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Carpet and Vinyl Installation and Repair




Fiber Types

Staple and continuous filament
The fiber systems used in the manufacture of carpet can be divided into two classifications: staple (spun) and bulked continuous filament (BCF).
BCF yarns are actually long filaments of fiber that are plied together to form continuous bundles of fiber.
Staple yarns are produced in short lengths and spun and twisted together (like cotton) to form long threads of yarn and tufted into carpet.
The difference lies in the length of the fibers in the yarn, with staple having shorter lengths, giving the yarn more bulk

Nylon and Polyester are produced in both staple and BCF yarn.
Olefin is typically produced in BCF only.
Wool is inherently staple.
When it comes to durability, there is little difference between BCF or staple fibers.
Nylon
Nylon is utilized in approximately 65% of the carpet sold in the U.S. It is a very durable fiber with excellent performance characteristics. Its strengths include good resiliency, good yarn memory to hold twist, good carpet cleaning efficacy, good stain resistance with stain treatment applied, good soil hiding ability, and good abrasion resistance. It is soil and mildew resistant and resilient, but is prone to static. Most nylon is treated with an anti-static treatment to reduce static.
Polypropylene
Polypropylene, also called olefin, is a relatively inexpensive fiber. It is a solution-dyed product, which means color is added during extrusion in its molten state, giving it superior resistance to bleaches and sunlight fading and is extremely colorfast. However it has poor resiliency, which can lead to crushing. Color selection is limited due to its dye method. It has poor abrasion resistance and its low melt point can cause fibers to fuse if furniture or other objects are dragged across its surface. Olefins clean very well and most staining is non-existent. Olefin was originally favored for outdoor carpeting and basements due to its resistance to moisture, mildew, water damage, staining, pilling, shedding and static.
Polyester
Polyester fiber produces some of the most beautiful colorations available offering a wide selection of textures and colors. It also is extremely fade resistant and provides excellent resistance to stains. However, it does have poor resilient properties and is susceptible to crushing. Polyester fabrics are generally sold in heavy face weights with high-density construction. Avoid high pile heights with low-density construction. Also look for high twist levels. Polyester is non-allergenic, sheds moisture and resists moths and mildew. It is susceptible to pilling, shedding and oil-based stains, otherwise it cleans fairly easily and can be enhanced by stain treatments.
Wool
Wool remains the premier fiber in carpet construction. It has excellent resilience and durability, but is very expensive. Wool cleans especially well, provides beautiful colors, and has good resiliency, but special care should be used in cleaning wool carpet. Unfortunately, wool tends to "wear down" or the pile tends to wear away. Wool is naturally a staple fiber. Although it is naturally stain resistant, it requires a high level of maintenance including mothproofing. Wool can hold 10 times its weight in moisture, it is susceptible to shrinking and mold and mildew growth.
Cotton and Acrylic
Cotton and acrylic are used in very few carpet styles in the U.S. Both offer extremely beautiful colorations but have poor resiliency.

Acrylic is the closest to wool of any of the synthetics. Its use is primarily because of its springy feel, soil resistance, excellent cleanability, and resistance to static, moths and mildew. It is resistant to fade in bright sunlight. However it is susceptible to pilling.
Brand names include Acrilan, Orlon, Creslan and Zefron.

Cotton is soft, but it does not resist stains or matting well. It also absorbs moisture, which makes it difficult to keep clean. Cotton is subject to browning if cleaned with alkaline solutions.

