CRI Updates Carpet Installation Guidelines

By Jim Walker, American Floor Covering Institute


CRI 105 Residential Carpet Standards
CRI 105: Residential Carpet Guidelines

Welcome to the new CRI-104 and CRI 105! These resource guides contain an unbiased compilation of the manufacturer’s guidelines for the installation of commercial and residential carpet. One thing that we all must keep in mind is that the directions of the manufacturers supersede all information. They make the product; they set the guidelines. However, we must remember that specialty carpets require techniques that are unique to that product. Before you start the installation, know the requirements! It keeps you out of trouble.

In September 2015, the new editions were released by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI). The manner in which the information is shared on the website. The free downloadable version is user-friendly. An excellent job has been done by the CRI to relay important topics under specific headings.

What is the Carpet and Rug Institute? CRI is located in Dalton, GA and serves as the national trade association of carpet and rug manufacturers and suppliers to the industry. The goal of the association and its membership is to provide unbiased technical, educational, and scientific information to the industry and to educate consumers concerning carpet and rugs.

CR1 104: Commercial Carpet Standards
CR1 104: Commercial Carpet Guidelines

We know that the customer is much more informed today than in the past and we should appreciate this regarding installation. If your competition is not adhering to the rules, make certain the client is aware of this. When customers search the CRI website, a question is asked: Who should I hire to install my carpet? The answer is to use professionals who follow the standards recognized by the industry. For installers who follow these guidelines, and most of you reading this article do just that, this is a great selling tool. The customer is provided a link and will know what is required of their installation, but you must tell them. The CRI also recommends engaging the services of those who had been certified by a credible party.

Moreover, we’d like to believe that the individual installing the carpet is following the instructions. Hopefully someday this will be true, but until then, the CRI assumes no responsibility and accepts no liability for the application of the principles or techniques contained in the standard.  “The primary source of direction is the individual product manufacturers who reserve the right to provide specific installation instructions, which are to be strictly adhered to by installation professionals,” states the CRI.

As I stated before, know the CRI guidelines before you start to work. I realize this may not be the most exciting article you read, but just look at how much more professional you appear when you understand and are able to communicate what is expected. You know the latest rules of the road, and you can speak intelligently to anyone concerning these. I have always stressed that communication is our greatest skill as installation professionals.

In September, after months of updating CRI 104/105, representatives from the carpet manufacturers introduced manuals to assist the industry concerning installation decisions. In the back of the manual, you will find the manufacturer members’ contact information.

You can access the CRI Carpet Primer here to learn more about carpet. The CRI has a free comprehensive library of continuing education courses available. Visit and learn more about the products you install.  Contact Pat Jennings, director of standards and specifications, with questions about the standards.

The recommended practices and responsibilities for the dealer/retailer, installer and installation contractor, and the consumer have been eliminated. This manual only addresses the requirements and guidelines for the installation of carpet.

All information is outlined in a much easier to read and understand format. Since many sections have been revised, this article will concentrate on the testing of the substrate for both residential and commercial applications because we are all aware that this is a major concern. A large portion of the revisions for this section were added earlier to the commercial standard, but they are in “RED” if now included in the residential standard. Note that most items state “refer to the individual manufacturer’s guidelines.” Once again, the manufacturer’s guidelines must be followed!

The most recent ASTM Standards in regard to substrate preparation are listed. It is a benefit for installers/dealers to understand that when referencing these standards; another party becomes involved in decision making. You must know these in order to use them properly in your installation proposals.

All three tests must be conducted in accordance with the ASTM Standards, not to exceed the individual manufacturer’s requirements. View these in detail here.

  • ASTM F-710 Standard Practice for Preparing Concrete Floors to Receive Resilient Flooring (pH Test), testing the pH at the surface of a concrete slab.
  • ASTM F-1869 Standard Test Method for Measuring Moisture Vapor Emission Rate of Concrete Subfloor Using Anhydrous Calcium Chloride (MVER Test).
  • ASTM F-2170 Standard Test Method for Determining Relative Humidity in Concrete Floor Slabs Using In-Situ Probes (RH Test), testing for the internal relative humidity of the concrete slabs.

6.0 Testing – An entire section has been added that covers many important details for installers. As you read on, be aware of the extensive amount of attention directed toward substrate preparation in the residential revision and made easier to read in the commercial standard. Some of the information is not new, but is added to stress the importance of substrate preparation.

