Historical Corner: ROBERTS: Celebrating 80 Years of Ingenuity

1938 Dodge Pickup at SurfacesSupporting Professional Installers Worldwide Since 1938

By Leslie Del Pozo, QEP Director of Channel Marketing

The proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” certainly holds true to ROBERTS carpet installation tools.

Roy Roberts had been a carpet layer all his working life and was a very proud and fastidious man. He would spend many hours laying carpet in a home and would expect an occasional compliment from the housewife when the job was completed. Invariably, the comment would be “It looks good, but what can you do about those ugly tack marks or puckers all around the edge of the room?” She knew each tack depression would gather dust and make the overall appearance even more unsightly.

Because the only known method of installing wall-to-wall carpet at the time was with tacks, Roy could not solve the problem, but he thought a lot about it.

One weekend while sitting on his patio, Roy looked up to see his wife hanging lace curtains on a curtain stretcher after washing. He thought: “Could carpet be laid in a similar manner by stretching it from wall-to-wall and securing it on some sort of strip made similar to the curtain stretchers?” Obviously the answer was “Yes!”

Antique Kicker with Packaging
Antique Kicker with Packaging

And so, the story of ROBERTS and the ROBERTS carpet gripper was born. Roy Roberts, Hugh Livie and Ken Bishop each put up $1,000 – all the money they had and could borrow – and invested in some plywood, a Sears-Roebuck table saw, a keg of shingle nails, pliers, hammers and similar essentials. The three men called themselves “Roberts Carpet Strip Company” and later shortened the name to The ROBERTS Co.

Slowly, tackless carpet strip gained acceptance with homeowners, carpet-department buyers and stores managers. But workroom foremen and carpet installation mechanics resisted, stubbornly insisting it wouldn’t work, largely because they didn’t know how to use it. Determined, the three partners began following up every sale of tackless carpet strip with personal instructions to the installers to ensure they were successful using this new installation method. These training sessions are possibly the industry’s first carpet installation clinics.

10-505-LE Gel Pro Knee Kicker
10-505-LE Gel Pro Knee Kicker

By traveling around the country selling tack strip, the three partners gained tremendous knowledge about carpet installation. It gave them an opportunity to see firsthand what other materials and products might be necessary to help modernize carpet installation techniques for the whole industry. There was an obvious need for modern tools and techniques. In 1939, the partners obtained national sales rights for the most modern knee-kickers and extension stretchers they could find. In 1940, they acquired manufacturing rights and made their own first improvements under a ROBERTS label.

In 1938, the carpet industry had just begun to use liquid latex for carpet seaming and repair. The newly formed ROBERTS Co. developed a latex formula of its own and labeled it Rub-er-ege, unknowingly laying the groundwork for today’s thriving Adhesives Division of Roberts Consolidated Industries, Inc. They pioneered the double bond carpet installation method — a recognized standard in the industry and in the 1980s, started producing environmentally friendly solvent-free adhesives.

The ROBERTS Co. continued to develop new tools and new ways to install flooring. They held early patents on knee kickers, carpet seaming irons, loop pile carpet cutters, carpet knives, a carpet binding machine and tack strip. As they developed new tools, they continued to educate carpet installers on newer methods of installations. Hot melt tape was invented in the early 1960s and The ROBERTS Co. provided extensive training to installers to show that this new product made of fiberglass, cotton scrim and a bead of hot melt adhesive on a laminated strip of Kraft paper was by far a faster way to join carpet than the traditional method of hand sewing using a needle and thread.

Through the years, The ROBERTS Co. changed its official name several times, but it never stopped growing, and in 1950, it started expanding its manufacturing and distribution outside of the United States to Canada, Puerto Rico, England, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Holland and eventually Germany.

When QEP Co., Inc. acquired ROBERTS in 1997, the brand went through some initial growing pains. There was much work to do as international divisions had previously been sold off, and quality concerns were also inherited. There wasn’t the staff left necessary to drive a company forward.

Len Gould, QEP President notes, “Today in 2018, with fantastic customers throughout the world, the ROBERTS Brand is stronger and larger than at any time over the company’s 80-year history. Our product quality is engineered to be among the best, if not the best, in each of our core categories. Yet, even more important is that the ‘soul’ of ROBERTS is driven by some of the best people in the business. I’d put their passion up against anyone’s.”

Generations of installers have grown up with ROBERTS, a name that has become synonymous with quality flooring solutions for professional installers.

80th Anniversary Sweepstakes and Promotions

2018 marks the 80th Anniversary of the ROBERTS line of carpet tools, accessories and adhesives. Earlier this year, a new ROBERTS identity was unveiled, including a new logo. It has been 30 years since the logo significantly changed. The company felt it was important to pay tribute to the iconic ROBERTS globe so the globe was pulled out of the “R” and given more prominence. It instantly gave the logo a revitalized energy. The packaging has moved away from the neutral beige background and fully embraced the bold red, black and silver colors already identified with the ROBERTS brand. The new pure black background, along with silver and red splashes of color, gives the packaging a more upscale professional look.

To further celebrate our anniversary, ROBERTS has also launched an 80th Anniversary Sweepstakes and introduced new Specialty Adhesives and a few Limited Edition 80th Anniversary Tools.

Throughout the rest of the year, flooring contractors who use ROBERTS products have a chance to win an authentic 1938 Dodge Pickup Truck, painted ROBERTS Red. Ten (10) runner-up winners will receive a ROBERTS Limited Edition 10-505-LE Pro Gel Knee Kicker and a ROBERTS Branded Jacket. For details and rules visit: robertsconsolidated.com/80thAnniversary.

Our Limited Edition tools include a 10-505-LE Gel Pro Knee Kicker and a 10-161-LE Tool Box. Each one-of-a-kind kicker and tool box is etched with its own unique number in the series. Production has been limited to 1,938 Kickers and 1,938 Tool Boxes. You can also get the Anniversary Products when you buy a full 10-750-LE Tool Kit. Our Anniversary Adhesives include two special formulas. Our 1938 BubbleRepair is our ‘Throwback Adhesive’ for repairing bubbles within carpet and felt-backed vinyl flooring. The new 2018 Tack and Crack is a 2-part formula, perfect for installing tack strip, and filling control joints and active cracks.

Timeline of Worldwide Growth

1938 The ROBERTS Co., was founded

1950 Established manufacturing facilities in Canada

1953 Set up manufacturing facilities in Puerto Rico

1955 Established manufacturing facilities in England and Australia

1957 Established manufacturing facilities in Mexico

1960 Roberts Smoothedge Ltd moved into New Zealand

1962 Established manufacturing facilities in Holland

1968 Moved into Germany via a subsidiary of Holland operation

1997 Q.E.P. Co., Inc. acquired the USA and Canadian divisions of Roberts Consolidated Industries and Roberts Holland B.V.

2004 Q.E.P. Co., Inc. acquired Roberts Mexicana, S.A. de C.V.

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