By Danny Owens, Fishman Flooring Solutions
Attention to detail in any endeavor can spell the difference between success and failure. Nowhere is that truer than in the world of carpet installations, where attention to detail when seaming carpet can make the difference between an exceptional installation, where the seams are both invisible and durable, and a failed installation with unsightly seam peaking or seam separation.
Unfortunately, when carpet seams fail, the repercussions can be significant. First, seam failures are costly to address for both building owners and flooring installers. Second, failed seams often result in damaged reputations for those involved.
So, what can flooring installation contractors do to ensure that the seams in their installed carpets will create the best possible outcomes for architects, designers, facility managers and home and building owners? Here are five basic keys to carpet seaming success:
An often-overlooked rule of thumb when seaming carpet is as simple as it is important. Always read the manufacturers’ instructions for both the carpet being seamed and the seam tape used. This is critically important because one size does not fit all when it comes to carpet, carpet seams and seam tape. There are, for example, markedly different approaches for seaming carpets made of nylon, polyester and wool, to say nothing of soft-backed carpets, water-resistant carpets and the like.
Understand Seaming Fundamentals
The most experienced flooring installation contractors adhere to three fundamentals when seaming carpet. First, they understand the direct correlation between the quality of the seam and the cleanliness of a seaming iron. A clean iron allows the adhesive to move freely through the grooves in the bottom of the iron. This results in a well-bonded seam. Also, a clean iron won’t smoke up the room.
Second, they determine the right temperature at which to set the seaming iron. This is critical because different carpets require different settings. Ideally, the seaming iron temperature should be set as low as possible to avoid overheating, which can affect the hot melt, the carpet backing and the twist of the face yarns.
Third, experienced installers have learned that speed is not of the essence when seaming carpet, despite pressure from general contractors in today’s world of fast-track construction. Among the many problems that can occur when installing seams too quickly is that the adhesive will not fully transfer to the back of the carpet.
Select the Right Seam Tape
A critical element in successfully installing carpet is to use the right tape for the job. All seam tapes are not created equal. For starters, seam tapes used for residential and commercial installations differ. On the residential side, for example, where stretch-in installations puts tension on the carpet, it is necessary to use a seam tape that will hold up to the extreme tension of stretching the carpet a full 1- to 1.5 percent.
For commercial installations, such as hotels, restaurants and other high traffic venues, where the pad is glued to the floor and then the carpet is glued to the pad (double-stick applications) – most carpet manufacturers require the seams be made with hot melt seam tape. There are a variety of such tapes on the market. They include tapes that have pressure-sensitive adhesive on the bottom side of the tape and hot melt on the top side and tapes with paper that can be peeled off the hot melt once the seam is made.
Invest in Training
Developing proficiency in using seam tape in a carpet installation takes a long time given the number of different carpets, backings and seam tapes on the market. As a result, the best flooring installation contractors are distinguished by their experience and training. Many have been certified by Certified Flooring Installers (CFI), which offers day-long carpet seaming workshops. They understand and use carpet seaming best practices, know where to put seams and recognize that the fewer seams the better the installation.
Other installers turn to their local flooring and flooring supplies distributors for training. These establishments, along with their seam tape vendors, periodically conduct counter days to demonstrate seaming techniques and answer any questions installers may have.
Know Where to Find the Answers
Importantly, the best installers know what they don’t know and understand that leading distributors of flooring and flooring installation products are a great source of information on all aspects of flooring and flooring-related products. Most branch personnel are trained in the proper use of seam tapes and seaming tools and there is a toll-free number on the company website for when you have questions about flooring installations and installation products, including seaming and seam tapes and tools.
Advances in Seam Tape Technology
As carpet yarns, backings and constructions have changed over the years, advances in seam tape technology have generally kept pace. Some of these advances have been fueled by more stringent regulations for adhesives promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
This has resulted in better seaming performance and a wide range of seam tapes for specific seaming opportunities. Most of these seam tapes are designed to be used with carpet. However, there are also pressure sensitive tapes made for products ranging from some sheet vinyls to outdoor carpets to transitional pieces.
Importantly, the best installers know what they don’t know and understand that leading distributors of flooring and flooring installation products are a great source of information on all aspects of flooring and flooring-related products.
Most of today’s seam tapes have lower melt points than their predecessors because today’s carpets are more heat sensitive. In addition, many of the newer seam tapes are formulated to be no-smoke and no-odor hot melts, which is important. When seaming carpet, whether it be in a residential or commercial setting, the less smoke and odors the better.
Carpet Seaming Rules of Thumb
Virtually every seaming job can be different given the wide variety of carpets and backings, as well as the range of seam tapes, on the market today. However, there are some rules of thumb that generally apply to most seaming installations:
- Test a small piece of the carpet before starting the job to determine the appropriate heat setting.
- Read the technical information for the carpet backing to ensure that the seaming installation complies with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Contact the carpet manufacturer’s technical services organization with any questions.
- Keep the cut between the rows and the nap of the carpet.
- Seal the edge of the carpet using the manufacturer’s recommended seam sealer. Using the recommended sealer is critically important in determining liability if an unraveling problem occurs.
- Place something heavy, such as a toolbox, on the seam to put pressure on the adhesive to ensure it gets into the carpet backing.
- Roll the seam with a hand roller or carpet box tractor to ensure that it is obscured.
About the Author: Danny Owens is the business manager for Fishman Flooring Solutions in the Roanoke, Virginia area, where he is responsible for providing solutions to the company’s current and prospective customers. He has more than 30 years of experience in the flooring industry, 25 of those years with Fishman. During his tenure in the flooring industry, he has been involved in hundreds of seam tape installations. He can be reached at Danny.Owens@lfishman.com.
New Radio Wave Seaming Technology
By Michael Hetts, Traxx Corporation
The latest seaming technology is the Kool Glide system. Unlike the conventional seaming methods which use a hot iron in contact with the seaming tape to melt the thermoplastic adhesive — a method essentially unchanged since its introduction in the late 1950s. The Kool Glide seaming system works from on top of the material using a seaming tool emitting radio waves that melts the thermoplastic adhesive. The seaming tool itself never gets hot or comes in contact with the seaming tape, this means no dripping adhesive or required tool cleanup of old burnt thermoplastic, the main cause of unpleasant smoke and odor.
The Kool Glide uses a small contained radio wave electromagnetic induction field technology to activate the special foil on the tape to heat, melting the universal thermoplastic adhesive. If the Kool Glide tool does not sense the Kool Glide tape under the material, the power light flashes and the tool does not activate. The cycle time for the tool runs between 6 to 9 seconds — the perfect amount to allow the installer to work the seam before needing to move forward. And should you make a mistake on your seam, no problem, just reactivate the adhesive and fix it.
Smoke-free and virtually odorless, the Kool Glide System is ideal for use in both residential and commercial indoor applications. Kool Glide tapes come in six configurations, four with a universal carpet seaming adhesive for use with the vast majorities of carpet backings; and two, for use under vinyl and hardwoods.