Carpet Prices Going Up Again
Effective Mid-March 2013 prices for carpet is gonig up approximately 8% at the wholesale level. This time the price increases are being blamed on labor and transportation costs plus the increase in some of the chemicals used in production. This is the first increase since early 2012, and will not be the last. As more government regulations and energy taxes affect the carpet industry, the more prices will continue to climb. Prices are going up in every facit of our lives from the grocery store to the gas pump, however, carpet remains one of the best buys for your dollar. Really expensive carpet is still only $6-$7 / sq ft. to include pad, labor and carpet. Ceramic tile on the other hand, is bringing $14-$20 a sq ft. for tile, subfloor, and labor.
Warranty, Warranty, Who's Got the Best Warranty?
Ever since Mohawk started offering "beyond belief" warranties, the other mills have been racing to catch up with warranties of their own. First one to do so was Shaw Industries. They (Shaw) over a year ago began offering "Lifetime" stain warranties on many of their carpets. Shaw even came out with their own marketing to counter the "Smartstrand Challenge" from Mohawk. After Mohawks Ricky Rhino campaign , Shaw and Anso kicked in their "pie fight" video. Both of these promotions started the "stain wars". Not to be out done, Invista just this month (July of 2012) began offering "Lifetime" stain warranties on most of their Stainmaster carpets. The difference is that Invista is not a carpet producer, but a fiber supplier. Thus, any mill can use the Stainmaster Lifetime stain warranty as part of their (the mills) advertising program, providing the mill meets the guidelines required by Invista in building the product.
All of the stain warranties, when you read the fine print, require the consumer to take care of spills quickly themselves, then, if the stain persist, call a certified professional, then, if the stain is still present, file a claim with the mill or the fiber maker. In this process, you the consumer must keep all receipts for cleaning and for proof of purchase of the carpet. Carpet must be purchased from a dealer authorized to sell the product. Buying carpet out of the back of some guys pickup will not get you a warranty.
The mills have also made the following part of the responsibility of the installer: 1) If there is a visible defect the carpet must not be installed; if you cut it you own it. 2) There is no guarantee of seamless installation as carpet width can vary 7% +/-. 3) There is no guarantee of exact patter match as 1 1/2 inch bow or skew is industry standard. 4) Carpet will vary from dye lot to dye lot and may not exactly match a carpet sample. 5) Installations must be done in accordance with CR-105. Seam sealer must be used, and padding must be manufacturer apporved. 6) For frieze, shag, or mini-shag carpet, a suction only vacuum is strongly suggested. 7) Carpet must be professionlly cleaned every 18 to 24 months useing the hot water extraction method.
Finally, remember that most warranties are written by talented lawyers, whose best interest is the corporation and not the consumer. Thus, the warranties are written to protect the Corporation from you; not the other way around.
The Battle of the "SOFT" Fibers Is On!
Invista (produces of Stainmaster brand nylons) has introduced a new super soft fiber marketed under the brand name "TrueSoft". This is Stainmaster's softest nylon fiber yet, and in my opinion was introduced to compete with Mohawk's Sonora version of Smartstrand. The new TrueSoft nylon will be sold to Shaw Industries and Dixie Group for the time being. This new soft nylon fiber will be priced about the same as Sonora Smartstrand.
Not be be outdone, Mohawk has introduced a new version of Smartstrand marketed under the brand name "Silk", and, to me, feels even softer than TrueSoft. The technology to make "silk" is so far advanced of any ofther fiber in that is gets down to molecular technology; not just the thickness or shape of the individual fiber. Mohawk says the new "silk" fiber will be stronger than nylon, and even more resiliant.
The very latest in Soft Nylon will be introduced this winter at the carpets shows across the country. Shaw is featuring their super soft Anso Nylon simply called "Caress". It is supposed to compete with Invista's new "Tru-Soft" and Mohawks new "Wear Dated Soft Touch" nylon.
Just a note about all these soft fibers. Be advised that some of the super super soft fibers are prone to yarn slippage that could result in "fuzzy" yarn tips, if one uses the wrong vacuum cleaner. I am hearing rumors of needing "brushless" uprights, and adjustable uprights. If you own a new heavy duty Kirby or Dyson upright, you may have to purchase a different vacuum for your new super super soft carpet; especially if it is a shag.
