In a previous column, I talked about SBR adhesive for broadloom carpet.  However, there are many vinyl-backed carpets and carpet tile being installed today.  How do you select the right one for your next vinyl-backed carpet project?

Acrylic-based adhesives have acrylic latex that resists the plasticizers that migrate out of vinyl backed carpet that would attack the Styrene Butadiene Rubber (SBR) adhesives.   Acrylics are hard setting and set to a dry, firm bond and do not develop the “Legs” like the SBR adhesives. These adhesives are usually very rich in latex binders; a necessary but expensive component needed for its performance with any vinyl-backed carpet including six-foot wide goods.

The adhesives used for carpet tile installations are also acrylic-based adhesives, however, these adhesives remain tacky after they dry which allows for the “releasable installation” of the carpet tile. During installation, and for this releasable feature to work properly, you must allow the adhesive to dry to the touch prior to installing the carpet tile (otherwise this becomes a permanent or non-release installation).   After installation, you can easily pull up the tile and replace with new tile.  These adhesives are developed to have a low peel strength (easily pulled off the floor) and high shear strength (hold the tile from sliding).  Please note that there are different pressure sensitive adhesives – acrylic types, which are for releasable installations of carpet tile, and SBR’s, which are used for the permanent installation of other floor coverings like VCT.   

Remember, it is your responsibility to know the type of carpet, carpet backing, and under what conditions the carpet is going to be installed and used.  Will this be high-traffic or low-traffic conditions?  What are the environmental conditions of temperature and humidity?  What about the substrate and its condition?  If concrete, conditions such as moisture level and pH levels, smoothness and levelness, and type of surface coatings (if any) are critical.  Once you have this information through job site inspection, you’ll be able to determine how much floor prep is necessary and make the decision on which adhesive to use.  Oh, and don’t forget to use the recommended trowel selection for the type of installation you are doing and keep the notches clean and filed to the proper depth.

What is your best chance of success?  Before you make that selection of adhesive, be sure to look at the carpet manufacturer’s requirements and listen to your adhesive supplier’s recommendation for the specific product being installed.  A catastrophic installation nightmare can quickly occur when the adhesive being used is not compatible with the vinyl-backed carpet or carpet tile.