P.J. Arthur is the CEO and founder, as well as an instructor and trainer, for Natural Fiber Installer Certification (NFIC). He started the group in 2006. As he writes on his LinkedIn page introducing the group, “One of the main reasons for starting NFIC was to have continuing education for installers, as products, carpet and pads continue to change. The other reason for starting NFIC was to help salespeople who have very little or no experience with these products.”
We spoke with Arthur about some of the basic techniques and know-how an installer needs in order to tackle the highly specialized product category of woven carpet.
What are the main types of woven carpet and what makes them different from one another?
The three main types are Velvet construction, Wilton construction and Axminster construction. Basically speaking, Velvet construction is the most economical, and you find that type more in commercial applications than anything else. Wilton can be found in both residential and commercial settings. It is a very involved piece of carpet and will last forever. Axminsters are used in a lot of commercial applications.
As far as physical differences, Velvet carpet yarns all appear on the face of the carpet. For Wiltons, all of the yarn on the face can also be seen underneath. Axminsters have a ribbed backing, and will always be a cut-pile.
The preparation of the seam is essential for a Wilton and a Velvet. First you want to determine where your finishing row is, then count two to three rows out and cut your carpet. You then need to pull the yarn, the stuffer yarn and the chain stitch off each row. Repeat the process until you reach the row you want, and make sure to leave the chain stitch intact. That’s the most important thing to know: Do not remove the chain stitch.
Leave the weft yarns that are protruding, and run a bead of latex on the back side of the carpet. Push the latex through the warp yarns with your fingers into the chain stitch yarn. This will protect the chain stitch. After 15 to 20 minutes, cut the protruding yarns off at the base of the chain stitch without removing the chain stitch. Then prepare the end of the carpet as you would a head seam. As you can see, it’s a very involved and detailed process.
As far as stretching goes, all three are installed differently. Velvet stretches more in the width than the length. Axminsters stretch in the length and have no stretch in the width. Wiltons stretch in both directions. All three can be installed with a power stretcher, but make sure to use the head with the pins on it.
When can hot-melt seams be used in a woven carpet installation, and when should they be avoided?
Hot-melt seams can be used on all three types. The only problem is they leave a very slight hump in the seam. If the installer is not careful, the seam will stand out underneath lighting.
When is hand-sewing required for a woven carpet installation?
Sewing is not required in Velvet, and it’s really an architect who would spec a job specifically to be sewn. An installer should know as much as he or she can about the carpet before working with it. Understanding how the carpet is manufactured gives an installer better information on how to manipulate it. Carpet needs time to acclimate, usually around 24 to 48 hours. The problem with jobs today is everything is so rushed. It’s not fair to the carpet, not fair to the installer and not fair to the customer.
Anything else you want to add for someone not used to installing this type of carpet?
An installer needs to charge more if he or she is going to be sewing the carpet. It’s a process. Even if you’re going to seam it with an iron or latex, you still have to prepare the edge on a Wilton or Velvet. Be paid accordingly.
My last piece of advice – if you do not know how to work with this type of carpet, don’t install it. I’m not saying you’re not a good installer, but if you don’t understand the construction of the product it will get you into trouble. I’ve seen so many jobs where qualified, professional installers – I’m talking about guys who have been installing for 35 years – don’t understand woven carpet. The difference between synthetics and woven is like night and day. I recommend anyone take a training class before they even attempt to work with this material.
If you look at my website (http://nficnet.com/), I include the installation guidelines for free. Installers can look at that and get a better idea of what they’re going to be working with, but I still recommend hands-on training.