How to Specify: Commercial Carpet

07/22/2020 By Robert Nieminen

Think specifying commercial carpet is simple? Take another look (or listen) and join guest Bruce Campos with Starnet Worldwide Flooring Coop, as he recommends what designers and specifiers should look for when starting a project, as well as dispels some myths around carpet sanitation in light of COVID-19. Listen now.

Interface logo*This podcast was sponsored by Interface Inc.

[Start transcript]

Robert Nieminen: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the I Hear Design podcast. I’m your host, Robert Nieminen. And I’m glad you’re joining us for this episode because we’re continuing our How to specify series that we started earlier this year, which is being brought to you by our friends at Interface.

Today, we’re going to be looking at the ins and outs of specifying carpet, which might seem pretty straightforward on the surface, but as I learned by delving into our How to Specify article in the July/August issue, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.

One of the things I’ve always admired about the carpet industry as a whole is that it really has been a pioneer in terms of advancing sustainability. And there are so many different examples of manufacturers I could point to who have led the way through innovation and transforming their businesses to reduce their impact on the environment and act as responsible corporate citizens. We’ll definitely talk about sustainable design a bit later in the podcast, as well as the health and wellness angle that’s been on everyone’s minds these days.

Before we jump too far ahead, I think we should start with some of the basics of carpet construction and the dyeing process, for example, just to give you listeners a quick refresher on what to look for at the outset when you’re specifying carpet products. To help guide us through the process, I’ve been invited Bruce Campos, vice president of business development for Starnet Worldwide Commercial Flooring Partnership to join me today. Bruce, thanks for being here.

Bruce Campos: Oh, thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

Robert: Yeah, absolutely. Well, as I mentioned earlier, our July/August issue of interiors+sources featured an article that you penned for the issue for our How to Specify series and in the intro, I thought it was interesting, you relayed a story of a client who compared selecting carpet with choosing a diamond, which I thought was really interesting, if not kind of an unusual comparison. So, could you explain that analogy for our listeners just to kick things off?

Bruce: Yeah. You’re correct. Specifying carpet can be complex. But a little bit of knowledge and some common sense can go a long way. So, like the diamond reference that you mentioned, those four key aspects of a diamond are cut, clarity, color and carat weight. All four need to be considered. In carpet, it’s very similar. You’ve got to look past the color to find the intrinsic performance beauty of the carpet. There’s a lot of beautiful products out there from various manufacturers. Finding the right construction aspects will provide installation and a happy customer for years after the installation.

[Related Webinar: How to Specify Carpet]

Robert: Right, right. Well, that’s great. I want to get into some of those details for sure. Because as you mentioned, it does underscore the idea that carpet specification is anything but simple. Kind of from a broader perspective, as a designer starts the specification process, what would you say are some of the major considerations they need to take into account at the outset of a project as they’re looking at carpet?

Bruce: Well, the main considerations really are the site conditions. First, you need to understand completely, how is the product going to be used? What are the main traffic conditions, the soiling conditions that are around, all of those things need to be considered before you put a product in. For instance, you may choose a gorgeous product to be put in on the 15th floor of a building. That product may not perform adequately on the first floor of a building off of coming in from a garage or something along those lines. So, you’ve really got to consider the site conditions and consider all of the other aspects that are happening on the project.

Robert: Right. Yeah. So, that application and then what’s going to be happening makes the big difference as far as starting points goes, right?

Bruce: Correct.

Robert: Yeah. So, to me, at least, and I’ve toured through several carpet mills before and for me, one of the more mystifying aspects of carpet construction has to do with yarn and fiber, knowing the major differences between them—for example, nylon 6 over [nylon] 6, 6. Can you talk about that a little bit and sort of break down what the basics of carpet construction are for the listeners?

