With the exception of physical size, today’s many offerings of carpet tile bear little resemblance to those of 20 years ago. Just about every major manufacturer has a dedicated production line for carpet tile; it is rare that carpet made for broadloom applications is chopped into 18” or 24” squares for carpet tile. PVC backings have been replaced by urethane or other composite backings. Hardback construction, which used to be the standard, has been largely replaced by soft cushion backing.
12’-wide broadloom gave way to 18” carpet tile, which has in turn evolved to a 24” or 36” square tile. Currently, the most popular size appears to be 24”, balancing the average waste factors with weight and ease of handling, boxing and palletizing, delivery and storage.
Another key reason for this sizing shift is the ease – or difficulty – of precise-patterning carpet tile when tufting or over-printing. The patterning and coloration of carpet tile is extremely complex, and any small glitch in procedure or color will cause an appearance that is out of register. I once saw an entire shipment of carpet tile rejected when a small dot was not square with the edge of the carpet tile. In another case, a visual blemish was “cured” by sending back the shipment and applying a complex pattern overprint.
Face Weight and Construction
A 24-, 26-, 28-, or 30-ounce carpet tile face weight (usually nylon) has given way to 16-, 18- and 20-ounce weights with a lower pile height contributing to high densities. It was found that the reduction in carpet face weight would be offset by the higher density, and thus there was little difference in wear under traffic conditions.
The addition of a cushioned backing would contribute to increased appearance life and allow more money to be charged. Although there are exceptions, cut-pile products have given way to various types of loop, over-tuft, or cut-and-loop construction. There is less “blurring” of pattern under traffic conditions and fewer complaints of wear at major pivot points due to pile crush.
Design and Stunning Visuals
At the beginning – and because it was new – end-users didn’t mind seeing the seams; in fact, seams were actually accentuated by the mostly solid color or multicolor cut pile. In short order, though, most people found that stains and watermarking created some visual nightmares on relatively new purchases.
One manufacturer commissioned a study to see what clients really wanted in carpet tile. The leading response? “We want carpet tile to look like broadloom carpet, we don’t want to see seams.” The manufacturer quickly put a lot of research effort into products that made seams relatively imperceptible. Certain product collections were graded according to their ability to hide those 18” seams.
The effort to design “visual noise” into carpet tile not only helped the issue of seams, it also went a long way toward the camouflage of spills, stains, and traffic patterns. Mill designers and colorists worked on product collections for specific industry segments, including hospitality. Many hotels and casinos, for example, have standardized on carpet tile. Complex patterns that were formerly available only with Axminster carpet can now be closely matched by carpet tile.
Portability and Handling
Have you ever tried to get a roll of 12’ wide broadloom in a passenger elevator? Even worse, how about getting full carpet rolls onto the 15th floor of an office complex? Usually, windows have to come out and a crane be employed. Contrast this with using a pallet jack and stocking each floor with pallets of carpet tile.
There is also the factor of installation overage and attic stock. Frequently, large pieces of broadloom carpet, meant for other areas, are lost or mistakenly discarded. Storage of excess inventory also becomes a real problem when rolls are crushed, backing is damaged, or they are improperly marked.
Installation and Acres of Furniture
Certainly, the installation of carpet tile requires skill, but not, however, to the degree of patterned broadloom, where a journeyman mechanic is needed to make a seam and power-stretchto correct bow and skew. And the typical carpet tile installation is considerably faster than broadloom. In one scenario, two journeymen, two apprentices and two laborers completed 1,000 yards of installation in one long day!
The reason new office buildings feature broadloom carpet is because there is no furniture to move; it is a wide-open area, and carpet rolls may be quickly unrolled and installed. Vertical lift installationgave carpet tile use a big boost in the mid-1990s. Facility managers were confronted with replacement of old, worn-out broadloom carpet in large office complexes. Hundreds of modular furniture systems were in use and would have had to be disassembled and removed from the area for new broadloom carpet to be installed.
Early pioneers like Clete Stratman provided the mechanical equipment for lifting modular systems in place so that worn out carpet could be removed and carpet tileinstalled without destroying workplace productivity. In this situation, carpet tile was required.This type of installation is widespread today and continues be favorite of architects and astute facility managers.
Packing Your Bag
Carpet tile samples, even architect folders, are heavy. Consider three to five sample books and put some thought into price points for your client. The level-loop, multi-color look is basic and still works for some areas; add in one or two graphics patterns and don’t forget the accent colors. A picture bookof patterns and colors is ideal. Even if you lug in several different tiles, it’s tough to get an idea of how the area might look when completely covered.
Be creative in your approach by showing what can be done with borders or inset designs. I once sold a large corridor job by showing how easily borders and other insets could be done at minimal extra cost. Use the Internet to your advantage by showing additional patterns, colors, and design ideas. Most mills are eager to help in this area and have designers on staff to help you with the latest collections. Carpet tile is a legitimate option even for small jobs. While there are exceptions, most carpet tile is available as a no-minimum running line product.
While your client may be unable to afford high-style carpet tile everywhere, you may be able to offer an exciting new look for their entrance or some other high-profile area. One large company had repeated slip-and-fall incidents in their main lobby, even though they had several large carpet-mat runners to absorb water (as it happened, in this instance, the runners were part of the problem). The solution was a custom-designed frame into which carpet tile was placed.
A government agency had a similar problem in a small, but heavily trafficked area. Here, the issue was more about appearance. Carpet tile was furnished along with plenty of attic stock; periodically, the small area was completely replaced and the dirty tile taken offsite and cleaned.
Pricing and Potential Problems
Carpet tile may be more than twice the price of broadloom without installation. Once you begin to factor in installation, repairs or small area replacement, maintenance, and appearance retention, the use-costbetween the two narrows. Carpet tile is available at many price points.
Moisture is, of course, an always-looming issue. Most broadloom handles moisture emissions differently than carpet tile due to backing type. Some broadloom will permit 5# of MVER, while carpet tile may exhibit problems over 3# MVER. In one reported case years ago, an entire floor of broadloom was replaced with new carpet tile. Nothing seemed amiss for several weeks, but then, all of the edges around each tile turned dark.
Upon inspection, the edges were found to be wet, and when tiles were removed, there was a veritable lake forming on the concrete substrate! As you might guess, the flooring contractor had not performed moisture testing and was held liable. Always perform moisture testing or make sure you have a report in hand that demonstrates MVER compliance.
Hammering Home the Difference
Take the initiative and learn about carpet tile. The best hour you’ll spend is with a carpet tile manufacturer’s rep running down the pros, cons and applications. Ask about their “Top Ten” carpet tile products; have them make a presentation to your sales team. Take several product samples out on your next sales call. Arm yourself properly and you’ll have success.