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Stress Relaxation of Tufted Carpets and Carpet Components:
Analysis of the Tufted Carpet Structure
College of Textiles, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695, U.S.A.

Department of Statistics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695, U.S.A.

Dimensional stability of tufted carpets has been a continuing problem in the carpet
industry for years. When a tufted carpet is installed by the stretch-in method, it experi-
ences stress relaxation over time which can cause the carpet to buckle, wrinkle and
become loose with the only option being a costly re-stretching of the carpet. Analysis of
the various components of the tufted carpet composite structure was performed to identify
the role each component plays in the phenomenon of stress relaxation. A biaxial loading
system was used to test various samples of the primary backing alone, primary backing
after tufting (with tufts), secondary backing alone, and the finished carpet after attaching
the backings with various binder weights per area. The four variables under consideration
included primary and secondary backing constructions, tufting density, and latex weight.
A rheological model that includes representations of each component in the carpet
structure was developed and will be presented in a following paper.

Introduction tional parameters that contribute to carpet buckling or
growth were studied in the late 1960s and 1970s [1, 2,
Since the late 1960s, when tufted carpets grew in popu- 11] with occasional studies performed since then [5, 7].
larity, the carpet industry has experienced problems with However, the majority of the published work has focused
increases of carpet dimensions after installation, otherwise on various types of primary and secondary backings on a
referred to as carpet buckling, wrinkling, rucking, or carpet macroscopic scale, for example, comparing jute versus
growth. Carpets that are installed by the stretch-in method, polypropylene primary and secondary backings, woven
the most popular method for installing residential carpets, versus tufted carpets, and woven, nonwoven, foam or
experience stress relaxation over time where the tension in other types of secondary backings. However, no pub-
the carpet slowly dissipates. Then, when the carpet becomes lished work has been found that examines differences in
looser, it is more susceptible to forces imposed by walking, backings on a smaller constructional scale such as in-
which may result in buckling or wrinkling, making the creases in stitch densities.
carpet unsightly, creating trip hazards, accelerating carpet This research was designed to analyze the various
wear, and possibly causing the carpet to delaminate [12]. components of the tufted carpet composite structure,
The only option for correcting a buckled carpet is re- identify the role each component plays in the phenome-
stretching/re-installing, which is costly for retailers, install- non of stress relaxation, and thereby to identify the cause
ers, and consumers. Other factors that may aggravate carpet of carpet “growth” and buckling as far as it depends on
“growth” include changes in temperature and moisture con- carpet component properties.
ditions and incorrect or poor installation especially over
large areas [3].
Since woven and knitted carpets seldom require re- Experimental
stretching [9], the buckling problem seems to be linked
primarily to the tufted construction. Carpet construc- After installation, a carpet is held stretched along both
of its principal directions (lengthwise and widthwise)
simultaneously over its lifetime. Therefore in this re-
To whom correspondence should be addressed: e-mail: search, a specially designed biaxial testing apparatus, shown in Figure 1, was used to stretch a (45 cm ⫻ 45

Textile Res. J. 75(6), 485– 491 (2005) DOI: 10.1177/0040517505053844 © 2005 Sage Publications

Four factors were chosen to represent the tufted carpet
structure: primary backing construction, secondary back-
ing construction, tufting density, and coating weight per
unit area. Details of sample constructions are presented
in Table I (components) and Table II (finished carpets).
Each component of the carpet as well as the finished
carpet samples were tested with three repetitions includ-
ing the primary backing (alone, before tufting), primary
backing after tufting (with tufts), secondary backing
alone, and the finished carpet after attaching the second-
ary with various weights of latex.
Carpet samples in this study were produced by a
carpet manufacturer with commercial tufting equipment.
Choice of test samples was therefore limited by what
FIGURE 1. Experimental set-up. could be produced by the carpet manufacturer without
causing unacceptable disruptions in production. For this
cm) square sample in both directions and hold the sample reason, warp density in primary and secondary backings
stretched for a period of time. Two load cells measured as well as latex composition were held constant. The
the load values in the warp (A) and filling (B) directions primary backings were made with polypropylene tape
and two precision dial displacement gauges measured the yarns in both warp and filling directions while the sec-
elongation of the sample in each direction. Deformation ondary backings consisted of a leno weave using tape
of the sample was performed manually. A computer- yarns in the warp, similar to the primaries, but with
based data acquisition system, with LabVIEW® soft- open-end spun polypropylene yarns in the filling.
ware [13], was used to enable continuous monitoring of Finished carpet samples, shown in Table II, consisted of
stress levels and generate stress relaxation data. samples A-, B-, and C-Lo and -Hi, which focused on the
Test samples were stretched in both warp and fill effects of secondary backing construction and coating
directions to exactly 1% strain and the load values were weight while holding tufting pattern and primary backing
recorded continuously for 20 hours. A value of 1% was construction constant, and samples D, E, and F, which
taken to be the typical strain value that a properly in- varied the primary backing and tufting density while coat-
stalled carpet experiences, in accordance with the Carpet ing weight and secondary backing construction were held
and Rug Institute’s [4] recommendation of 1-1.5% constant. Due to difficulties in controlling the latex weight
stretch for carpet installation and considering that, in applied to the samples during production, the actual latex
practice, most installers do not exceed 1% [6]. weights were not as precise as desired.