Comments Wool Nylon Polypropylene Olefin Acrylic Modacrylic Polyester
Resiliency -- Determined by fiber structure and modifications. Good to excellent Excellent Excellent Fair to excellent Good to excellent
Abrasion Resistance -- Determined by fiber and density of face fiber -- the more tightly packed the yarns, the more resistant to wear. Good to excellent Excellent Excellent Fair to excellent Good to excellent
Soil & Stain Resistance/Cleanability -- Determined by color, texture, dyes, fiber structure and modifications. Good to excellent Good to excellent Good if oily soils and stains are treated promptly. Good Good to excellent -- oily stains should be promptly treated.
Resistance to Sunlight -- Determined by fiber structure and modifications. Poor -- If protected from ultraviolet rays, degradation does not occur as rapidly. Good -- special dyes may be used to inhibit sun damage. Loses strength and deteriorates unless chemically modified to resist sunlight damage. Excellent resistance. Prolonged exposure may cause deterioration in some pieces. Good -- may weaken with prolonged exposure.
Static -- Determined by fiber structure and modification. Builds up in low humidity unless modified. Builds up in low humidity unless modified. Builds up in low humidity but at a lower level than nylon or polyester Builds up in low humidity unless modified. Builds up in low humidity unless modified.
Hand Warm, soft Varies from warm and soft to cold and coarse. Waxy, soft Warm, soft Varies -- finer deniers are soft and silky.
Resistance to Mildew --Determined by fiber structure and modifications Poor if damp or soiled. Fiber may be modified Excellent Excellent Excellent
Flammability -- Determined by fiber structure, modification, construction methods, dyes, padding and carpet installation methods Burns slowly indirect flame; considered self-extinguishing. Burning hair odor. Burns slowly, melts in direct flame; self-extinguishing. Structure may alter what occurs. Celery-like odor. Melts at low temperatures (170°C); burns and emits heavy, sooty, waxy smoke. Paraffin wax odor. Pulling a heavy object across the carpet surface can cause enough friction to melt the carpet fibers. Acrylic burns readily unless modified. Modacrylics are difficult to ignite, will not support combustion, are self-extinguishing and dripless. Acrid odor for both. Burns slowly, melts; some are self-extinguishing. Chemical odor.
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Carpet Construction

Most residential carpet is manufactured using a process known as tufting. Tufting is a process very similar to embroidery. Pile yarn is inserted into a backing material to form the face material.

Once a tufted blanket has been stitched (yarns inserted into a primary backing material), the blanket is back coated with a synthetic latex adhesive to lock the fibers in place. A secondary backing is then applied to provide dimensional stability.

The construction of a prospective style of carpet has a major impact on the life expectancy and performance a carpet will provide. Carpet density is the major factor of construction that should be considered. Density is a combination of several factors. The distance between these tufting needles, known as gauge rate, helps determine the density of the face. Gauge is measured in needles per inch across the width. Gauge rate is the distance between tufts (loops) or needles in the widthwise direction.

# of needles per:
Gauge per Inch # across 12 ft width
5/32 6.4 922
1/8 8 1152
1/10 10 1440
5/64 12.8 1843
Stitch rate
is measured in stitches per inch along the length of the carpet. The distance between tufts (loops) or the number of times the needle bar strikes in the lengthwise direction. Stitches per inch is the most common unit of measurement. Stitch rate is easily varied during manufacturing so stitch rate may vary more than gauge rate. Gauge rate is limited by the preset positioning of the needles on a particular machine; whereas stitch may be changed.

Pile height
is the length of the tuft (loop) from the base of the tuft (primary backing) to the tip of the tuft. Pile height is normally measured as a fraction of an inch or as a decimal equivalent.

3/16" = .188
1/4" = .250
5/16" = .313
3/8" = .375

Twist level
has recently been identified as a major performance factor in many cut-pile carpets. Twist level is measured in twists per inch. A close look at the tufts on a cut-pile product will reveal two bundles of yarn that have been plyed (twisted) together and heatset to "lock-in" the twist. Generally speaking, the more twists per inch, the better the performance. Twist level is measured in turns per inch. Many frieze carpet styles may have 7 to 9 turns per inch, while lesser quality saxonies may have only 3 to 4 turns per inch.

Density
can be defined as the amount of face yarn per unit area. There are several methods used for determining density. The primary method uses a simple empirical formula to quantify density.

Average Pile Density = 36 X Pile Yarn Weight / Pile Height (or pile thickness) in inches

Variations may occur due to differing methods of quantifying pile height. There are essentially 3 methods for determining pile height. Each method will deliver differing results.

In the first instance (pile height), a small ruler is inserted down to the backing to read the overall height of the tuft. This is not a precise method due to variations in results by various technicians. There may also be variations due to measurement timing (preshearing or post shearing).

The second method for determining pile height (pile thickness) is a much more precise method due to consistency of results. This is a much more complex method but it is the preferred method for determining pile height. This method involves the use of a compressometer, which measures thickness of materials under a slight load, between a platen and a circular foot. In using this method, the total thickness of the pile and backing material are quantified. The pile is then sheared and the backing thickness is calculated. These values are deducted and pile thickness is determined.

