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A Simple Guide to Carpet Tiles

Posted on Nov 7, 2017, by Michael Eckert

Modular carpet tiles are an increasingly popular flooring choice, thanks to their durability, ease of installation, and design flexibility. But not all carpet tiles are created equal. To help you select the best carpet tiles for your flooring project, we're looking at some of the key traits of different carpet tiles, and how they affect the design and longevity of your carpet.

Featured image: Apptio, Bellevue, Washington, USA. Design firm: JPC Architects

1) Carpet Tile Shapes

Modular carpet tiles were originally only available in squares, but now rectangular planks are becoming more popular as availability increases. The shape of your carpet tiles influences the range of patterns you can achieve through tile layouts.

With carpet squares, you can rotate tiles to mix-up the look or offset tiles and install them in a 'brick' pattern. With planks you have more options: in addition to the 'brick' layout, herringbone patterns are a popular choice, as are basketweave. Installation patterns add design flair to flooring, especially if you're using a more subtle carpet.

Whats the Difference Between Commercial Carpet Squares and Planks.jpg

2) Design Flexibility

One of the great advantages of carpet tiles is the design flexibility they provide. Tiles can be laid in different arrangements to create subtle patterning, or you can introduce accent tiles to create layouts that can't be replicated with other flooring types.

Additionally, the construction and dye process of carpet tiles enables the creation of elaborate designs and patterns. Digital dye infusion is a process where color is added directly onto finished carpet tiles, and in doing so, offers the greatest design flexibility of any technology. It becomes possible to create elaborate patterns that match from tile to tile, and vary hugely in size – from high-resolution half-inch patterns, to patterns as large as your floor plan. Each tile can be made to repeat, match from tile to tile, or even be completely unique.

Learn more about different carpet dye technologies and processes.

3) Carpet Tile Installation

There are many different installation options for commercial carpet tiles:

  • Adhesive - carpet tiles are glued-down. Some flooring adhesives release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which pose health risks and are detrimental to indoor air quality, so you should try to use certified VOC-free products wherever possible. Additionally, the type of adhesive best suited to your project will depend on subfloor moisture levels: elevated subfloor moisture can cause adhesive breakdown, resulting in loose flooring tiles.
  • Adhesive tabs, dots or tape - there are several variants of this concept, where small amounts of adhesive is used to stick tiles down, rather than using traditional adhesive. These are quite labor-intensive installation methods, as removal of the tape needs to be done manually.
  • Adhesive-free installation - some carpet tiles (such as Milliken's TractionBack products) are backed with a high-friction coating, meaning they can be installed without adhesive. This means you can save time and money on installation, and has the added benefit that carpet tiles can be lifted and re-laid in different areas, to change-up the appearance of a space.

4) Carpet Tile Backing

When it's part of the carpet that you'll rarely see, it's easy to pass over different types of carpet tile backing in your decision-making process. However, it's the single most important factor in determining the durability of your carpet tiles. There are three main types of carpet tile backing:

  • Hardback - carpet fibers are tufted into a thin layer of PVC. This provides good dimensional stability (meaning your carpet tiles remain flat and square), but offers poor moisture management. Additionally, as the backing is thin, it offers no protection to the carpet fibers, which bear all the weight of foot traffic and associated wear and tear.
  • Closed cell cushion backing - carpet fibers are tufted into a layer of padding that sits on top of a plastic backing. Closed cell cushioning helps to extend the life of carpet tiles, as the cushion absorbs some of the impact of foot traffic, instead of the carpet fibers. However, over time the efficacy of the closed cell cushioning deteriorates, as it compresses underfoot.
  • Open cell cushion backing - unlike closed cell cushioning, this type of carpet tile backing 'reinflates' after compression, meaning it offers unparalleled protection against wear and tear. Open cell cushion backing can prolong the life expectancy of carpet tiles by 40-50% compared with hardback products. It also offers a wealth of benefits including improved acoustics and moisture management.

Choosing the Best Carpet Tiles for Your Project

When it comes to selecting new carpet tiles, the most important things to consider are your priorities for the project.

If your organization only has the budget for renovations once every 10 years, then durability should be your top priority: you don't want to invest a ton of time and money into your project now, only for its appearance to drastically deteriorate after only a handful of years. Alternatively, if your organization is able to replace carpet every few years, you will want the flexibility of modular carpet tiles that can offer different patterns and designs for greater creative freedom.

Having a clear understanding of your organization's needs and priorities will help you choose carpet tiles that best fit in with your organization's practical and aesthetic requirements.

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Michael Eckert

Written by Michael Eckert