Bruce: Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny that you mentioned walking through a carpet mill and seeing the extrusion of fiber. I always love going to the facilities to go and see that. Fiber extrusion is a fascinating process and quite involved when you take a look at fiber coming out of a spinneret, which is essentially a showerhead and seeing that fall three to four stories and the entire construction process, it’s a fascinating thing and I would recommend anybody to do that. I would also say though that in fiber, you have different types. You have the solution dyed versus piece dyed or yarn dyed. Solution dyeing is the process of adding pigment in the molten state of the carpet. When the fiber is extruded, the color is an integral part of the fiber.

[How to Specify: Climate-Positive Materials]

So, if you were to look at the cross section of the fiber, the color goes all the way through, making it extremely colorfast and resistant to harsh chemicals and even sunlight. The limitation with solution dyed is the availability of colors.

Every yarn manufacturer has a preset solution dyed color bank, and those vary anywhere from 90 to 130 colors. And they mix those or spin them together in order to achieve the desired color combination. But with yarn dyed or piece dyed, the fiber is extruded white, and the color is added after the fact. So, it’s on the outside of the fiber. The benefit here really on piece dyeing is that you have your color choices almost unlimited, to the point that they can match yarn to a paint chip or even a Pantone color exactly.

And from there, now you have digital printing and digital printing has become a lot more popular in recent years, mostly because of the advancements in technology. The pinpoint accuracy of digital printing has advanced so dramatically that you can actually put a photograph, you could print a photograph of a person’s face on a carpet if you so chose. The accuracy is incredible. And so that really opens up designers’ creativity and availability to do anything that they want to do on a project.

Robert: Right, right. Yeah, so it sounds like the printed is obviously if you have a certain design concept and that you can’t execute with traditional, when would a designer want to let’s say do yarn dyed versus piece dyed or solution dyed, like in what kind of applications would make the most sense? Or does it really just depend on what type of color they want to get out of the out of the carpet?

Bruce: Yeah, solution dyed is going to be, like I said, it’ll give you a lot more color fastness. So, that’s many people’s first choice. With yarn dyeing or piece dying, the benefit there is not just the color, but you also have the availability to space dye which puts different colors along the length of the yarn. So, you could have a single yarn that is yellow in one section six inches, then the next six inches is red, and the next six inches is blue—why you would have that color combination, I have no idea—but it is potentially possible to do that, and that creates a lot of different patterns and a lot of options.


Interface Sponsor Break: 

This episode of “How to Specify” is brought to you by Interface, a worldwide commercial flooring company and global leader in sustainability. 

Looking to make an impact on your next design?

Start from the ground up. Interface makes modular carpet, LVT and rubber flooring that’s as durable as it is sustainable, all thoughtfully designed to:

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Robert: Okay, yeah, that makes sense. All right. Yeah. Appreciate you clarifying that. So, as I mentioned in the introduction, the carpet industry really has led the way in terms of sustainability and advancing the sustainable design movement. What do you see that’s happening right now in terms of innovation as far as environmentally friendly carpet manufacturing? Can designers really trust manufacturer claims that are pretty well founded? Or do they need to look to additional outside sources, like third party certifications to kind of verify those?

Bruce: Yeah, I agree with you that the carpet industry has really stepped up when it comes to environmental standards. I don’t believe that anyone is sidestepping those, quite honestly. I think that every one of them has their own little program that has really advanced their environmental standards to their capabilities.

But I would still encourage designers to reference the Environmental Protections Declarations, the EPDs, which as you know, is an internal standard that reports the environmental impact of a product to its life cycle. Or HPs, or Health Product Declarations, which is a report on the ingredients of the building product, with its associated impact on health.

LEED, of course, most everybody’s familiar with. It’s the most widely used system out there, where each project contributes to the whole project to achieve different levels of certification. And then a little less known is NSF 140 Sustainability Assessment - it’s a set of lifecycle assessment principles written by a board consisting of different aspects of the industry, from manufacturers, to customers, regulatory agencies, end users and academics. I’m proud to say that I’m one of those contributors.

