Carpet in industrial facilities? It's more appropriate than you think

Even in industrial facilities, there are places where carpet is appropriate.

By Kathryn Wise, The Carpet and Rug Institute

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Carpet is the floor covering of choice in homes, buildings, and public facilities, with market estimates to be over 1.6 billion square yards yearly and growing. With this popularity comes a myriad of product choices. Carpet meets a variety of performance requirements, such as acoustical needs, thermal savings, the Americans with Disabilities Act, non-slip safety, glare reduction, fatigue reduction, good indoor air quality, and ease of maintenance. Carpeted facilities and office complexes provide a pleasant atmosphere, more like a home environment, for employees and visitors. Carpet easily meets the public's desire for aesthetic beauty in the workplace. The softness of carpet helps employee productivity and comfort, provides a quieter atmosphere and reduces the incidences of slips and falls, thereby reducing liability.

Where should carpet be used in preference to hard surface? Carpet is already the norm in homes, apartments, offices, hotels and retail locations. Carpet is being used in common public areas of facilities—corridors (for sound absorption and slip and fall safety), waiting rooms, lobbies and offices (for beauty and versatility).

Color selection

Carpet color selection is as diverse as the imagination provides. Quiet colors like neutral "earth" colors provide a soothing effect or a "corporate" look, whereas warmer colors suggest vitality and invigoration.

Entrance mats in mid-range colors and multicolor blends are recommended to avoid tracked-in soil from the outside and hide soil near entrances. Designers use mid-range color combinations of blues, taupes, greens, teals and corals, including the trend toward yellow/golds and celery green shades.

Carpet coordinates with interior finishes--laminates, upholstery, natural stones, wallcoverings and paint--and carpet manufacturers produce custom colors and constructions to meet specifications for design coordination.

Carpet as a building material

When planning for renovation or new construction, savings in actual construction costs can be significant if the plan initially calls for carpet. This is because it is not necessary to install other finish flooring material prior to carpet installation. Greater savings may be realized when floors in older buildings need refurbishing. For example, if badly worn wood or vinyl floors are resurfaced, they may need another underlay material before the new hard surface could be installed. By specifying a carpet installation with separate cushion, "bad" areas can simply be patched to level them and to prevent premature, localized wear on the carpet. Carpet eliminates the need for total resurfacing.

Manufacturing specifications

It is important to understand carpet construction and to understand the variables affecting performance. Carpet can be manufactured by tufting, weaving and fusion bonding, of which tufting is the most prevalent. Weaving is sometimes more costly because of the production time involved.

Tufting machines are similar to sewing machines but with several hundred needles stitching hundreds of rows of pile yarn tufts through a backing fabric called the primary backing. The yarn is either caught by loopers and held in place for loop pile carpet or by blades and cut for cut pile carpet. There can be a combination of the two for cut and loop pile textures. The finishing may be a secondary fabric backing or an attached cushion backing.

Weaving carpet involves a simultaneous weaving of pile yarns and backing yarns into a total product. A backcoating, usually latex, is applied. Principal variations of woven carpet include velvet, Wilton and Axminster.

Fusion bonding involves implanting yarns into a coated backing. Fusion bonded carpet is most often die-cut for use as modules or tiles, usually backed with a polymeric material to provide stability.

Carpet construction and performance

The construction of a particular carpet--loop, cut, or combination—determines its look. In corridors, lobbies, offices, classrooms and other public areas, loop piles of low, dense construction retain appearance and resiliency and, generally, provide a better surface for the rolling traffic. Cut pile or cut and loop pile carpets are good choices for administration areas, libraries, individual offices and boardrooms. 

Carpet performance is associated, in part, with pile yarn density—the amount of pile yarn in a given volume of carpet face. For a given carpet weight, lower pile height and higher pile yarn density give the most performance for the money. The number of tufts per inch when counting across a width of carpet and the size of the yarn in the tufts influence density. A 1/8 gauge carpet has eight tuft rows per inch of width and a 1/10-gauge carpet has ten rows per inch of width. Extra heavy traffic conditions require a density of 5,000 to 6,000 or more.

Various types of carpet backing systems have advantages of higher tuft binds, added stability, and resistance to edge raveling. Consider the functional implications for a particular area.

Fiber--yarn

Nylon, olefin (polypropylene), and wool are the primary fibers used in commercial carpet for commercial installations. Olefin is being used when there are budget limitations, resistance to sunlight fading or low levels of static electricity are important. Olefin is stain resistant and resistant to chemicals.

Wool is resilient, but because of its higher cost, is usually used as a decorative accent and in lower traffic areas. Nylon is by far the most prevalent fiber and is available in carpet as Type 6 and Type 6.6.

Types 6 and 6.6 are made from petroleum-based chemicals, the differences being in the manufacturing and dyeing processes. Either is good for use in public facilities. Nylon is excellent in wearability, abrasion resistance, resilience, and is favorably priced. Solution dyed nylon is also resistant to sunlight fading.

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