Carpet Problems: All About Carpet Shading

carpet shading

Carpet shading is an apparent color difference between areas of the same carpet. It is a common complaint with cut pile carpets. The industry considers it a “normal characteristic of cut pile fabrics.” Shading ranges in intensity from slight to severe. It is caused by the face yarns changing the direction of their lay. Footprints and vacuum wheel marks are two types of shading, caused when the yarns are crushed down.

You also sometimes see shading along a seam. One side looks lighter than the other when you enter a room. Then when you walk to the other end of the room and look back, it appears that the lighter/ darker sides have changed places; what looked lighter from one end now looks darker and what looked darker now looks lighter. This happens when the rolled up carpet, before installation, shifts and distorts the face yarns. It isn’t noticeable until the roll is cut and seamed. Then the face yarns run in two directions along the seam, making an apparent color difference. Light is reflected from the yarn sides and yarn tips at different rates, making light and dark areas. Shading along a seam is corrected by hand steaming the pile on both sides of the seam in the same direction. The machine used is similar to a wall paper steamer. It resets the pile distortion so that the pile on each side of the seam goes the same way, removing the shading. This is effective only with wool or nylon face piles.

Shading is considered normal for all cut pile fabrics because the pile does not always lay in one direction. Because shading is a characteristic of a certain type of fabric, mills rarely consider it to be a legitimate complaint.

The following is a shading disclaimer from a mill specializing in high-end woven carpets:

Shading, also referred to as watermarking, roll crush, or reverse pile, can occur on all cut pile materials, which is an inherent effect on the product regardless of fiber or quality. The cause is unknown, and the rate of incidence is unpredictable despite extreme industry research.

Further, there is no method to make it occur or likewise a method of prevention, and therefore is not considered to be a manufacturing defect. As a result, claims will not be considered for this condition. Normal foot traffic and frequent, thorough vacuuming should improve the condition.

Shading does not happen with all cut pile carpets. The longer, softer naps tend to show more footprints. People have been known to get so upset by their carpet’s showing footprints and vacuum marks that they have ripped up new carpet, thrown it out, and replaced it with another texture that doesn’t show marks! Textured Saxonys are sometimes called “trackless” carpets because they show less shading. They tend to be shorter and nubbier than other Saxonys or plushes. Just know that if you choose some variation of a cut pile carpet, you will probably have some degree of shading.

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Who is Glenn Revere?

Glenn Revere has been a carpet expert since 1973. He’s a certified flooring inspector and the author of All About Carpets, the only book written to protect and inform you about your carpet choices, from carpet buying and carpet warranties to carpet care and maintenance. You can find him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.


Photo: randomcuriosity / Creative Commons

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