Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00002590/00001
 Material Information
Title: What's Underfoot: Carpet Quality and Construction
Physical Description: Fact Sheet
Creator: Hammer, Marie S.
Publisher: University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, EDIS
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2001
Acquisition: Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Melanie Mercer.
Publication Status: Published
General Note: "Publication date: May 2001. First published: June 1987. Revised: May 2001."
General Note: "FCS 3108"
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the submitter.
System ID: IR00002590:00001

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1.This document is FCS 3108, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Florida Cooperative Ext ension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date: May 2001. First published: June 1987. Revised: Ma y 2001. Please visit the EDIS Web site at http://edis.ifas.ufl.eduThe Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide resea rch, educati onal information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin. For information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension Servi ce office. Florida Cooperative Extension Service / Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences / University of Florida / Christine Taylor Waddill, Dean 2.Written by Marie S. Hammer, former professor, Housing/Home Environment and reviewed by Nayda I. Torres, professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gain esville, 32611. Figure 1.FCS 3108What's Underfoot: Carpet Quality and Construction1Marie S. Hammer2Carpet adds texture, warmth, resilience and quietness to floors. Several types of carpet construction varying in quality are available. Selection is usually influenced by personal tastes, furnishings, lifestyle and cost. Before purchasing your carpet, ask yourself these questions. What type of activities will occur in the carpeted room? What are your performance expectations for the carpet? What type of maintenance is planned? What is your decorating scheme? How much can you spend on carpet? Are there special needs for persons with disabilities?Construction QualityWell constructed carpet is important for durability. The construction has as much or more influence as the fibers or materials, that make up the carpet (See Table 1 ). Density of pile is the closeness of the rows and the individual tufts or knots. The closer the tufts, the more durable the carpet. Twist refers to the winding of yarn around itself. A tighter yarn will provide added durability. Consider both twist and tufts when purchasing carpet. Generally, the tufts should be close together and the backing should not be visible through the pile. Bend a corner of the carpet over your finger to determine the amount of backing that shows. This test will reveal the backing, or grin, which should be minimal (See Figure 1). Pile density plus pile height make up the total amount of yarn on the carpet surface. The measure of this face weight is expressed in ounces per square yard. When comparing carpets, however,


What's Underfoot: Carpet Quality and Construction Page 2 May 2001 Figure 2. judge face weight only against that of another carpet made of the same generic classification of fiber. For example, compare one nylon carpet with another nylon one, and not with a polyester carpet. Generally, the deeper, the denser, the more twist, the better, except for shag and very short loop-pile carpet. Shag carpet yarns lie on their sides, and short loop-pile carpets have tightly packed yarns. Both of these carpets provide excellent wear even though the pile is not deep.Yarn ConstructionYarns used for making carpets should be strong and resilient to produce crush-resistant pile. Sometimes several strands are twisted together to form a yarn, which is called the ply (See Figure 2). A thicker ply does not necessarily indicate a higher quality, but it can affect carpet texture. Yarns that are soft and loosely twisted soon develop a fuzzy and matted pile. When yarns are tightly twisted and heat-set, they are usually more durable for floor coverings. Synthetic yarns can be made of filament or staple fibers. Filaments are very long fiber strands measured in miles. They are often referred to as continuous filament fibers. A monofilament yarn is made of a single fiber filament. A multifilament yarn is made of multiple fiber filaments. These may or may not be twisted together. Staple fibers are short fibers measured in inches or fractions. Staple fibers can be natural or manufactured and are spun together to make longer yarns. Because of the fibers' short lengths, staple yarns were more prone to fuzzing and pilling than filament yarns. New manufacturing techniques have minimized both.Carpet ConstructionTufted carpet constitutes 98 percent of the carpet made in the United States today. During tufting, face pile yarns are rapidly sewn (or punched) into the backing by a wide, multi-needled machine. Tufts may be close together or far apart. Measuring across the carpet provides the gauge, and measuring lengthwise provides the stitch. Multiplying the stitch times the gauge will provide the number of tufts in a given area of tufted carpet. Tufts are locked in place with a bonding compound, which also attaches a secondary backing. The backing layers give the carpet added dimensional stability and strength. The majority of the primary backings for tufted carpets are made of polypropylene/olefin. Secondary backings for tufted carpets are also usually made of polypropylene/olefin. Because carpet is exposed to humid conditions in Florida, both the primary and secondary backings should be made of synthetics to resist the growth of mold and mildew, and their accompanying odors (See Figure 3 ).


