The Pros and Cons of Carpet Tiles for Residential Homes

Buffalo Plaid Carpet Tile
Photo Credit: Emily May

Wall-to-wall carpeting brings comfort and style to a room, but traditional broadloom carpet is a hassle to install and limiting in terms of design. Modular carpet tiles offer an alternative that solves both these problems. Long used in commercial and public spaces, carpet tiles are now finding their place in living rooms, bedrooms, hallways, and other cozy residential spaces.

Advantages: Versatile and Easy to Handle

Eclectic Carpet Tile Pattern
Photo Credit: Juhan Sonin

Relatively small and lightweight, carpet tiles are a breeze to handle. Their size also means they offer more design options than traditional carpet.

Easy Installation

Installing traditional broadloom carpet is a chore. Traditional carpet is sold in long, wide rolls that are heavy and unwieldy, making them difficult for one person or even two people to maneuver. To install it, you or your installer will need to install tackless strips, lay the underpad, measure and cut the carpet, and then attach the carpet using a knee kicker or carpet stretcher.

Carpet tiles come in small squares that are easy to lift, carry, and lay in place. Their compact size makes it easier to fill oddly shaped parts of a room without the need to cut the carpet. If you do need to cut the tiles, you’ll be working with one manageable piece of carpet at a time instead of a long strip.

You don’t need to lay padding before installing these tiles. Self-stick designs can simply be pressed into place, while dry-backed designs can be secured with mastic or double-backed carpet tape. There’s no stretching required, either.

These factors make carpet tiles much easier and faster to install as a DIY project compared to broadloom carpet. Even if you decide to hire a professional carpet installer, the reduced time and labor needed means you’ll still save money compared to a traditional carpet installation job.

Minimal Care Requirements

Ease of maintenance is one of the big reasons carpet tiles gained popularity for use in high-traffic commercial spaces. Like traditional carpet, it requires vacuuming once or twice a week and a deep cleaning with carpet shampoo every two years or so.

Beyond basic maintenance, carpet tiles have a major advantage over broadloom carpet. If one or two tiles become damaged or stained, it’s easy enough to remove them and replace them with new tiles. This is why it’s a good idea to buy a few extra to keep on hand. While it’s possible to cut out a damaged piece of broadloom carpet and replace it with a patch, the result is likely to be far more noticeable.

Design Flexibility

With broadloom carpet, you’re stuck with a single pattern and pile for the whole room. With carpet tiles, you can choose one pattern for the entire room, add accent colors for modest splashes of color or mix and match different colors, patterns, and pile heights to create a unique look perfectly tailored to the personality of the room.

Better yet, the dye technologies used for carpet tiles make it possible to produce colors and patterns that can’t be made on broadloom carpets.

Disadvantages: Style and Wear Issues

Carpet Tiles Being Installed
Photo Credit: Silus Grok

Carpet tiles can’t always mimic the consistent appearance of traditional carpet, and they tend to show wear around the seams.

A Different Look

Thanks to their long-standing popularity in commercial spaces, carpet tiles can create a cold, business-like feel that can detract from the warmth of the room. You can counteract this by carefully choosing textures and patterns fit a more homey aesthetic.

Unwanted visible seams are another potential problem with carpet tiles. To reduce the chances of ugly seams showing up, lay the tiles with the pile all going the same direction. Choosing carpet from a manufacturer that uses pattern matching technology helps, too. With a little wear, the seams should disappear.

In some carpets, however, the seams never go away completely. To get around this problem, you can highlight seams by installing tiles in several colors and patterns to create a design that would never be possible with broadloom carpet.

Irregular Wear

Over time, the glue or tape holding down your carpet tiles weakens, which can lead to loose or frayed edges. This makes vacuuming difficult because the edges are liable to be caught in the vacuum cleaner’s brush, which then pulls up the whole tile. If the tiles are installed on an uneven floor, they can start to lift up and cause a tripping hazard.

To delay this kind of wear, use a high-quality adhesive. When seam wear does show up, you can either re-glue the tiles or, if they’re badly frayed, pull them and replace them.

Tiles can become disfigured when the backing partially separates from the tile, resulting in sections that are lumpy and deformed. This happens most often with poor quality tiles made with rubber base backing, rather than fleece or other non-woven fabric backing. It can also happen after water damage or if you use carpet shampoo or other liquid cleaners incorrectly.

Carpet tiles make it easy to carpet a room yourself without help from a professional installer, and they give you nearly endless options for creating a distinctive, truly personalized design. As appealing as their simplicity and versatility are, though, keep in mind you’ll need to put in some effort to find quality tiles that won’t show obvious seams and can stand up to the foot traffic in your home.

If you’re an avid DIY-er with a flair for style, carpet tiles will be right up your alley. If you favor a more conventional, subdued look, chances are you’ll be happier with traditional broadloom carpet.

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