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How Often Should Carpet be Replaced in Commercial Environments?

Posted on Jun 29, 2017, by Mike Brown

The most common reason for replacing commercial carpet is that the appearance of the carpet has deteriorated due to ongoing wear and tear unless it is damaged.

With that in mind, we're explaining how often commercial carpet should be replaced, as well as four factors that have the most significant impact on the longevity of your carpet.

Featured image: KOIN Tower Lobby, Portland, Oregon, USA. Design firm: Group Mackenzie

How Often Should Carpet Be Replaced?

You can expect commercial carpet tiles to last for several years, though this varies widely between different types of carpet tile and across flooring manufacturers.

Hardback carpet tiles generally last 5-7 years, depending on the type of backing. PVC hardback tiles tend to last closer to seven years, while products with a thermoplastic backing only last around five years. However, selecting carpet tiles with cushion backing dramatically increases the expected lifetime of a carpet. In fact, Milliken's carpet tiles with open-cell cushion backing have an expected replacement cycle of 12-15 years.

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This will, however, vary, depending on site conditions and how well carpet is maintained. Adverse conditions, such as high subfloor moisture levels, can cause damage to your carpet and require a shorter replacement cycle. Alternatively, if you've selected carpet with a timeless aesthetic, and follow a rigorous maintenance schedule, you may want to keep your carpet for longer than 12 years. In fact, we've seen well-maintained carpet tiles last upwards of 20 years - even in high traffic areas.

One of the simplest ways to assess whether your carpet is in need of replacement is to take a photograph of key areas (lobbies, executive offices) shortly after installation, and periodically compare the space with the photo. Stains, discoloration and wear will be difficult to notice day-to-day, but this will help you assess how well your carpet is wearing over time.

What Affects the Lifetime of Commercial Carpet?

Several factors affect how well commercial carpet withstands daily use, which affects the expected lifetime of the carpet:

1) What type of carpet tile backing do you have?

The type of backing on carpet tiles has the biggest impact on the longevity and durability of commercial carpet.

With hard-backed carpet tiles, the impact of foot traffic is directly absorbed by the carpet fibers, causing them to wear under use, and their appearance to deteriorate. In contrast, cushion backing protects carpet fibers against compression under foot traffic, as the impact is absorbed by the backing rather than the fibers.

2) Does your space use walk-off products?

Dirt and dust can affect the appearance of your carpet fibers. Sand is commonly found in dirt across the country, and when dirt is tracked on to carpet from people's shoes, particles of dirt and sand are ground into the carpet. Over time, and with the carpet under repeated pressure from foot traffic, these dirt and sand particles act like sandpaper, wearing away at the fibers and speeding up appearance deterioration.

Using a walk-off product, such as a tiered entry system, can further help to extend the life of your carpet, by preventing 80% of dirt, dust and moisture from ever getting onto your carpet in the first place.

3) Do you follow a proper maintenance schedule?

The efficacy of your cleaning and maintenance program will also affect how long your carpet lasts. Regular vacuuming is essential for removing the dirt that does make it onto your carpet, so it doesn't cause lasting damage. Deep cleaning is also recommended once or twice a year, depending on levels of foot traffic. Additionally, your maintenance team will need to spot-treat any localized staining or soiling, to keep your carpet looking as new.

4) Does your space have a history of moisture problems?

Some site conditions expedite the deterioration of commercial carpet, therefore requiring it to be replaced sooner than a standard space. The most common culprit: moisture.

High subfloor moisture levels can cause a myriad of problems, including mold and mildew growth, adhesive breakdown leading to loose carpet tiles, and even total flooring failure. Depending on the severity of the moisture issue, flooring failure can occur only a few weeks after installation.

It's important to note that you may have high subfloor moisture levels in an interior environment - and not know about it yet. Solvent-based adhesives were commonly used for flooring installations as recently as 10-15 years ago, but since then the flooring industry has switched to water-based adhesives. These adhesives are safer and better for the environment but are more susceptible to breaking down under adverse conditions.

Alternatively, your building may have a vapor barrier in place, but you have no way of knowing whether the barrier has been compromised at any point. In fact, if a subfloor slab is over 15 years old, it's likely there never was a vapor barrier installed - and in the rare instances when one was, it's very probable to be compromised. In these situations, variable levels of water vapor could be present in the slab due to fluctuations in the water table, making moisture testing unreliable.

Planning for Carpet Replacement

When selecting commercial carpet, set clear expectations as to the aesthetics of the space, and how long you want the carpet to last. If you notice your carpet is wearing faster than anticipated, this suggests you've selected a carpet that's not suited to your specific environment - which is a critical point to discuss with your flooring dealer or manufacturer when you decide to replace your carpet.

While various carpet types wear differently, and projected lifecycles range from 5-12 years, this provides a benchmark to work from when planning and budgeting to replace commercial carpet.

how to choose carpet tiles that last [free whitepaper]

Mike Brown

Written by Mike Brown