Percentage of Carpet in the Home is Shrinking
Back in 1976 when I opened Carpet Classics the amount of carpet in a home was approximately 80% of the available floor space. Today it is below 40%. This is mostly due to the fact consumers are opting to use hardwood, laminate, tile, vinyl, and the new LVT (luxury vinyl tile).
Back in late 1950s and early 1960s, most houses being built had hardwood floors and tile. Back then people purchased area rugs to give the floor some warmth and style. The tide began to turn with the onset of mass produced broadloom (over 9ft. wide) carpet. All of a sudden consumers discovered they could have a soft, fun to walk on, quite, and easy to care for floorcovering for less than the cost of hardwood floors. The carpet business thrived and became the major source of floorcovering peaking in the mid 1970s.
The big mistake the carpet industry made was making too many cheap carpets available. This eventually became the main reason the industry lost their share of the floorcovering industry. Consumers got tired of having to replace carpets so often, and thus opted to spring for more expensive hard surface
Today the carpet industry is fighting to win back the consumer. They are making carpets that will not fade or stain. They are also making many designs not possible ten years ago; this includes carpets that are softer than ever before. Look for future promotions by the carpet mills that tout the advantages of having carpet; i.e. quieter floor, warmer floors, softer floors, and floors that you can clean quickly
Can’t Vacuum Your New Carpet?!
You just had a new super soft carpet installed, and you bring out your Dyson (or similar) vacuum. To your surprise the vacuum will not move through the carpet. You push and pull and almost have a heart attack trying vacuum your carpet. The fact is heavy vacuums will not work on super soft carpets.
The salesperson forgot to tell you about the possibility of a problem with your current vacuum. With the demand for a super soft feel in today’s carpets, more and more of them are appearing in stores. These super soft carpets are not limited to Mohawk’s “silk” line of Smartstrand carpet. There are many super soft nylons and super soft polyesters on the market that will present the same problem.
If your plan to install one of these super soft fibers, plan to purchase a new vacuum in most cases. If you already own a light weight, manual height adjustment, big wheeled vacuum, then you will most likely be able to use it. If not, Mohawk has even put up a YouTube video on how to select the best vacuum for their carpets. Other mills have vacuum restrictions in their warranties that the consumer never sees. Many ban the use of any vacuum with a “beater brush” assemble.
What do I use? I like my old Hoover height adjustable lightweight commercial upright. Yes it has a bag, but I just deal with it. I also like the lightweight models of Oreck.
Warranty, Warranty, Who’s Got the Best Warranty?
Ever since Mohawk started offering “beyond belief” warranties, the other mills have been racing to catch up with warranties of their own. First one to do so was Shaw Industries. They (Shaw) over a year ago began offering “Lifetime” stain warranties on many of their carpets. Shaw even came out with their own marketing to counter the “Smartstrand Challenge” from Mohawk. After Mohawks Ricky Rhino campaign , Shaw and Anso kicked in their “pie fight” video. Both of these promotions started the “stain wars”. Not to be out done, Invista just this month (July of 2012) began offering “Lifetime” stain warranties on most of their Stainmaster carpets. The difference is that Invista is not a carpet producer, but a fiber supplier. Thus, any mill can use the Stainmaster Lifetime stain warranty as part of their (the mills) advertising program, providing the mill meets the guidelines required by Invista in building the product.
All of the stain warranties, when you read the fine print, require the consumer to take care of spills quickly themselves, then, if the stain persist, call a certified professional, then, if the stain is still present, file a claim with the mill or the fiber maker. In this process, you the consumer must keep all receipts for cleaning and for proof of purchase of the carpet. Carpet must be purchased from a dealer authorized to sell the product. Buying carpet out of the back of some guys pickup will not get you a warranty. Also, effective Sept 1, 2013, Stainmaster requires their carpets be cleaned every 18 months by a professional carpet cleaner. The 24 month cleaning has been abandoned.
Finally, remember that most warranties are written by talented lawyers, whose best interest is the corporation and not the consumer. Thus, the warranties are written to protect the Corporation from you; not the other way around.
The Battle of the “SOFT” Fibers Is On!
