Stripping Down To Basics
November 20, 2007
Now that I have your attention, let’s see if I can keep it! Tack strip is a pretty generic item in our industry right? Wrong. Invented in 1938, there has been very little change to its physical composition. Plywood in different widths, pins and nails in different sizes, and tensile strengths-this is all we have seen in the way of change. But many of us in this trade never saw the first pieces of stick and only get a glimpse of the past when a very old carpet is replaced. But I assure you there has been change.
The fist tack strip machines were very similar to what shoe cobblers at the time were using to repair or manufacture shoes. A strip of wood manually loaded on one side of the machine pressed pins through, while the head nails were manually placed using a press. These were called single pin machines. They produced an erratic but acceptable product that along with “tufting” revolutionized the carpet industry in the 1960s.
The largest development came in the 1980s when a patented multi-pinner machine was put into production around the world. This type of automation lowered the labor costs dramatically. Less expensive alternatives from overseas had a difficult task competing with the U.S. now that American labor was no longer a problem for manufacturers.
The biggest problem for U.S. manufacturers came from within as one company purchased production and consolidated the tack strip business by the late 1990s. Consolidation (in this case) resulted in increased prices and few alternatives for distribution, retailers and installers. As prices increased, imported products became more appealing due to the lower cost. But as we all know, quality is sometimes hard to find overseas. But times they are a-changing!
With the history lesson over, what do we have to look forward to today? Look at Photo 1, the top piece of strip is a quality product available today, and manufactured overseas. The bottom piece of strip shows what was available 20 years ago, manufactured in the U.S. Do you see any difference?
At first glance, not much, but the five-ply strip is much stronger than the old three-ply. The components used in the top strip are top of the line. This cannot be said of all imported tack strip. Quality issues must be addressed by the manufacture before products are put to use in the field. I would like to thank Rodrigo Vera of Southern Cross for his insight regarding the past, present and future of tack strip manufacturing.
I was lucky enough to visit a residential job site with my good friend John Shoffner, a CFI kind of guy. He allowed me to do some of the dirty work in order to get the following photos for educational purposes in exchange for free labor (mine).
While doing the tear-out, John pointed out some very important shortcomings with a lot of the tack strip practices found every day in the field.
What does Photo 2 show? A fill-piece of strip with one nail (it should have two!). Photos 3, 4, 5 and 6 all have the same shortcomings; gaps that are entirely too large, gaps in the strip-to-strip, and in the gully where the carpet is tucked.
Now, depending on the carpet thickness, the gully can be adjusted to accommodate the type of carpet installed. Being consistent with the gully will decrease the puckering at doorways and transitions.
Photo 7a shows what was done before, while Photo 7b shows a better method.
Mirroring the doorframe and molding angles does take more time. Attention to detail will not only make the overall installation look better, but you will also decrease your puckering callbacks in these areas.
Here is a little secret that John showed me while on his job. If the tack strip needs replacing, then do it! After replacing the tack strip, he goes one step further than the average installer. Just what is John doing in Photo 9?
You Make the CallHe still has his super zoomo kneepads on, but look, he is standing. John likes to be comfortable when he is on his knees (you can tell by the high-end knee pads), but like all of us, he feels best when standing.
Again, taking the extra step, John is reinforcing both the new and old tack strip with a pneumatic stapler. Photo 10 shows the unit, and where he got the universal handle that allows him to stand is still a mystery but as John says, “Any tool that gets me off my knees is worth the money”!
Did he need to reinforce the strip? That’s a good question, so I asked him. “Well Bill,” he said, “we will be properly stretching this new carpet (unlike the old rug) and I don’t like re-fixing something I already fixed.”
Thanks again for reading, and have a great day!