LAYING DOWN THE FACTS ABOUT MODULAR CARPETING

If you were looking at a product you hadn’t used before and the manufacturer said you simply couldn’t find a better product, you’d naturally be a little suspicious. But, if four different manufacturers all said the same thing, you just might be convinced to give that product a run for the money. Here they are:

• “Modular carpeting in K-12 facilities works well from classrooms to corridors,” says Alex Jauregui, executive vice president/general manager of Lees Squared, Kennesaw, Ga.;

• “Classrooms, administration areas, hallways and classrooms — it’ll work fine in all of those areas,” says Jaime Lanier, director of sales for colleges and universities for Interface Flooring Systems in LaGrange, Ga.;

• “I think it’ll pretty much work great for every area,” says Jeff West, vice president of marketing for Shaw in Cartersville, Ga.; and

• “I don’t think there is any area where you wouldn’t consider using a carpet tile,” says Gary Mauldin, vice president of Daltonian Flooring Inc., in Calhoun, Ga.

The reason these manufacturers are so excited about modular carpet is because it has many benefits, including style, ease of maintenance, ease of installation, low life-cycle costs and recyclability.

Style and Warmth

Style is not necessarily high on a facility manager’s list, but it’s extremely high on an interior designer’s list. Modular carpet is a stylish product that adds warmth to schools, thus reducing an institutional feel.

“Borders and accents can easily be specified to delineate different areas of a facility,” says Jauregui.“Insets can be added for borders, intriguing designs or wayfinding purposes. Patterned carpets can be more friendly via the use of carpet tiles since pattern distortion is minimized or eliminated completely.”

Ease of Maintenance

Unlike style, maintenance is high on a facility manager’s priority list. Modular carpet delivers in this category.

“Most modular carpets are solution-dyed fibers so their cleanability is very good,” says Mauldin.“You can clean them with most cleaning products, and they’ll dry right out. You can pour bleach right on them, and the color doesn’t come out.

“What we recommend is daily vacuuming. Then every one to two months, depending on traffic, wet, extract out and clean the product. Dirt and grease does not affect them. Salt does not discolor the yarn. They traditionally don’t show watermarking stains as bad as a tufted piece, either.”

Ease of Installation and Replacement

Facility managers have to love the timesavings that come with installing and replacing modular carpet. For example, you do not have to remove all the furniture from a room to install or replace modular carpet; you simply move the furniture from one end to the other. “If you’re installing 24-ft. broadloom, you have to clear the room and do a lot of prep work,” notes West.

And modular carpet is easy to remove. “If you’re using broadloom you have to pull it up, cut the carpet and pull it out, West says. “With carpet tile, you pull it up piece by piece, and it’s easy to palletize for removal.” If an area of the carpet becomes stained, burned or worn looking, all you have to do is pull up those squares and replace them, as opposed to replacing the entire area. “Most recently, with the larger-scale patterns that are available, you can install one dye lot and, two years later, you can put another dye lot right beside it,” saysWest. That’s a big advantage because it means you don’t have to keep attic stock on hand.

Low Life-Cycle Costs

Modular carpet’s ease of maintenance and ease of installation and replacement add up to low life-cycle costs. But other factors lead to this benefit, too.

For example, says Tom Keegan, vice president of Sales for Daltonian Flooring, modular carpet is generally very rugged and handles well in high-traffic areas. This is because it is produced with a heavy backing, which serves as a cushion that absorbs the wear of the face fibers and prevents their premature loss.

Yet another factor is less waste. “If you have an eight-ft. corridor, and you’re installing 12-ft. broadloom, you have four feet of waste,” says Mauldin. “With carpet tile, you may only have to cut a small portion off a small percentage of tiles to fit the same area.”

Lanier also favors modular carpet over vinyl composition tile (VCT) because of it’s ease of maintenance. “VCT is one of the least-expensive flooring products up front, and it has a perceived durability,” he says. “However, to preserve that durability, VCT has to be maintained and waxed on a regular basis. The cost of doing that is more than double what the maintenance on carpet is in one year.”

Mauldin agrees, comparing modular carpet to broadloom. “Traditionally, carpet tiles are a little more expensive than broadloom upfront because of the backing and the cutting process. But because of the heaviness of the backing and the type of construction, you get a longer wear cycle out of the carpet tile.”

Recyclability

The recyclability of modular carpet is a factor in choosing it for school installations, but it’s also complicated. First of all, for carpet tile and structured backed roll goods, a vinyl-reinforced back has been the best-performing structured back product in the industry. Manufacturers are constantly looking at existing and potential backings to create a more recyclable backing that’s also stable for long wearability. “If something can be recycled but doesn’t perform well, it’s actually no more sustainable than the product that performs well but can’t be recycled,” Lanier notes.

The next issue about recyclability is the face fiber. Nylon is the commercial fiber of choice because of its durability. There are two types: nylon 6 and nylon 6.6.

“Type 6 has the potential to be recycled back into type 6 today,” says Lanier. “When I say recycle, I mean that it can be broken down and remade. Even though it has the ability to be remade, to my knowledge no one has figured out how to recycle it as a post-consumer running line product.

“Type 6.6 still has some challenges. The nylon can be made into other types of nylon-dependent products like park benches, but it doesn’t have the ability to go back into carpet.”

Lanier says the goal is to accomplish more post-consumer recycling. “Some mills are able to do that, but it’s a reuse of the fiber, not an actual breaking down into a polymeric resin.”

“There’s a lot of confusion on what recyclability means,” says Lanier. “For example, there are some manufacturers — in fact we’re one of them — that have the ability to give a 100-percent recycled backing. However, it’s only a part of the material that has been made from 100-percent recycled content, so it’s deceiving. The question that must be asked is: What percentage by weight is your product usingrecyclable materials?”

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