Invista (produces of Stainmaster brand nylons) has introduced a new super soft fiber marketed under the brand name “TrueSoft”. This is Stainmaster’s softest nylon fiber yet, and in my opinion was introduced to compete with Mohawk’s Sonora version of Smartstrand. The new TrueSoft nylon will be sold to Shaw Industries and Dixie Group for the time being. This new soft nylon fiber will be priced about the same as Sonora Smartstrand.
Not be be outdone, Mohawk has introduced a new version of Smartstrand marketed under the brand name “Silk”, and, to me, feels even softer than TrueSoft. The technology to make “silk” is so far advanced of any ofther fiber in that is gets down to molecular technology; not just the thickness or shape of the individual fiber. Mohawk says the new “silk” fiber will be stronger than nylon, and even more resiliant.
The very latest in Soft Nylon will be introduced this winter at the carpets shows across the country. Shaw is featuring their super soft Anso Nylon simply called “Caress”. It is supposed to compete with Invista’s new “Tru-Soft” and Mohawks new “Wear Dated Soft Touch” nylon.
Just a note about all these soft fibers. Be advised that some of the super super soft fibers are prone to yarn slippage that could result in “fuzzy” yarn tips, if one uses the wrong vacuum cleaner. I am hearing rumors of needing “brushless” uprights, and adjustable uprights. If you own a new heavy duty Kirby or Dyson upright, you may have to purchase a different vacuum for your new super super soft carpet; especially if it is a shag.
Newest Smartstrand Features “Forever Clean”
Update January 2015: Mohawk has taken all the doubt about the durability and cleanability of its new SmartStrand carpets made with Triexta fiber. All Triexta fiber is now treated with “Forever Clean” (TM) . This new technology allows triexta fiber to be resistant to oils from animals, humans, certain foods, etc. This has been the one complaint about the fiber. Thanks to the chemist at Mohawk, Triexta is now the most cleanable fiber on the planet. The new treatment (Forever Clean) is safer than the standard fluorocarbons used i.e. Teflon, Scotchguard, etc. This treatment will survive ten professional steam cleanings. This means, on average, you will have the carpet for twenty years of protection. To get an idea of how cleanable this carpet is check out Mohawks new Smartstrand Challenge : Forever Clean
Carpet May Even Be Helpful
Multiple studies found that carpet my be helpful to humans. An 18 nation study of nearly 20,000 people found a statistical relatonship between carpeted bedrooms and reduced asthma symptoms and bronchial responsiveness. It seems that carpet actually keeps allergens out of the air. More allergens are delivered to humans from furniture and mattresses than any type of carpet. Must be that our nose and mouth do not spend much time on the carpet.
The Battle of the “Jolly Green Giants”
The battle is on, Mohawk vs Shaw. Who can be the “greenest”? All the ad men know that consumers are becoming more aware of global warming, air quality, etc, and they want consumers to feel they have a hand in making the planet safer. Enter the giants of the carpet industry, Mohawk and Shaw, each with their own solution to the environmental problem. On the Mohawk side we will see the introduction of carpet made from corn, and on the Shaw side, we are going to see recyclable carpet and carpet fiber. Each of our giants is going to spend millions to convince you that their contribution to saving our planet is significantly better than the other.
I am most happy to see our industry headed in the direction that puts less carpet in our landfills, and that is able to begin to break the connection to petroleum. At this early point in the battle, I’d have to say the Shaw has a lead in the rush to be “green”. Right now in major cities there centers where dealers can take used carpet to for recycling. The first one that was opened up in the Portland Oregon area was overwhelmed at the response of local dealers, and was not able to keep up with processing the mass quantities of carpet. The problem is being addressed, and with some guidelines, will reopen in the near future.
Each of these efforts is to be applauded, but the consumer should understand that performance of these new products has not yet stood the ultimate test; which is years of wear and abuse by you in your home, however, Sonora PTT seems to be winning consumer confidence each year. Mohawk’s new “Smartstrand” brand of Sonora PTT fiber by DuPont uses corn sugar to make Bio-PDO (chemically known as propanediol), and is one of the ingredients used in the fiber making process that ordinarily would use a petroleum base. Mohawk has tested the new Sonora product and says it is as good as the old petroleum based product. PTT has recently won reclassification with the FTC, and should not be confused with PET or old fashion polyester like Dacron, Kodel, or Tirvira. (trademarks). The new class of fiber is called “Triexta” .
