ICS Magazine

Installation Issues (And What To Do About Them)

March 1, 2012

Carpet repairs are a major issue for consumers, and for inspection and cleaning professionals, since many become apparent over time or even during the cleaning process.


Close up of den seam

Carpet repairs are a major issue for consumers, and for inspection and cleaning professionals, since many become apparent over time or even during the cleaning process.    

Therefore, it’s important for cleaners to recognize and understand these issues before the cleaning job begins.  In many cases, basic repairs can be made to remedy an installation issue before it gets worse.

Recently, we evaluated several carpet installation issues in a two-year-old single-family 1,200 ft2 home, which is occupied by two adults and four children.  Carpeted areas include the den, dining room, hall and the three bedrooms.

The carpet is a base-grade, 25-ounce, medium-brown, tufted nylon with polypropylene primary and secondary that was stretched in over 7/16-inch, 6-pound bonded polyurethane cushion and concrete slab.

There are two transition metals at which the carpet is coming loose and fraying.  The worst of the two was at the den-kitchen transition from den carpet to kitchen sheet vinyl. The second area coming loose from the metal transition molding was between the dining room carpet and kitchen vinyl.  In both cases where the carpet had come out of the metal molding, it had been raveled by foot traffic and vacuuming.

The seam in the den had separated and, with traffic, vacuuming and time, considerable fraying had taken place.  The same problem was apparent with the hall seam. 

I lifted the carpet’s primary at den seam.  Although the secondary was held firmly in place by the seaming tape, the primary was separated (delaminated) approximately 2 to 3 inches on either side of the seam. 

Forcing penetration

Of course, there are two installation issues to correct. 

1. Seaming:  Most seam failure (raveling) can be prevented by:

a. Seam sealing, or “edge beading,” is used to strengthen cut edges that are subject to traffic and maintenance. Failure to seal cut edges on loop-pile carpet can result in raveling.  On cut-pile carpet, it can result in tuft loss and eventually raveling of the carpet’s woven polypropylene primary backing. 

Wet latex or dry solvent-based seam sealer can be applied quickly and efficiently using a plastic bottle with a notched nozzle. Adhesive should be applied at both backing edges, followed by forcing adhesive penetration along the base of tufts and both backings by running the cut edge of the carpet with the thumb and forefinger.

b. Seaming:  When done with a hot melt seaming iron, the iron should be set between 250-275°F.  Higher settings-even with a heat shield-create the potential for damaging synthetic (polypropylene) secondary backings, which can result in localized carpet delamination along both sides of the seam. 

2. Transition molding:  In this case, metal molding has been used to protect the carpet’s edge and create a transition between the carpet in the den and dining room and the sheet vinyl in the kitchen.  If a repair can be made, it’s important to repair it correctly or the problem will reappear in short order.  Here’s the procedure recommended for engaging carpet in metal (clamp-down) molding:

Finished transition

a. At the metal (clamp-down) molding, position and trim the carpet approximately one inch above the clamp down lip.

b. Tuck the carpet into the crotch of the clamp-down and iron it onto the metal pins, which are designed to hold the carpet in place.  Lock down (“iron”) the carpet onto the molding pins. Do not pound down the metal clamp onto the carpet at this point.

c. With the carpet held firmly on the pins of the transition molding, power stretch away from the molding to the opposite side of the room and properly install the carpet on the tack strip.  Note that, if the carpet is inserted into the metal molding and clamped down before stretching, the unfinished (cut) edge will be pulled out from under the clamp-down, thereby possibly exposing the cut edge to traffic and maintenance, and resulting in carpet edge damage.

d. Once the carpet has been stretched away from the metal molding and is firmly seated (stretched) onto both the tack strip and the metal molding’s pins, the carpet can be force folded (tucked) into the crotch of the metal clamp once again, with any excess carpet extending above the top edge of the metal’s lip.  Then, the carpet can be trimmed even with the top edge of the molding.  Edge sealing is usually not practical or even necessary if the carpet is stretched away from the metal molding and sufficient carpet is tucked into the crotch of the molding.

e. Following the tucking procedure, the metal clamp-down lip can be pounded downward, with a rubber mallet, over the carpet to secure it firmly in place (photo 13).  This produces a clean, finished transition that will not fail.

The carpet in the den and hall should be replaced with new material and the dining room carpet should be restretched with new metal molding installed at the room’s threshold.

In summary, carpet inspectors and cleaning professionals should know how an installation problem was created, and-just as importantly-how it can be corrected so that it won’t reoccur.  While many issues may be installation related, it’s simply not enough to lay the blame on the installer without being able to explain how the problem occurred and how it can be fixed.