A brief outline of how a tufted carpet is made.
The most common types of tufting machines in use today are plain cut loop tufting machines inserting up to 3000 stitches / minute. The pile is stitched into a pre woven backing and then a secondary backing is stuck to this. Variations include advanced patterning machines to produce different patterns. The pile can be cut loops, uncut loops and a combination of both to produce multiple textured effects. The pile can be printed to produce one colour or multiple patterns similar to both axminster and wilton carpets in surface appearance. Graphics tufted machines can produce patterns and vary the stitch to produce zig-zag lines. Some machines move the primary backing to produce a wavy stitch effect. The backing type can be a hessian type, synthetic, felt or foam to give multiple styles and qualities. These types of carpet are produced up to 5 m widths although some specialist companies produce carpets wider than this by using a pass machine which is a narrow tufting machine. By using multiple passes along the length the carpet is made.
After the raw materials were received at the factory they are assessed for quality and tested in the laboratory to ensure continuity of quality within the relevant present European Standards.
The carpet is then tufted to designs the same as those seen in the current pattern samples held by carpet retailers. The carpet is manufactured to a tolerance of +15% -7.5% of the relevant standard. During the tufting process stringent checks, including testing in the laboratory are made to ensure it meets all these specifications. Most repairs are carried out on the tufting machine using a special single sewing machine called a tufting gun. After the carpet has passed through the backing plant it may be subject to further mending to remove wrong coloured tufts or to correct yarn contamination but only minor work tends to be done after tufting.
Once the carpet has been tufted it is passed onto the finishing plant where the carpet receives a coating of latex on the back of the primary backing to increase its stability, fray resistance and improve the tuft retention quality of the material. Depending on the type of carpet being produced either a secondary backing is stuck to the primary backing using , jute , polypropylene or felt. Or a foam, rubber or high density gel backing is applied by pouring it onto the backing when the carpet is positioned pile downwards. If the pile is to be printed this is done prior to any secondary backing being applied. The carpet passes through a drying oven to cure the latex and backings and is then sheared level in the case of none printed carpets. ( The printed carpets are usually sheared prior to printing ) If a loop pile product is being produced no shearing takes place. The process of shearing is not unlike cutting grass with a lawn mower. The shearing process is very sophisticated but this provides the level finish demanded of the modern carpets.
After cropping level or passing through the finishing plant the carpet receives a final close inspection and grading before it is dispatched. Manufacturers endeavour to produce a perfect carpet but occasionally despite stringent checks a small percentage of carpets get through. In these rare cases it is normal to correct the product on site in the same way as would have been done if it had been found it in the factory. If the product cannot be refinished then it would normally be replaced or to reach an agreement on an allowance.
Expected or common carpet characteristics.
These are caused when the carpet is rolled up and stored and appear and stripes across the width of the carpet. Often they look dark from one side and light from the other side when viewed along the length of the carpet. In nearly all cases the carpet pile will recover providing it is vacuumed daily from new. This can be helped with steaming the pile if recovery is required more quickly. If the pressure banding occurred in the delivery from the shop it usually comes out within three weeks. If the pressure was from more prolonged storage it can take 3 months or more to recover. In all cases of pile pressure bands it should be reported to the retailer because claims made after 3 weeks for this will not be accepted by the manufacturer.
The current consumer demand for plainer carpets in high qualities leads to a characteristic called shading becoming more prominent. Certain colours are more prone to showing this than others but all carpet piles will settle out unevenly in normal usage. This has always been the case except that today the more velvet finishes in plainer designs allow this to be seen more easily. This effect can lead to patches visibly not unlike watermarking showing in the carpet which will not vacuum out. This permanent form of shading is often referred to as pile reversal. In the case of pile reversal it is only possible to realign the pile with steam or warm water extraction methods rather like restyling hair. Shading is not accepted as a fault in manufacture and tends to occur in the early stages of the carpets life as the pile settles out in usage. We recommend regular vacuuming from the day the carpet is fitted preferably with an upright vacuum cleaner. The carpet pile is most likely to keep a more uniform alignment if it is vacuumed in the direction with the pile. With plain tufted carpets shading is less prominent in carpets of 40 oz / sq yd. Generally the more expensive the carpet the more likely shading is to be seen.
Shedding ( initial fibre loss ).
