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Sun and UV damage

by Lew Migliore

Sun light and the ultraviolet (UV) light that occurs with it can be very damaging to flooring materials. UV light doesn’t just come from the sun, it is also emitted from florescent ceiling lighting.

The constant bombardment on a daily basis from the sun and UV light can fade flooring materials, dry them out, cause them to warp, crack, decompose, degrade and literally burn up. Even if there is a UV inhibitor in the flooring material or on the windows, nature will prevail over the long run.

Sun and UV light will have more damaging effect to the flooring material from direct exposure. For example, in front of a sliding glass door or at the base of floor to ceiling windows the sun will be most intense and will cause the greatest amount of damage.

As for the effect on color, red is the most influenced and will have the least resistance to sun and UV unless, relative to carpet, it is dyed with automotive type dyes, or protective coverings are on windows. If there is no UV inhibitor in the carpet fiber, which occasionally can happen, sunlight will actually cause the fiber to completely decompose—almost to a dust.

A dealer contacted us regarding damage to carpet at a customer’s home and asked if I would take a look at photos included in his email to help him determine what had affected the damaged broadloom. He stated he’d never seen carpet get threadbare at a sliding glass door—fading yes, but never loss of fiber.

He further stated the carpet is about 15 years old, nylon, and short pile, and added the consumer has no dogs or cats that would have caused this damage. This condition is only occurring in front of the sliding glass doors. The exposure is westerly and receives lots of sun. Westerly and southwest exposures are most susceptible to sun damage and the closer to the equator, or further south in the U.S., the greater the chance of sun and UV damage through windows.

The damage to the carpet in this case is being caused by UV degradation from the sun. The exposure to the sun will actually “bake” the fiber, brittle it and cause it to decompose. After years of being bombarded by sunlight the carpet fiber will succumb to the influence and break down.

Direct sunlight coming through sliding glass doors will also damage vinyl flooring over time. The vinyl will look like it has been burned. In this case, it was suggested the dealer install a stone accent of some kind to protect the new carpet from future damage. This would also act as a design element and further protect this critical area from soil and wear.

With no protection for the flooring material, over time, the sun wins. Wood flooring can dry out, crack and warp with intense exposure to sunlight and other types of hard surface flooring can brittle, curl at the edge and change color.

One should not get the impression the flooring material is defective in any way as it is only reacting to a damaging influence. Sun and UV damage will normally take time and the change created will be gradual. In these types of cases you need to look outside the space for the answer as to why the flooring material has undergone physical or color change.

A photo of the damage to the carpet from the sun in the stated case is shown so you can see what this looks like. If you have questions or need help on a flooring or substrate issue of any kind, contact us.