by Lew Migliore
Using the appropriate cushion under carpet is important for several reasons, not the least of which is maximizing performance of the carpet. The correct cushion in a stretch installation will act as a suspension system under carpet. Softer is not always better. In fact, the softer and thicker the cushion, the greater the chance of the carpet developing wrinkles and buck- les and the potential for structural compromise of the product, in particular delamination.
The current standard for car- pet cushion—7⁄16 inch thickness and a six pound density—was a compromise reached by the industry years ago; it is not necessarily the best thickness or density. The key is to use a carpet cushion that is not higher than the pins of the tackstrip used to hold tension on the carpet. The cushion needs to be dense enough to support traffic but also prevent too much vertical and lateral movement. A cushion that is too thick and too soft will inevitably create buckles and wrinkles in a carpet.
Stretched-in carpet should have a perpendicular engagement of the tackstrip, but should not cascade over the strip.
Perpendicular engagement will hold the carpet firmly and maintain the stretch. Carpet cascading over the tackstrip will allow the carpet to become loose, at which point it can wrinkle, regardless of how much stretch it receives. A power stretcher should always be used on stretch- in installations but if the cushion is too thick and soft it will com- promise that effort.
So, what is the best cushion to use? A cushion that is not higher than the tackstrip pins and prefer- ably no higher than the tackstrip base. The cushion should also be an 8- to 10-pound density so as to firmly support the carpet, maximize its performance, and prevent it from loosening up. This type of product costs a bit more but it will certainly save you in re-stretch complaints.
That said, if you have a re-stretch claim the easiest way to remedy it is to pull the carpet up and replace the cushion with a low profile, high-density product. If you just keep re-stretching over a cushion that is too high and too soft, you’ll keep doing it. There are several cushions on the market that fit the bill; one we often recommend is Healthier Choice. Not only is it one of the best per- formers it’s also one of the “greenest” available.
You may not give much thought to the cushion and the influence it can have on the car- pet but it can be compared to put- ting the appropriate suspension system on a car, allowing it to handle and perform at its best. Think you can’t sell a better cushion? Just compare the lower pro- file, higher density carpet cushion to the shoes your customer is likely wearing—some type of sneaker or athletic shoe. These have firm foundations and high-density soles, a comfortable feel, good support for feet and body, and last for years. The right carpet cushion will do the same thing.
Something we’ve heard for decades is consumers saying “…And we bought the best cushion they had.” While that may be true, you didn’t sell them the best cushion available. You may also think you can’t sell the best cushion available because it’s more expensive. It is, but it will differentiate you from the competition, minimize your complaints for buckles, wrinkles and re-stretches and improve your sales and reputation. In case you were unaware, higher quality flooring product sales have and continue to increase because if consumers are going to spend their money today they want to make it count.
Don’t be an “also-ran” in this economy; be a stand out. Sell the best products, show them first and extol their value. Start with the cushion and see the difference. If you believe you can, you can; if not, you won’t. It’s what separates winners from “also-rans.”