Ready to pull out the rug?

8th of January 2018
Ready to pull out the rug?
Ready to pull out the rug?

Carpets were once the last word in luxury flooring. But are hard floors gradually replacing them in upmarket hotels, restaurant and offices around the world, asks Ann Laffeaty?

Fitted carpets were once considered to be the height of luxury. When man-made fibres were first introduced in the mid-20th century it meant carpets could now be made from materials such as nylon and polyester. And they suddenly became much more affordable than the previous woollen products.

“Wall-to-wall carpeting” became a status symbol: a term that was synonymous with comfort and good living. And any office, hotel or shop that installed a fitted carpet was making a statement that nothing was too good for their customers.

But those were the days when the main alternative was cold, hard linoleum. There are many more options on the market today such as wood, vinyl, marble, tiles, terrazzo and laminates. And hard floors are now available in a growing number of styles and designs while also becoming easier to clean and maintain all the time.

Suddenly, hard floors are cutting-edge and carpets seem outdated in comparison. So, does this mean that the carpet era is finally losing its magic?

Prochem’s sales manager Phil Jones thinks not. “The carpet industry is still buoyant,” he claims. “There are many specialist manufacturers out there producing bespoke quality floor coverings that contain fibres such as wool, bamboo and viscose. And carpets are still highly popular in areas such as the UK and Western Europe.”

He concedes that Mediterranean facilities often opt for hard flooring due to their climate. “Warm temperatures can make a carpet covering redundant,” he said. “Also, hard flooring is often considered to be easier to clean and maintain. But those who opt for a hard floor in the hope of a problem-free future will find they lose the texture – and the love - that a carpeted floor can offer the property. And many boutique hotels still choose carpets for the benefits they offer such as sound-proofing and the fact that they are deemed to be warmer and more comfortable underfoot.”

According to Jones, carpets can actually be easier to maintain than hard floors. “The darker colours that tend to be chosen for public buildings will effectively hide the dirt, and this enables the facility to leave longer intervals between cleaning cycles,” he said. “Also, the choice of colours and patterns offered by carpet manufacturers vastly outstrips the range available from hard floor producers. And company logos or crests can be woven into the design of a carpet more easily which is a major benefit in environments such as hotels, golf clubs and spas.”

Easier to clean

He adds that carpets can be easier to clean than hard floors when a regular cleaning regime is instigated from the outset. “Advances in cleaning technology enable large carpeted areas to be cleaned both quickly and efficiently,” he said. For example, Prochem’s S745 PROCAPS soil encapsulating spray cleaner is a maintenance product for use on wool carpets and rugs. It is said to maintain the attractive appearance of a carpet if sprayed on regularly and brushed away after a 20-minute drying time.

According to Jones, many hard floors incur a higher initial cost than soft floor coverings. “The true impact of cleaning a hard floor surface is not always appreciated until the flooring becomes soiled,” he said. “Ingrained soil in tiled grouting and a greater surface visibility of soil are two of the negative aspects of hard flooring. And noise levels also tend to be higher with a hard floor.”

However, he says carpets require specialist care along with a clear understanding of their properties. “They are great to have and can be easily maintained with only a basic level of training and the use of quality cleaning detergents,” he said.

He believes the carpet market to be as strong as ever. “The underfoot texture of a quality carpet is still the feeling many clients desire,” he said.

Carpeted floors tend to be more popular in northern and central Europe than in the south according to Kärcher’s head of global sales Bettina Biebl.

“We do see a trend – in hotels in particular – towards providing a mix of carpeted areas and hard floors,” she said. “However, this is only the case in certain sectors. The number of hard floor options is increasing all the time, but this doesn’t appear to herald an end to carpeted floors.”

She says the ease of cleaning depends entirely on the kind of carpet or type of hard floor. “With the right maintenance programme you can effectively clean any floor, though it might have an impact on the amount of time you need to invest,” she said.

Carpets are safer and warmer and provide a higher level of insulation than hard floors while also absorbing noise and providing a “feel-good” factor, she says. Disadvantages of hard floors on the other hand are that they may be slippery when wet and can lead to heat loss.

According to Biebl there are four distinct phases to a good carpet maintenance regime: preventative maintenance, which involves stopping the dirt from entering the facility; interim maintenance; restorative maintenance; and intensive cleaning.

“Some of these steps only need to be performed a few times a month or year but each of them protects and extends the life of your carpet investment,” she said. Kärcher offers a range of sweepers, vacuums and spray extraction machines for use on carpets.

Hard floors have made great inroads in the flooring industry – particularly in the hospitality sector according to Truvox international sales and marketing director Gordon McVean.

Whole-life approach

“However the sleek, modernist design they produce is not without its challenges,” he said. “The reality is that carpets still have a huge appeal since hard floors can produce a clinical and noisy environment.”

Both hard and soft floors require a similar level of long-term maintenance, he said. “Carpets need deep cleaning while hard flooring needs stripping and re-sealing,” says McVean.  “We advise clients to take a whole-life approach to their floor which means considering both the capital and running costs along with all aspects of the cleaning and maintenance plus any equipment required.”

The Truvox range includes products for daily vacuuming, spot and responsive cleaning and periodic deep cleaning. The company’s Cimex-Encap system uses a polymeric solution to encapsulate oily and sticky soils that can become embedded in carpet pile.

McVean believes the carpet is here to stay. “Design trends may change but there will always be a demand for the texture, colour and sense of luxury that carpets can bring to interior spaces,” he said.

Global applications leader for Diversey Axel Schmitz has observed a gradual replacement of carpets with hard floors in hotels, restaurants and offices. “Hard floors now come with a range of mill finishes and offer a long life plus maintenance-free cleaning,” he said. “There is also a much wider variety of colours and structures available along with many more design options than there used to be.”

He believes the cleaning and maintenance of hard floors can be carried out more productively and effectively than carpets. “This is particularly the case in the healthcare sector where it is easier to disinfect hard floors,” he said.

Diversey offers products for daily and periodical cleaning as well as vacuuming, spot cleaning, dry foam cleaning, encapsulation cleaning and spray extraction products.

Opinion seems to be split regarding the popularity – or otherwise - of carpets. However a recent study revealed that carpet accounted for a healthy 41.2 per cent of the commercial flooring market in the US last year. On the other hand the study, carried out by BCC Research, also claimed that demand for hard floors was increasing in line with improvements to hardwood durability and surface technologies.

A UK report in Contract Flooring Journal also reported increasing interest in the hard floor sector with laminates cited as a strong driver for growth. However, this report also noted that demand for carpet had stabilised after a period of steady decline and claimed that carpet still accounted for 56 per cent of the UK’s contract flooring market in 2016.

So, despite strong competition from the hard floor sector it appears that carpet remains a highly viable option. And as manufacturers of both carpets and hard floors strive to improve their offerings it means the customer will have more choice - while the floorcare sector will remain healthy across the board.


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