Carpets: Fitting them, Cleaning them and Repairing them!

When decorating your new property, there are few decisions as important as choosing the right carpet.

A new carpet can revamp an entire room in a house or office. Although often under appreciated, carpet is the most visible and hard working part of any household furnishing.

Carpet is also important to consider if you have young children who will spend time crawling or playing on the floor as it is warmer, softer, and easier on their knees than hardwood flooring.

Fitting a carpet can also save you money on heating bills as it will insulate your floor, and in general, buying a carpet and getting it installed is much less expensive than other flooring types such as hardwood or tiled floors.

Why do I need a professional?

Fitting a carpet may seem like a straightforward job but a poorly laid carpet will look bad, be more susceptible to damage, snagging, wear and tear and worst of all it will decrease the life expectancy of it. That's why it is important to hire professional carpet fitters who know what they are doing.

How do I find someone?

The National Institute of Carpet and Floor Layers is an organisation that has approved members on their website with contact phone numbers and web addresses.

Some companies such as CarpetRite and John Lewis can also provide fitting if you buy carpets from them directly. John Lewis do not sell carpets on line so check the website for your nearest store.

What do I need to ask before I hire someone?

When hiring a carpet fitter it is important to find out whether the price they have quoted you includes:

  • All subfloor preparation
  • All installation costs
  • Removal of existing flooring
  • Moving of existing furniture and appliances (if needed)
  • All necessary materials for installation
  • Insurance for installation errors.

You should also find out if the installers are independent or contracted to the store where you bought your carpet. Be sure to get all quotes in writing, including the amount needed, and a rough diagram of how they will install the floor and where all seams will fall.

It is also worth deciding with a fitter before hire who is responsible for removing toilets, portable dishwashers and any other room fixtures. And always get all product information in writing, including the manufacturer's name, product name, style, colour, and how the product will be installed.

How do I choose a style of carpet that is right for my property?

Choosing a type of carpet is an important decision as errors can be costly and time consuming to correct. Before making any decisions, visit several shops in your area and take home samples which you can place in the room to see how they match existing furnishings such as curtains, sofas and beds.

Make a note about how much natural sunlight enters the room as this will fade bright colours, and whether you have any sliding patio doors to a garden, which will bring mud or outdoor materials onto the carpet.

Also check what is under the existing flooring as this may affect the type of carpet that can be laid on your floor. Another top tip is to remember to look at the flooring in the rooms adjacent to the room you are about to carpet. The floors in these rooms may clash with your new carpet and disrupt the continuity of the house.

It’s also important to consider factors such as the amount of human traffic the room gets per day. If the carpet is for somewhere like a hall or stairs then it is worth getting a hard wearing pile. More luxurious and soft wearing carpets are suitable for bedrooms or other less busy rooms.

Also take into account when choosing your colour that light colours will show up stains much more than dark or textured carpet. This is especially important if the room will be frequented by kids or pets.

What kinds of carpets are there?

There are five basic types of carpets, and these types come in several colours, patterns and textures, so there is a lot of choice. The basic choices, however, are as follows:

Twist

Twist is a cut pile carpet made of twisted fibres. It doesn't fluff or show footmarks and it's hard wearing nature makes it ideal for hallways, stairs or main rooms.

Velvet

Velvet is a softer and smoother version of the traditional cut pile carpet. This type of carpet looks good in more formal rooms, but it can show areas of light and dark shading easily.

Loop & cord

Loop & cord carpets comprise uncut loops of fibres for a highly textured finish. They have a rugged appearance and can look especially good in hallways or on stairs

Pattern & graphic

Pattern & graphic carpets are hard wearing, traditionally woven, carpets that keep their appearance for many years.

Berber

Berber carpets are made with a random blend of coloured yarns to give a textured look. The fitted carpet can sometimes have a slightly striped appearance, which isn't always evident in a display sample.

Most carpet shops will also grade these types of carpets according to their durability. For example UK retailer John Lewis has five grades of carpeting, which will help you decide what’s best for you.

  • Grade 1 is for very heavy use, ideal for offices or contract work
  • Grade 2 is for heavy use, good for living room, halls, stairs or landings
  • Grade 3 is for lighter use, in bedrooms or rooms not in constant use
  • Grade 4 is for light use, such as in bedrooms or bathrooms
  • Grade 5 is for very light use, for a luxurious feel in a bedroom

What do I need to do before the carpet arrives?

Installation need not cause a headache. A hassle free installation is virtually guaranteed if you take a few minutes to survey the room properly before the carpet arrives.

Questions you should ask yourself are: Are there any access problems for the fitter? Are there awkward angles or uneven surfaces that I should advise? Does any heavy furniture needs to be professionally moved? Is there a grand piano or long case clock? Do the bottoms of the doors need to be shaved to accommodate the new thickness of the carpet?

How is carpet fitting done?

