I want to briefly discuss carpet backings. I often have people come into the store and they seem particularly fixated on the carpet backings. Those people often say to me that you can tell the quality of a carpet by the backing. But the question is, is that true? Can you really tell a carpet quality by the feel and weave of the backing? That is the question I am going to discuss during this post.
The first thing I want to do is to give a brief understanding of the two types of carpet backings.
The first is what is called the primary backing. That is what the carpet is tufted to during the manufacturing process. Primary backing looks like trampoline material. A carpet tufting machine looks like a big sewing machine and the needles have to punch through something which is the primary back.
A second backing is then adhered (glued) to the primary backing to give the carpet strength and stability.
That is the backing we are going to discuss—the secondary backing. That is the backing you see when you look at a carpet sample.
Some of the more popular residential carpet backings are listed below:
- KangaBack®, a trademark of Textile Rubber & Chemical, is an attached urethane cushion product for residential use.
- Moisture barrier backings: Most moisture barrier backings are solid vinyl or urethane. Their purpose is to keep water-based spills from penetrating through the carpet, affecting both the carpet and the surface under the carpet. However, they can also have the disadvantage of trapping any moisture trapped under them from evaporating. This can be especially damaging to the concrete itself and to the glue if the carpet is glued down. It can lead to failure of the carpet installation. Also, because the pad does not absorb a spill, or pet urine, the material tends to spread outward more, making wicking over a larger area more likely.
- Polypropylene: This is the backing used on most carpets today. It is strong, dimensionally stable and lasts virtually forever. The drawback to this type backing is it is very rough and can damage baseboards.
- SoftBac® is a registered trademark of Shaw Industries. It is a woven/non-woven combination backing system that eliminates the harsh surface of the backing that can scuff up walls and banisters. Additionally, it results in a carpet that is more flexible and lighter.
- Luxurybac® carpet backing made by Beaulieu of America for their Bliss line. It is a soft back similar to Shaw Industries backing only heavier.*
- HighPic Backing: Some of the higher end manufacturers use a Polypropylene backing that is tighter woven with the backing “cells” closer together. It give the backing a sturdier, nicer look.
As you can see by the list above there are many types of backs—and that is only a partial listing.
Upper end backings just feel better in hand. They make the carpet sample heavier and the carpet feels softer. That is especially true for SoftBac® by Shaw and Luxurybac® by Bealieu. Those backings are heavy and nice. There is a perceived value to the consumer and that allows those manufacturers to charge more for the carpets that have those backings.
So often the backing is more of a marketing element than a quality element. The nicer backings allow the manufacturer to charge more money and make more money.
To summarize, I would look at the backing more as a sign of how the manufacturer feels about that carpet—where the carpet fits into their product line. A more expensive backing is simply a signal that the carpet is part of their upper end offerings.
A cheaper, thinner backing is a sign that they are trying to save money and keep their costs down (but you can also probably tell that by feeling the carpet itself). It’s self-explanatory that cheap backing on cheap carpet is at the bottom of their product offerings.
A regular normal “action” back or polypropelnene backing is what graces most carpet made. It really doesn’t tell you anything about the carpet. That type of backing will hold up just fine and if properly installed with be just fine for the life of the carpet.
So does better carpet backing make better carpet? The simple answer is probably not. As long as the backing is probably adhered to the primary backing and doesn’t have any loose spots any backing is probably just fine.