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**Stress Relaxation of Tufted Carpets and Carpet Components:
**

Analysis of the Tufted Carpet Structure

KRISTIE J. PHILLIPS AND TUSHAR K. GHOSH,1

College of Textiles, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695, U.S.A.

DAVID A. DICKEY

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

ABSTRACT

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-

1

To whom correspondence should be addressed: e-mail: search, a specially designed biaxial testing apparatus,

tghosh@tx.ncsu.edu 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 www.sagepublications.com

486 TEXTILE RESEARCH JOURNAL

**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)

a

As measured by unraveling the fabric.

JUNE 2005 487

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

c

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).

488 TEXTILE RESEARCH JOURNAL

**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

yarns.

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

1

Per 45 cm sample. make sense, since previous studies have shown that the

JUNE 2005 489

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

1

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

1

Per 45 cm sample.

490 TEXTILE RESEARCH JOURNAL

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

COMMENTS ON LATEX CONTENT

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-

tions.

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,

Literature Cited 35–52 (1989).

1. British Standards Institution. “Methods of Test for the 9. Smith, G. W., Backings are the Foundation, Not Second-

Dimensional Stability of Textile Floor Coverings. Part I. ary. Carpet & Rug Industry, 24(9), 28 –29 (1996).

Determination of Extension under Mechanical Action.” BS 10. Stamper, K., An Overview of Carpet Laminates. Carpet

4682: Part 1: 1971. British Standards Institution, London, Manufacturing Conference. Northwest Georgia Trade &

1971. Convention Center, Dalton, Georgia, Aug. 15–16, 2000.

2. Gentry, D. R., The Dimensional Stability of Carpets in 11. Sudnik, Z. M., Dimensional Stability of Carpets: Rucking

Installations. Part I: Stability to Mechanical Actions, Tex- of Carpets in Use. Textile Institute and Industry. 7, 278 –

tile Res. J. 47(7), 459 – 463, (1977). 281 (1969).

3. Goodman, P. J., Down to Basics, Carpets & Floorcover- 12. www.carpet-rug.com (The Carpet and Rug Institute).

ings Review -Supplement 10 –30, (1986). 13. www.ni.com (National Instruments).

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