Are you buying new carpet for your home or building a new home with carpet? If so you really should read this!

It has been almost 20 years since I’ve had to deal with carpet and carpet companies.  So much has changed in that time it is completely unbelievable!On top of all the technological advances in new carpets a whole lot of other changes have occurred in the carpet industry and unfortunately most of those are not good for the consumer!  In this post we won’t discuss the technological changes as that can take volumes.  Instead we will touch on the other changes and how to protect yourself.  This is a long post for something that should be so simple as picking out and having carpet installed.  But any more today nothing is as simple as it seems!  You’re getting ready to pay A LOT for new carpet but you need to know you will get ripped off if you are not careful.

Each aspect of buying new carpet will be broken down here and I will provide my insight from my very recent experience with trying to buy new carpeting for the home without getting ripped off.

Technical Details Of Carpet And Various Guides

All carpets are not made equal and there are vast differences in them.  The higher the price IS NOT an indicator of a better quality carpet.  It is very easy to get ripped off without knowing a little about carpet.  These are some very good links to help learn a little about carpets and well worth reading through.

The Carpet Captain

The Carpet Professor

Carpet Installation Standards And Requirements

Just like any other industry the carpet industry does have standards for the installation of carpet.  On top of manufacturer installation requirements the Carpet And Rug Institute (CRI) represents the manufacturers and has created CRI 105 which are the carpet installation standards for residential carpets.  You should download this and take a gander at those parts applicable to your carpet type.  By the way while on the CRI site look at the “About” page and you will see that the Board of Directors is comprised of representatives from all the major manufacturers!

Just like any other industry many of the carpet industry participants don’t bother to follow the CRI standard and many don’t even follow the manufacturer’s installation requirements!  This is very important to know since most if not all manufacturer warranties (more later) can be voided if the carpet is not properly installed.  Also most if not all of the carpet manufacturers specify in addition to their requirements that the requirements of CRI 105 be followed.

So far what I have found as the biggest failures to follow manufacturer and CRI requirements are the following.  Since carpet manufacturers generally do not place their installation requirements on their WEB site, and getting them to provide you the installation requirements are like pulling teeth, we will use references from CRI 105 since these also are in the carpet manufacturers’ installation requirements.

  • CRI 105, Section 10 Carpet Seaming – Where two pieces of carpet are joined the edges are to be sealed and this is not the typical tape that is used to hold the carpet together.  This is actual sealer that is applied to the edge of the carpet to help ensure that the edge does not unravel.
  • CRI 105, Section 5.4 Transitions To Other Surfaces – Where carpet is against another flooring material, such as tile or wood floors, either a protective transition strip is suppose to be installed or the edge of the carpet is required to have a seam sealer applied to the entire carpet edge at this point (same as the seams sealer just described).  These are typically high traffic areas and a failure to protect the carpet edge can result in the edge being easily damaged and unraveling at that point.

These are only two of the shortcuts used to save time and  money!  There is a phrase that states “Time is money” and your installers want to finish and move to the next job.  Even though these seam sealing materials are fast drying and not really that expensive if the installer can shave off even a little money and time by not following the standards then this all adds up with the more jobs they can complete as quickly as possible.  Of course you the consumer are the ones that will suffer from their failures to follow the carpet manufacturers’ and CRI installation standards!  More on that later.

Carpet Manufacturers And The Games They Play

The carpet manufacturers do not sell their product to you!  Instead they sell their product directly to wholesalers and retailers including the retailers who join their “Preferred Retailer” clubs (or whatever each manufacturer calls it) and pay them fees for doing so.  Also so many manufacturers have become so big by buying out their competitors but keeping the competitors name so you think they are different manufacturers.  As a result of these there is no real incentive like past days for the carpet manufacturers to care about the consumer.  Now they own their former competitors and are more interested in satisfying the carpet wholesalers and partner stores.  Which brings us to the first game by carpet manufacturers.