The third method, (tuft height) is also a laboratory technique which is reproducible. Ten tufts are sliced from the primary backing and inserted into a metal block. These "V" shaped tufts are then covered with a clear plate and measured using a precision scale. Problems can develop when product specifications are written using varying methods. A 30%-40% variance is possible on similarly manufactured goods when less precise methods are used.

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Carpet Types: Distinguishing the Differences

Carpet can be grouped into three primary constructions; loop pile, cut pile, and cut and loop pile. All carpet actually begins as a loop pile and the loops are cut during manufacturing to provide the cut pile appearance. As the name implies, cut and loops are a combination of cut loops and uncut loops to provide texture or patterns. Most cut and loops are primarily cut piles with some loops left uncut for patterns; although a few styles utilize the opposite effect.


Loop Pile Carpet

    Berber Carpets
  • Berbers can have thicker yarns than other level loop pile carpets for high durability
  • Berbers may be Level or Multi-Level Loop Carpet
  • Generally multi-colored
  • Berbers limit footprints and vacuum tracks in informal areas
  • Berbers come in expensive wool fibers or less expensive nylon, olefin, or nylon-olefin fibers


    Level Loop Carpets
  • Loops are same height and generally multi-colored
  • Usually made from polypropylene (olefin) carpet fibers
  • Often called Indoor-Outdoor or Commercial Carpet
  • Casual appearance, but extremely durable
  • Great for family rooms or basements


    Multi-Level Loop Carpets
  • Has several different heights of loops
  • Generally multi-colored
  • Very durable, casual appearance
  • Helps hides traffic patterns
  • Great for family rooms or basements



Cut and Loop Pile Carpet

    Cut and Loop Pile carpet
  • Intermixed loops and cut pile, creates a patterned design
  • Loops are shorter than the cut pile creating a carved appearance
  • Usually constructed in multi-color designs
  • Helps hide footprints and traffic patterns
  • Great choice for a variety of room settings


    Random Shear Carpet
  • Also know as Tip Shear Carpet
  • Made by cutting off the tops of the highest loops and creating a random texture
  • Color reflectance of the cut yarns gives the illusion of color variation and enhances the patterned effect
  • May be used in both formal and informal areas



Cut Pile Carpet

    Saxony
  • Cut pile carpet in which two or more plies of yarn have been twisted and heat-set so that the tip of each carpet tuft is distinguishable on the pile surface
  • Light reflection of the fiber causes the pile to assume a darker hue when yarns are brushed in one direction and a lighter hue in the opposite direction
  • Saxonies work well in informal areas like bedrooms and can have a soft feel


    Textured Saxony
  • Textured when piles are different lengths
  • Saxonies have the tendency to show footprints and vacuum sweeper marks
  • Light reflection of the fiber causes the pile to assume a darker hue when yarns are brushed in one direction and a lighter hue in the opposite direction
  • Stylish, casual appearance
  • Saxonies work well in informal areas like bedrooms and can have a soft feel


    Textured
  • Texture is obtained by stuffing yarn with tight twist into a steam box so the ends have a kinked or curled yarn
  • Curling of the fiber reduces light reflectance, thus reducing the appearance of footprints
  • Kinked yarns may provide a two-tone effect as a result of shade variations from reflected light
  • Hides footprints and vacuum sweeper marks
  • A great "whole-house" carpet


    Plush/Velvet
  • Velvets/Plushes are lightly twisted and have a uniform color
  • velour appearance obtained by using staple yarn and high-density construction
  • Velvets/Plushes show every footprint and vacuum sweeper mark
  • Stylish, very formal appearance


    Frieze
  • Stiffer Yarn with very tight twist is steam inject to produce a curled effect
  • Very textured, knobby surface appearance
  • The tips of the yarn will lay over oriented in different directions causing redirected light reflectance
  • Hides footprints and vacuum sweeper marks
  • Extremely durable, and excellent wearing, Great for active areas of the home


    Shag
  • Piles are somewhat less dense and are composed of longer individual strands
  • the fiber is a relaxed twist in a loose design in which individual yarn strands are spaced further apart
  • Appearance of a section of grass that allows the blades to lay in a variety of different directions
  • Hides footprints and vacuum sweeper marks
  • Shags work well in very casual areas and can have a soft feel


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Carpet Padding

Padding is the most essential accessory in carpet flooring because it enhances the performance of the carpet. Each carpet manufacturer will recommend the appropriate padding for each type of carpet. Be sure to follow these guidelines as failing to do so might void your carpet's warranty.

