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What Are the Different Types of Carpet Backing?

Carpet backing is the unsung hero of your floor's comfort and durability. From the sturdy hessian to the plush foam, each type plays a pivotal role in a carpet's feel and longevity. Woven, felt, and rubber are just the beginning. Discover how the right backing can transform your living space—what hidden benefits might lie beneath your feet? Continue exploring with us.
Tiffany Manley
Tiffany Manley

There are many brands of carpet backing, but they generally come in one of three types: natural fiber, recycled and polyurethane. Carpet fibers are sewn into a primary backing, and then a secondary backing is fused to the fibers and primary backing with latex. This helps provide a structurally sound carpet that usually stands up to many years of use. Natural fiber backings often use jute fiber, and recycled backings usually are made from recycled carpet backing. Polyurethane is a resin applied when a carpet is in its finishing stage, which helps protect against moisture.

Jute is the most common type of natural fiber used in carpet backings. Made from plant fibers, woven jute is very soft, strong and durable. Many people prefer jute because it is a natural material and is very strong and durable, creating a superior carpet backing. In some areas, jute is used less often in favor of materials such as polyurethane or recycled materials. Jute comes from plants grown in certain locations, so it might not be readily available in all areas.

Natural carpet backings are typically made of jute fiber.
Natural carpet backings are typically made of jute fiber.

Some carpet manufacturers use post-consumer content to manufacture their carpet backing. Old backing might be mixed with various minerals, creating a substance that can be used as filler in making new backing. Many people view this type of backing as an environmentally friendly choice. Other environmentally sound options have been researched to further enhance the process of manufacturing carpet backing, such as substituting natural materials for manmade ones.

Woven from plant fibers, jute is a traditional upholstery webbing, often used for carpet backing.
Woven from plant fibers, jute is a traditional upholstery webbing, often used for carpet backing.

Polyurethane has become increasingly popular as a carpet backing material. This material is applied at the end of the manufacturing cycle and turns into a rubbery substance on the back of the carpet. Many people believe that this is a superior backing material because it protects against moisture and helps prevent carpet tufts from coming loose. Polyurethane might not be the most environmentally friendly choice.

In addition to these main types of carpet backing, many companies have continued to research new ways of using materials to make the best possible product. An increasing number of manufacturers have tried to invent ways to use more reclaimed carpet materials to create new ones. Soy polyols are used by some manufacturers as a substitute for a portion of the petroleum used in creating polyurethane backing. An ideal backing would be inexpensive for a company to produce as well as durable and cost-efficient for the consumer.

How To Pull Up Carpet and Put Back Down

Regardless of what type of backing a carpet has, the steps for tearing an old carpet up and efficiently placing a new carpet back down are relatively similar. Below is a brief overview of the steps it takes to pull up and replace carpet.

1. Gather the Necessary Materials

Before starting any project, a person needs to ensure that all the required tools and materials are present. Different types of carpet and underlying materials might require different specialized equipment, but most carpet replacement projects require at a minimum the following tools:

  • hammer
  • screwdriver or crowbar
  • nails and/or industrial staples
  • drill
  • pliers
  • knee kicker
  • replacement quarter round and tack strips (if necessary)
  • dust mask
  • gloves
  • eye protection
  • knee and elbow pads
  • closed-toe shoes
  • vacuum
  • disposal units

Make sure every individual involved wears masks and protective eyewear as dust, dirt, small carpet fibers, and potentially mold, could get dispersed into the air during these projects. Knee pads, elbow pads, gloves, and closed-toe shoes are particularly important to avoid bodily injuries.

2. Clean

Before beginning the project, thoroughly clean the area. This might seem counterintuitive since the old carpet is probably going straight into the trash, but a clean space makes the work easier and safer. Remove all furniture and items from on top of the carpet before vacuuming as well.

3. Remove the Quarter Round

If the intent is to keep the same quarter round, carefully remove the current quarter round so as not to damage it. Use a hammer and a leveraging tool, such as a screwdriver or a crowbar, to carefully tap the quarter round away from the walls and off of the nails that secure it. If the old quarter round is going to be replaced, this process can be done less carefully. Replacing old quarter round with new is often less of a hassle and makes the work go faster.