Private Brand Labeling

When we started shopping for carpet we walked into a small Mom & Pop carpet store who is not one of the “Preferred Partners” of a VERY LARGE carpet manufacturer.  We found a carpet we liked and went home to research it a little more.  It was a very popular carpet model from this VERY LARGE carpet manufacturer and we easily found it on their WEB site.  Satisfied we decided to check other carpet stores to see what their prices were like and that’s when we learned about “Private Brand Labeling”.

Lo and behold we could not find the very popular named carpet we liked and asked the store owner why.  What he said blew our minds!!  He introduced us to this “Private Brand Labeling” program and explained he pays the VERY LARGE carpet manufacturer A LOT OF MONEY for the right to rename their carpet models to his own private names and had to call his Representative from the VERY LARGE carpet manufacturer to cross his private name to what the VERY LARGE carpet manufacturer model name is.

This store owner appeared to either be honest or realized he would not be able to pull the wool over our eyes and point blank stated that “Private Brand Labeling” makes it appear that he has a physically different carpet than his competitors and prevents consumers from shopping other stores to compare prices and services.  We encountered this store owner early and encountered another “Preferred Partner” of this VERY LARGE carpet manufacturer who also performs “Private Brand Labeling”.  The other store owner tried to give us a horse crap story how all of his “Private Brands” were physically different and the VERY LARGE carpet manufacturer actually manufactured a totally different carpet composition just for them.

WEB Sites With No Real Information

When you view the manufacturer site and look at their carpets I have yet to find even one that listed the very important technical aspects of carpets.  When you go into the stores very few of the stores will even mention these very important aspects.  These are technical details that you should be using when you compare even two carpet lines from the same manufacturer let alone carpets from different manufacturers.  Some of these are details such as “Face Weight” of the carpet as compared to the “Total Weight”, height of the fibers, number of twists, along with others.  Some of these characteristics make a large difference in the durability of the carpet but the manufacturers just don’t want you to know about them for obvious reasons.  Now why do you think the manufacturers don’t want you to know these things?  It is so you can not compare one carpet to another even in their own different lines.

Customer Support That’s Really Not

I had not even bought any carpet and found out just how little support manufacturers give to the consumer!  While researching carpets I wanted to know some of the technical details including installation requirements, specifications of the carpets (see above), warranty questions, and other information.  I would have an easier time trying to pull teeth from a grizzly bear than dealing with carpet manufacturer’s support groups for consumers.  I did get some information but for some very oddball reason manufactures do not want to provide information.  Instead the manufacturers try to push you back to the carpet stores to obtain answers.

Factory Representatives That Are Ghosts And Don’t Know Their Own Products

I have had the consumer support people at a VERY LARGE carpet manufacturer, as well as others, literally refuse to answer any questions and tell me to ask the store we are buying from.  The store is suppose to go to their Factory Representative to obtain any answers they can not provide.  Factory Representatives typically will not speak with you directly.

When you do get to speak with the representatives you learn many are just as clueless as the store owner!  We happened to be in a store that sold a VERY LARGE carpet manufacturer’s product and had questions regarding carpet edge sealing.  There were two, not one but two, factory representatives present and neither could agree on the actual CRI standard for edge sealing.  One of those representatives supposedly had been installing carpet and been in the business for almost 20 years and claimed that edge sealing under any circumstance is not required.  The other representative came right out and admitted they did not know what edge sealing was but did call the VERY LARGE carpet manufacturer’s technical support department who explained to them what it was and it was required.

We have had other questions whose unbelievable answers supposedly came from these field factory representatives as relayed by the store owner.  The answers were unbelievable since they follow no standard or carpet manufacturers requirements and one manufacturer’s tech support totally refuted the answers.  Quite frankly that is very sad that the supposed technical gurus in the field have no clue about any carpet standards and even what their own manufacturer requires!