The proper carpet padding will:

  • Absorb the pressure of foot traffic.
  • Reduce household noise.
  • Provide additional insulation.
  • Prevent buckling or wrinkling of the carpet.

Many consumers believe carpet cushion is used for the purpose of comfort under foot. While this a result of the use of carpet padding, the primary reason for carpet cushion is to absorb impact on the carpet. This impact can cause synthetic latex backings to break down, backings to stretch, separation of the primary backing from the secondary backing (delamination) and unnecessary stress on the face fiber. The best performing carpet cushion actually provides less comfort under foot, but extends the life of the carpet installation by absorbing the abuse.

Two of the most common mistakes

Carpet cushion that is too soft, bottoms out when exposed to foot traffic. This allows the carpet to assume the rest of the impact burden; thus shortening carpet performance life.

Carpet padding that is too thick. You may be told that a thicker carpet cushion will cause performance problems, but the primary reason for selecting thinner carpet padding is so the carpet is not so high from the floor that it will not hold on to the tack strip. The carpet industry has established a maximum recommended thickness of 7/16 inch, but you should never exceed inch. The thought process here is if inch is recommended, retailers will go to 5/8 inch. A inch carpet cushion provides adequate cushion and still allows the carpet to hold on to the tack strip along the walls.

Types of Carpet Padding

Waffle Rubber:

Waffle rubber, like the name implies falls within the inch recommendation but because of its waffle texture, this measurement includes air. This is a good carpet cushion, but in the past, its filler percentage was very high and the carpet padding tended to break down over the years. When carpet was replaced this carpet cushion reverted back to its original state of Georgia clay. Todays waffle carpet padding performs much better than the waffles of the 1970s and 80s. Shop before deciding on waffle rubber. Get the heaviest carpet cushion you can find.

Urethane Foam:

Urethane foam is available in different densities and thicknesses. Densities of these carpet cushions can be as low as pound per square inch (psi). Some of these densified prime urethane carpet padding can be very good performers, but make sure you know what you are buying. Dont allow anyone to discourage you from purchasing this carpet cushion, if the density is appropriate.

Bonded Urethane:

This carpet cushion is also called rebond and is the most popular type of carpet padding sold today. It is made from reclaimed scrap of high-density urethane foam used in furniture and automotive manufacturing, which is bonded together to form carpet cushion. Rebond comes in various thickness and densities. The density is rated as a function of weight in pounds per cubic foot. For example, a 5-lb. rebond cushion would weigh 5lb per cubic foot. The Carpet Cushion Council recommends a cushion of at least 5lbs and 3/8-inch thickness for light traffic areas, and 6.5 lbs. and 3/8 inch for heavy traffic areas. These are minimum guidelines and keep in mind the CCC is the trade voice for the carpet cushion (carpet padding) industry. Many carpet manufacturers recommend a minimum of 8 pounds per cubic foot.

One concern that you should be aware of with rebond carpet cushion is a chemical compound known as butylated hydroxy toluene (Bht). Bht is a common additive in foods, breads and cereals and is an antioxidant and has no known health effects. It is added to some urethane products to reduce the risk of fire during manufacturing. Unfortunately, this chemical compound has then tendency to produce yellowing in many carpet constructions. If you have purchased a rebond carpet cushion and yellowing has occurred, rinse with white vinegar or other mild acid before applying a detergent solution. Detergent solutions have the tendency to permanently set the yellowing. It is best to ask for written assurances from the retailer that the carpet padding that you choose does not contain Bht.

Flat Rubber:

For the ultimate in luxury and long wear consider using 19 -22lb density flat rubber carpet cushion. Known for its durable properties, flat rubber padding does not contain air pockets for cushioning. It endures high traffic and handles the pressure from furniture weight longer than other paddings. It is extremely pricey and difficult to find. The average consumer may not consider this carpet cushion because of its cost. While it is recommended that you replace carpet cushion with each carpet installation, flat rubber may be the only carpet padding that could outlast the carpet and survive a second carpet installation.

Fiber Cushion:

This carpet padding is used primarily to take advantage of scrap fiber and promote environmental stewardships. Frankly, the performance of these carpet cushions have been disappointing. Other fiber cushions made from jute, or hair mixed with jute, perform better but I would recommend the cushion products listed above.

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