TABLE I. Carpet components evaluated.

Warp Fill

Yarn mass Yarn mass
Sample Name Ends (cm) linear densitya Tape width Picks (cm) linear densitya Tape width

Primary backings:
11 picks/inch (ppi) 9.4 492 den. 1.25 mm 4.3 1077 den. 2.5 mm
18 picks/inch (ppi) 9.4 492 den. 1.25 mm 7.1 1062 den. 2.5 mm
Secondary backings:
16 ends/inch (epi) ⫻ 5 ppi 6.3 492 den. 1.25 mm 2.0 1749 den. spun yarn
18 ends/inch (epi) ⫻ 11 ppi 7.1 471 den. 1.25 mm 4.3 1668 den. spun yarn

Tufted primaries: (Pr ⫽
primary backing ppi; spi ⫽ Primary backing used (ends/
tuft density stitches/inch) cm ⫻ picks/cm) Tuft density (stitches/cm)

11 Pr, 8 spi 9.4 ⫻ 4.3 (24 epi ⫻ 11 ppi) 3.1 (8 spi)
11 Pr, 12 spi 9.4 ⫻ 4.3 (24 epi ⫻ 11 ppi) 4.7 (12 spi)
18 Pr, 8 spi 9.4 ⫻ 7.1 (24 epi ⫻ 18 ppi) 3.1 (8 spi)
18 Pr, 12 spi 9.4 ⫻ 7.1 (24 epi ⫻ 18 ppi) 4.7 (12 spi)
As measured by unraveling the fabric.
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TABLE II. Finished carpets evaluated. “Lo”and “Hi”designations refer to latex content.

Primary backing Secondary backing
constructiona constructiona Tufting density Actual latex
@ 5/32 gauge contentb Carpet weightc
Name ends/cm picks/cm ends/cm picks/cm (stitches/cm) (g/m2) (g/m2)

A-Lo 9.4 4.3 6.3 2.0 3.1 746 1702
B-Lo 9.4 4.3 6.3 3.1 3.1 610 1611
C-Lo 9.4 4.3 7.1 4.3 3.1 712 1733
A-Hi 9.4 4.3 6.3 2.0 3.1 882 1838
B-Hi 9.4 4.3 6.3 3.1 3.1 848 1831
C-Hi 9.4 4.3 7.1 4.3 3.1 848 1865
D 9.4 7.1 6.3 2.0 3.1 814 1824
E 9.4 7.1 6.3 2.0 4.7 814 2119
F 9.4 4.3 6.3 2.0 4.7 882 2140
a b
For the primary and secondary backings, yarn mass linear densities can be found in Table 1. Actual latex amount (in g/m2) was calculated
by subtracting the weights of the tufted primary and secondary backing from the average total carpet weight. Average weight for the three
carpet samples tested (three repetitions).

Results and Discussion (1) initial load: the highest or peak load experienced by
the sample immediately after it was stretched to 1%;
Typical stress-relaxation curves obtained in warp and (2) residual load: the residual load on the carpet sample
fill directions for one of the carpets and its components after being stretched to 1% in both directions for 20
are shown in Figures 2 and 3. Each data point in the plot hours;
represents an average load value of three tests at that time (3) percentage retained load: the residual load after 20
interval. As shown in the figures, the load sustained by hours expressed as a percentage of the initial or peak
the finished carpet is significantly higher than for the load; and,
individual components. This indicates that the layer of (4) residual rate of load decay: an estimate of the rate of
latex used to adhere the carpet components together load decay after 20 hours by taking the slope of the
plays a significant role in the amount of load the carpet last part of the stress-relaxation curves using a local
can support. linear regression.