What's Underfoot: Carpet Quality and Construction Page 3 May 2001 Figure 4. Figure 5. Figure 6. Other carpet construction methods are available, but they only make up about 2 percent of all carpeting sold: Woven carpets and rugs have face yarns and backing yarns intertwined, making a single fabric rather than a laminated one. Needle-punched carpets are made from an assembly of fiber webs compacted and interlocked. This process is used mainly for low cost indoor-outdoor carpet and some carpet tiles. Fusion bonding implants the pile tuft directly into a backing of liquid vinyl. This creates a bond between the surface pile and the backing. Knit and flocked carpets are a very small percentage of carpets sold. Knit carpet is made by a process similar to handknitting. Flocked carpets resemble velour. These are usually used for cars, planes or buses.TextureTexture refers to the surface appearance of the carpet. Texture is created by the size of the yarns, the twist of the yarns, and the surface structure of the finished carpet. Some textures create patterns. These include the cut and uncut pile, high-low pile, and sculptured pile. A wide variety of choices are available in tufted carpet from smooth, velvet plush to rough, bulky berbers or frieze. Texture adds to the mood of a room. A thick, plush carpet might be more suitable in a formal room, while a cut and uncut loop or a short shag might be more suitable for an informal room. Many choices allow for flexibility in decorating. Most carpet is originally constructed in a looppile surface. The loops in level-loop pile carpet are all the same height, producing a pebbly appearance. The closer together the loops are, the more durable and easier to clean the carpet will be (See Figure 4 ). A multilevel-loop pile texture has loops of different height, creating a sculptured surface. Carpet with this texture hides soiling better than level-loop pile, but with all other factors being equal, multilevel carpet will not be as durable (See Figure 5 ). In cut-pile carpeting, the tops of the loops are cut away. Velvet or plush and saxony textures all have a level surface but differ in yarn twist. Velvet or plush carpets are made of yarns with very little twist. The yarn ends blend together, producing a smooth surface. Velvet has a shorter pile height than plush. Saxony textures are made of twisted, heat-set yarns. The tips of the yarns remain very distinct rather than blending together (See Figure 6 ).


What's Underfoot: Carpet Quality and Construction Page 4 May 2001 Figure 7.Frieze (free-zay) carpets are constructed of tightly twisted, heat-set cut-pile yarns. The tight twist of the yarn creates a coarse, pebbly texture good for durability, and for hiding tracks and soil. A combination of cut and uncut loops is used to create tip-sheared, random-sheared, and shag textures. A tip-sheared texture has a level surface with cut and uncut loops. It does not show shading as much as velvet or plush textures, nor does it hide footprints as well as the level-loop pile texture. Multilevel loop-pile carpet with the tops of the highest loops shorn away produces random-sheared texture. Shag textures are produced with long pile yarns of cut and uncut loops. Both of these latter textures hide soiling but are less durable than the multilevel loop-pile carpet textures (See Figure 7 ). Carved and sculptured designs in woven carpets are achieved by cutting away part of the face yarns to create very definite, distinctive textured patterns. Similar effects are achieved in non-woven structures by means of multilevel constructions. Berber textured carpets are named for a handmade, bulky wool carpet made by the Berber tribes of North Africa. They are now available with modern construction duplicating this handmade look. They are usually made in a loop construction from thick, bulky yarns. The berber look is also produced with synthetic fibers, or synthetic and wool blends. Outdoor carpeting is constructed with both cutand loop-pile construction. When carpeting outdoor living areas, consider durability, maintenance and tolerance of weather conditions. Olefin carpets tend to show traffic patterns, but the soiled and crushed look decreases when olefin is combined into a carpet of cutand loop-pile yarns. Solution-dyed yarns tolerate sunlight better than other dyeing methods, such as piece dyeing. The fiber must also resist sunlight and heat. Polypropylene/olefin fibers intended for outdoor use are chemically treated to resist sun damage.FibersThere are actually only four generic or basic types of carpet-pile fibers popular in today's market: nylon, olefin, polyester and acrylic. Wool was the original carpet fiber, but today approximately 97 percent of all carpet is produced using man-made or synthetic fibers.General Fiber CharacteristicsNylon represents a high percentage of all pile fibers currently used by U.S. carpet producers. Nylon's outstanding durability has been proven against abrasion from furniture movement and people traffic. Nylon dyes easily, is resistant to water-soluble stains, and can be cleaned readily. Advanced generation nylons offer the latest in fiber technology with built-in ability to conceal and resist soil and stains. They also have built-in static control. These fibers cost more to produce, so carpets made with them tend to be priced higher than equivalent regular nylon carpet. Experience with advanced generation nylons has established their advantages and makes them well worth the additional investment. Olefin (polypropylene) carpet yarns are strong, resist abrasion, and are easily cleaned. Olefin is resistant to permanent soil and stain, and has a natural resistance to static electricity. It is also notably colorfast because color is added as a basic component even before the olefin is made into fiber. Because olefin is so resistant to moisture and