4. Remove the Old Carpet

Cut the carpet into strips for easier removal. Once a strip is cut, pry the carpet carefully off of the tack strip on one end and pull the carpet up using strong, concentrated pulls. Pull all the carpet strips up and then go back and repeat the same process with any underlying foams or pads. If the tack strips remain usable, keep them for the new carpet. More often, the tack strips will need to be replaced. Pry them up the same as the quarter round and place new ones down if this is the case. Place all the old strips of carpet and any underlying layers into trash bags or a dumpster for disposal.

5. Clean Again

Vacuum and dust the subfloor before placing any new flooring down. This is especially important for new carpet. Make sure the subfloor is stable and dry before placing down any new materials to avoid moisture problems and ensure a smooth, debris-free surface for the new carpeting.

6. Place the New Carpet

First, roll out the new underlying pads or mats on top of the new floor in the center of the room. Stretch the underlying material up to the edge of the tack strips and staple or nail it into place. Next lay the new carpet over this material. Place any carpet seams perpendicular to any pad seams for the best future performance. Place carpet sections as closely as possible and secure them using seam tape on the underside of the seams. Stretch the carpet up and onto the tack strips using a specialized tool called a knee kicker. It usually works best to leave excess carpet here and trim it off later using a razor blade knife. Also, make sure the carpet has no slack to prevent future wrinkles. Finally, put the old quarter round back or replace it with new.

7. Clean and Furnish the Room

Once again, vacuum the entire workspace. Specifically, make sure to clean new carpeting before placing any furniture or other items on top of it, as there will often be stray carpet fibers and dust present after the work.

What Does Action Backed Carpet Mean?

Action-backed carpeting is a special carpet backing made of synthetic woven jute. It is often associated with superior sound insulation and durability. Many people also say that action backing creates a softer, more pleasant feel to walk upon. Action-backed carpeting is a great option for rooms and spaces with heavier footfall. Action-backed carpet can be laid similarly to regular carpeting materials as above; however, it can also be laid using an adhesive. Action-backed carpeting often requires professional installation services, especially if it is installed via an adhesive.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most typical carpet backing materials?

Action backing and secondary backing are the two most frequent types of carpet backing. The layer of material attached to the bottom of the carpet to provide a cushioning layer is known as action backing. It is typically constructed of a blend of jute and latex and is intended to offer a cushioning layer that makes the carpet softer and more comfortable to walk on. Secondary backing is typically constructed of polypropylene or polyester and is intended to offer strength and stability to the carpet. It also helps keep the carpet from slipping or shifting when walking on it. 

What is the purpose of carpet backing? 

Carpet backing performs various critical tasks. First, it adds a cushioning layer to the carpet, making it softer and more comfortable to tread on. Second, it keeps the carpet in place, preventing it from sliding or slipping when stepped on. Third, it gives strength and stability to the carpet, ensuring that it will last for many years. Finally, it protects the carpet's bottom from dirt and moisture, which can help extend the carpet's life. 

Is carpet backing absolutely necessary?

Yes, carpet backing is required in order to ensure that the carpet lasts for many years. Without carpet backing, the carpet may shift or slip when stepped on, causing it to wear out faster. Furthermore, without carpet backing, the bottom of the carpet may become soiled or stained from dirt and moisture, causing the carpet to wear out faster. 

What exactly is jute backing?

Jute backing is a type of fabric backing composed of jute fibers and latex. It is intended to offer a cushioning layer that softens and makes the carpet more comfortable to tread on. It also helps keep the carpet in place and keeps it from slipping or shifting when stepped on. It also protects the carpet from dirt and moisture, which can help extend the carpet's life. 

Does the carpet backing influence the appearance of the carpet?

No, carpet backing has no effect on the appearance of the carpet. It is intended to be concealed, so it has no effect on the color or pattern of the carpet. Furthermore, because it adds no extra bulk, it has no effect on how the carpet looks when placed.

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    • Natural carpet backings are typically made of jute fiber.
      By: Dimco
      Natural carpet backings are typically made of jute fiber.
    • Woven from plant fibers, jute is a traditional upholstery webbing, often used for carpet backing.
      By: marcoemilio
      Woven from plant fibers, jute is a traditional upholstery webbing, often used for carpet backing.