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What to Look for in Self-Adhesive Carpet Tiles

Posted on Feb 22, 2018, by Michael Eckert

If you're looking to cut-out the hassle of traditional flooring adhesives, it's time to turn to self-adhesive carpet tiles. From sticky backings to friction-based coatings, we're sharing the pros and cons of self-adhesive carpet tiles - and seeing how they stack-up compared to conventional adhesives.

1) Traditional Adhesive

Most flooring installations use specialised adhesives to keep carpet firmly in place, typically applied by either rolling or spraying the adhesive directly onto the subfloor. The adhesive is then allowed to "dry", until it's tacky and ready to accept flooring.

When applied according to the manufacturer's guidelines, flooring adhesives offer a tough, durable bond - but problems arise when those installation guidelines are unrealistic, or difficult to follow. Many modern adhesives are also water-based, which - while solving the health problems posed by solvent-based adhesives - makes them liable to break-down and lose adhesion in high moisture environments.

Pros of Traditional Adhesives

  • Offers a strong, reliable bond.
  • Specialised high-moisture adhesives can secure flooring in challenging environments.
  • Requires extra time to spread the adhesive and allow it to dry.

Cons of Traditional Adhesives

  • Application incurs additional time and labor costs.
  • Can contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are detrimental to indoor air quality.
  • Often require expensive floor prep to reduce risk of chemical incompatibility.

2) Adhesive Tape, Dots and Tabs

As an alternative solution to the problems posed by traditional adhesives, some manufacturers have created self-adhesive carpet tiles that rely on a combination of sticky tape, tabs or dots. Instead of applying adhesive directly to the subfloor, it's the carpet's backing, or additional adhesive tabs, that do the job of sticking carpet in place.

The major downside of this approach is its time and labor cost: each piece of adhesive backing or tape needs to be peeled off and stuck down, often amounting to thousands of individual pieces of adhesive that need to be laboriously installed - generating a lot of excess waste in the process.


  • Doesn't require the use of additional adhesives.


  • Applying thousands of adhesive tape/dots necessitates high time and labor costs.
  • High waste can result from peeling off protective backings.
  • Many adhesive tapes will still fail in high-moisture environments.

3) High-friction Coatings

High-friction backing systems offer a third approach to the problem of flooring adhesion. Instead of relying on additional chemicals, or a peel-off backing system, carpet tiles are held in place by a specialized high-friction coating, allowing each carpet tile to adhere to the floor on its own accord.

This approach offers a solid, secure bond, without the need for hours of laborious floor prep. Better yet, by relying on friction instead of chemical adhesion, it's possible to spot-replace any carpet tiles that need cleaning or replacement - it's as easy as vertically lifting an individual tile, and reapplying without the need for extra adhesives. This makes it a perfect fit for busy office environments that want to minimize disruption to their employees.


  • Can tackle high moisture environments without any additional expenditure.
  • Ready to install, out of the box.
  • Bio-based coating helps to improve indoor air quality.
  • Little-to-no need to prime and seal the subfloor.
  • Easy to re-lift and re-lay when required.


  • Not all flooring products are available with high-friction coatings.

Choosing Self-Adhesive Carpet

Self-adhesive carpet tiles are a great solution to many of the problems associated with traditional adhesives, offering improved indoor air quality, significantly lower installation costs, and easier maintenance and replacement.

For many companies, adhesive dots and tabs are a viable option - but from our experience across thousands of projects, it's hard to beat friction-based coatings. If you'd like to learn more about Milliken's approach to self-adhesive carpet, visit the Tractionback page to learn more.

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Michael Eckert

Written by Michael Eckert