New SmartStrand "Rhino Tough???"Mohawk has taken all the doubt about the durability and cleanability of its new SmartStrand carpets made with Triexta fiber. Chip Wade, a HGTV personality from "Desinged to Sell" has become a spokesperson for Mohawk's new Smartstrand carpet. Mr. Wade recenlty helped Mohawk run the ultimate performance test of this new fiber. The test involved having Ricko the Rhino from the Birmingham Zoo, "live" on the carpet for two weeks. Just use your imagination to see what a six hundred pound Rhino could do to the carpet in your living room. (OMG) The carpet has been taken up and cleaned. The results are available on Youtube under "Smartstrand Challange". You will not believe you eyes. UPDATE!! I just returned from a Mohawk mini road show where I got to see an acutual piece of this Rhino stained triexta carpet. This piece felt clean and soft and looked new. However, it did not pass the smell test. I guess if a Rhino urinated on my carpet it would smell too. I am not easily impressed, and the more I learn about triexta the more I am impressed.
Carpet May Even Be HelpfulMultiple studies found that carpet my be helpful to humans. An 18 nation study of nearly 20,000 people found a statistical relatonship between carpeted bedrooms and reduced asthma symptoms and bronchial responsiveness. It seems that carpet actually keeps allergens out of the air. More allergens are delivered to humans from furniture and mattresses than any type of carpet. Must be that our nose and mouth do not spend much time on the carpet. To learn more check out Dr. Sauerhoff's carpet and asthma report at www.flooringsciences.org.
The Battle of the "Jolly Green Giants"
The battle is on, Mohawk vs Shaw. Who can be the "greenest"? All the ad men know that consumers are becoming more aware of global warming, air quality, etc, and they want consumers to feel they have a hand in making the planet safer. Enter the giants of the carpet industry, Mohawk and Shaw, each with their own solution to the environmental problem. On the Mohawk side we will see the introduction of carpet made from corn, and on the Shaw side, we are going to see recyclable carpet and carpet fiber. Each of our giants is going to spend millions to convince you that their contribution to saving our planet is significantly better than the other.
I am most happy to see our industry headed in the direction that puts less carpet in our landfills, and that is able to begin to break the connection to petroleum. At this early point in the battle, I'd have to say the Shaw has a lead in the rush to be "green". Right now in major cities there centers where dealers can take used carpet to for recycling. The first one that was opened up in the Portland Oregon area was overwhelmed at the response of local dealers, and was not able to keep up with processing the mass quantities of carpet. The problem is being addressed, and with some guidelines, will reopen in the near future.
Each of these efforts is to be applauded, but the consumer should understand that performance of these new products has not yet stood the ultimate test; which is years of wear and abuse by you in your home, however, Sonora PTT seems to be winning consumer confidence each year. Mohawk's new "Smartstrand" brand of Sonora PTT fiber by DuPont uses corn sugar to make Bio-PDO (chemically known as propanediol), and is one of the ingredients used in the fiber making process that ordinarily would use a petroleum base. Mohawk has tested the new Sonora product and says it is as good as the old petroleum based product. PTT has recently won reclassification with the FTC, and should not be confused with PET or old fashion polyester like Dacron, Kodel, or Tirvira. (trademarks). The new class of fiber is called "Triexta" .
Shaw's N6 nylon is recyclable, and is currently used in a great deal of their nylon products. The percentage of recycled fiber in these carpets is not publicized, but I am guessing somewhere between 2 and 5% at this time. We are talking nylon here, still the strongest fiber used in making carpet. In the next ten years if Shaw keeps moving that minimum figure up and up, they will indeed be making a huge contribution to making our planet greener.
Is the Teflon on your Stainmaster Carpet Harmful?It must have been ratings week at ABC because the entertainment program 20/20 is trying to scare everyone who may own a Stainmaster Carpet. The ABC Nov 14th, 2004 broadcast showed how the fumes from heating your Teflon coated frying pad up to about 660 F. will potentially kill your pet parakeet. This is supposed to lead us to believe that anything that contains Teflon (like Stainmaster Carpet) will harm you and your family. Rest easy all you carpet owners, as the chemical used to make that cookware coating (C-8 or PFOA) is not used to make Stainmaster Carpet. The fluorinated polymers used in all stain resistant carpet are applied at low concentrations and are not easily absorbed through the skin. The U.S. EPA believes, as part of its PFOA investigation, that there is no reason for consumers to stop using carpet or any other textile treated with Teflon or similar products. So unless you want to set your carpet on fire and take deep breaths of the fumes, I would not worry about the health effects from your stain-resistant carpet.
