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How to Install Carpet Tiles, Simply

Posted on Feb 22, 2017, by Mike Brown

Installing carpet tiles can be a long, laborious process - but it doesn't have to be. Today, I'm sharing tips for quick and easy modular carpet installation, for both new build and renovation projects.

Featured image: SABMiller, Bogotá, CUNDINAMARCA, Colombia. Design firm: Grupo Dossarq Architects

1) Leave the Old Adhesive Where It Is

In renovation projects, residual adhesive can be a serious nuisance.

Many carpet tiles have a PVC backing, which can react with the adhesive left from the previous install and cause a problem called plasticizer migration. In practice, this means that your newly installed floor can quickly turn into a mess of loose carpet tiles and ruined adhesive.

Plasticizer migration can be overcome by choosing modular carpets with a thermoplastic backing, but even then, residual adhesive can still cause damage. Leftover adhesive creates an uneven subfloor, and if hard-backed carpet tiles are chosen, including thermoplastic, this can result in telegraphing, with unsightly lumps and bumps visible through the carpet.

Traditionally, this is solved by either grinding away the subfloor or encapsulating it in a non-reactive layer - both labor-intensive processes that can easily cost up to $6 per square yard.

Thankfully, every issue caused by residual adhesive can be solved by specifying the right type of carpet: open-cell cushion backed carpet. Open-cell cushioning is both non-reactive and capable of absorbing the lumps and bumps caused by old adhesive, ensuring a quick, easy and attractive install.

2) Ditch Complex Moisture Testing

Measuring moisture is easier said than done, and most of the common tests have serious flaws.

  • The Anhydrous Calcium Chloride test is difficult to perform and only measures surface emissions of water vapor - not subfloor levels of moisture.
  • Relative Humidity testing is more accurate, but still only offers a localized look at water levels during one period of time.

Most carpet tile products require this moisture testing or else specify the use of floor sealants, which are also themselves costly and labor-intensive. These sealants trap moisture in the subfloor, masking the problem without ever solving the root cause.

Fortunately, it's possible to completely eliminate the need for moisture testing. If installed on- or above-grade, Milliken's open cell cushion-backed carpet tiles can be safely installed directly onto a concrete subfloor as soon as 90 days after a new pour - no testing required. In the case of renovation projects, the same can be said of above-grade installations; and for on-grade installs, the addition of specialized Moisture Extreme adhesive means that Milliken modular carpet can be installed without moisture testing.

3) Streamline Your Moisture Management

This type of easy installation is possible because of the simple and effective way open cell cushion backing deals with subfloor moisture.

Most moisture mitigation solutions either trap water vapor below the subfloor, as do sealants and hard-backed carpet tiles, or try to render it chemically inactive, such as concrete admixtures. However, both approaches make it harder to install modular carpet.

Open cell cushion backing applies different approach, allowing water vapor to do as nature intended: evaporate away before it ever becomes damaging liquid water. Milliken carpet tiles have a moisture wicking action, which allows water vapor from the subfloor to evaporate away at the seams of the carpet tile. This solves the root cause of moisture problems, and in the process, dramatically streamlines the carpet installation process.

4) Protect Your Install with a Simple Warranty

Carpet warranties are vital for protecting your floor - but many are laden with caveats and get-out clauses.

Is your installation site too dusty? Did you overlook part of the manufacturer's convoluted moisture testing process? Did you combine two incompatible moisture mitigation solutions? Any of these problems can void your flooring warranty, so it's essential to look for a clear and comprehensive warranty scheme. As well as protecting your investment, you'll have far fewer hoops to jump through during the installation process.

how to choose carpet tiles that last [free whitepaper]

Mike Brown

Written by Mike Brown