“Most residential stretch-in installations do not require moisture testing. Before direct glue-down, double glue-down and free floating carpet tile systems, the owner or general contractor, or their designated testing agent, is required to submit to the flooring contractor a written report on the moisture and alkalinity conditions of the concrete substrates.” I know we waited years to have this added, but how many dealers and installers still do not adhere to this? How many headaches could be eliminated if at the time of the sale or during the estimate the client was informed of their responsibility?

“Refer to the manufacturer’s written instructions for guidelines regarding allowable moisture and pH limits for their products. The Moisture Vapor Emission Rate, Relative Humidity and Alkalinity testing must be performed to give an accurate assessment of the concrete condition and the test results/data of each test shall be within acceptable limits.”

“Proper testing is essential for a successful installation and any deviation from these industry accepted test methods often results in an installation failure and may void the manufacturer’s warranties.”

“It is recommended that qualified independent third-party testing agencies be used for determining moisture and alkalinity conditions of a concrete slab. Testing by an independent third party specialist to determine installation suitability is a prudent and necessary safeguard for general contractors, owners, architects, flooring product providers and installation contractors to reduce the risk of concrete slab moisture-related flooring problems. As a minimum, testing agencies or individuals are required to demonstrate verifiable experience in concrete moisture testing or be certified by a recognized organization.”

6.1 Moisture Vapor Emission Rate (MVER) Testing

“MVER tests must be conducted in accordance with the current version of ASTM F 1869, not to exceed manufacturer’s requirements (ASTM F1869 – Standard Test Method for Measuring Vapor Emission Rate of Concrete Subfloor Using Anhydrous Calcium Chloride).”

6.2 Relative Humidity (RH) Testing

“Testing for internal relative humidity of concrete slabs must be conducted in accordance with the current version of ASTM F-2170, not to exceed the manufacturer’s requirements (ASTM F2170 – Standard Test Method for Determining Relative Humidity in Concrete Floor Slabs Using In-Situ Probes.)”

6.3 Testing for Alkalinity

“Testing the pH at the surface of a concrete slab must be conducted in accordance with the current version of ASTM F-710, not to exceed manufacturer’s requirements (ASTM F710 – Standard Practice for Preparing Concrete Floors to Receive Resilient Flooring).”

“Preparing the surface of a concrete slab for pH testing can be problematic. Make sure the concrete surface is adequately cleaned of adhesives, curing compounds, etc. When pH readings are less than 7, it may be an indication of a residue remaining on the concrete surface. Also use care not to overclean the surface of the concrete, consequently removing the (usually) thin layer of carbonation. This can result in pH readings of 12.”

7.0 Site Conditions

“Proper site conditions as outlined in this section are essential for a successful installation and any deviation often results in an installation failure and may void manufacturers’ warranties.” (This is a new addition and is very important!)

CRI-104 also adds, “The owner or the general contractor is responsible for providing an acceptable substrate for the specified installation. Carpet is required to be installed over properly prepared substrates that are suitable for the specific product and installation method selected. All cracks, holes and flooring irregularities are required to be repaired to ensure a flat, smooth substrate, prevent accelerated wear and telegraphing substrate irregularities.”

7.2 Ambient Temperature and Humidity Suitable Substrates

The substrate surface temperature should not be less than 65°F (18°C) at the time of installation.” If the above conditions are not met, installations may be susceptible to moisture related failures, including but not limited to dew point condensation.” This is not new, but is important to address: The installation is not to begin until the HVAC system is operational and the following conditions are maintained 48 hours before, during and 72 hours after completion.

7.3 Ventilation

“During installation, maintain air circulation by operating the HVAC system. For acceptable indoor air quality, fresh air ventilation in residential spaces is recommended to conform to current guidelines specified in ASHRAE Standard 62 published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers ( Failure to comply could cause negative ramifications to the installation and the indoor air quality.”

8.0 Substrate Preparation

“Patched areas may be porous and highly alkaline, which WILL prevent adequate adhesive bond. Consult patch manufacturer for primer recommendations and compatibility with adhesives. Select polymer-fortified patching compounds according to the carpet manufacturer’s instructions. (Refer to current version of ASTM E-1155.)

8.1  Concrete

“It is not recommended to chemically treat (abate) substrates. These chemicals are difficult to completely remove and will adversely affect new adhesive and carpet. Contact your manufacturer for specific information.”

