Checking for pattern tolerance


Aligning patterns at the CFI Patterned Carpet Workshop

Can you be accused of walking with your head down inside of buildings? Are you always looking at the flooring? Do you continually judge another’s work? I’ve been told that I need to change professions just so I could put less strain on my neck and perhaps, start a career in the installation of light fixtures. I’d take that if it were to include furnishing all the light bulbs that are used in Las Vegas, but until that time, it’s flooring installation.

I am absolutely amazed at the number of installations that are accepted in which it appears there was no attempt to match the pattern. And yet, when reading the industry publications and viewing the award winning carpets at NeoCon year after year, it is obvious that manufacturers have one thing in common: patterned carpets.

The amount of patterned carpets has grown substantially in the past few years. In the hospitality market, more than 95 percent of the carpet involves patterns. And yet, patterned carpets often present a nightmare for the professional installers. Let’s just forget what happens to these beautiful designs when they are in the hands of those whose skill does not merit the right to the installation, let alone their disregard for customer satisfaction.

The professional installers face many obstacles even IF the carpet we receive is within manufacturing tolerances, which continue to vary from one mill to another, complicating an already difficult installation. These obstacles include:
  • Staffing the job adequately;
  • Knowledge, skill;
  • Proper tools;
  • The presence of other trades in the area;
  • Area large enough to inspect the carpet;
  • Immediate use of the completed installation by occupants and other trades;
  • Amount of time required to transport the merchandise and supplies to the required floors;
  • Job slow down not contributed to the installation company;
  • The cost of not bidding the work correctly;
  • TIME!


Jon Namba instructs installers how to align patterns at the CFI Patterned Carpet Workshop.

There’s no disagreement that patterned carpets are more difficult to install. They are a real challenge! How many times have you been faced with a carpet in which a manufacturing designer created a horizontal and vertical pattern and then for the fun of it, added a diagonal pattern? Who are they kidding? There are a handful of installers who know how to do this even IF it can be accomplished. There are carpets in which pattern alignment cannot be achieved to reach the “perfect” match as the customers perceive will occur. How many installers are going to take the time and pay the additional manpower to leave the customer with an installation of which they can be proud?  It seldom happens.

Then, for the fun of it, the mill adds some of the specialty backings with a wide array of latex and fillers. The carpet is rolled when it is warm and who stops to think that the pattern becomes distorted before we ever see it and oh yes, they added an attached backing! Challenge? You betcha! Can it be done? Most generally, my answer is “Yes,” but only if the installation professionals are adequately compensated.

This means the installers are in a working relationship with the dealer, the contractor and the manufacturer. It means that all parties are in the business of customer satisfaction and really understand what is involved in achieving this.

I’ve listened to our friends who represent manufacturers and are among some of the finest installation professionals in this country. They are frustrated when sent out to a job that is going bad and everyone is already upset. It’s always somebody else’s fault. The scenario is somewhat like this; the installers believe that they have no responsibility because “this is what we received.” They did not put the “crooked” lines into the carpet and they are not going to do anything about straightening them out. The word “crooked” is used in describing the problem because they have never heard of bow, skew or pattern elongation. The industry has created a grand assortment of installers who are falsely representing a trade once revered as highly professional.

Some manufacturers have stepped up to the plate and now list tolerances, which are tools for installers to understand what the manufacturer believes can and cannot be done with their products. Others will tell you when calling for assistance, “Follow the CRI Guidelines.” If you have read the documents published by the CRI, you are aware there are no guidelines because there is no industry stated manufacturing tolerance, which further complicates the issue for the vast majority of installers.

The one party that suffers from all of this is our customer. Tolerances are not the same for all manufacturers; there is no “one size fits all.” Consider this; we have three sets of tolerances, the manufacturers’ which are inconsistent; the installers’ depending on their skill, knowledge and desire to satisfy the customer and the customers’ who know nothing about the installation, but expect perfection.

CFI continues to present specialized programs to increase the awareness of patterned carpet installation. The CFI Patterned Carpet Resource Guide is the first detailed handbook on patterned carpet installation. However, our customers are going to continue to be dissatisfied, dealers will continue to avoid the issue and manufacturers’ claims will continue to increase because no one is certain as to their role in this complicated situation. It’s plain to me that a standardized set of manufacturing tolerances should be outlined in the CRI-104 and CRI-105 if this is the “Standard for Carpet Installation” recognized by the mills.

Dealers must understand that sending installers to work with patterns takes more time and costs more to install. Bid accordingly! Rushing a patterned carpet installation is a road to disaster. Allowing other trades in the working area also results in an unsatisfactory installation. Selling the carpet without explaining all of this to the customer sets everyone up for a problem that does not go away.

I know many installation professionals who enjoy their work and are proud of what they create. Professionals strive for customer satisfaction every time. Professionals take their last look at the job for the day and you can hear them saying, “Doesn’t this look great? Look at the pattern matched at every door and at every angle. We are good!” But, let’s give them something more to work with from the manufacturing and retail levels, such as consistent, industry-wide recognized guidelines of installation and an acceptable standard of pay that is in direct correlation to time and talent.

I’m convinced that there is little that can be done to educate the majority of the installation workforce until greed disappears from the field. Making it an everyday occurrence to enlist the services of an unqualified and uncaring workforce just makes no sense to me, but it runs rampant in this country.

Patterns are beautiful! Patterns tell the story of the type of installers who completed the work. Patterns speak volumes for skill and professionalism. They separate “the men from the boys.” Installers, it’s time you sold those skills and continuously reference the work you create. Sometimes, others just do not know or understand. Don’t say ‘I can’t do this job,” but rather, “I am qualified to install this pattern, but have you considered how much time and talent are involved in doing it? That’s what I sell, time and talent! Let’s review how much it is going to cost before I get to the job and understand that if the pattern is not within tolerance, that cost will increase.”

Communication is one of our greatest skills! Use it wisely! In the field of patterned carpet installation, this skill is required!