Floor Carpeting in Cedar Park, TX
NYLON OR POLYESTER … WHICH MAKES THE BEST CARPETING?
The truth of the matter is that the answer to this question completely depends on the client and the client’s situation. Each fiber has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Polyester as a carpet fiber has several advantages. Polyester carpeting is inherently stain resistant, and it definitely outperforms both nylon and wool in this regard. Additionally, polyester carpeting is very soft and also significantly less expensive than either nylon or wool. Because of its price advantage, we will tend to see polyester used extensively in newly-built homes, as well as existing homes going on the market.
The great disadvantage to polyester in carpeting is that it will tend to crush relatively quickly in high-traffic applications such as stairs, halls, or active family rooms. We tend to prefer to see it installed in low- to medium-traffic areas, such as guest bedrooms, or lower use formal settings. Sometimes we will see homeowners dissatisfied with their whole-house polyester installations in as few as four to five years..
Nylon is the most durable manufactured carpet fiber (wool, a natural fiber, is more durable yet, however). For heavy-use applications like stairs, halls, and active family rooms, we prefer to recommend nylon because we know it will keep our clients happy for a very long time.
Nylon is at a slight disadvantage to polyester in terms of both price and stain resistance. There are a couple of ways nylon can be enhanced to increase its stain resistance. One way to do that is called solution dying. What that means is that the nylon fiber is originally made to be the color it will be when the carpeting is complete, instead of making a white nylon that is dyed later in the carpet construction process. It is easier for carpeting manufacturers to use white nylon to make up big rolls of un-dyed carpeting that they can then dye to order as they need it. As a result, there are fewer options in solution dyed carpeting. However, we know that solution dyed carpeting not only resists stains better, it is also a product that we can clean much more aggressively, since there is less risk of cleaning away the dye.
Understanding Solution and Piece Dyeing, the Carrot or the Radish?
What Is Solution Dyeing?
Solution dyeing is a technique used to add color to synthetic fiber. There are many different methods used to dye carpet fibers, but essentially, they can be broken down into two categories: solution dyeing, and all other methods. This is because solution dyeing is so different from all of the other methods that it truly is in a class of its own.
How Is It Different?
The traditional method of dyeing fibers involves first producing the fiber and then adding the color. In traditional dyeing methods, the fiber is produced in a colorless form (called a ‘greige good’, because of its appearance of being a color somewhere between gray and beige). After production, the fiber is then dipped in the dye to add the color. (This is a very over-simplified explanation of the process, but it provides the general idea.)
In the solution dyeing method, the color is actually added to the liquid state of the fiber components, before the fiber is actually produced. Synthetic fibers are made of chemical compounds, or polymers, depending on the type of fiber. To bring the process down to its most basic explanation, the liquid chemicals are fed into the top of the machine and are forced through tiny holes called spinnerettes (picture a shower head) where the liquid is drawn out, leaving the newly created yarn.
Solution-dyed fibers have color pigments added directly into the polymers (chemicals) at the initial stage of production. This means that when the fiber is extruded from the spinnerettes, it is already the desired color.
What About Natural Fibers?
Solution dyeing is not applicable to natural fibers (such as wool) because the fibers are already in existence. As described above, solution dyeing involves adding color to the chemical compound that makes up the fiber, before the fiber is made. Natural fibers are harvested from their source, so they must be dyed using traditional dyeing methods.
Why Does It Matter?
There are several advantages to solution dyeing fibers, all of which are because the color is part of the fiber, and thus goes through the entire solution-dyed fiber.
When a fiber is dyed post-production (as in traditional dye methods), the dye soaks into the fiber and fills the fiber’s cells. After being dyed, the fiber appears uniformly colored, at least to the naked eye. However, there are always cells in the fiber that did not absorb the dye—these are known as empty dye sites. These are not visible except, perhaps, under a microscope, but they do exist nonetheless.
To understand the difference this makes, picture a radish and a carrot. The radish represents the traditional-dyed fiber, where the color is on the exterior but does not go through. (The radish is red on the outside but white on the inside.) By contrast, the carrot is orange all the way through, in the same way, that a solution-dyed fiber has color throughout.
Solution-dyed fibers are much more colorfast (resistant to fading or color bleeding) than other fibers. This is because the color is locked into the fibers. So, solution-dyed fiber is a great choice for areas that will be subjected to intense light. Also, because the fibers are stabilized during production using ultraviolet inhibitors, they are the best choice for use in outdoor carpet applications.
Another huge benefit of solution-dyed fibers is increased stain resistance. Because traditional-dyed fibers contain empty dye sites, as discussed above, they can be more easily stained. Spills are absorbed by these empty dye sites, which make them very difficult to remove.
Because solution-dyed fiber has no empty dye sites (since the color goes all the way through) spills are not able to be absorbed by the fibers, and so the result is a carpet that is as close to stain-proof as is possible. Therefore, solution-dyed fibers are great for use in commercial carpets.
