Carpet Deadman

Carpet Pattern Correction

What’s going on in this video clip? Over 1K views on Facebook and only one floor guy had a question. I’m glad you asked Squeaky because this one’s for you.

For Reals

I’ve been on my knees for 40 years so you can bet I have some relics tucked away. I pulled this dusty, seventeen-year-old video clip out of my photo archives. It most likely has been converted more than once, consequently it has lost it’s audio track. You’re looking at some authentic pattern carpet correction work happening on a jobsite. This isn’t a simulated, staged or rehearsed training event in a controlled environment where all of the instructors get to look like they know what they’re doing. This is a do or die pattern correction where the carpet manufacturer has taken responsibility to correct or bear the full cost of replacement. The former being the more cost effective solution, if it can be accomplished.

That does lay quite a bit of responsibility upon the shoulders of the individual tasked with correction. Likely because a precedent has been set and confidence has been instilled in the manufacturer that a satisfactory outcome (happy customer) can be produced and they will pay for the efforts, come rain or shine. Success breeds more of this type of job opportunity, failure will more than likely put an end to it.

The Tools

At the forefront performing the heavy lifting is a prototype Robert’s brand 10-254, junior power stretcher. In the background is a Crain brand deluxe model 605 carpet knee kicker, when it was blue. This is a solid tool or ignorance that they’ve even found a way to make some improvements. A shout out to an old friend who designed and manufactured the Comfort Knees knee pads, you’re looking at the red prototype version before Crain became the distributor. Anyone who’s had the misfortune of using a knee kicker can appreciate what some extra padding can do at the point of contact. Finally, the tool that makes it all happen is called a deadman, which is deserving of a more detailed description.

Deadman Anchor

What does Deadman 

In construction, a deadman is a relatively heavy weight, typically a mass concrete block used to provide support or resistance to a load. These blocks are usually embedded firmly in soil; however, some blocks may simply rest on the ground surface.

The earliest manufactured anchor was a screw foundation designed in 1833 by a blind Irish Engineer, Alexander Mitchell.

Ground Anchors – The History

A blind Irish engineer created the Deadman. I’m lucky I can avoid stubbing my toe in the dark. The Deadman has been around for more than a century before mass produced, wall-to-wall, tufted patterned carpet became popular and manufacturing irregularities necessitated pattern correction techniques be utilized in the field.

When it comes to carpet correction the deadman not only needs to have sufficient mobile weight but in most cases has to anchor to the face of the carpet without causing damage. Stretching carpet requires horizontal forces that will easily move the weight of a human being, especially across the slick face of broadloom. I have in the past paid the Sparky to park his scissor lift in the middle of the ballroom I was carpeting when he went out to lunch. This is the kind of mobile weight that would be required of a deadman if it weren’t somehow anchored to the face of the carpet or subfloor below. In the video above I am kneeling on the deadman, providing sufficient mobile weight to keep the hooks on the bottom anchored to the loops of the carpet so that the power stretcher could do its thing.

The Anatomy of this Deadman

Dead man – A device used in carpet installation to provide a point of resistance for facilitating stretching procedures. Construction is a board with strips of tack strip attached to the bottom side.

The Carpet & Rug Institute CRI-105 -2015

Most deadmen are made from a 2″ x 10″ (1.5″ x 9.5″ nominal) by just over four feet long. Fifty inches is a popular length because it can accomodate the forty-eight inch standard length of tack strip, with an inch on each side left vacant for semi-safe handling. This particular deadman is unique in size. It is a cut-off piece of wood beam consisting of four layered 2×10 that I pulled from a construction site dumpster. It’s about six inches high, twelve inches long and ten inches wide and has standard one-inch wide carpet tack strip screwed to the bottom. I thought I struck gold when I came across it as I considered it’s size perfect for pattern correction work. It had the same weight as most deadmen but because it was stacked it allowed the technician a superior vantage point above the pattern being manipulated. The compact size made it easier to disengage from the carpet face and for a one man system it allowed for the user’s weight to be concentrated in as small an area as possible. If you’ve made it this far and you now know what it is, you probably want to know exactly how it all can be used to correct a pattern.

Carpet Pattern Correction Techniques

Carpet manufacturers have what they consider acceptable tolerances for common pattern deviations known as bow, skew, elongation and edge trueness. Here’s a link to a good article explaining these issues. For this blog entry I’d like to concentrate on a type of elongation I call intermittent elongation.