ANALYSIS OF THE STRESS RELAXATION BEHAVIOR An analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed for
each of six dependent variables, including the residual
The data from the biaxial tester were initially obtained load, percentage retained load, and residual rate of load
as load versus time curves, containing more than 800 decay in both the warp and fill directions, on each of four
data points, for the 20-h testing period. Four character- data sets, including primary backings alone, secondary
istic parameter values were extracted from the data in backings alone, tufted primaries, and finished carpets.
order to represent each sample, including: For the finished carpets, linear regression analysis was

FIGURE 2. Stress relaxation curve (warp
direction) of finished carpet sample D, plot-
ted with its components, tufted primary (18
ppi primary, 8 spi tuft density) and second-
ary backing (16 epi ⫻ 5 ppi) (see Table I for
sample details).

FIGURE 3. Stress relaxation curve (fill di-
rection) of finished carpet sample D, plotted
with its components, tufted primary (18 ppi
primary, 8 spi tuft density) and secondary
backing (16 epi ⫻ 5 ppi) (see Table I for
sample details).

used to isolate the carpet components that had significant For the secondary backings tested alone, most of the
effects on the dependent variables. stress relaxation data did not show any statistically sig-
nificant differences. This is probably due to the very low
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY BACKINGS load values experienced by the secondary backings ini-
tially and after 20 hours. The secondary backings were
A summary of the results for the primary backing
difficult to test because of their thin, net-like structure
fabrics is presented in Table III. As shown in the table,
which allowed the yarns to move more freely, dissipating
the 18 ppi (7.1 picks/cm) primary retained 9 –10% more
the stress quickly. The biaxial tests performed at 1%
stress and maintained nearly twice the actual load as the
strain apparently were not deforming the yarns them-
11 ppi (4.3 picks/cm) in both warp and fill directions
selves but were simply moving the yarns within the
after 20 hours. However, the only dependent variable to
fabric structure. There was a significantly higher residual
show a statistically significant difference between the 11
load in the warp direction than in the fill, which is
and 18 ppi primaries was the residual load in the fill
undoubtedly due to the spun yarn structure of the filling
direction, although some other p-values were close to
0.05. Apparently, more fill yarns in the 18 ppi fabric
resulted in higher residual loads and retained load values
in the fill direction. No statistically significant difference TUFTED PRIMARIES: THE EFFECT OF TUFT DENSITY
was found in the warp direction (at 95% confidence), The four tufted primaries tested were combinations of
which is understandable since the warp thread density in the 11 and 18 ppi primary backings and the 3.1 and 4.7
the two primary backings was the same (9.4 ends/cm or stitches per cm (8 and 12 spi) tufting densities. Experi-
24 ends/inch). mental data is summarized in Table IV.
As shown in Table IV, in general, the residual load
and retained load (%) values for the tufted primaries in
TABLE III. Results of the statistical analysis of the biaxial test data for
the 11 ppi and 18 ppi primary backings when tested alone. (p- values the fill direction are two to three times higher than the
⬍ 0.05 indicate statistical significance at 95% confidence. Four (4) untufted primary backings. This was verified statistically
error degrees of freedom.) using two linear contrasts to compare the primaries alone
Sample means: to the corresponding tufted primaries: (1) 11 ppi primary
primaries p-value versus 11Pr8spi and 11Pr12spi tufted primaries and (2)
(for 18 ppi primary versus 18Pr8spi and 18Pr12spi. For the
Dependent variable 11 ppi 18 ppi difference)
residual load in the fill direction, equality was rejected
Residual load1, warp 1.90 kg 3.51 kg 0.0607 with p-values of 0.0006 and ⬍0.0001 for linear contrasts
Residual load1, fill 3.13 kg 6.09 kg 0.0195
Retained stress, warp 17.93% 26.33% 0.0917 (1) and (2), respectively (with 12 error degrees of free-
Retained stress, fill 16.60% 26.83% 0.0534 dom (df)). For the retained load (%) in the fill, equality
Rate of load decay, warp ⫺0.6986 ⫺0.7850 0.5050 was rejected with p-values of ⬍0.0001 for both linear
Rate of load decay, fill ⫺0.9203 ⫺1.4795 0.0888
contrasts (with 12 error df). At first, this result does not
Per 45 cm sample. make sense, since previous studies have shown that the
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TABLE IV. Sample means (average of three repetitions) for the primaries and tufted primaries tested.