Warranties From Carpet Manufacturers

Every carpet manufacturer offers some type of warranty on their carpets.  You really need to read these over very closely before you buy to make sure you can live not only with their terms but also with the very high possibility that the carpet store installers or even you may well likely void the warranty.  Carpet warranties are not there to protect you and instead are there to help carpet manufacturers prevent from paying out on warranty claims!  These are just some examples of warranty terms that can cause you grief.

Improper installations – Every carpet manufacturer will have an “Out” by stating the carpet warranty is void if it has not been properly installed.  Chances are high your warranty has immediately been voided because the vast majority of carpet installers apparently are not properly installing the carpet per manufacturer and CRI 105 requirements.  Every manufacturer I was able to get hold of point blank stated they will void the warranty if the carpet is not properly installed.

Required professional cleaning – We are clean people and have a nice, expensive steam cleaner and clean our carpets twice a year.  But every manufacturer of carpet we checked requires that you have the carpet cleaned by a professional carpet cleaning company with the average being at least every 12 – 18 months.  Oh but it gets better!  You can’t just use any cleaning company with any cleaning equipment.  No you have to use approved cleaning companies, with approved cleaning equipment, and even approved cleaning methods and materials.  Well that narrows down your field to the more expensive cleaning companies of course!  Also don’t forget that they have to clean the entire carpet which means if you have a claim under that heavy furniture the carpet cleaning company did not move for cleaning then your warranty is void.  Of course moving furniture costs much more to clean your carpet.  You had better keep that cleaning receipt from the first to last cleaning and it better detail what equipment and methods were used since YOU will have to prove it was properly cleaned.  I have also been told by actual carpet stores that if you have a claim the manufacturer will most likely test your carpet to see if any unapproved cleaners were used.  If so the claim is now void.

Regular vacuuming – Any clean person will be vacuuming there carpet on a regular basis.  Oh but it does get better!  The VERY Large carpet manufacturer not only specifies regular vacuuming but also specifies specific vacuums that can be used to maintain your warranty.  I checked my very nice, expensive, and very well performing vacuum and Gee Whiz wouldn’t you know it my vacuum is not on the “A” list of approved vacuums.  When viewed the “A” list of approved vacuum cleaners contained at least 50% of approved models being industrial type vacuums no homeowner would own.  Also out of the numerous vacuum cleaner brands listed I only recognized one brand name!

Also with the manufacturer warranties are the intentionally confusing wording they place in them.  One of their favorites is the use of the word “abuse” and not defining it.  One manufacturer explained their stain warranty and did explain verbally, not in writing, that if you make multiple stain claims they would consider it as “abuse” regardless how those stains occurred.  So in other words as explained to me you only have one or two stain claim chances before they will refuse the remaining claims.

I’ve had carpet stores try to tell me “Oh don’t worry about that “XXX” provision in manufacturer warranties since the manufacturers won’t really check for that.”.  If you hear this you should walk out of their store and place them on your “Do not do business with” list!  During our search we actually had three “Preferred Partners” of a VERY LARGE carpet manufacturer come out and tell us, without us even asking or prompting, that the VERY LARGE manufacturer is known for poor warranty support and they will look for installation issues not even related to the claim to help void any warranty claim.  The fact is the manufacturer warranties are there to help the manufacturer prevent from paying out on claims and it does not matter what someone says but instead what is in writing.  When you buy your carpet you will implicitly agree to the written warranty so check them out closely!

Carpet Stores And The Games They Play

Once you’ve found the carpet you want, researched the specifications, and made the choice it’s time to play the store games.  You may well find an actual honest carpet store but in our experiences so far that has been an elusive thing!

