The relationship between carpet care and carpet installation
By Robert Blochinger
There are many reasons for an installation failure. However, the least talked about is maintenance that is performed after installation. Both glue-down and stretch-in installation methods are susceptible to improper cleaning systems and procedures.
As there are two basic installation systems, there are two cleaning processes, dry (low moisture and powder) or wet (hot water extraction). Failures caused by improper maintenance occur in both residential and commercial installations.
Carpet maintenance starts with pre-vacuuming. The type of vacuum does have an impact on the integrity of installation as well. When carpet is not properly vacuumed — the amount of soil left in the pile builds up over time. This results in requiring a more aggressive cleaning that can have an adverse effect on the carpet installation. Infrequent vacuums can also lead to a diminished overall appearance and a shortened service life of the carpet.
Jobsite: Hospitality Project
Double stick-installed carpet in a multi-function room is vacuumed after every daily function, and then wet cleaned a few months after the installation. The cleaning technician has basic maintenance training and uses equipment and cleaning agents supplied by the facility’s owner sundry vendor.
During a function, food was served with some spillage and dropping of food causing numerous spots to develop. The cleaning technician used an aggressive process to clean spots. Six hours later, he reports bubbles in the carpet to the maintenance chief. There may even have been a ride-on 1,200-lb. carpet cleaning machine used! As the carpet installer, you get a frantic call…your installation failed and you have to come and repair the carpet as a warranty item.
Although your labor is warranted for 12 months, an overaggressive cleaning process is not a labor warranty item. This warranty call comes within two months after job completion.
During installation, the carpet, pad and adhesive were provided by the building owner. Looking back at the details of the job, your review and testing of the substrate did not have any negative issues. Moisture testing had results requiring moisture remediation work. You followed all guidelines from carpet manufacturer and then some. The room was not used for 24 hours after your completion, and the owner signed off on the project. So now your by-the-book job has a failure and it’s perceived as your fault.
Though you go back to repair the issue and discuss your opinion with the maintenance chief, you are still held accountable. You ask if the cleaning person has any training and they answer yes, but cannot answer when or to what extent or if a certification was awarded to that person.
This would be the typical scenario: installer versus the cleaner with the client in the middle. So what do you, as the installer, do?
Direct glue-down is not any different in possible damage by cleaning. However, there are a few additional questions/concerns: Did you use proper trowel notch? Was there enough volume (coverage) of adhesive? Did adhesive transfer into the carpet backing as intended? Was the adhesive used recommended by the carpet manufacturer? Is the substrate too porous and absorbed the adhesive too quickly? What was the moisture test result?
Jobsite: Residential Wool Carpet
Wool carpet can be tufted or woven. Eighteen months after installation and the one year warranty is over…your regular account calls with an installation failure. The wool carpet was just cleaned and now there are bubble seams open and strip-ripped from substrate!
You go to the jobsite and determine the cleaner performed wet extraction cleaning and over-wetted the carpet. The client said it took three days to dry. The carpet cleaner already went back to the jobsite before you and told the customer the carpet was not properly installed and a cheap seam tape used. He also said only bad installs have this reaction to his cleaning process.
Now, you have two options at this point:
- Walk away and possibly lose a regular account because the cleaner is innocent of any wrong doing. He performed a great job because the carpet was very clean to which everyone agrees. After all, according to the cleaner, the strip was put in wrong, or;
- You fix it. You can’t stretch the wool carpet because it shrank too far. What are your options? The installer is blamed for inadequate work. You could hire an inspector and get the real reason of the failure, but ultimately, how does the carpet issue get corrected? Either way it costs you money, time and reputation.
A wool carpet that has shrunk beyond re-stretch can only be replaced. After your inspection, you figure you are off the hook, but not really. The cleaner has insurance; however, it does not cover negligence of performing your trade. So this issue just got bigger and more expensive. Even this is too small a job for lawyers.
This scenario takes negotiation between all parties to settle. I have come across this issue on too many occasions; a carpet cleaner damages my installation through untrained procedure(s). Just like an installer who is not trained, costly mistakes will be made.
Obviously, with any carpet installation, there is a perfect opportunity to submit cleaning instructions ‒ during the point of sale, whereby maintenance guidelines can be submitted. Unfortunately, this does not always happen.
As a professional flooring installer, why not take a proactive service step and hand out a generic guideline, perhaps from the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration (IICRC), showing how to maintain the carpet you just installed by the book. When a job is complete, you may have a written warranty statement detailing the amount of time you and your workmanship can be held responsible. Within this document, also consider including some limitations or exclusions, similar to other warranties.
Further, if you’re working for a flooring retailer, then use their information. Make sure to document you provided these guidelines and warranty to the end user. It just may prevent your by-the-book installation from being repaired by you, under adverse conditions caused by or due to the workmanship of others.
Remember, when your client signs the work order, make sure to hand out the relevant warranty and care information. By doing so, you may just save time, money, and most importantly, your professional image.