“Patching of cracks and depressions shall be made with an appropriate and compatible latex (new) or polymer fortified patching compound. Large patched areas must be primed.”

“The use of a properly installed, uncompromised, approved moisture membrane is essential in preventing moisture migration into and through a concrete slab.” (ASTM F 710)

8.1  Moisture Mitigation

“Concrete that has been treated with a moisture migration system will render the substrate non-porous. Before installation, a bond test is recommended. If the bond test fails, the substrate must be adequately prepared to accept adhesive.”

8.2  Wood

“All substrates “are required to be flooring grade (APA approved) and installed according to the manufacturer specifications. Irregularities, imperfections and joints are required to be properly patched and prepared. The use of a primer on the substrate will improve bond strength of the patch.”

8.2.1  Treated Wood

“Wood that is chemically treated to alter properties relating to outdoor exposure or flame resistance is NOT a suitable substrate for direct glue-down installations.

8.3  Metal

“It is required that metal floors create a smooth, even plane, and be free of grease, oil, soil, and rust.”

COMMERCIAL: “It is required that raised access flooring be structurally sound, flat and properly secured.

8.4  Resilient

“It is not recommended to install over floating, perimeter bonded or cushion-backed sheet goods.” As related to resilient products that may contain asbestos and/or crystalline silica, “Recommended work practices prohibit sanding, dry scraping, bead-blasting or mechanically pulverizing resilient flooring, backing or lining felt. Do not use powered devices that create asbestos dust when removing “cut-back” or asphalt-based adhesives.”

8.5  Radiant Heat Floors

“Refer to the Radiant Professionals Alliance for additional information.”

8.6  Asphalt

“For approved flooring materials, it is required that asphalt surfaces be clean, dry, free from excessive oil and grease, and in good condition. Cure new asphalt for at least 90 days or longer, depending upon weather conditions. Follow adhesive manufacturer’s requirements.”

8.6.1 Terrazzo, Ceramic, Marble, Slate and other Nonporous Surfaces

“Remove surface finishes and abrade flooring surfaces to ensure adhesion. Grout lines must be filled and flush with flooring material surface. Ceramic or other surfaces may require the use of a primer to ensure proper adhesion. Slate and brick surfaces may be too rough and uneven for most installations and may require the use of a self-leveler or smoothing before installing carpet. Attention must be given to the “open time” requirements of the adhesive manufacturer when adhering carpet to these surfaces.”

8.7 Painted Surfaces

“Lacking documented evidence to the contrary, e.g., current testing, assume that all paints contain lead and treat them in the manner prescribed by existing lead abatement regulations. Painted surfaces may be suitable for adhesive application; however, bond tests are recommended. Glossy surfaces must be abraded prior to installation.”

8.8 Primers

“Using primers on floor surfaces generally is not required except for sanded wood sheet products and dusty, porous or acoustical concrete surfaces. Primers are not designed to reduce moisture vapor emissions and should not be used for that purpose. They should be compatible with adhesives, which can only be applied after the primer has cured. Where lightweight or acoustical concrete substrate is present, refer to the manufacturer requirements to use.” NOTE: “Substrate primers are recommended by some manufacturers for specific carpet installations to enhance adhesion.”

8.9  Chemical Adhesive Removers and Abatement Chemicals

“These products are not recommended for use on a substrate that will receive a floor covering.”

8.10  Sweeping Compounds

“Do not use sweeping compounds prior to adhesive application. The residue from these compounds interferes with adhesive bonding. In lieu of using sweeping compounds, vacuum dusty areas instead. Vacuum cleaners are required to have a properly functioning filter per OSHA and/or EPA requirements.”

9.0  Product Acclimation

“It is recommended that carpet and installation materials be allowed to acclimate in the installation area for a minimum of 24 hours at a temperature of 65-95°F (18-35° C). Carpet must be adequately protected from soil, dust, moisture and other contaminants. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for acclimation.”

Finally, many of you are aware of the requirements and use them daily. If you are not, I strongly suggest you become better acquainted with the information in CRI 104/105. It makes your projects easier when you know the rules and share the CRI 104/105 Installation Standards with those associated with your installation. Be sure they understand this is not your decision, but it is that of the carpet manufacturers.

In the next issue (Spring 2016), you’ll learn about the revisions to CRI-105 (Residential). Until then, access the website here.


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