Ask anyone when they buy their carpet, “Do you like it?” They’re sure to answer with an emphatic “yes” (unless their spouse picked it out). After all, they wouldn’t invest their money in it if they didn’t like it. But what about a few years down the road… is everyone still so enthusiastic about their carpet? Unfortunately, no. I get more emails than I’d like of people telling me how much they regret their carpet purchase and asking advice on how to fix it, or do it right next time. I received one of these complaints the other day—it was one I receive a lot, so I thought I’d share it with you. I figured while I’m at it, I might as well list the top 5 complaints I receive from carpet owners, and how you can avoid these regrets when you purchase carpet.
“My carpet was just installed a week ago and is loose and wavy”
I just finished saying that everyone likes their carpet when it’s first installed, and now I already have to take it back. There are people who are disappointed in their carpet from day 1, but it’s not because they don’t like the carpet they picked out; it’s because it was installed poorly. Incorrect installation often leaves carpet wavy and loose. This may show up right away or a year down the road.
How to avoid poor installation: The best thing is to choose a good installer, but this is probably obvious to you. So how do you find one? The first step is to check for state licensure. Not all states require licensing of carpet installers, but some do—you can use Google to find specifics for your state. Some states will require the installer to have liability insurance, and this is a good thing to check if they have either way. Check the Better Business Bureau—there is nothing that says they have to be registered with the BBB, but a good rating can be a good sign. Also, ask for recommendations from friends or from the salesman who sold you the carpet—this can at least be a good starting place to do your own research.
Some stores won’t give you the luxury of choosing your own installer, or maybe your state doesn’t requir the installer to have certification. This makes it more difficult to pre-pick a good one. In this case, there are a few red flags you can look for when the installer shows up. The most important is whether he is using a power installer or knee-kicker. Power stretcher will look like a large jack whereas with a knee kicker the installer will be on the ground “kicking” the equipment with his knee. Also, when the job is finished, go to the middle of a room and pull the carpet up as high as you can. If it pulls up much more than an inch, it’s a sign that it may have not been installed well. Make sure to point it out to the installer before he leaves.
“I’ve owned my carpet for only a year, and it has a rippled appearance”
This is similar to the previous complaint, only this time the rippling of the carpet doesn’t occur right away. You may think it’s poor installation and have the installer return, and it’s possible you’re right. However, often times this is due to a poor choice of carpet padding. Another clue is if you feel that the
padding is crunchy or just feels like it has lost the “give” that it had when it was installed. Inadequate padding is a quick ticket for your carpet to enter the landfill. To prove this point, most carpet warranties will be void if you don’t choose padding that meets their specifications.
How to avoid lousy padding:Padding seems pretty straightforward… and in many ways it is, but poor padding is still a major problem for carpet owners. There are two main reasons. One is people underestimate the effect it has on the life of their carpet, so when a retailer tells offers them free padding or recommends padding, shoppers don’t think twice about it. The other common mistake is shoppers—sometimes at a salesman’s suggestion—will feel carpet with their hands to check how soft it is. The problem is weaker and thicker padding can be soft, both of which are a bad choice for many carpets. So how do you avoid these traps? Learn a little bit about carpet padding and don’t skimp on it. It’s relatively cheap. If you need ideas of where to start learning, check out our carpet padding page.
“My carpet is shedding”
That’s not your dog losing her winter coat, it’s your carpet shedding. Yes, carpets can shed. It’s actually a natural process for certain types of carpet, but sometimes it can be a big problem. If you purchase a staple fiber carpet, it will shed. The retailer should warn you of this, and recommend that you vacuum daily for 2 weeks. There are cases where people follow this advice, and a month has gone by, and their carpet still looks like it’s coming apart. This is when it’s a problem.
How to keep your carpet well groomed: The easiest way to prevent shedding is to buy a bulk continuous filament (BCF) carpet. They don’t shed. But before you ditch any staple fiber carpet, consider that there may be a carpet you love or a much better deal for a staple fiber carpet. Then what do you do? Choose a brand name and ask how long of fibers the staple carpet is constructed with: over 7 inches is a good sign of quality. Keep in mind, BCF carpets aren’t better than staple carpets as long as you can handle a 2 week break in period for your carpet.
“I’m having problems with my carpet and no one will take the blame”
I get many emails asking me to help them with a regrettable carpet purchase they made, but there’s one type of complaint where the people are always the angriest and most distressed: the people who are being ignored by their retailer/installer/manufacturer. It really rubs people the wrong way when the person who was so friendly when they were interested in buying carpet now ignores them or hands them over to someone else when they have a problem.
I can definitely understand why these people are so mad. They just spent thousands of dollars, and now when they have a problem, the retailer tells them to talk to the installer or manufacturer. When they contact the installer or manufacturer, they tell them to talk to the retailer.
How to avoid the blame game: This is a tough one. It really depends on the circumstance. For instance, many big box retailers will force you to use “their” installers, but it turns out these are often independent contractors. So when there’s a problem, the store says it’s not their problem, it’s the installer. Whether it is or isn’t, you’re likely to get the blame thrown back and forth between the two. The only way to avoid this is to make sure you have a good warranty to begin with, and buy from someone you trust to be fair if problems occur. Otherwise, you might just have to roll the dice. If push comes to shove, telling the store you work for the media and will be glad to get them an article on how poor their service is might encourage them to do the right thing and at least listen to your complaint.
“My carpet sucks”
We get a few of these every now and then where someone is just generally fed up with their carpet. It stains too easily, aged way too fast, among other problems. The issue here is pretty simple: the carpet quality is meeting the individual’s expectations. So where’d these expectations come from? It could be from a high price tag, verbal guarantees from a salesman (remember, if it’s not in writing, it doesn’t count), or friendly recommendations.
How to make your carpet not suck: Know what you’re buying, and don’t take anyone’s word on anything. I hate to be so cynical, but this is the reality if you want to be sure you get a good carpet purchase. There are times where retailers or salesman will have your best interests in mind—hopefully more often than not, but there are also documented cases where they did not. And as for recommendations with friends, they have great intentions, but sometimes the information they give you is flawed. They may have great carpet, but they may not understand why it’s great (eg. they might think it’s the fiber they chose when it’s really the number of twists it was constructed with). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, with carpet, the devil’s in the details. It’s worth spending a few hours to learn how to take such a big investment into your own hands.
Captain’s parting words!
They always say “prevention is the best medicine.” My hope is that this post will prevent a lot of these complaints because once they happen, you’re going to want some Tylenol. One important thing to realize is that there are many more problems people have with their carpet than those listed here. The bad news is it’s impossible for me to cover every possible complaint people have with carpet, and tell you how to avoid it. The good news is, if you get the fundamentals down, and keep posts like this in mind, there’s a good chance you’ll love you carpet the day you purchase it and a decade down the road! Check out Carpet Captain’s guide on how to buy carpet for a crash course on carpet buying.