Is Shag Back?
This year, in some parts of the country, Shag carpets are the hottest selling item in dealers showrooms. After all, there is a generation that has never seen shag. Smart dealers are not using the word "Shag" due to the bad rep shag received in the 70's. The shags of old were often poorly made. They where made with much air in the fiber, i.e. puffed up polyester, or way way too long of a pile. The "new" shags are more of an outgrowth of some super friezes. These newer shags are much tighter twisted, and made from advance nylons that were not available in the 1970s. I like to call these new shags "super textures" or long friezes because I do remember shags, as do many of my customers. Thus, I will continue to sell friezes, but in the months to come the pile height of these carpets may continue to get longer and longer.
Fewer and Fewer Mills
No longer are there 200 plus mills making carpet like there was in the 1970s. Nowdays Mokawk owns Horizon, Galaxy, Aladdin, World and Image carpet mills and more , plus Congoleum. Beaulieu owns Coronet, Columbus and Caladium, and Hollytex. Shaw bought out Queen, Philadelphia, Cabin Crafts, Evan & Black, Tuftex, Sutton, Salem, and just recently purchased part of the Dixie Group and the plant that made Formica Brand Laminate flooring. . Even the small mills got in the act, with the most recent being the transaction between Royalty Carpet Mills, and Camelot Carpet Mills.
All I know is that ten years ago I carried, Queen, Cabin Craft, E&B, Salem, Mohawk, Galaxy, Horizon, Cumberland, Aladdin, Patcraft, and Philly. Also I had a mill rep from each of those mill that called on my business. Now I am lucky to see one or two reps, and I make my checks payable to Shaw or Mohawk. Someday I may just skip all that, and make my checks directly payable to Warren Buffett.
What is sad is that all this is not good for the consumer. Someday you will not have that small independent dealer to guide you through making one of your most important home improvement decisions. The fact that four mills will control 95% of the carpet manufactured is a sign that the carpet business is likely to go the way of the car business. In the early 1900's there were several makers of automobiles. Today we have Ford, GM, and Mercedes (Chrysler). Presently we have many small and medium sized floorcovering dealers. Tomorrow we most likely will have just the Big Box retailers, and a few buying groups like CarpetMax and Carpet One.
I am thankful that the floorcovering business is still a people business; especially when it comes to retail sales. Bob Shaw's people discovered that being in the retail floorcovering business involved more than acquisition of physical properties. In the end, if Mrs. Consumer does not trust the salesperson who is trying to solve her floorcovering needs, all the mill name recognition, all the fiber brand name recognition, and all the advertising will not sway her to part with her money. The retail floorcovering business needs qualified sales people, not clerks. This is essential; especially for the smaller floorcovering retailer. There are many mistakes the consumer can make when buying floorcovering, and unlike a car, you can't take it back.
New Fiber Class by FTC
On March 23, 2009 the FTC approved Mohawk's request to re-classify the PTT DuPont Sonora fiber from polyester to the new classification called Triexta. This means Mohawk will no longer have to label their SmartStramd carpets with the polyester name. This will help remove the negativity associated with polyester . This may lead to Mohawk being the only mill to feature carpets made with PTT.
Does Your Carpet Smell?
According to a recent flyer published by Shaw Industries Technical Services Dept. the carpet from the same run that was installed in the 1988 EPA building incident in Washington DC, and was featured on a famous TV news magazine, was later installed in another government facility. No complaints were filed during the following five years. To me this means the carpet odor was NOT making the people ill. The report, written by Carey Mitchell, director of technical services for Shaw Industries , also states that the VOC's given off by carpet where over a thousand times LESS that those given off by painting the walls. It would be my guess that most carpet pads give off more fumes that 90% of the carpet made in the USA.
Qualified Installers NeededJim Walker, president of the International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association, has certified over 30,000 installers to date according to my interview with him at Surfaces. Way to go Jim! Jim says the mills need to make carpet that is "installable". This means a carpet has to have the right mix of latex, and backing, and so on to make the carpet workable and stable. Short cuts that reduce the quality of the product in order to save time end up being the reason a carpet fails. Often this failure results in a symptom that is blamed on the installer. This business needs qualified installers much more than another buying group. Keep up the good work. Check out the CFI website
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Back to TOPThis column updated February 13, 2013 and is copyrighted.