The primary disadvantage of solution-dyed fibers is the reduced color selection, compared to other fibers. In the past, the colors of solution-dyed fibers were not as vibrant as other colors, due to the difference in manufacturing. However, today, there is a wide selection of solution-dyed carpet in many colors, and with technological advancements, the colors available today are much brighter than before.
The other drawback to solution-dyed fibers is that as a consumer, you may have to wait longer for your carpet. This is because manufacturers don’t always keep large inventories of solution-dyed carpets. From a business perspective, it makes much more sense for the manufacturer to keep a big inventory of ‘greige’ goods, which can then be dyed into any color the consumer chooses, rather than keep lots of rolls of carpet already dyed through solution dyeing. This doesn’t mean that mills don’t keep any solution-dyed product in stock, it just means that it may not be as readily available as a carpet that can be, essentially, dyed to order.
The Bottom Line
Overall, solution-dyed fiber is a great choice for both residential and commercial carpets, for its stain resistance. However, solution-dyed fibers can be made into virtually any carpet, so just because fiber is solution-dyed, doesn’t mean that it is always the best choice. Like anything, it is available in a wide range of styles and qualities, so it is just one more factor in a carpet’s story that must be taken into consideration.
Selecting the Right Carpet Tuft Twist
Carpet fibers, also called yarn, is either extruded or twisted to form a single strand or “filament”, These filaments are similar in size to a human hair. A bunch of filaments are grouped together and twisted together to form Tufts. While these strands are twisted, heat is applied to “set” them permanently, hence the term “heat set” or “perm”.
This is very similar to the way women might use a curling iron to create and set curls into their hairstyles. The tighter the tufts are twisted together the longer the carpet is able to maintain its “like-new” appearance.
It is not difficult to guesstimate the number of Tuft-Twists of a carpet you are considering. Tuft-Twist is really quite simple. When you look at a carpet you can look closely at the tuft and easily count the number of twists yourself. You just need to know that it is based on the number of twists per lineal inch of tuft.
Below are Tufts that are one-inch long. I have used two colors to show the number of twists.
The Tuft Twist Rating is based on the number of twists per lineal inch of tuft.
This Tuft has 7 twists and is a sign of a well-made carpet. Frieze styles have tufts similar to this and cost about $30 per square yard on average, or $3.33 per square foot.
This Tuft has 4 twists and is not as good. This is a sign of a lower-grade carpet. Inexpensive Plush and Textured Plush styles often have tufts similar to this and range from $10 to $20 per square yard or $1.11 to $2.22 per square foot. More expensive styles have higher Tuft-Twist ratings.
Why is Tuft Twist So Important?
The Number of Tuft Twists is an important key to making sure your carpet retains its like new appearance longer. Frieze styles tend to have a higher tuft twist (over 6 per lineal inch) and is why they are well-known for their durability and retaining a like-new appearance longer than many other styles. When you look at a potential carpet to buy you can look at the tuft and count the twists yourself. Looped Berber carpets have twisted tufts too, but it is very hard to count them with the naked eye. Most looped Berber styles will state the Tuft Twist Rating posted on the back of the carpet sample or shown on the manufacturer’s spec sheet.
Carpet padding comes in felt, urethane, rubber and in combinations of all these materials, as well as memory foam. While some pads obviously outperform others, the type you choose mainly depends upon the carpeting style you purchase. Some types of carpet padding have lifetime warranties when installed with new carpeting. Never lay a new carpet over an old pad, unless the pad was designed for more than one installation of carpet. Old pads can make the carpet bubble or pucker, which causes wear and an unsightly appearance.
Pad density plays a greater role than thickness in lengthening your carpet’s life. Cushion density ranges from 6 and 8 pounds up to 21 pounds per cubic foot for high-traffic areas. Pads with less density result in more wear and tear on the carpet’s surface, while denser pads offer more cushioning for the feet. Check the carpet manufacturer’s recommendations for pad density when selecting the carpeting. For the best fit and wear, match the carpet to the pad.
Pairing Cushion With Carpet
The Carpet and Rug Institute — a membership organization dedicated to educating consumers, members and the industry — recommends specific pad thicknesses for certain carpets. For instance, high-level loop, cut loop and residential cut pile rugs require no less than 1/4 inch up to 7/16 inches of thickness with 6 pounds per cubic foot for pad density. Thinner loop, cut pile or Berber carpeting needs a 3/8-inch pad with little flexing to provide a unchanging foundation. The latter carpet types do not benefit from softer, thicker pads.
Green Carpet and Pad
Carpets and pads often get blamed for allergy or health problems because of the volatile organic chemicals or compounds used during manufacturing. But most VOCs dissipate within 48 to 72 hours of installation when the house receives good ventilation during and after installation. To ensure you purchase a carpet and pad with the lowest VOCs possible, look for the CRI Green Label and Green Label Plus certification on carpets and pads. The CRI worked with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, private laboratories and universities to establish the standards for this labeling program for both commercial and residential products.