The level of fibre loss is often a great concern to consumers but this is sometimes as high as 5% of the physical weight of the pile left in the carpet after cropping. It is the cropping process which produces most of the initial fibre loss so you are removing waste fibre out of the carpet, not an intended part of the carpet. If the carpet is vacuumed often most of the fibre loss seen in the vacuum cleaner will lessen in 3 – 6 months. In a few extreme cases where the vacuum in inefficient or a lack of effective vacuuming takes place shedding can continue for much longer. There is no time limit on shedding because so many different factors can influence how long it will take to settle.
Pilling can occur when the loose fibre in the carpet is not removed with vacuuming efficiently from new. Balls of fibre become attached to the nylon content of the yarn which is then difficult to remove. We receive most of this type of complaint when a cylinder vacuum cleaner is used so swapping to an upright vacuum cleaner with a brush action can often help. Pilling can be removed without detriment using an electric razor or professionally with a hand cropping machine to restore the finish to the carpet.
Rapid colour change.
The modern carpet uses pale or more pastel shades in the pattern. When the carpet is woven the pile is more upright which allows the gaps between the fibres in the pile, which is shadow, to give the illusion the carpet is darker than it really is. Since all carpet pile flattens in usage a rapid colour change can be observed when the sides of the pile become more evident when flattened. This gives the illusion of fading and is most evident when a single colour is used in the background, very little pattern or patterns with a close colour range are used in the design. Consumer demand today is for plainer carpets whereas the axminster of the past was a heavy pattern in dark bold colours which camouflaged these effects in usage. Daily vacuuming and regular repositioning of furniture can help both minimise and equalise the appearance change in the carpet.
Fading due to the effects of UV (ultra violet) spectrum of light occurs 365 days of the year irrespective of whether you can see the sun or not. UV penetrates through cloud and over the last decade has produces a higher percentage of actual fading on all types of carpet. This is contributed to when south facing or low level widows are used such as patio doors. A combination of heat and light leads to a more rapid breakdown of the dyestuffs. Despite the use of high quality modern dyes there is no 100% colour fastness when dying natural products.
Variation from pattern sample.
Carpets are made to conform to all current necessary European Standards. These allow for variations to the specification and manufacturers produce carpets to fall within these tolerances. Because natural materials such as wool and jute are often used they vary from batch to batch despite any care we take to ensure a reasonable continuity. This means that the carpet you choose from the pattern sample is a representation of what you will receive but it is not exactly 100% the same as what you will receive. The shade may vary, or it may feel a little harder or softer. The surface may look slightly rougher or smoother. These are normal manufacturing variations which have always occurred but now tend to show more easily with plainer products. Carpets are generally tested in the factory to ensure that they all meet the requirements for wearability etc.
Where berber yarns are used there can be a large variation between the degree of speckle in the carpet form area to area. The pattern sample can look plain or heavily speckled and the carpet installed can look the opposite of this. Unless the retailer explains this possibility it can lead to a large disappointment on the part of the consumer. The best and most accurate description of a berber yarn carpet is a uniform ununiformity! A heather yarn is slightly less variable because it is blended more and a tweed blend is reasonably even overall with no strong lines or varied fleck.
It is usual for carpets to have an odour after installation. This normally disappears after a few days but on rare occasions it can take many months particularly if the room is poorly ventilated or little used. Tufted carpets are more prone to odour than any other type of carpet because of the nature of the lamination and the materials used. Carpets are made up of different materials which once assembled are dried in an oven and then quickly packaged in polythene. These materials can combine to produce an odour which sensitive noses sometimes find unpleasant once the packaged carpet is installed. Odour is not normally accepted as a fault.
Soiling and staining.
These are conditions beyond the control of the manufacturer and no care on our part can prevent this. The use of outdoor shoes will increase the level of soiling as do pets and walking directly off smooth floorcoverings onto carpets. Regular daily vacuuming, going more slowly over the carpet pile with an upright vacuum cleaner in the most heavily trafficked areas will be beneficial to the carpet. This helps keep the pile aligned and removes both cropping waste and prevents abrasive grit from becoming embedded into the pile.
If the carpet becomes soiled professional cleaning is recommended. If spillages occur it is important to blot liquids or scrape up solids immediately. This should be followed up by rinsing off the spillage with cold or tepid water. The use of a hand trigger spray bottle is most helpful in this respect because no rubbing should be made against the pile surface when cleaning. Only a spray of water followed by a blotting technique to thoroughly rinse out the spillage should be employed initially. Most stains occur when the spillage is not rinsed out. It then dries onto the surface in the process of evaporation if not removed in cleaning. Drying the carpet after cleaning up a spillage with a hair dryer on a warm but not hot setting is a useful way of speeding up the drying process. This also helps prevent colour run from prolonged wetting. If water does not rinse off the spillage more professional cleaning techniques need to be employed.