Robert: Oh, great. Okay. Yeah. Yeah, it does sound like just that mix of different potential sources can really help designers identify the most sustainable product for their projects based on the need. Well, another topic that’s related to sustainability these days that we’re hearing a lot more of is a connection to wellness and occupant health.

Especially in light of the pandemic right now, I guess the question that would be on my mind and maybe some of our listeners out there too is, should designers be concerned about specifying soft surface materials like carpet? Because it seems like everybody’s going to hard surface because they’re cleanable or whatever. But how well can carpet actually be cleaned to help ensure that occupants stay healthy?

Bruce: Yeah, this is a very hot topic today, obviously, and it can be easily misunderstood. The one thing that the pandemic has taught us is that shiny is not necessarily clean, or healthy for that matter. Cleaning and sanitizing is a process of killing or removing the harmful germs. And there’s a proper way to do that for both hard surface and soft surface products.

My recommendation would be to get a professional floor care contractor to sanitize because they can do either product or both products properly. Now as far as reducing transmission, carpet has an advantage over hard surface because studies have shown that germs are held down to a level below 36 inches, which is often below door handles and faces. So, those germs are not flying up in the room, whereas on hard surface, there’s nothing to hold it down.

[Related: Take the Guesswork Out of Carpet Specifications]

Robert: Right, so they’re getting trapped in the fiber.

Bruce: Those germs fly around the room more readily.

Robert: Right, right. Yeah, that’s really interesting. That’s a good point. I’m not sure that many would think that. But yeah, you’re right. If they stay trapped in the fibers, then there’s less chance to them to escape and spread.

Bruce: Exactly. And then when it’s time to sanitize again, because things are only clean as long as nobody touches them, then you go back in and sanitize it again and everything is kept down.

Robert: Sure. Okay. Yeah, that’s a good point. So, and then also, speaking of the pandemic, just kind of overall, how has the carpet industry been impacted? I mean, do you anticipate any kind of a change in the amount of carpet that’s going to be specified moving forward? Or is this still going to be one of those workhorse categories for commercial building projects?

Bruce: While we’re seeing a bit of an increase in hard surface specifications right now, I don’t believe it’s due to the pandemic. We’ve seen a surge in LVT over recent years, and I’m sure that’s going to continue for some time. But I believe carpet will see a surge again when all the benefits that we just discussed a minute ago are realized.

In reality, every product, whether it’s hard surface or soft surface, can be cleaned, and will stay that way until the virus comes in contact with the product. So, neither surface is immune to the virus, and both products can be sanitized. So, it’s really about picking the right product for the right project.

Robert: Yeah, absolutely. Those are some great insights, Bruce, so I thank you for sharing them with our listeners. Appreciate it. Well, I think definitely with all the uncertainty that’s going around with COVID, I know there is a lot of misinformation out there and potential for people to make specification decisions based on assumptions and not facts. So, yeah, it’s great to that you’re here to offer some guidance for listener. So, that’s based on something other than misinformation. Well, thanks for being here, Bruce, I really appreciate.

Bruce: Oh, thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it very much.

Robert: Definitely. Well, that is all the time we have for today. I want to extend another big thanks to our sponsor Interface, who’s made our How to Specify series possible. If you get a chance, please do visit their website at interface.com and find out what they’re doing to combat climate change specifically. Thanks for tuning in, and as always, be well everyone.

[End transcript]

Read more from Bruce Campos on this topic: Take the Guesswork Out of Carpet Specifications

About our guest:

Bruce CamposBruce Campos, VP Business Development at Starnet Worldwide Flooring Cooperative.

His 34-year career in flooring started at Duffy & Lee Company in South Florida as a Flooring Contractor Salesman. Bruce moved to Colorado and managed a branch for Carpet Services and was also a salesman. He spent 22 years with Beaulieu of America in various roles—sales and leadership roles. Starting as a sales representative, he moved up to Regional VP and Divisional VP, and eventually Executive VP. Bruce transitioned to Mohawk as a Regional VP, and then joined Starnet in December of 2018 as VP of Business Development.

Experience other How to Specify topics: