No matter how kind your occupants are to the carpet, eventually you’ll face the arduous task of replacing it at minimal expense, time investment, disruption, and health effects. Follow these four tips to put the new carpet down as smoothly as possible.
1) Get Out the Elbow Grease
Take a proactive stance toward potential health concerns and thoroughly vacuum the flooring you plan to replace. This will root out dirt, dust, and biological debris that would otherwise go flying once the flooring installer starts to tear up the carpet.
“When you’re removing carpet, nobody’s thinking of cleaning it,” says Jeff Bishop, administrator of Clean Care Seminars, Inc. “Maintenance stops and you get a buildup of pollutants that tend to be aerosolized in the removal process.”
A high-efficiency filtered vacuum cleaner will minimize the health complaints triggered by airborne pollutants, Bishop adds. One recent investigation in Tampa, FL, involved students who frequently developed respiratory problems by mid-week, recovered over the weekend, and became sick again the following week.
“We traced it to vacuum cleaners that were part of a 17% cut of the maintenance budget,” Bishop explains. “They quit using the high-performance filter bags and started using cloth bags. It flung all of these things into the air that were doing no harm in the carpet, but students were getting sick.”
If the old carpet is especially dirty or has been contaminated with mold or animal urine, take extra steps to protect occupants’ health by rolling the old carpet in plastic as it’s removed. Afterward, vacuum the subfloor before you install the new carpet.
2) Make a Game Plan
Once the old carpet is clean, coordinate with your contractor, flooring installer, and other key players. Plan around occupants’ schedules to minimize the number of people you’ll displace, and choose the quickest, most painless way to remove partitions and other items.
Look into sending the old carpet to a recycling center instead of a landfill. Many flooring manufacturers will take the carpet back when you’re finished with it and turn it into new products.
“It can be turned into new carpet or used for other purposes, like automobile parts, park benches, toys, or parking lot stops,” explains Lew Migliore, president of LGM and Associates Technical Flooring Services. “There is value to it – it’s not something that you just take out and throw away.”
3) Pull It Up and Put It Down
Check the substrate after the old carpet is removed. Is it capable of supporting the new flooring material? What type of adhesive was used to install the previous carpet? Depending on the age of the building, removing the old adhesive may be costlier and more time-consuming than you first anticipated.
“You have to determine what the old adhesive was, particularly if you’re taking out old vinyl tiles. A lot of them could be vinyl asbestos,” Migliore says. “If they are going to come up, there’s a potential for you to be dragged into an abatement process, which can be very costly.”
You may find cutback, a black asphaltic adhesive, beneath vinyl tiles or left over from a previous installation. Bring in a firm familiar with asbestos and cutback removal, Migliore says. Not only is abatement a possibility, but leftover cutback remnants can react with the backings of carpet tiles.
“If you’ve got multipurpose adhesive, typically all you have to do is scrape that off the floor, make it level, and install the new carpet,” Migliore explains. “Cutback is a game-changer.”
When the adhesive is gone and the concrete is exposed, check for moisture in the concrete – it can seriously jeopardize an installation. The backings of floor coverings can trap moisture, which triggers chemical changes with the adhesives and deals a serious blow to the carpet’s functionality and aesthetic appeal.
4) Keep Up Appearances
Once the new carpet is installed, don’t walk away from upkeep. Without adequate maintenance, the carpet will rapidly lose its appeal.
“You have to have a maintenance program established prior to the product actually being used,” Migliore explains. “You don’t want to put something down and then all of a sudden say ‘You know what? This thing is getting very dirty.’ You want to keep it looking good from day one.”
Vacuum the low- and moderate-traffic areas at least once a day, and pay special attention to high-traffic areas such as entrances and lobbies, which may need several passes with a vacuum every day.
“If maintenance personnel would spend more time on 1 to 2% of the floor space, they could prevent particles from outside being tracked in and further ingressing throughout the building,” Bishop explains. “If you don’t have a planned program of maintenance and regular cleaning, you’re defeating the purpose of the floor covering.”
Janelle Penny (email@example.com) is associate editor of BUILDINGS.