There are several considerations to take into account when starting to untangle the mysteries of carpet. There is already an over abundance of technical information available on the web. Still this post will quickly summarize some of the more common factors to understanding carpet construction, terminology, and point anyone interested in digging deeper to some good reference materials.
Perhaps the most basic way to arrive at a more comprehensive understanding of carpet is to consider how it is made. Among a wealth of other information, the World Floor Covering Association’s (WFCA) web site (http://www.wfca.org/carpet/howmade.aspx) offers a most comprehensive explanation the carpet manufacturing process and concisely defines much carpet terminology. According to WFCA’s cite, one might consider several construction factors when deciding how suitable a solution carpet is for “the way you want to live” (ibid). While these individual elements may be an important consideration with respect to understanding the parts of the manufacturing process, it is crucial to emphasize that none of these elements in isolation is particularly significant: it is how carpet manufacturing combines these elements and the complex interplay of these elements in a finished carpet that determines performance and style.
These construction elements include fiber type, pile height, face weight, stitch rate, and density. “Fiber,” is the basic material constituting the surface of a carpet or, in other words, the fuzz. Both natural fibers, such as wool, and synthetic fibers, such as nylon, polypropylene, and polyester are commonly used in making carpet. Pile height refers to the length of the tuft when measured from the primary backing to the yarn tips. Face weight is the amount of fiber per square yard as measured in ounces. Stitch rate refers to the measure of how close the yarns are together. Density is the measure of how tightly the yarn is stitched into the carpet backing. Carpets are constituted by differentially adjusting each of these elements (along with color and cutting) as they occur, broadly speaking, in a three part manufacturing process. Tufting, dying, and finishing are the three stages of the carpet manufacturing process.
We call the process of weaving fiber into a backing material “tufting.” The initial result of tufting is a loop pile construction. While all carpets start as a loop pile, in many carpet styles, some or all of the small loops of yarn are cut, creating what, for obvious reasons, we call a cut pile (all the loops are cut) or a cut and loop (some loops are cut and others are left uncut resulting in a pattern in the surface texture of the carpet). These three basic types of carpeting — Cut Pile, Loop Pile, and Cut & Loop – can be made thinker or thinner, heavier or lighter, and then patterned in almost an infinite variety of designs.
Next the carpet is dyed. Broadly speaking, there are two dyeing processes. One method of dyeing is called, “yarn dyeing” or, “pre-dyeing,” where the color is applied to the yarn prior to tufting, and the other is called “carpet dyeing.” This method involves applying color to the yarn after the carpet has been tufted. There are several carpet dyeing methods in use and each produces a unique end result. The advantages of all yarn dyeing methods include good side-by-side color consistency, large lot sizes, and uniformity. The major benefits of carpet dyeing, that is dyeing the carpet after the tufting process, are greater color flexibility, and lower cost.
Lastly the carpet enters the final manufacturing step, the finishing process, during which most carpets will have a secondary backing applied and then they will be sheared. A coating of latex is applied to the tufted, dyed carpet’s primary backing, and to a secondary backing, typically made of a woven polypropylene material, and the two parts are squeezed together in a large heated press, where they are held firmly to preserve their shape. Lastly, the carpet is sheared, a process that removes the little loose ends and projecting fibers that might have been created during the tufting process. Shearing also helps achieve the yarn’s tip definition. When ready, each carpet is carefully inspected for color uniformity and other manufacturing defects before it is rolled, wrapped, and shipped.
So we’ve generally outlined how carpet is made and hope this information helps you be a savvier shopper; but, the reality is it may only satisfy your curiosity. Let’s face it, how a carpet is built may be a consideration as to why it will perform a certain way in the lab, but it does not really tell us how a particular carpet will perform or look in our home. For most of us the really important considerations are how a carpet will look and how its performance and serviceability will improve our quality of home life.
And, believe it or not, a well crafted carpet can actually improve your quality of life! Carpet can be among the most ffordable and servicable types of flooring. The easy-care features of today’s advanced stain resistant carpets like the Relax, It’s Lees and Resista brands allow you to really live on your beautiful carpet for many years and you won’t have to cringe anytime someone topples a glass over it. Simply clean up spills promptly, vacuum regularly, and have your carpet professionally cleaned as specified by the carpet manufacturer, and you will, no doubt, enjoy your carpet for many, many years.