What's Underfoot: Carpet Quality and Construction Page 5 May 2001mildew, it is used in both outdoor and indoor carpeting, particularly in playrooms, dens and kitchens. Olefin fibers are made into primarily looped and cut-pile looped combinations. Polyester carpet yarns are noted for their luxurious, soft hand when used in thick, cut-pile textures. Polyester has excellent color clarity and retains its color and luster. It can be cleaned readily and is resistant to water-soluble stains. This fiber has been improved greatly from the early polyester that matted and crushed. Some polyester carpet is now made from plastic beverage bottles. Acrylic fibers offer the appearance and feel of wool at a more practical cost. Carpets made from acrylic fibers have a low static level, are moisture and mildew resistant, and resist absorption of water-soluble stains. Acrylics are usually found in velvet and level-loop constructions and are used primarily in bath rugs and mats. Wool is noted for its luxurious appearance and good performance characteristics. Wool has a soft feel, high bulk, and is available in a wide range of colors. Wool used in carpet is a blend of wools imported from many countries.FinishesFinishes are applied to fibers to modify or improve them. Internal finishes are applied to the structure of fibers; external finishes are applied to the surfaces of fibers, yarns or the fabric. External finishes can alter the appearance and feel of a carpet. Common finishes used on carpets include: Anti-static finishes Different finishes are necessary for different fibers. Some carpet manufacturers incorporate metallic fibers into the yarn, which help some in controlling static, but researchers continue working for a better anti-static agent. Most are surface applications that must be replaced after cleaning the carpet. Besides the electrical shock, static causes carpet to attract soil. Static builds more in dry, cold climates. Flame retardants Flame retardant finishes reduce flaming and charring. Flammability labeling is not required on residential carpeting but all carpet must comply with regulations and standards designed to protect consumers from small fire sources (matches, cigars, cigarettes, stove or fireplace embers). These retardants do not ensure carpet is fire-resistant. The toxic smoke fumes from burning carpet are more hazardous than the flames. For this reason, look at the manufacturer's information and compare the flame spread and smoke emission factors. Soil/stain resistance Fluorochemical treatments protect against water and oil stains. Silicone treatments protect against just waterborne stains. Both treatments protect against dry soiling. Various companies have their own trade names for similar finishes. Many of these finishes are applied in the manufacturing process. Bacteriostats Anti-microbial, bacteriostatic and antiseptic finishes are applied to control spread of disease or infection, control odors and reduce damage from mildew or rot. These finishes can be durable or renewable, but durable finishes are preferable. A bacteriostat finish can be useful in homes where moisture is a problem because it prevents the development of musty odors but it is primarily used in hospitals and medical facilities.LabelsThe wall-to-wall carpeting you put in your home will not be labeled, but the sample you use to select it with will be. The label will tell you the name of the manufacturer or distributor, the generic names of the carpet fibers, the percentage of each fiber and, if imported, the country of origin and a Federal Trade Commission registration number. Be sure all label information is written on the invoice and on any sales contract. The label should provide care information for the carpeting and other information that might be helpful later.