Sprouting tufts occur either in manufacture when the tufts become looped over on one leg of a normally level ‘U’ shaped tuft or when they pull over instead of being cut during cropping. There are millions of individual tufts in an average size lounge carpet. It is inevitable that some of these will be missed in the finishing process and they only show up when the carpet is vacuumed. If there are only a few longer tufts they can be safely trimmed level with the surrounding pile surface using scissors. In rare cases many sprouting tufts occur and these can be made level with a special machine the industry uses called a hand cropping machine. It returns the sprouting tufts to level normal tufts making the carpet perfect once again. In these rare extreme cases of sprouting it is beneficial to wait at least 3 months for all the sprouting tufts to have lifted up with regular vacuuming before machine cropping on site.
Berber blend lines.
If berber yarns are used in the pattern to produce a random fleck effect it is common for spools containing a higher balance of darker or lighter fibre to show as lines in the carpet. This is inherent in the nature of berber yarns and is not accepted as a fault. This effect is not often spotted in a pattern sample but is more easily seen in larger areas such as when installed. On some of the more coarse blends of yarn where a noticeable fleck is present it is normal and common for the vacuum to remove some of the end flecks. Whilst this can be disappointing it is inevitable when a more slubbed coarse yarn is produced. Usually the dark and light fleck is the colour where this is more noticeable.
Small lines in both the length of the carpet and across the width often show in daylight. Since the trend toward plainer carpets allows for small variations in manufacture to show more easily it is inevitable that more of these small differences can show. It is usual for these small lines to improve in appearance or to walk out in usage where consolidation of the pile evens up the pile surface. The wear potential of the carpet will not be affected by this.
On some of the modern 5 m widths where the pile weight exceeds 50 oz lines along the length lines tend to be common and these can often make the carpet look more corduroy in effect. We find the 5 m graphics tufted carpet produces this effect most noticeably and it becomes most visible when the pile flattens and light tracks across the width of the carpet. This effect is not considered to be a fault on this type of construction.
If the room is used every day regular daily vacuuming with an upright vacuum using a beater brush bar is recommended on all cut pile carpets. Vacuum the carpet in the direction which leaves the pile lying down. This is best achieved by facing the pile direction. Stairs are best vacuumed daily for the first three months using a suction attachment on the vacuum in a direction following down the stairs to keep the pile aligned and to avoid matting on the nosing caused by a change in the pile direction. The best technique is to vacuum slowly in the more heavily used areas to allow the vacuum to work more efficiently. The vacuum should be emptied before the waste fluff build up ( which is to be expected on new carpets ) blocks the suction tubes. On loop pile carpets most manufacturers recommend using a cylinder type vacuum with a suction tool which glides easily over the pile surface and has no brushes or Velcro strip to rub harshly across the pile surface. It is often beneficial to vacuum this type of carpet sparingly in the first few months of its life to allow the pile to consolidate. The label on the pattern sample or the retailer should be consulted regarding which vacuum cleaner to use.
Carpets tend to wear most rapidly in front of chairs ( particularly where men sit with their legs extended ) due to heel abrasion concentrated in one area. The stair nosing will also wear without regular repositioning. It is recommended that stairs be moved after 6 months one step to equalise the colour and every year thereafter. If winders are present or the carpet is not fitted to allow for movement it is recommended that sufficient extra material is purchased to facilitate movement or to replace worn areas in the future.
Wear that exposes the backing on the nosings is usually good on tufted carpets. It is the lower weight ( less than 42 oz ) and the 100% loop pile carpets with a more open construction which wear less well with stair use. The use of trainers or similar soled footwear can promote rapid wear. The use of a good quality underlay cannot be overstressed on the stairs. It is the most important area of the house to use a high quality underlay to cushion the action underfoot when using the stairs. As previously mentioned regular movement to spread the loading on the nosings is recommended. Grinning ( showing the primary backing glinting through the pile ) is not uncommon on tufted carpets.
A common complaint on the modern light shade of differential loop pile carpet is rapid soiling on the nosing downwards where fine particles of dust rub off the under part of the foot and shower the nosing and riser with soiled particles. This is accelerated when the stair carpet is near a smooth floorcovering. Soiling in under 2 weeks is not uncommon on this type of carpet. The differential loop pile carpet is often difficult to remove stains from because in light shades it picks up soiling quickly and leaves a more bleached looking effect when cleaned and returned to its original colour in that area.
