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Claims file: Who sets the standard?

by Lew Migliore

A dealer and former installer for 21 years recently wrote to me about testing standards. He felt 3-pound standards for a tuft test were absurd. “That is so low there might as well not be a test,” he said.

There are a number of ASTM tests for the structural integrity of carpet, including tuft bind, laminate strength, breaking load (relative to stretch in) and dimensional stability. Other tests for pile height, twist, stitch rate, gauge, weight, yarn content, colorfastness and more serve as checks and balances to ensure carpet lives up to its specifications.

Our dealer went on to ask who sets the standards. There are actually two tuft bind standards. Three pounds is for cut pile carpet and 6.25 pounds is for loop pile carpet. These are minimums carpet should meet, though space does not allow us to specify the details.

He also asked what is considered a high standard; we have to look at two types of carpet for the answer. Residential carpet is constructed to the following minimum standards: 3 pounds of tuft bind for cut pile, 6.25 pounds for loop pile and 2.5 pounds for backing laminate strength. Commercial carpet has to meet the same requirements but is often modified to increase tuft bind to exceed 10 pounds and laminate strengths to exceed 4 pounds. Very often commercial carpet will exceed the minimums but there is nothing mandating they go beyond meeting the greater physical strength specification.

Let’s compare this to automobile and truck tires. All styles of automobiles require tires meeting certain ratings, as will all 10-wheel dump trucks. But you can’t use car tires on a dump truck just as you can’t use cut pile residential carpet in an airport. In essence, where the carpet is used and the category of use will dictate the construction criteria. Three pounds of tuft bind for a cut pile carpet is actually pretty strong, and if you try to pull a single tuft from the middle of a cut pile carpet it is going to offer some stiff resistance. The numbers really aren’t low as the dealer suggests.

Who sets the standards?

Industry participants, including manufacturers do that, especially for ASTM standards. Manufacturers don’t want their carpet falling apart on the floor, and if there is a defect it is because someone caused the problem. No manufacturer intentionally produces defective products and if they do, the defect can be traced back to the origin.

This brings me to the next point: There is a product for every application. If you buy an inexpensive flooring product for a high performance area it’s going to fail because the product is incapable of doing what the end user expects. Just like cheap tires, you can put them on your car but don’t expect them to perform like an expensive Michelin. What we find most often is expectations are greater than the product is capable of delivering.

The reason for this is ignorance on the part of the people selling the product or a builder using a cheap product in an expensive house, because they don’t understand the products. Just because the house or condominium is expensive doesn’t mean the flooring is.

All industries set their product standards and why not? Who else knows the products better? There are no conspiracies with this. They make a product for every application and use. You have to know which to use and why.