Pictured is Shaw’s Mesh Weave carpet tile, aimed at use in the Main Street commercial segment and made using EcoSolutionQ nylon fiber.

Modular carpet tile has undergone a major change. What was once considered a mostly corporate and industrial product, designed with functionality more than aesthetics in mind, has found a second life as a designer-friendly flooring option. According to manufacturers, modular carpet has become an increasingly competitive category – even making inroads into the residential side of the business, which has spurred flooring makers to bring out new designs and technologies at a faster pace.

“The design flexibility of modular carpet is being leveraged more than ever, as designers mix styles and colors together to create their own design on the floor,” said Reesie Duncan, director of product development for Shaw Contract Group. “Designers are using multiple styles together with increased frequency. Accent colors are also being used to create energy in a space.”

She said rapidly evolving fiber technology has also led to a resurgence in carpet tile. For example, Shaw Contract debuted Eco Spun and Eco Metal, variations of the company’s EcoSolutionQ nylon fiber, at the recent NeoCon show in Chicago. Eco Spun aims to mimic the look of natural wool, while Eco Metal offers an almost metallic luster to the product. She said new technologies are allowing flooring makers to create “carpet without boundaries.”

According to Catherine Minervini, vp marketing for Bentley Prince Street, the design options available with the new technologies have helped attract more and more companies to the segment, including carpet makers that previously manufactured only broadloom. She said the fresh blood has helped reinvigorate the segment, turning it into a design powerhouse.

“Much of this growth is due to changes in the styling of carpet tile; it’s just much more attractive than ever before,” she said. “But growth in this sector has also been driven by the simple fact that many carpet companies now have the ability and technology to create more of it.”

Mark Clayton, vp marketing for J+J/Invision, said more and more designers are asking for the same pattern in both broadloom and modular options. “The design capabilities with modular products are (virtually) limitless and designers really appreciate the flexibility these products provide,” he noted.

Stacked is one of the latest modular carpet products from J+J/Invision.

According to David Caples, president of Milliken’s Floor Covering Division, there is now a much wider range of choices for modular tile. “You can find almost any texture, from flat to extreme changes in pile height that the customer desires,” he noted. “In commercial, the majority of price points are covered, except entry level commodity products. Even residential modular is finding a wider acceptance.”

He said along with advances in texture and color, many new carpet tile products also featured better backings. “A resurgence of backing research and the introduction of new backing technologies is occurring,” he explained. “Almost every modular supplier is looking to bring better value to the market with new backings, while minimizing environmental impacts and maximizing performance.”

James Lesslie, president of Beaulieu Commercial, said he sees a lot of customers requesting greener backings. “Our Nexterra carpet tile backing carries 85 percent post consumer recycled content, and is available on all of our tile offerings – not just a few,” he said.

Caples added that with all the design possibilities and environmental attributes of modular tile, he sees continued growth for the segment, perhaps even “outpacing that of the carpet industry as a whole.”

“Globally in five to 10 years, it is forecasted that modular carpet will pass broadloom carpet in market share for the commercial markets,” he noted. “The continued emphasis of recycled content, end of life considerations, and total environmental impacts will have a market-changing influence on future technologies.”