Pattern Bowing and pattern repeat variation:
Most manufacturers work to an acceptable distortion of 1.25% with a maximum of 5 cm over 4 meters. This is usually regarded as the most that any fitter can correct in a normal domestic location. With tufted carpets it is nearly always impossible to straighten the carpet 100% Pattern bowing occurs most commonly in the backing plant when the carpet is laminated. Continuity of pattern or colour match is not guaranteed in a tufted carpet. If an installation requires seaming in a prominent place or multiple widths laid side by side the manufacturer should be consulted before purchase for advice or batch checking.
The carpet is guaranteed on the understanding that it is sold and installed by the retailer in accordance with BS: 5325. It is the responsibility of the fitter to check that the material is free from visible damage, soiling or other damage arising from poor handling of materials prior to his receipt of the goods. It is expected that a reasonable check be made prior to cutting the carpet to ensure there are no obvious faults. IF THERE IS ANY VISIBLE DAMAGE OR NOTICEABLE FAULTS PRESENT THIS PRODUCT MUST NOT BE FITTED. – seek the advice of the factory before proceeding.
Ridges are a common complaint usually caused by inadequate tension when it is initially installed. The carpet warms up and becomes more pliable 24 hrs to 48 hrs after installation. If the carpet is not stretched correctly it gathers as lumps or crease. It then becomes difficult to achieve the correct tension with any subsequent restretches. If a carpet is restretched it should be treated as a second installation and fitted and stretched as though it was the first installation. If the carpet is likely to fall short of key areas because stretching moves it away from these places; converting the installation to durafit is another way of overcoming inadequate tension and ridges to leave the carpet flat. Severe crease cannot be corrected in this manor.
Common manufacturing faults:
Amongst the more common faults are missing tufts, tall / low rows and yarn contamination producing dark or light spots in the pile surface. In a none berber or heather yarn noticeable flecks are faults most commonly caused by polypropylene fibres ( mainly black or white but several colours are commonly found in carpets ), tar from the fleece, dark or light fibres showing in the opposite colour of carpet, vegetable matter, raddle in the form of red, green or blue spots showing in the surface pile. Darker soiled areas or spots can occur due to poor handling of materials.
With wool pile products - Colour variation or irregular flecks in berber yarn carpets are not considered as faults. This is an inherent feature of the carpet. On some colours and some blends a high amount of kemp ( like grey hairs the older thicker fibre off European sheep ) can show as lighter stringy fibres in plainer carpet yarns on close inspection. Contamination now shows more easily in the smoother, higher density modern carpet but has always been present in carpets if a close inspection had been made. All carpet yarn has a degree of contamination present if a close inspection is made on hands and knees. Only when the more noticeable flecks show after carpet is installed is a more thorough examination made and the extent of bits in the yarn seen. If a carpet has visible contamination after installation it is usual fro the carpet to be corrected on site by a combination of burling out the alien fibres or retufting the affected tufts. Retufting is a hand replacement of the tufts from the surface using new yarn or tufts from an off cut. This does not leave the carpet poorer in quality and is the same as and remedial work normally carried out in the factory. This procedure is not normally carried out if it is more expensive to correct than replace. Remedial work is normally carried out to a range of faults if not discovered prior to installation.
Wheelchair use:- Tufted carpets are generally considered the most practical and hardest wearing for wheel chair use. High density low loop piles in synthetic yarns are the most successful in resisting wheelchair turning through 90 degrees and three point turns with electric chairs.
If a 50 oz + 80% wool 20% nylon twist pile carpet can be found using a double inserted tuft and low pile height it will resist wheelchair turning very well as regards a wool pile carpet.
In all cases positioning furniture to avoid 90 degree turns where the inner wheel of the chair on turning exerts a high shear force which tears at the surface pile causing rapid wear in that area. Common places are doorways and around the bed corners. The narrow wheels cause the greatest amount of wear in doorways and the electric chairs the highest wear with three point turns in the same areas.
With light coloured carpets soiling from outdoors off the wheel treads has to be considered. Finally a thick springy underlay often leads to the tracks off the chair showing more rapidly + with hand operated chairs it is harder to move across the pile surface. A thin underlay of high density can be beneficial if both users are wheelchair bound but for none wheelchair users the carpet will be more uncomfortable underfoot.