Get It In Writing

First and most important is no matter what you are told by the carpet store GET IT IN WRITING!!  I have been told so many fantastic claims but once you ask them to place it in writing the dishonest store owner/sales person will definitely start walking back on their claims.  For example with only one exception we have been told about the store installation warranty “But don’t worry about it.  We want you to be happy and want it to be right.  If you ever run into a problem call us and we’ll take care of it even if the one year warranty is over.  We have clients call us years later and we take care of our clients!”.  Well if you’re so great and so caring about your clients then why don’t you warrant the work for the same length of time the manufacturer warrants the carpet and put that in writing?  I’ll tell you why and the only thing that matters is what you have in writing!  Thirteen months down the road when that installation error rears its ugly head that would require an expensive repair or even replacement, and your installation warranty period is over, you can bet they don’t want to lose that kind of money to correct the problem and will fall back to their one year warranty claim!

Get A Detailed Estimate/Contract

Most carpet stores seem to use their written estimate paper as the installation contract as well.  Never sign any paper until you are ready to decide to use their service and provide them the down payment.  Make sure the estimate/contract is complete, make sure that any verbal promises are in writing, and make sure you understand every sentence on the contract!  The estimate/contract should include the following separate line entries.  You will not see many of these on the estimate/contract since they detail what you are getting and leave no questions or gray areas for carpet stores to finagle with!  I will keep this as short as possible and say that we have actually had problems with every one of these items on various estimates/contracts, and verbal promises, from various stores.

  • The carpet manufacturers name, carpet model and sub-model as well as color, pattern, etc.  There will be absolutely no mistaken what you wanted and what they should order.
  • The specific manufacturer, make, model, and weight of carpet padding that will be used.  DO NOT allow the store to just use a generic wording of “5 Lb. Pad” or some other generic wording.  There is a vast differences in quality and price from a cheap 5 Lb. pad and a good quality one.  This is a popular place for carpet stores to shave off costs and try beating the other stores estimates.
  • The total square yardage or square feet of carpet the store has measured your home for.  How can you compare prices with another store if you don’t know how much carpet is estimated as needed?  Also when comparing estimates if the amount of carpet is varying between estimates then something isn’t right and you need to check that as well!
  •  A statement that the carpet store is responsible for removing and disposing of all old carpet, padding, and any other materials removed.  If there is a fee for this it should be listed on the estimate.  It is expensive to haul away old carpet and padding and a significant pain to do!
  • If you have any transition points to tile, wood floors, etc., a specific statement listing that either transition strips will be added and what type, or that carpet edges will be sealed at these points.
  • A diagram of the rooms to be carpeted should be provided along with the locations of any seams, how the carpet pile lay will be placed, and for rooms larger than 12′ wide (standard carpet roll width) which side of the room the full 12′ wide roll will be placed and which side the cut roll will be placed.  Carpet installers are almost always sub-contractors to the carpet store.  Without a diagram for them to follow you never know if they will be placing it as you wanted and agreed to.
  • A statement as to whether the installers will be moving any furniture, what furniture they will remove, and under what conditions.  Some stores have a “Preparing for the carpet” sheet that explains this.  Make sure this is referenced on your estimate and a copy attached.
  • Either a separate line item for the cost of the labor or wording indicating that labor is included in the total price.
  • Indicate on the contract which installation team they will be using.  I’ll touch more on that later.
  • Have the company indicated on the contract they will install the carpet in a specific time frame.  Once you sign that contract it is an open ended contract with no expected completion date.  If the carpet store wanted they can delay your job forever to service other clients or from what we are experiencing even nefarious reasons!  You will have little recourse while they hold your HUGE deposit.
  • Carpet stores WILL try to re-use old tack strips or other items such as edge transition materials.  If there is a problem with them and they have to replace them this might be an additional charge.  In the estimate have them at least write the cost to do this as a side note, even if not added into the full estimate, so you can plan for worst case scenario.  Also you don’t want the price to be changed on you to a higher price in the middle of a job!
  • A statement indicating what they will do to prepare the floor after the old carpet and padding is removed.  Will they only broom sweep the floor?  Will they be vacuuming under baseboards?  Will they be scraping the floor to remove all the old padding glue, pieces of padding, old wall texture or other junk left under the old carpet?
  • Specific needed floor repairs are rarely known until old carpet is pulled up and the defects seen.  For example cracks of significance in concrete slab floors or damaged wood sub-floor materials.  Carpet can go over a wide variety of floor conditions but the carpet company may want to balk that these defects can cause carpet issues.  They like to hide these in their contract wording under terms such as “deviations from above specifications” or “alterations required”.  These will result in “extra fees” and is a great way to really gouge you!  Any good carpet company that has been around the block already has a list of these conditions and already priced them out “per Sq. Ft.”, “per lineal feet”, etc.  Make sure you obtain a list of these as an addendum to the estimate/contract with it noted on the estimate/contract.  Remember once they pull your old carpet up your stuck!  If “deviations from the above specifications” are called for at last you can prevent them from taking a typical $5.00/Sq. Ft. repair and turning it into a $25.00/Sq. Ft. repair quote if they think they can get it from you!!
  • And here is a big one the actual methods and standards to be followed for the carpet installation.  There should be a statement the carpet will be installed as per the manufacturers requirements and the CRI 105 standard.  So far every manufacturer I have dealt with requires the CRI 105 standard be followed.  Be very wary and do not accept wording such as “Work to be completed according to standard practices” without specifying the exact standard practices used.  Agreeing to this vague wording can be interpreted as you agreed to not using the manufacturer’s required installation methods.  “Standard Practices” does not mean “Proper Practices” and from what we are experiencing so many carpets are being installed improperly!

