Mohawk Industries, Inc. (NYSE: MHK) recently announced 2012 third quarter net earnings of $70 million and diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.01. Excluding restructuring charges, net earnings were $72 million and EPS was $1.04, a 25% increase over last year's third quarter adjusted EPS. Net sales for the third quarter of 2012 were $1.5 billion, an increase of 2% versus prior year and an increase of 4% on a constant exchange rate. For the third quarter of 2011, net sales were $1.4 billion, net earnings were $47 million and EPS was $0.68. Excluding unusual items, net earnings for the third quarter of 2011 were $57 million and EPS was $0.83.
For the nine months ending September 29, 2012, net sales were $4.4 billion, an increase of 2% versus prior year and 4% on a constant exchange rate. Net earnings and EPS for the nine-month period were $184 million and $2.66, respectively. Excluding restructuring charges, net earnings were $191 million and EPS was $2.76, an increase of 25% over the nine-month adjusted EPS results in 2011. For the nine months ending October 1, 2011, net sales were $4.3 billion, net earnings were $131 million and EPS was $1.90. Excluding unusual items, net earnings and EPS were $152 million and $2.21, respectively.
Commenting on Mohawk Industries' third quarter performance, Jeffrey S. Lorberbaum, Chairman and CEO, stated, "All of our segments delivered solid third quarter performances with improvements in product mix, pricing, volume and productivity, as well as lower interest expense contributing to our results. Across the enterprise, we have managed to keep SG&A dollars in line with last year even as we invested significantly more in new product innovations and marketing to improve our future sales and product mix. During the quarter, we generated adjusted EBITDA of $179 million and free cash flow of $156 million. Both our net debt to adjusted EBITDA ratio and net debt to capitalization ratio improved to 1.7 and 22%, respectively. Mohawk's strong financial position provides us with the flexibility to pursue strategic opportunities such as the recently announced agreement to acquire Pergo, the most recognized brand of premium laminate flooring in the U.S. and Europe."
The Mohawk segment increased its adjusted operating income margin 180 basis points with sales remaining flat compared to 2011. The gains stemmed from improved pricing and product mix, reduced manufacturing and distribution costs and increased productivity. Our carpet sales performance was stronger in our specialty and contractor channels but was offset by the timing of product transitions in the home center channel. Our rug sales improved over the prior period, though they still remained below last year as retailers adjusted their strategies with consumer spending. We saw continued improvement in mix and expanded our SmartStrand Silk collection, which has redefined the premium carpet market. We enhanced productivity through improved manufacturing and distribution efficiencies and gains from our capital investments.
Dal-Tile sales grew 9% during the quarter or 10% on a constant exchange rate. The segment improved sales in both residential and commercial categories and continued significant growth in the Mexican market. Operating margins were enhanced from actions that improved productivity and increased yields. Sales grew across all residential channels supported by our new Reveal Imaging designs, fashionable mosaics and larger format tiles that are aligned with today's decorating trends. We are leveraging Dal-Tile's traditional strength in the builder channel across our business segments to expand commitments with regional builders. We have introduced specific value-engineered products to gain position in the growing multi-family category. In Mexico, our new Salamanca tile plant is successfully ramping up and supplying product to satisfy our growing ceramic position. Across the segment, we lowered manufacturing costs through improved material formulations, higher yields and lower waste.
Unilin segment sales during the quarter were flat as reported, but grew 9% on a constant exchange rate. Outside North America, laminate and wood flooring sales grew from continued expansion into the DIY channel, increases in the Russian market and our Australian acquisition. Our Russian laminate facility increased its production to satisfy higher demand and implemented productivity improvements. In North America, we grew our laminate and wood products through all customer channels during the quarter. New product introductions, increased home center penetration, gains within the builder channel and promotional activity increased our sales. Declining new construction in Benelux and France created headwinds for our insulated roofing panels. To reduce costs in this category, we are consolidating our brands and sales forces as well as implementing process improvements. By helping meet European energy goals, our insulation panels delivered strong sales increases in both Belgium and France.
Mohawk's third quarter results reflect our strengths in delivering innovative products, driving operational excellence and entering new geographic markets. We continue to invest strategically by introducing differentiated products, lowering our manufacturing and administrative costs and acquiring new companies that will enhance our results. We have taken the necessary steps to align our pricing with our raw material inflation and we will react as required. In the U.S., increasing new home construction and improved sales of existing homes provide a positive outlook for future flooring growth. In Europe, soft market conditions due to economic uncertainty and changes in exchange rates are anticipated to be a headwind. Based on these factors, our guidance for fourth quarter earnings is $.89 to $.98 per share, excluding any restructuring costs.
Mohawk's strong financial position allowed us to enter into an agreement to acquire Pergo which will benefit our worldwide laminate business and we are well positioned to invest in other opportunities as they arise. We continue to execute our long-term strategy of product innovation, cost reduction, asset maximization and geographic expansion. Each of our businesses is well situated to benefit from the improvements in the U.S. remodeling and construction category, which remains substantially below peak levels. Our organization is focused on bringing value to our customers while maximizing our results.