Specifying the floor covering for a commercial application requires at least a passing understanding of how it will work in the workplace. Unfortunately, indications such as “contract quality” or “heavy maids” are open to interpretation, making it difficult for the prescriber to make an informed decision.

Simon Lawrence, UK carpet tile specialist, Bürofloor, offers some insight into standard tests that can be applied to carpet that must work – and last – in the punitive commercial environment.

Commercial premises place high performance requirements on any type of floor covering. When the coffee is poured at home, there is an immediate burst of scrubbing and spraying of stain remover. In the workplace he is more likely to be ignored and then stepped on by unclean outdoor shoes. Your sofa at home is moved when you have to remove dust or dirty toys from under it. Wheelchairs in your office travel miles, poking holes in carpet tiles as they do so.

This means that we need a benchmark by which we can judge the suitability of carpet or carpet tiles for commercial contract use. Fortunately, standardized tests exist to provide Euronorm (EN) and International Standards Organization (ISO) certification. Authentic heavy-duty procurement products should carry the standards described here.

ISO 8543 – Actual pile weight

Carpet tiles need a dense, close stack to provide the required wear resistance. To provide a standard for this, ISO 8543 specifies a method for shaving the carpet down to its backing. It simply measures the mass of the removed pile in grams per square meter. In general, the greater the pile mass, the stronger the carpet tile will be.

ISO 1765 – Total thickness

This is another relatively simple test. In this case the carpet tile is compressed by a standard weight, then its thickness is measured to the nearest 0.1 mm.

EN 1963 – Lisson tread test

This test measures the resistance of the carpet to rubbing, highlighting in particular the fixing strength of the pile heads. The wheel is placed on top of the carpet to be tested and rolled back and forth through the sample 400 times. The wheel turns slightly faster than it moves on the carpet creating a strong rubbing effect. The carpet sample tested is compared to the main samples and is evaluated accordingly. This is a particularly aggressive test, which literally tears certain types of carpet tiles to shreds. A pass according to EN1963 is a strong indicator of good wear resistance.

ISO 10361 – Accelerated wear test

This standard is especially relevant for carpet tiles that will be used in an office. It consists of two tests, the Vetterman drum test and the wheelchair test.

Vetterman drum test

The Vetterman Drum Test is intended to simulate a heavy and focused step. Foot traffic tends to concentrate around doors or narrow passages between desks, and these areas can quickly become frayed.

The test mat is fixed inside a rotating metal drum. A heavy ball (7.5 kg), covered with hard rubber protrusions, is placed inside the drum and can bounce freely. The belt is subjected to two test programs, one of 5,000 drum rotations and one of 22,000 rotations.

The carpet is then assessed visually against major wear samples and a score is given for how well it withstood the effects of the test.

Visual inspections of the carpet give results from 1 to 5 for both 5,000 and 22,000 rotations and the final result is a combination of the two results according to the following formula;

Total result = 0.75 x Result after 5,000 rotations + 0.25 x Result after 22,000 rotations

A roll of 2 or more is a pass

A result of 2.4 or more is a pass for heavy use

Wheelchair test

Wheelchairs are particularly harmful, and uneven wearing holes in floor coverings can pose a tripping hazard. The results of this test should be an essential part of the office carpet specification.

The test bench rolls a three-wheeled chair, carrying a weight of 90 kg, on the carpet. Two samples are used, one run for 5,000 and one for 25,000 cycles.

The tested samples are visually evaluated against standard samples and are evaluated on a scale from 1 to 5. The final result of the test is given according to the following formula;

Total result = 0.75 x Result after 5,000 rotations + 0.25 x Result after 25,000 rotations

ISO / DIS 10965 – Electrical resistance

This test is especially important for contract carpets which may be located in computer rooms where a build-up of static electricity could damage valuable equipment.

The carpet sample to be tested must be acclimatized for at least 7 days before the test at a temperature of 23 +/- 1 ° C and 25 +/- 2% relative humidity. This is because moisture has such a big impact on the conductivity of fabrics and must be strictly controlled to get a meaningful test.

In this test regime, the horizontal resistance and the vertical resistance of the carpet (in Ohms) are measured.

Horizontal resistance: An insulating underlay is placed under the carpet tile sample which should be stacked upwards. 2 electrodes are connected to the tile at a distance of 200 mm and the resistance in Ohms is measured between them.

Vertical Resistance: Here the electrodes are located above and below the carpet tile and the resistance in Ohms is measured between them.

For computer rooms, measurements below 1010 Ohm are required.

ISO 3415 – Static load (compression test)

This test is designed to see how much the carpet is compressed by a weight placed on it. Replicate the effect of the furniture on the carpet.

The thickness is measured before compression

A pressure of 220 kPa is applied for 15, 30 and 60 minutes.

The result is simply given by the loss of thickness in mm afterwards

a recovery period of 1 hour.

ISO 140-8 Acoustic properties

The test equipment for this standard consists of two compartments, one above the other and 5 hammers, each of 500 gr. The first test is to measure the impact absorption, which is the amount of impact noise absorbed by the carpet sample.

First of all the hammers can fall freely on the floor of the upper space from a height of 4 cm, each hitting the floor 10 times per second. The noise in decibels is recorded in the space below.

The test is then repeated with the addition of the sample carpet to the floor of the highest space.

The difference in decibels is the amount of impact noise that was absorbed by the carpet sample. This test is interesting as it shows how well the carpet performs to stop the transmission of noise compared to other floor coverings such as wood or vinyl.

For ISO 354 the absorption of ambient noise is measured. Noise of different frequencies; (125 – 250 – 500 – 1000 – 2000) are transmitted in a room of 200 m³ and the amount of noise bounced off the floor is measured. This is then compared to the reflected noise from the floor when covered with sample material. A result of 0.5 in this test shows that 50% of the noise that would have been reflected was absorbed by the test sample and the remaining 50% was reflected by it.

ISO 2551 – Dimensional stability and EN 986 for tiles

Carpet tiles must maintain their dimensions ± 0.02% after the following treatments:

Heating at a temperature of 60 ° C for 2 hours

Bath in water at a temperature of 20 ° C for 2 hours

Further heating to a temperature of 60 ° C for 24 hours

Conditioning in normal atmospheric conditions for 48 hours

These treatments show that the tiles will retain their integrity under the toughest conditions such as cleaning with hot water and extreme temperatures.

Cost of ownership

All floor coverings carry a hidden expense in the form of replacement costs. In commercial premises this cost is further increased by the interruption of the activity for the installation of new carpet tiles. Careless buying will inevitably lead to higher spending. A reputable supplier should respond positively to a request for test data. Hopefully, the information in this article will help make sense of the specifics of the test and support a properly informed choice.

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