Wheelchair and Power Chair Friendly Carpet
The other day I was talking to a website reader who had some unique questions about buying carpet. Her name is Lori. She read much of this website, and I could tell by her email that she was knowledgeable on what makes a good carpet purchase. It also helped that she is friends with a carpet installer.
Lori was well on her way to a good carpet purchase, but she had one last concern:
Lori uses a power chair to help get around her home, so she wondered if normal carpet would hold up. And if not, what special features should she shop for?
I’m glad she asked because power chairs and wheelchairs do demand more from your carpet, and I was able to give her some tips before you put down money for new carpet. With the help of Lori, I created this article to share these tips with you:
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Problem with power chairs and wheelchairs on carpet
To get an idea of what type of carpet works best with your power chair or wheelchair, it helps to first realize what we’re dealing with.
Most of these chairs weigh somewhere in the ballpark of 100 to 500 pounds, and they have relatively narrow wheels (compared to your foot) so all of the weight is focused in a small area of the carpet. Imagine a pizza cutter slicing through the pizza crust—it’s all because the pressure is placed on a thin line.
Clearly, your wheelchair won’t be this bad, but the force of the wheel on the carpet is enough to crush the padding. When your padding crushes, it can cause the backing of the carpet to break, the carpet stretches, and you’re left with wavy carpet in your living room. Even if you don’t have padding, this force can crush the carpet yarn, causing the carpet to matte down and appear used and dirty.
Another problem is wheelchairs and power chairs turn by pivoting. This twisting motion tears at the carpet causing it to fray. As you can imagine, this isn’t a good look.
Can these problems be fixed?
The short answer is yes. There are things you can do to greatly reduce the occurrence of wavy, crushed, and frayed carpet. The rest of the article I’ll lay out the same recommendation I gave Lori for her carpet:
Go with commercial grade
Commercial grade carpet is meant to stand up to a high amount of traffic and the occasional heavy object rolling around on it. Naturally, it can take a beating and not stretch out or crush.
Short nylon fiber
If you go with commercial carpet, this part will be taken care of. However, if you don’t find a commercial carpet you like, you need to make sure to get a short pile carpet that is made of nylon. The longer the pile height of the carpet, the greater chance it has of crushing. Nylon is the strongest material in the carpet world, so the chance of your carpet fraying from the wheelchair is reduced.
Carpet tiles are replaceable
Commercial carpet can come in tiles (as opposed to standard wall-to-wall carpeting), and this is an excellent option for wheelchair and power chair users. Individual tiles are replaceable. This is a beneficial feature for anyone, but power chair and wheelchair homeowners will get the greatest benefit. Carpet will tend to wear more in areas where you commonly sit or turn the chair. Over time, these small areas of carpet will need to be replaced. The magic of carpet tiles is you can replace the damaged areas, rather than the whole carpet. As a side note, you can come up with some pretty cool carpet patterns with tiles as well.
Padding needs to hold its weight
Often times, commercial carpet is glued directly to the floor without padding or with a thin built in pad. But what if you didn’t buy commercial carpet, or have other reasons you want padding? Power chair users can use padding, just make sure it is firm and thin. This gives it a better chance of holding up to the demands of the chair. Consider slab rubber padding which is very durable (although a bit pricey). A second option is a thin fiber pad.
Strategic use of mats
Find a good looking mat and buy a couple because they will be a great help to maintaining good looking carpet. I’d put one in the entrance of your home for dirty, and one in areas where you frequently sit with your chair (in front of a TV, etc). It’s a lot easier and cheaper to buy a new mat than all new carpet.
Captain’s parting words!
As a power chair or wheelchair use, you have all of the options that I suggested to Lori. The best approach is to purchase commercial carpet tiles that have a thin pad built into them, and then use mats strategically. As for Lori, she didn’t go with tiles but found a commercial carpet she liked and a dense fiber pad. I think this will serve her well. If you don’t find a commercial carpet you like, make sure to go with a short pile, very dense, nylon carpet and a ideally slab rubber padding. There’s no reason a power chair or wheelchair should prevent you from having good looking carpet in your home; you just have to pay a little closer attention to the details.