A Carpet Installer's Notebook: Seams in Sisal
May 1, 2006
I was talking to a friend of mine in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Dave Beerens, who runs a high-end installation service servicing decorators and commercial accounts for the custom installation of patterns and specialty goods.
The conversation drifted to sisal carpet. Not the sisal looking carpet tufted from wool or nylon, but the carpets made from Sisal, Seagrass, and other natural fibers. I won't go into the whole discussion regarding the installation of those products, as John Namba wrote two very good articles for FCI on that subject. What I do want to talk about is a technique Dave has for constructing seams in Sisals that begs to be shared.
After Dave explained the technique, I could only think WOW! I asked Dave if he minded if I wrote about his technique for FCI. If he agreed, would he please send me some pictures from his next job? His response, "No problem, I'm happy to share. But, make sure the guys know this is specialty work on specialty carpet and to charge for it! Mercedes mechanics and the guys at Pep Boys, or the local gas station don't get paid the same for good reason. If you are doing this level of work you shouldn't get paid the same as the guy slapping in builder grade cut pile." All I could think was "Amen Brother!"
What follows is Dave's seam technique. This will take longer, so like Dave says you must charge more for it. Jim Walker suggests making a sample board for these types of things and giving it to your decorator or retailer. One side with a conventional seam and next to it the "Premium" seam. They will then have a sales tool to show the customer. "Which do you want?" they can ask, "Regular or Premium? Premium will cost X amount of dollars more per foot." People need a reason to give us more money that's all. Let's make it easy for them.
The first step is to cut off the selvage edge. (Photo 1) I know, a lot of you Sisal manufacturers and installers are thinking, " hold it right there cowboy! You are going to have an unraveling mess on your hands if you do that". Yes I agree, if I stopped there. Bear with me a bit longer.
The next step is making new more attractive selvage edge to seam. Now carefully remove 1.25 inches of length fibers leaving weft wires exposed. (Photo 2) Typically the length fibers will come in pairs, make sure to remove as a pair. Remove any urethane backing sticking out on the edge. Repeat on second drop, again making sure to remove length fiber as a pair, this will allow the woven pattern to match at seam.
(Photo 3) It is important to make both seam edges first before dry fitting a second drop. Fold back both edges of the seam place a scrap piece of carpet underneath the carpet edges and remove any extra urethane backing from the weft wires. (Photo 5)
Apply a band of contact cement 1.25 inches wide on the urethane backing and exposed weft wires. (Photos 6 and 7) Allow the contact cement to dry fully. After the adhesive has dried, carefully wrap wires onto urethane backing. (Photos 8 and 8B) Remember every other weft wire does not wrap around the edge length (warp) fiber ( see Photo 2) so make sure not to wrap those wires too tight.
Spread your adhesive allow it to flash off properly, apply a universal seam sealer. The reason for using universal seam sealers is they are an acrylic based adhesive that dry clear and with no residual tack. (Photo 9) Roll the seam (Photo 9B) and Dave suggests using some stay tacks to control the Sisal until the adhesive has set up fully. The finished room. (Photo 10)
What? You can't see the seam? OK I'll give you a better view. See what looks like two black dots in the upper portion of the picture? (Photo 11) Those are a couple of Dave's stay nails. The seam is between them. Still can't see the seam? Exactly; that's why I said it's a technique that begs to be shared.