Before a job gets under way, the fitter will draw up a plan that makes the most efficient use of materials. Each job depends on the size and shape of each room and the type of floor covering required, but most jobs will involve:

  • Clearing the work area of furniture and sometimes removing doors.
  • Removing old carpet or flooring.
  • Preparing the surface by cleaning, levelling and sealing with compound if required.
  • Cutting and fitting underlay where required.
  • Fixing flooring materials by one of several methods such as stretching over spiked grippers, stitching, taping, heat-sealing or gluing.
  • Once fitted, the floor covering may be sprayed with a protective coating, then furniture is put back into place and doors re-hung.

Fitters may complete several jobs a day and usually work in a team of two or three people. Before the fitter leaves your property, however, be sure to ask for any pieces of spare carpet. These can be stored in an attic and will come in handy if you need any repairs or to cover stains in the future.

What if I need my existing carpet cleaned?

If you have moved into a new property and don’t want to buy a new carpet but the existing one is rather dingy, one economical option is to get the carpet professionally cleaned. It will look better, feel better, and add years to the life of the carpet.

Equally if you are selling your property it can add hundreds of pounds to your home’s value by creating a brighter, cleaner and more attractive appearance to each carpeted room, and will also rid the room of any smells or unsightly stains trapped in the carpet.

Getting your carpet professionally cleaned can be good for your families health as it will ease allergies and remove bugs. Another benefit is that a regularly cleaned carpet will ward off any growth of mold and mildew in older carpets which will save you a packet in the future.

Why do I need a professional?

Carpet experts liken using DIY carpet cleaning products to leaving the shampoo in your hair after washing. The risk is that people who try to do it themselves do not rinse all of the soap out and this eventually damages the fibres of the carpet.

Professional carpet cleaning use powerful hot water extraction that goes beyond the carpet, cleaning the backing and padding for a more comprehensive clean-up.

How do I find someone?

The National Carpet Cleaners Association is the only independent UK trade body dedicated to cleaning carpet and upholstery. They have a directory of approved members on their website.

Remember though many carpet cleaning companies charge by the square foot and prices will vary from one company to another so shop around to get the best price for you.

How is it done?

The majority of professional carpet cleaners use a self contained truck mounted system. This system contains two large water tanks, one containing clean water and the other containing recovered water.

Powerful air pressure forces the water through the pipes to the hand held wand which creates steam at a temperature in excess of 190 degrees.

The steam is then infused into the carpet via the carpet cleaning wand the cleaning process is aided by the introduction of carpet cleaning chemicals either manually or automatically via the truck mounted system.

Any excess water is returned to the recovery tank courtesy of the powerful vacuum suction the system generates. The more flushing action that occurs, the cleaner the carpet will become.

What if my carpet is damaged?

The most common problem with carpets is staining. The best advice is immediately following a spill, remove any semi-solid material with a rounded spoon. Place a clean, white absorbent material such as paper towels or a kitchen towel over the spot and press to draw the liquid away from the carpet fibers. The idea is to blot, not to scrub.

As soon as towels are wet, replace with dry ones and continue. Then place dry ones on the spot and weigh them down with a heavy object. Again, replace them when they grow wet. If the stain persists, it may be necessary to call a professional carpet cleaner (see above).

Other carpet damage

Some carpet damage can be dealt with without calling for the professionals but bigger jobs will need a practiced hand to ensure the safety of your carpet. Companies such as London Carpet Repairs specialise in carpet repairs but most ordinary carpet installers are relatively affordable to hire for just small jobs.

What can I do myself?

Carpet dents

Heavy furniture can leave indentations in carpet. In this case prevention is better than cure. Try to put furniture glides or cups under the furniture legs, or occasionally move your furniture a couple of inches to give your carpet a break. When areas have become crushed, use a coin to work the carpet pile back upright, then hold a steam iron not more than 4 inches above the spot - don't actually touch the carpet - until the iron warms the fibres.

Carpet fading

Once carpet has faded, there is no way to revive the colour. So protect it from damage by the sun's ultraviolet light with the help of shades or other window coverings. Or utilize window glazing or films that reduce ultraviolet rays.

Sprouting tufts

If a tuft rises above the rest of the carpet pile, do not pull it out - just snip it off flush with the surface.

When do I need a professional?

Carpet snags

A snag occurs when a loop is pulled out of a loop&cord carpet. It is a relatively easy job for a professional but can cause nightmares for an amateur to restitch it in.

Split seams and tears

For tears or problems with seams in wall-to-wall carpeting, it's a must to contact a professional carpet installer. To do the work properly, you must release the tension of the carpet, a job that requires a few special carpet installation tools and a experience in working with carpeting.

Carpet rippling

If your wall-to-wall carpet suddenly appears to be rippled, it's probably because of high humidity. Normally, this problem disappears on its own when the weather becomes drier. If it doesn't, have a carpet installer re-stretch your carpet.

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