Claims file: Discoloration at the seam

Home Columns Claims file: Discoloration at the seam

by Lew Migliore

Seaming complaints are a major source of claims in the residential market. Consumers think seams should not be visible but in some products it may be nearly impossible to make that entirely so.

The skill of the installer working with a particular product will make the difference. We have a very low, dense, off-white, cut pile, velvet style carpet installed in the second floor of our house and you would be hard pressed to find seams. The installer we used has the patience of Job, the skills of a brain surgeon and the pride of a lion. With me critiquing his work, it was bound to be as good as it gets.

Seams are challenging and it takes patience and skill to get them right. Most of the time great results are achieved, but at times, as you’ve all experienced, the making of a seam can go terribly wrong. Some carpets are much more susceptible to that happening than others.

Take, for example, the seam in the photo provided. This is a very high-end, expensive, cut pile, patterned, polypropylene carpet. The complaint was for discoloration at the seam. The manufacturer was blamed for the discoloration in the carpet. Upon seeing the complaint condition, which was emailed with an excellent series of photos from various vantage points, I went to see the job in person. It was obvious from the evidence the complaint was not manufacturing related. The discoloration was only at the seam. From one direction it looked light-colored, as in the photo shown, and from the other direction it looked dark.

How it happens

When the color changes from different vantage points on a seam the cause is a change in the light reflecting off the surface. In this case, the polypropylene fiber was distorted and altered the light reflecting off the surface in that location. Polypropylene has the lowest melting point of any synthetic fiber used in carpet. If the seaming iron is set too high it will distort the face yarns. If a metal toolbox is used to weight the seam, it will trap the heat and distort the face yarn.

Fixing for the future

More and more of this type of carpet is being sold and installers must learn how to work with it. It requires a skill set that is above average and an understanding of the limitations of the product. If you sell this type of product, which can retail into the high $40-per-yard range, you have to employ an installer of commensurate value.

Another issue visible in the photo that gives pause to the understanding of carpet seaming in general is the fact the seam runs right into the middle of the doorway. That is not the best layout. The fill should have been placed at the other end or the direction of the carpet turned to run the length of the room instead of the width.

There is no way to fix this damage, and it is damage. This is clearly a complaint caused by compromised installation practices. From the opposite direction, the light-shaded seam area looks dark as if it were soiled. From either direction it is completely objectionable and would certainly be unacceptable to any consumer. The seam location is also wrong. And closer photos show the seam itself is not well made.

Conclusion is the dealer eats the carpet. If you’re going to sell unique and expensive carpet you better employ the services of an installer who can work with it; he won’t come cheap, nor should he be. The installer could have made this seam nearly invisible.

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