that viscose is often used in the production of rugs to highlight details and to give the rugs a beautiful lustre. Some viscose rugs can sometimes shed fibres, which is due to the use of poor quality raw materials during production of the fibres. They are short fibres in the rug that work their way out during use and come up to the surface. However, this can be avoided by washing the rugs after production, which results in less shedding.

Wool does not dent or flatten easily and is flame resistant. Wool is easy to clean and does not easily absorb moisture. 100% wool carpets are anti-static, hypo-allergenic and biodegradable but they require moth protection and are not very durable. Wool is often specified in an 80:20 wool nylon mix because this makes the carpet more durable than a 100% wool carpet. The quality of wool carpets is measured in g/sqm with a lightweight bedroom carpet typically being 1,3000g/sqm.

Sisal is strong, supple, slightly rougher than jute and easy to dye. It does however shrink when wet.
and is not good for stairs, as heels can catch in it.

Carpet Backings
Most carpets are tufted or punched through one backing with a series of needles. The backing that you see when you lift a carpet is actually a secondary backing. Latex glue is used to ‘sandwich’ the fiber between the primary and secondary backing. The tightness of the weave of this secondary backing is not as important as the latex glue holding the backings together. If the latex fails, the two backings delaminate and the fiber starts to fall out or the carpet starts to wrinkle. Most often the more expensive the carpet the better quality the latex used. Most backings are a web or weave of plastic but some are made from foam rubber, urethane, or jute. Foam rubber is generally used as a secondary backing on some inexpensive kitchen carpets, or indoor-outdoor carpets. In general urethane backings are better than foam rubber. Urethane holds the fibers tighter and bonds the fiber better to the primary backing. It is however non-biodegradable. Jute is the backing on the carpet your parents bought and as well as being considered the best quality carpeting backing is also biodegradable.

Carpet Tiles
Because carpet tiles can easily been lifted and moved around they are used on raised access floors in commercial interiors or when carpet may wear unevenly. Carpet tiles are normally 500x500mm. Carpet tiles do not require underlay.

Some carpets are manufactured with a built-in underlay but most carpets are hard backed and need to be fitted with a good carpet underlay that will prolong the life of the carpet and make it warmer, quieter and more comfortable. Underlay acts as a ‘shock absorber’ between your new carpet and the floor. Most floors have very little ‘give’ or resilience, so when you walk on a carpeted floor with no underlay all the pressure is absorbed by the carpet, rapidly accelerating its wear. It also compensates for any slight unevenness in the sub-floor and provides a barrier against dirt and moisture. In addition, an underlay provides good heat insulation and is excellent at absorbing noise. Always use the best underlay that you can afford. A top quality underlay will make even the least expensive carpet feel luxurious and will make heavier quality carpets feel spectacular!

Sometimes a fibreglass interliner is used under rubber underlay and foam backed carpets to prevent them from sticking to the floor. It is particularly important to use it on wooden floors to prevent updraft problems. The liner typically comes in widths of 1.5 metres wide.

Foam Underlays
Most foam underlays are used under tufted rather than woven carpet but not 1) on stairs, 2) over underfloor heating, 3) or in damp conditions.

Foam Padding is made from urethane foam and is available in different densities and thickness. Generally this type of pad is referred to as”prime foam”, but it is not recommended for heavy traffic of any kind.

Rebond is made from scraps of a high density foams used in furniture making. Rebond padding comes in various thicknesses and densities and the density is rated in pounds per cubic foot. A 7 to 7.5 lb pad of less than 7/16ths inch is said to be best suited for longer wear. Rebond should not be used under Berber carpet.

Frothed Foam is said to be the ultimate padding on the market. It is a super dense urethane and is made 5/16ths and 7/16ths inch thick. It cost about the same as a good slab rubber padding, is extremely durable and has virtually no VOCs (off gassing). This type of underlay can be used over underheated floors.

Rubber Underlays
Rubber underlays are used under tufted rather than woven carpet but not 1) on stairs, 2) over underfloor heating, 3) or in damp conditions.

Waffle Rubber is an inexpensive form of underlay with a relatively short lifespan.

Slab Rubber feels very like 7lb rebounded underlay, but will resist furniture indentation and crushing for a much longer period of time making it more suitable for high traffic areas. A 100 ounce pad with 19lb density will give great comfort underfoot and long wear.

Fibre Underlays
Fibre underlays are best used with quality woven carpets and can be made from 1) jute 2) wool, 3) other animal hair 4) nylon or a blend of these. They are used when you want to limit the movement of piece of carpet. The key with fibre pads is density. Spun nylon is said to offer the best performance. A pad with a density of least 7.5 lbs per cubic ft. for synthetic fiber, and 12 lb density for jute is optimum. The thickness of fibre pads should be between 3/8 and 7/16 inch and the total weight should be 40 ounces per square yard.

Tip: The general rule is the bigger the loop in the Berber the firmer the padding should be. Also, as noted above, rebond should be avoided under Berber carpets.

Ordering Carpet
When placing an order for carpet make sure that all of the details of the carpet are noted on the order form, including any treatments that the carpet is said to have received, i.e. stainmaster.

Fitting Carpet
If using interliner a gap should be left between liner and the skirting boards. Underlay should be spread tightly and without wrinkle. Any joins in the underlay should be covered with carpet tape to prevent dust rising from under the floorboards and joints in the carpet should be located in the least-trafficked and least –prominent part of the room.

Tip: After getting carpet laid you may have to get your alarm adjusted. Often the cables to alarm sensors runs under carpets and can be damaged when carpet gets refitted

Tip: When your carpet arrives to be fitted compare it to a sample of the carpet ordered. Carpet comes in different wearing grades and it is not un-heard of for dishonest carpet companies to installer a lighter weight carpet in lieu of a heavier one.

Broadloom is the term used for sheet carpet but it is also used as an adjective for carpet tile that appears as sheet carpet when laid.

Also ….. Technical Information on Rugs


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