Residual load1 Retained stress
Initial load1 (kg) (kg) (%) Residual rate of load decay

Sample Warp Fill Warp Fill Warp Fill Warp Fill

11 ppi primary 10.6 18.7 1.9 3.1 17.9 16.6 ⫺0.6986 ⫺0.9203
11Pr 8 spi (tufted) 6.6 17.6 2.4 7.4 36.1 42.4 ⫺0.7861 ⫺1.9696
11Pr 12 spi (tufted) 8.8 16.9 3.4 7.4 39.2 43.9 ⫺0.9589 ⫺2.1407
18 ppi primary 13.2 22.9 3.5 6.1 26.3 26.8 ⫺0.7850 ⫺1.4795
18Pr 8 spi (tufted) 10.5 34.8 4.2 15.0 40.0 43.0 ⫺1.0394 ⫺3.5921
18Pr 12 spi (tufted) 9.3 29.8 3.6 12.5 38.5 41.8 ⫺1.0733 ⫺3.4468
Per 45 cm sample.

primary backing loses 30 – 60% of its strength and other The tufting density was found to have no clear effect
properties suffer after tufting [2], and it was expected on the residual load or retained load (%). This was again
that the tufted primaries would show faster rates of stress verified with a linear contrast comparing tufted primaries
decay and lower amounts of retained load. However, the with 8 spi versus 12 spi. None of the p-values obtained
process of tufting forces yarns (tufts) through the pri- were lower than 0.1174 (with 12 error df).
mary backing, including through the interstices between
the warp and fill yarns as well as penetrating the yarns BEHAVIOR OF FINISHED CARPET
themselves. Consequently, in the tufted primary, yarns in
the backing have less freedom of movement within the Analysis of the finished carpet data is presented in
structure and cannot dissipate stress as quickly. Table V. Interestingly, the results for the finished carpets
A third linear contrast was used to compare tufted with 11 and 18 ppi primary backings followed the results
primaries with the 11 ppi primary backing to those with reported for primary backings earlier. In the fill direction,
the 18 ppi primary (11Pr8spi and 11Pr12spi versus the residual loads were significantly higher for finished
18Pr8spi and 18Pr12spi). A significant difference was carpets with the 18 ppi primary, indicating that the effect
found for the residual load in both warp and fill direc- of additional fill yarns in the primary is not obscured
tions with p-values of 0.0030 and ⬍0.0001, respectively when the carpet is finished.
(with 8 error df). Analysis of the finished carpet data was more compli-
Another observation, which was not verified statisti- cated than analysis of the components alone since there
cally, is that the residual load in the fill direction is were four factors that came into play simultaneously: the
consistently higher than in the warp across all of the primary and secondary backing, the tufting density, and
backing/tufting combinations. This is most likely due to the latex content. Linear regressions were used to exam-
the difference in crimp levels between the warp and fill ine all four factors/components (using actual magnitudes
yarns. The fill yarns have less crimp, about 0.5%, com- of the variables) as well as two possible interaction
pared with the warp yarns, at about 2% [6]. Therefore, effects between the factors (primary ⫻ tuft density and
when stretched 1% during testing, the fill yarns are secondary ⫻ latex). Dependent variables included the
un-crimped and stretched to a greater degree than the residual load and retained load (%) in the warp and fill
warp, resulting in higher levels of load. directions. The initial linear regression models were re-

TABLE V. Summary of the residual load and retained stress values for the finished carpet samples tested (average of three repetitions).

Residual load1 Percent (%) retained stress Residual rate of load decay

Sample Warp (kg) Fill (kg) Warp (%) Fill (%) Warp Fill

A-Lo (11 Pr, 8 spi, 16 ⫻ 5) 19.0 25.5 29.6 33.8 ⫺4.3938 ⫺5.3557
B-Lo (11 Pr, 8 spi, 16 ⫻ 8) 18.3 21.8 30.0 31.9 ⫺4.1819 ⫺4.9190
C-Lo (11 Pr, 8 spi, 18 ⫻ 11) 21.4 24.2 30.7 33.0 ⫺5.8640 ⫺6.6902
A-Hi (11 Pr, 8 spi, 16 ⫻ 5) 13.7 22.9 25.2 30.0 ⫺3.2337 ⫺5.1316
B-Hi (11 Pr, 8 spi, 16 ⫻ 8) 16.5 20.5 27.4 30.0 ⫺3.4572 ⫺4.1501
C-Hi (11 Pr, 8 spi, 18 ⫻ 11) 20.5 21.9 30.4 32.0 ⫺4.5234 ⫺4.1355
D (18 Pr, 8 spi, 16 ⫻ 5) 19.7 29.8 27.0 31.8 ⫺5.2639 ⫺7.4781
E (18 Pr, 12 spi, 16 ⫻ 5) 17.7 29.9 28.1 32.5 ⫺3.4660 ⫺5.2077
F (11 Pr, 12 spi, 16 ⫻ 5) 18.9 21.7 27.8 29.0 ⫺4.4182 ⫺4.6001
Per 45 cm sample.

