The little known importance of carpet backing

The little known importance of carpet backing

When shopping for carpet, many consumers are focused on the overall look of their carpet. Will it be a high pile or low pile, what kind of fiber is it made of, what color (or colors) will work best? These are all excellent questions to ask yourself when shopping for carpet. However, have you ever considered asking yourself about the backing of the carpet? You should, as the importance of carpet backing is often overlooked or never considered. Let us explain a little bit about why the carpet backing is so important.

Carpet is typically made in a loop pile, cut pile, or cut-loop pile construction. No matter the structure, fibers are being woven through a primary backing that looks like a woven grid. The fibers are stitched into the woven structure to create tufts. Then, the bottom of this backing is typically coated with a bonding agent of latex. This bonding agent secures the tufts to the woven fabric and acts as a glue for the secondary backing. The secondary backing is what you see when you flip your carpet over. This secondary backing is ultimately what gives the carpet its stability. Most carpet backs are made of synthetic jute or polypropylene that are woven together in tight grid patterns. This grid pattern is called a “pic”. The closer the grid pattern, the higher the pic number, resulting in better dimensional stability and a lesser chance that your carpet will delaminate.

What is delamination? Delamination occurs when your carpet’s secondary backing separates from the primary back. Various issues can cause this separation. There could be an error with the latex application that bonds the two backings, the carpet may be poorly stretched, or the use of harsh cleaners may have caused the latex to break down. Signs your carpet may be delaminated include seeing waves or ripples in your carpet, pulling up your carpet, and the backing stays attached to the floor or noticing seams becoming frayed and peaking.

The secondary backing itself can scratch subfloors and walls due to its rough texture. Some manufacturers have special carpet backing such as Shaw’s SoftBac and LifeGuard or Mohawk’s Optibak. Backings like Shaw’s SoftBac have a woven and non-woven combination that eliminates that rough texture and helps installers move carpet without scuffing baseboards and walls. Placing carpet backing directly to a subfloor can also damage the top and bottom of your carpet. With wear from walking on your carpet, the fibers can become damaged due to lack of shock absorption, and the backing will wear against the subfloor, causing it to deteriorate over time. Installing carpet pad will help alleviate the damage and deterioration.

Carpet padding serves a purpose beyond comfort underfoot. Padding can improve insulation, sound absorption, soil protection, air quality, and durability. The right carpet pad will absorb shock from traffic and keep your carpet fibers from crushing. Some pads may be too thick and can cause wrinkling and folding to your carpet. Others may be too firm and wear against the carpet backing, causing your carpet to delaminate. Always look at the manufacturer’s suggestions when selecting a carpet pad, as the wrong pad can void your warranty.

When selecting your carpet, it’s essential that you look at both sides of the carpet with the same care. You want a carpet that aesthetically works well with your space, but you also want a carpet that can take on the wear of everyday use. Pairing a well-constructed carpet with a quality pad will ensure your carpet will provide you with comfort underfoot for years to come.