Private Brand Labeling

I explained the game of private branding above and will only say if you do discover a store that is playing the private branding game you need to walk out immediately and place them on your do not deal with list.  We have been subjected to outright bold face lies from this type carpet store(s) and you have no way to compare them to other stores

Stores That Do Not “Buy Into” All Of The Manufacturer’s Lines

The carpet manufacturers along with having their “Preferred Partner” levels and “Private Brand Labeling” also appear to require that their dealers “Buy Into” the various lines of carpet they offer which obviously costs the carpet store money.  For example the manufacturer has three overall lines of carpet from their lowest to mid and then high level.  The store might not want to pay the manufacturer to “Buy Into” the high end line since they may feel it is difficult to sell that line.  So they only buy into the low and mid lines.  As a result you might be given some total fabrication that a carpet you saw at another store is a “Private Brand Label” or some other excuse why they do not offer the high end and all to try convincing you to buy what they have “Bought Into”.

We Have Our Own Installation Teams And They Are The Best, Most Honest In The World

Carpet stores all love to get you to believe that they have their own installation teams making it sound as if they’re exclusive to the store or on the store’s payroll.    The reality is that except for some large carpet stores that sell so much carpet it is unreal, and they can afford to actually hire installation people, all of these smaller stores sub-contract their installation work out.  You have absolutely no idea who the carpet store will send out unless you have that specified in the contract.  If the store is running into delays due to their sub-contractor not being available, or they get lucky and have a big spike in business, there is no doubt they will reach out to some installation sub-contractor they rarely use and call them in to install your carpet.  That installer could be bottom of the barrel installer but  we’re in a world now where businesses really don’t seem to care if they get a few bad reviews as long as they collect their money and RUN!

There are carpet installation certifications by a whole bunch of no name organizations and associations that mean little to nothing for you the consumer.  Some of these don’t even have search functions to check on the persons current certification status.  As for “Most Honest” installers I would bet there are some out there.  However I wouldn’t be betting with my home and possessions!  Your best defense to make sure is to have a good contract and to be there when the installation takes place.

There are many other games the stores play.  The key here is to get a detailed estimate and don’t sign anything until you have checked it and the store thoroughly!

Conclusion

I can definitely go on and on and on about the state of the carpet industry and how they, like many other industries, have just gone down the toilet over the years!  This post was not intended to scare you away from buying new carpet but if it did then maybe that’s a good thing.  At least if you do your due diligence you can save most of the headaches and problems we have been going through.

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