duced by removing the insignificant factors one by one, higher latex level, the thicker, heavier coating may have
starting with insignificant interaction effects, until only been under-cured.
the significant factors were left in the model.
For the residual load of the finished carpets in the fill LONG TERM STRESS RELAXATION TESTS
direction, the primary backing construction was the sin-
gle most significant contributing factor in the reduced A limited number of samples were tested for longer
model, overpowering the effects of the other factors periods of time than the initial 20-hour period. Figure 4
(with p-value ⬍ 0.0001, R2 value 0.5981, and 28 error df shows the long-term residual load data as a function of
in the reduced model). For the residual load in the warp time for one of the samples. After the initial 20 hours
direction, most of the factors tested were found to sig- were up, these samples were left on the biaxial tester and
nificantly contribute to the model, indicating that no one load measurements were taken manually after additional
factor was the most critical (95% confidence, R2 0.4899, time had elapsed. After 600 hours, the four samples had
23 error df). The latex content was found to be significant retained load (%) values ranging from 18.7 to 20.7% in
in three out of four dependent variables, including resid- the warp and 17.5 to 24.8% in the fill. The two samples
ual load in the warp and retained load (%) in the warp that were tested for longer than 600 hours continued to
and fill (p-values 0.0071, 0.0020, and 0.0066, respec- dissipate stress slowly over extended time periods.
tively). The effect of latex content on carpet performance
is discussed further in the following section. Conclusions
From the results presented here, it is clear that primary
backing construction plays a very important role in de-
Two levels of latex content were examined in this termining the stress relaxation behavior of carpets. It is
study, “Lo” (712–746 g/m2 or 21–22 oz/yd2) and “Hi” also apparent from the data that latex as a binder provides
(848 – 882 g/m2 or 25–26 oz/yd2). While the latex con- significant synergy to the carpet system; as a result the
tent was expected to be a significant factor, after exam- force required for stretching a finished carpet to 1%
ination of the data in Table V, it appeared that the high extension is much higher than the sum of the forces
latex levels had lower residual and retained load (%) required to stretch the individual components by the
values than the low latex levels in both warp and fill same amount. At the same time, higher latex content
directions. This result seems, at first, counterintuitive. It showed inferior stress relaxation performance. However,
would generally be expected that higher latex levels before concluding that lower latex levels perform better,
would bond the carpet backings more securely together, other factors affecting buckling need to be considered,
restricting their movement and their ability to dissipate including various kinds of loading such as the forces
stress, and therefore having higher residual load values. imposed by walking. In addition, other performance
However, the latex used in carpets generally contains properties were not tested in this study, such as tuftbind.
large amounts of filler [8, 10], so increasing the amount Obviously the role of latex needs to be investigated
of latex and filler may result in unexpected effects. further. For the primary and secondary backings tested
Furthermore, the “Lo” latex level is the typical level used alone at 1% strain, the residual loads have generally
for this type of carpet, so in attempting to obtain the leveled off to their limiting values after the 20-hour

FIGURE 4. Long-term stress relaxation
curve of finished carpet sample E (kg per
45-cm sample) in both warp and fill direc-
JUNE 2005 491

testing period; however, finished carpet samples did not 4. “Guidance for Restretching to Remove Buckles, Wrinkles,
reach their limiting residual load values during the 20- and Bubbles.” Technical Bulletin. The Carpet and Rug
hour testing period, but took significantly longer. Institute. Dalton, Georgia, 1998.
5. Monson, J. A., A Study of the Relationship Between Car-
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS pet Mechanical Properties and Increases in Carpet Dimen-
sions Following Installation. Ph.D. Thesis, Clemson Uni-
The authors would like to express their appreciation to versity, 1982.
Hugh Gardner, Carroll Yawn, and Tom Baker from 6. Private communications with H. Gardner, C. Yawn, and T.
BP-Amoco for their help in obtaining test samples and Baker, BP-Amoco.
for making the biaxial tester available to us for an ex- 7. Schaff, A. J., and Ogale, A. A., Tensile Viscoelastic Prop-
tended length of time. erties of Spunbonded Nonwoven Polypropylene Backing.
Textile Res. J. 61(7), 386 –392 (1991).
8. Scott, R. L., Carpet Laminating. J. Coated Fabrics 19,
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