What's Underfoot: Carpet Quality and Construction Page 6 May 2001 Figure 8.Obtain a copy of the entire label. The sample copy can help you remember what to look for: whether the fiber has been heat set, special finishes that have been applied, the weight of the face fiber, the kind of backing(s) used, and the warranty or guarantee information from the manufacturer. Be sure to read all the small print on the warranty or guarantee.Measuring CarpetCarpet in 12-foot widths is most common, but some carpet is available in 15-foot widths. Rooms of the exact same width as the carpet could require a little extra width for easier installation. Smaller or larger rooms will need trimming or piecing, which might cost extra depending on the spaces and shapes involved. The trimmings might be pieced together for hallways or closets. Be sure the tufts run the same direction so color is the same throughout. Measure the room or area you plan to carpet so you will know the approximate quantity of carpet you need. Include measurements for carpet extending into doorways. Multiply the length by the width, which will give you the figure in square feet. Then add 10% for room irregularities. Carpet is sold by the square foot so multiply cost per square foot by the square footage in the room (include the 10%). This yardage is only a ballpark figure since these factors affect the amount of yardage needed: what direction the carpet is installed in the room; where the seams are to be placed; whether the seams are kept to a minimum; whether there is a pattern repeated in carpet and the size of the repeat. Seams are required in almost all carpet installations unless the space being carpeted is very small. Some seams show more than others. The seams in a solid color short-loop pile carpet will probably show more than the seams in a multicolored cut-pile or frieze carpet. The intensity and direction of light on the carpet will also hide or highlight seams. Piecing carpet is one way to cut cost when installing carpet. However, if a carpet that readily shows seams is selected, the quality of the finished product may not look as well when pieced. Piecing is not as desirable in high traffic areas. Several carpet types piece better along the length of the carpet. Carpet seams are least conspicuous if placed at the edge of a row of tufts. A 12 by 18 foot section of carpet (216 square feet) is selected to cover the room shown in Figure 8 The 4 by 8 foot section that is not needed can be cut into four 2-foot wide pieces, which can be trimmed and used to fill in the uncarpeted section. If less piecing is desired, more carpet will have to be purchased. The carpet is pieced in an area with limited traffic (away from the door). Padding is estimated the same way. Buy the same yardage of padding, although you will use slightly less padding than carpet. Do not forget the installation cost. In some instances, the price per square yard includes the padding and installation. In other cases, those are additional costs.


What's Underfoot: Carpet Quality and Construction Page 7 May 2001 Stairs often cost slightly more than flat installations. Be sure to ask the salesperson. The average residential stair has a tread 10 to 12 inches deep, a riser 6 to 8 inches high and is 3 to 4 feet wide. Carpet is installed on stairs in different ways, so discuss this with the salesperson or installer. Sometimes, allowing extra carpet on stairs lets you move the carpet down the stairs as wear occurs. With this in mind, estimate maximum stairway needs. Let someone at the store where you are purchasing the carpet make the final measurements. Then if a mistake occurs, they, and not you, are responsible and they must correct the error.ReferencesAdams, Constance C. and Rector, Regina. The Selection and Care of Rugs and Carpets, NE192. Ithaca, NY: College of Human Ecology, Cornell University How To Choose Carpets and Rugs The Carpet and Rug Institute, P.O. Box 2048, Dalton, GA 30720. New Decorating Book Better Homes and Gardens. Des Moines, IA: Meredity Corporation. 1981. Thompson, Carol Jo. Rug Selection and Use MT8501. Bozeman, MT: Cooperative Extension Service. 1986.CHARACTERISTICS OF CARPET/RUG FIBERS CharacteristicsWoolNylonPolypropylene/OlefinAcrylicPolyester (PET) Resiliency ExcellentVery GoodGood if avoid high piles Very GoodNewer types more crush resistant Abrasion Very GoodVery GoodExcellentFairVery Good Soil Resistance/ Cleansability Very good Cleaning may be difficult ExcellentGood Doesn't hold soils Good Oily stains should be treated promptly Fair Cleans well Fading Poor Fiber damage can occur Fair 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 Holds static unless treated Builds up in low humidity Can be modified Fairly lowFairly lowFairly low Mildew Resistance Poor If damp or soiled, can be treated by manufacturer ExcellentExcellentExcellentTreated to resist mildew Other Flame Resistant Non-allergenicResists pilling, shedding and moisture Non-allergenic used primarily for rugs Resists moths