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The 7-Step Checklist for Installing Office Carpet

Posted on Jul 26, 2017, by Michael Eckert

Carpet installation can take up a significant percentage of your flooring budget - especially if removing existing flooring reveals unexpected problems, or you run into complications during the project. To help streamline your carpet installation, we've compiled a list of seven things to check - and why they're so important.

Featured image: Confidential, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. Design firm: Eppstein Uhen Architects.

Carpet Selection

The floor covering you select has a domino effect on the installation process. Different types of carpet have particular installation requirements.

1) Broadloom or modular carpet?

Broadloom carpet has different installation requirements than modular carpet tiles. For broadloom, you're installing one large piece of carpet, and need to carpet the whole space at once. Modular carpet can be installed in stages. Modular carpet is also easier to install in and around existing floor covering. Instead of completely clearing the room, simply lift furniture off the floor and install tiles directly underneath to minimize office downtime.

2) Carpet tile backing

If you've selected modular carpet tiles, it is crucial to understand the differences between tile backings, as this sets the installation requirements:

  • PVC-backed carpet tiles require extensive floor preparation. All traces of leftover adhesive must be removed to prevent chemical incompatibility between new flooring and the subfloor.
  • Thermoplastic backings don't have the same issue with chemical incompatibility. However, they also require extensive floor prep, as they're very thin and prone to telegraphing, or revealing lumps and bumps left on the subfloor.
  • Cushion-backed carpet tiles are also chemically non-reactive. However, they are thicker than thermoplastic tiles, so are able to disguise slight flaws in the subfloor - meaning you may not require a skim coating as standard. Additionally, Milliken's open cell cushion-backed carpet tiles offer the unique benefit of wicking away moisture vapor. This addresses the root cause of mold, mildew and moisture concerns, without the need for extensive moisture testing or moisture mitigation processes.

Subfloor

Removing old carpet can reveal unwanted surprises - you never know the condition of the subfloor until the old flooring is taken out. Here are three things to prioritize to ensure your subfloor is in a fit state to install new flooring.

3) Clean and dust-free

One of the most common stipulations from flooring manufacturers is that their flooring needs to be installed onto a clean surface. You should always check the manufacturer's warranty and installation guidelines for their exact specification. The strictest requirements may call for a dust-free surface, which is near impossible to achieve during a renovation or new construction project.

Instead, look for warranties and specification documents that take a more realistic approach: a dust-free construction site is impossible, but it is manageable to sweep the floor so that it is clear of dust and debris. 

4) No visible damage

Removing old flooring may reveal cracks or holes in the concrete subfloor. If so, these will require repairing before you can proceed with installing new flooring.

Another type of visible damage is mold; removing your carpet may bring a mold problem to light. Mold is expensive, difficult and time-consuming to remove, and unless the root cause is addressed, it is liable to return.

Mold under carpet suggests there are high moisture levels in the concrete subfloor slab, and it's crucial that you mitigate the moisture issues before installing new flooring. Fortunately, some flooring solutions can actually manage moisture vapor - the root cause of moisture issues - and so can be used as a moisture mitigation solution.

5) Smooth surface

A smooth subfloor is essential for ensuring no lumps and bumps are visible through new flooring. Smoothing out the subfloor can require a lot of work: manually grinding away residual adhesive and knocking back any lumps and bumps.

Many flooring installers apply a skim coating to the subfloor as standard, to ensure it's smooth and level. However, some types of flooring are better at disguising surface irregularities than others: as cushion-backed carpet tiles are much thicker, they're more able to absorb and disguise unevenness.

Moisture Mitigation

Changes in construction processes and materials mean that it's increasingly common for projects to experience moisture-related problems - even in existing buildings that have never had an issue with moisture before. Therefore, it's important to consider moisture mitigation as part of installing new carpet.

6) Do you need to carry out moisture testing?

Many flooring manufacturers require moisture testing before installing new flooring, to validate their flooring warranty. While sensible in thought, moisture testing provides only a snapshot of subfloor moisture levels at that time and in that exact place. Moisture conditions can fluctuate over time and across the installation site - especially if your moisture barrier is compromised.

If your flooring manufacturer requires moisture testing, you must ensure it's carried out. However, you may be better served to select flooring from a manufacturer that doesn't require it, as some flooring naturally mitigates the risk of moisture-related issues.

7) What moisture mitigation is actually required?

Many flooring installers specify moisture mitigation processes as a standard. This can be very time-consuming, and in some cases, an entirely unnecessary cost. For example, if you've selected moisture vapor wicking modular carpet, which removes the root cause of subfloor moisture problems, then spending $54/square yard for a two-part epoxy (the most common and reliable moisture mitigation process) is an unnecessary expense.

how to prevent the 11 root causes of flooring failure

Michael Eckert

Written by Michael Eckert