Intermittent carpet pattern elongation is a phenomena that often occurs and is most troublesome in patterned carpet that has a relatively small repeat of two inches or less. The center photo is of a mismatched seam due to elongation. It’s not the same carpet that’s in the video though the flanking photographs do represent the job depicted in the clip.

Inside the yellow box is a seam that consists of 29 pattern repeats on one side and 30 pattern repeats on the other. Each repeat measures about an inch, hence you’re looking at about a 30″ section of seam. If the totality of the seam were only 30″ this would be a fairly straight forward adjustment. This type of carpet can’t be shrunk, but it can be stretched. On the bottom side of the seam in the photo thirty repeats occupy 30″ of length while on the top side thirty repeats occupy 31″ of length. The shorter side is stretched to meet the longer side. That means that one side will need to be stretched about one-inch to line up with the other, making 29 repeats on both sides of the seam line up inside the yellow box. The manufacturer recommends stretching this type or carpet between 1-1 1/2%. In this case the carpet will need to be stretched over 3%, more than double the recommended amount to make the appropriate correction. The pattern technician needs to be confident that the material will be cooperative otherwise it doesn’t make sense to attempt an effort as it would be doomed to fail.

Carpet Pattern Correction TechniquesStay Tacks

Stay tacks are temporary fasteners driven through the carpet into the subfloor to anchor a section of material while other sections can be stretched. This process can damage some materials, caution should be exercised. Under the right circumstances stay tacks could theoretically be used instead of a deadman. Concrete subfloors present unique challenges for stay tack use making a deadman an ideal option for pattern correction over this type of subfloor.

Carpet Pattern Correction Techniques – Hook & Loop

Stay tacks are hit or miss when the subfloor is concrete. Even if they do hit, most times they can’t handle much stress. The last thing a mechanic wants do is riddle a sensitive piece of carpet with nail holes. This is where a deadman shines. The only caveat is that the hooks of a deadman need carpet loops to grab a hold. The tack strip supplies the hooks, the carpet supplies the loops and the person supplies the weight to keep them engaged. A deadman will not engage with a carpet style that is absent some type of loop.

Carpet Pattern Correction Techniques – So, what’s intermittent?

I’m not a carpet manufacturing expert but it has been explained to me that carpet elongation occurs during manufacture when the tension on the material is unequal across a range, at the time the secondary backing is being laminated. Consequently the unequal tension is locked in place and apparent when two sections of carpet need to be joined together. From my experience this can be one small, thirty-inch range or a thirty-foot range on an entire bolt. There’s no saying how large or small this range can be. What further complicates the matter is when there are multiple ranges on the roll of varying lengths creating elongation that is intermittent. As an example, the pattern might match from side-to-side in one thirty-inch range and be off the next, then on for twenty inches and be off for ten. This could go on for the entire length of the seam and creates a daunting challenge for the installation professional when there could be hundreds of repeats that need to be brought in register.

What my deadman technique is designed to do is manipulate and equally disperse that tension post-manufacture. A junior stretcher works well, as the head is wide and a large swath of material can be moved at once. The tension on the material can be changed in short three foot bursts, as little or as much is needed. That’s why you’ll see me in the video stretch the material, hold the tension, release and let relax, then repeat the process as many times as necessary. All the while monitoring from above how the two sections of material might look when joined together. Sometimes there are other pattern issues at the seam line besides elongation, as is often the case. Worst case scenario there are other tools like the Kneeless that might be effective to a somewhat lesser extent.

Carpet pattern matched causing uncorrectable wrinkling.

In the photo on the left the installer attempted to shrink the carpet, forcing the longer side to match the shorter side. While he did miraculously accomplish the task of bringing the pattern in register he also created unfixable wrinkles.

Unfortunately, when many carpet installers are presented with carpet pattern issues they’re not equipped to deal with them, whether that be due to lack of knowledge, training, time, tools or money. Sometimes these issues are correctable in the field and the manufacturer is often willing to compensate an installer for their time. If you’re a consumer considering patterned carpet make sure to perform your due diligence when selecting your floor guy, so as to not be left in a lurch if a problem arises. If you’re a floor guy, pattern correction skills are good to have as they can be a profit center and a way to say this is how I did it not why I couldn’t.


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