Shaw’s N6 nylon is recyclable, and is currently used in a great deal of their nylon products. The percentage of recycled fiber in these carpets is not publicized, but I am guessing somewhere between 2 and 5% at this time. We are talking nylon here, still the strongest fiber used in making carpet. In the next ten years if Shaw keeps moving that minimum figure up and up, they will indeed be making a huge contribution to making our planet greener.
Is Shag Back?
This year, in some parts of the country, Shag carpets are the hottest selling item in dealers showrooms. After all, there is a generation that has never seen shag. Smart dealers are not using the word “Shag” due to the bad rep shag received in the 70’s. The shags of old were often poorly made. They where made with much air in the fiber, i.e. puffed up polyester, or way way too long of a pile. The “new” shags are more of an outgrowth of some super friezes. These newer shags are much tighter twisted, and made from advance nylons that were not available in the 1970s. I like to call these new shags “super textures” or long friezes because I do remember shags, as do many of my customers. Thus, I will continue to sell friezes, but in the months to come the pile height of these carpets may continue to get longer and longer.
Fewer and Fewer Mills
No longer are there 200 plus mills making carpet like there was in the 1970s. Nowdays Mokawk owns Horizon, Galaxy, Aladdin, World and Image carpet mills and more , plus Congoleum. Beaulieu owns Coronet, Columbus and Caladium, and Hollytex. Shaw bought out Queen, Philadelphia, Cabin Crafts, Evan & Black, Tuftex, Sutton, Salem, and just recently purchased part of the Dixie Group and the plant that made Formica Brand Laminate flooring. . Even the small mills got in the act, with the most recent being the transaction between Royalty Carpet Mills, and Camelot Carpet Mills.
All I know is that ten years ago I carried, Queen, Cabin Craft, E&B, Salem, Mohawk, Galaxy, Horizon, Cumberland, Aladdin, Patcraft, and Philly. Also I had a mill rep from each of those mill that called on my business. Now I am lucky to see one or two reps, and I make my checks payable to Shaw or Mohawk. Someday I may just skip all that, and make my checks directly payable to Warren Buffett.
What is sad is that all this is not good for the consumer. Someday you will not have that small independent dealer to guide you through making one of your most important home improvement decisions. The fact that four mills will control 95% of the carpet manufactured is a sign that the carpet business is likely to go the way of the car business. In the early 1900’s there were several makers of automobiles. Today we have Ford, GM, and Mercedes (Chrysler). Presently we have many small and medium sized floorcovering dealers. Tomorrow we most likely will have just the Big Box retailers, and a few buying groups like CarpetMax and Carpet One.
I am thankful that the floorcovering business is still a people business; especially when it comes to retail sales. Bob Shaw’s people discovered that being in the retail floorcovering business involved more than acquisition of physical properties. In the end, if Mrs. Consumer does not trust the salesperson who is trying to solve her floorcovering needs, all the mill name recognition, all the fiber brand name recognition, and all the advertising will not sway her to part with her money. The retail floorcovering business needs qualified sales people, not clerks. This is essential; especially for the smaller floorcovering retailer. There are many mistakes the consumer can make when buying floorcovering, and unlike a car, you can’t take it back.
Does Your Carpet Smell?
According to a recent flyer published by Shaw Industries Technical Services Dept. the carpet from the same run that was installed in the 1988 EPA building incident in Washington DC, and was featured on a famous TV news magazine, was later installed in another government facility. No complaints were filed during the following five years. To me this means the carpet odor was NOT making the people ill. The report, written by Carey Mitchell, director of technical services for Shaw Industries , also states that the VOC’s given off by carpet where over a thousand times LESS that those given off by painting the walls. It would be my guess that most carpet pads give off more fumes that 90% of the carpet made in the USA.
Qualified Installers Needed
Jim Walker, president of the International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association, has certified over 30,000 installers to date according to my interview with him at Surfaces. Way to go Jim! Jim says the mills need to make carpet that is “installable”. This means a carpet has to have the right mix of latex, and backing, and so on to make the carpet workable and stable. Short cuts that reduce the quality of the product in order to save time end up being the reason a carpet fails. Often this failure results in a symptom that is blamed on the installer. This business needs qualified installers much more than another buying group. Keep up the good work. Check out the CFI website