Carpets will become worn or damaged in the course of everyday use. There is no need to go to the expense of replacing them when you can patch and repair minor damage easily and at a fraction of the cost. You should remember to save remnants and off cuts when carpets are being fitted so you will be able to carry out repairs in the future. Regular vacuum cleaning, ideally every day, will remove grit which cuts into carpet fibres and backing as it is trodden in.
Fluff will form on the surface of new carpets; this consists of short fibres which do not reach the base of the carpet and should be removed for the first few weeks with a hand brush, carpet sweeper or vacuum cleaner. Sometimes, while a carpet is bedding down, short loose fibres may become tangled with stronger fibres, causing small balls or pills of fibre on the surface. These should be trimmed off with scissors; never attempt to pull protruding fibres out of the carpet. Often the surface of a looped pile carpet may be caught up with a nail, in the base of a piece of furniture for example; this will cause a pulled loop. Look carefully to see if an adjacent loop has been pulled into the base of the carpet; if one has, you may be able to tease it up with a piece of hooked wire and draw the pulled loop back into the surface. If not, you will need to trim the loop level with the surface.
Lightly soiled carpets can be cleaned with carpet shampoo, applied by a manual or electric carpet shampooer following manufacturer’s instructions. Treat heavily stained areas separately and test a small area before treating the whole carpet to check for discoloration. The best shampoos produce a dry foam which does not wet the carpet excessively; if the carpet is too wet, this could cause shrinkage and discoloration. After shampooing leave the pile sloping in one direction and allow the carpet to dry before walking or replacing furniture on it: vacuum it clean when it is dry. Heavily soiled carpet will have to be treated by professionals – or you can hire a ‘steam’ carpet cleaner; this is a large vacuum cleaner with a wet shampoo applicator. A hand-held nozzle sprays shampoo and hot water and the carpet is vacuumed so the shampoo, dirt and most of the water is drawn into the waste tank of the cleaner. The carpet is left drier than after ordinary shampooing, so the furniture may be replaced within about an hour.
When treating stains on carpets you should always test an area to discover whether the treatment has any effect on the colour dyes in the carpet. Remember it is much harder to remove all liquids and semisolids if they are allowed to dry. Stains fall into two basic categories and there are specific treatments for each type of carpet stain.
Water soluble stains
These should yield to a carpet shampoo. Remember to add one teaspoonful of white vinegar to each pint o[ shampoo; this will keep the solution acidic and prevent the dye in the carpet bleeding. Use a clean white cloth to apply the shampoo and blot the stain from the edge towards the centre; don’t rub vigorously. Mop up excess moisture with paper tissues and, when the area is dry, vacuum it clean.
Solvent soluble stains
These should be removed with a solvent-based dry cleaning fluid, which you should use sparingly. If you have applied water or carpet shampoo to the stain, allow it to dry thoroughly before applying the fluid on a pad of clean cloth. Work from the edge towards the centre and, if blotting is insufficient, rub gently. Turn the cloth as it becomes discoloured and blot excess fluid with paper tissues. Use carpet shampoo to remove final traces of the stain; if it does not, use an aerosol spot remover or call in professional carpet cleaners.
Bare carpet can be patched with a new piece, such as a remnant saved when the carpet was fitted; but remember such repairs are rarely entirely satisfactory. The adjacent pile is likely to have flattened and faded, which means the new piece will stand out from the rest. Carpet tiles can be moved around by taking some from under pieces of furniture, for example; but again the replacements are likely to stand out from the surrounding tiles.
Patching woven-backed carpet
To patch woven carpet, turn the carpet to expose the backing (although you can use the surface method described for foam-backed carpet). Mark out the area of the damage on the backing and apply a coat of carpet adhesive in a broad band along the lines you have drawn will prevent the carpet fraying when you cut out the damaged area. Place a sheet of hardboard under the carpet and cut along the marked lines with a sharp knife. Put the piece you have cut out upside down on the back of an off cut of the carpet and carefully match the direction of pile and pattern (the pattern will usually show through the back of a woven carpet). Mark out the exact shape of the worn piece onto the new one, with adhesive and cut out as before. Lay strips of 50mm carpet tape around the edge of the hole in the carpet to accept the patch; you can use either self-adhesive tape or woven fabric tape (which requires carpet adhesive). Re-lay the carpet and press the patch into place over the carpet tape; take great care not to push down the surrounding pile as you press the patch into place. Hammer it down along the edges to ensure firm contact with the carpet tape beneath.
Patching foam-backed carpet
This is easier because you can patch from above the surface of the carpet. Lay a large off cut over the worn area and match the pile direction and pattern; very carefully cut both layers at the same time with a sharp knife. If it is a large patch, you can tack the pieces down to prevent movement as you cut through. The foam backing will prevent fraying. If you intend to use this method with woven carpet, you will need to apply carpet adhesive along edges of both the hole and the patch roughly halfway up the pile. Cut strips of carpet tape so they will overlap around the hole, raise the edges of the carpet and apply the tape so half its width is exposed (sticky side up). Place the patch in position and hammer down the edges to ensure sound contact with the tape.
Tears in carpet are usually caused by movement of the underfloor; this should be rectified before you make the repair. Tears often occur at the back and front edges of stair treads because of movement between treads and risers. To repair a tear, turn the carpet over and hold the tear closed before sticking 75mm wide self-adhesive or woven carpet tape along it. If you use woven tape with carpet adhesive, you can make the repair stronger by stitching along the sides of the tear with a curved needle and strong thread.
Repairing frayed edges
Frayed edges occur most frequently at doorways and they can be repaired by fitting aluminium binder bars, which are available in various designs. Use bars with small teeth for woven-backed carpets and bars with small lips to hold foam-backed carpets. Cut the binder bar to length (to fit the doorway) and nail it down; on a concrete floor you can fix the bar with masonry pins or use adhesive. If the carpet has a woven backing, you should seal the edge by working in a 25mm strip of carpet adhesive and trimming off the loose ends. Make sure the carpet lies flat without rucks or wrinkles before hammering down the lip of the binder bar, using a wood block as protection. You can also seal frayed edges with carpet tape; this is especially useful for frayed carpet squares. If the carpet has a woven back, cut off a small amount of carpet to give a neat, straight edge. Seal this edge with adhesive, taking care not to get the adhesive higher than the base of the tufts. Stick carpet tape along the edge, allowing 3-6mm to overlap; turn the overlap over so it sticks to the base of the tufts all along the edge. It is more difficult to bind the edges of foambacked carpet because it crumbles at the edges. The foam may make binding difficult because you need a good key for the adhesive or self-adhesive tape. It may be necessary to experiment with different adhesives to find one which gives the best bond.
You may be able to trim off the tips of burnt fibres to remove a mild cigarette burn; more serious burns on woollen rugs and carpets can be patched with thick knitting wool. Trim off the burnt tufts with a small pair of nail scissors and cut the patching wool into 13mm pieces. Hold back the carpet pile around the damaged area and work carpet adhesive into the trimmed tufts with a matchstick. Ease a bunch of wool pieces into the damaged area with.a matchstick, filling the hole as tightly as possible. When the adhesive is dry, cut the ends level with the pile and pull out any loose ends. Use a needle to tease the new wool fibres into the fibres of the carpet. Serious burns in woven, nylon and man-made carpets must be patched using the technique described for worn carpets. Repairing rush matting This type of floor covering is not easily repaired, but you may be able to stitch loose pieces back into position. Replacement pieces are available for square rush matting which you can stitch into place to repair worn areas