The Evolution of High Performance Carpet
In the following article, learn how advancements in fiber and backing systems are helping manufacturers to meet the demand for durable, long-lasting carpet.
Fiber make up, construction and backing play important roles in creating a high-performing carpet; and with their investment in technology advancements, carpet manufacturers are meeting the demand for durable, long lasting floors. Floor Trends is going beyond carpet’s surface to discover just what it takes to be high-performance and to learn more about the segment’s latest advancements in technology.
“High-performance floor covering should feature many attributes,” said Stacy Walker, director of customer experience for the Milliken floor covering division. “The ability to withstand high foot traffic and still maintain a ‘like-new’ appearance requires many features throughout a carpet construction.”
Keith Gray, J+J Flooring Group’s director of applied research, said, “We believe high-performance carpets can be characterized by the benefits they bring to those who work and live in spaces with these products.”
High-performance carpets, manufactured using the practiced approach of evidence-based design, can contribute to improved health, safety, comfort, moisture prevention, acoustics and sustainability.
“There are some flooring products, such as Kinetex textile composite flooring, that are specifically developed to address these human-centric needs,” Gray said. “With proprietary construction, textile composite flooring offers a soft flooring option that performs like a hard surface. With proven durability and crush resistance, it has withstood over five-million foot traffics with minimal wear.”
“It’s really all about the fiber in terms of advancements,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of product marketing for Engineered Floors. “When we started Engineered Floors in 2010, we started with the latest carpet making technology, but to us the real advancement was PureColor fiber. Two years ago, we added PureColor nylon fiber made with advanced cationic technology that effectively reduces the number of dye sites on the fiber surface, and so reduces the ability of stains to penetrate and discolor the fiber.”
“A durable nylon face fiber that does not crush down after being walked on is critical ... The face fibers must also be able to resist stains and soils and be easy to maintain.”
Using a solution dyed nylon—or solution dyed polyester in the case of textile composite flooring—will allow the carpet to be easily cleaned and will hold its original color through things like the use of bleach and exposure to sunlight.
“A durable nylon face fiber that does not crush down after being walked on is critical,” Walker said. “The face fibers must also be able to resist stains and soils and be easy to maintain.”
For Tandus Centiva, utilizing new technologies while maintaining style is a top priority.
“At Tandus Centiva, we are always looking for new ways to utilize the latest technology to create the greatest end product possible,” said Terry Mower, Tandus Centiva’s vice president of design. “Most recently, we have developed a proprietary yarn extrusion technique that allows for tufting at extremely low pile and exceptional surface coverage, without giving up styling.”
Additionally, the construction of high-performance carpet lends to its durability. Loop constructions are built to withstand more extreme traffic than other types of constructions, such as cut pile and multi-level tip sheared, according to Gray.
Advances in Backing Systems
Backing systems are another key element of high-performance carpet. “Specifying the correct backing system for the end-use will result in longer lasting flooring,” Gray said. “In addition, many high-performance carpets are also available with a variety of anti-soiling, anti-microbial and odor-blocking technologies.”
In 2015, Shaw released the Life Happens carpet collection that features heightened protection against stains and spills. The carpets are treated with patented stain and soil resistance protection, and a patented 100% thermoplastic commercial-grade backing, called LifeGuard, provides a moisture barrier that is highly resistant to liquids soaking into the carpet padding and subfloor. The system, which was originally created for high-performance commercial flooring products, was adapted for residential use.
Tandus Centiva’s award-winning Omnicoat Technology is the application of a proprietary coating to the backing of the company’s ethos modular tile.
“Omnicoat Technology provides an excellent chemical barrier, thus preventing any interaction between materials in the backing and the wide variety of components found on and within the flooring substrate,” Mowers said. “Through this barrier property, Omnicoat Technology serves to increase the compatibility of ethos Modular with adverse and minimally prepared substrates, allowing for installations over previously incompatible adhesive types such as general purpose, styrene-based and multipurpose.”
For Engineered Floors, installation is made easier with its FlexBac backing system.
“What we are doing is offering a better backing system within the entry-level product category, thus making installation easier,” Sanderson said.
To address common moisture issues that are associated with carpet, Milliken has developed open cell, PVC-free cushion backing for its modular carpets.
“Unlike with hardback products, water vapor has a way to escape from beneath Milliken’s cushion backing,” Walker said. “It travels freely through our open-cell cushion, evaporating naturally through seams at the edges of each carpet tile. Once installed, Milliken modular carpet manages moisture by preventing spilled liquids from penetrating the carpet face fiber and allowing water vapor from the subfloor to evaporate upwards through the tile.”
Advancements are also taking place on the installation side of high-performance carpet.
“We’ve seen several advancements for improving the installation of high performance products,” said Gray. “For example, for our Kinetex products we offer PreFix, an innovative pre-applied releasable adhesive. Fully integrated with the unique Kinetex backing, this meticulously designed system allows for a highly breathable tile –up to 99% RH—while increasing adhesive performance. The installer simply peels off the recyclable liner and sticks Kinetex to the subfloor. This is a new advancement that saves time and reduces the amount of required job-site materials —a benefit for the installer, the end-user and the occupants of the space. When needed, it also makes replacement of the modules a quick easy process.”
While high-performance carpet remains a top choice in commercial settings, residential settings are also benefiting from its outstanding qualities.
“The primary market for high-performance carpet is still commercial end-use, however, more and more homeowners are realizing the flexibility that modular carpet offers and are opting for high performance modular carpet to create dynamic installations that cannot be achieved with residential broadloom,” said David Fuehrer, director of product for J+J Flooring Group.
Meeting the needs of those with busy lifestyles, everyday household spills, pets and stains are proving to be no match for high-performance carpet.
When Mohawk’s SmartStrand fiber was unveiled in 2005, it was quickly embraced by consumers looking for durability and long-term stain resistance. Since then, the company has added Nanoloc technology to lock out spills and make the carpet even easier to clean. The company also added an All Pet Protection warranty to stand behind pet accidents.
“High-performance floor covering is most certainly a need in residential applications,” Walker said. “Families today are extremely busy and their homes should be built to be resilient against everyday foot traffic, spills and stains and rough wear from household pets. For residential carpet, look for high performing nylon face fibers with high twist durability and premium dyes so that colors stay true. Nylon can be easily cleaned and its maintenance can be boosted with stain fighting properties, such as Milliguard stain resistance to make everyday cleaning more effective and AlphaSan antimicrobial treatment to help prevent mold and mildew growth.”