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Tufted Rugs?

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

In recent years hand-tufted rugs have become more popular, with faster production times and lower production costs than traditional hand-woven oriental rugs. Are tufted rugs worth the money? Let's look at tufted rugs and common issues with this style of area carpet. Do they make sense to own, and are hand-tufted rugs a good investment for your home?

How Are Tufted Rugs Made?

Tufted rug being made with a tufting gun
Tufted Rug Gun Making A Tufted Rug

Rug Tufting Process

The tufted rug process is different from hand-woven rugs it can be done by hand tufting but is more commonly made using a tufting gun that punches yarn through a heavy cloth or canvas. While the most common tufting material cloth is cotton, tufting cloth can be other natural fibers such as Jute, linen, or synthetic material. This base material is held in place by a frame or stretcher under tension.

Typically a design or stencil is applied to the fabric material to guide where the different color yarns are "tufted" through the cloth to make a design. The process is quick and efficient, and room-size rugs can be completed in a fraction of the time it takes to weave a hand-woven oriental rug.

The wholesale and retail rug market favors the nimble, quick production times of tufted rugs making for a less expensive option for home floors. The production times of tufted rugs vary by producer, but tufted rug production is much quicker than weaving hand-woven rugs. So, It's understandable why tufted rugs have become popular with rug dealers, interior designers, and consumers.

Adhesive on a tufted rug at Renaissance Rug Cleaning
Applying adhesive to a tufted rug

When the tufting is complete, the tufted rug is removed from the stretcher frame, and adhesive is applied to the back of the rug. This adhesive stabilizes the yarn tufts so they don't fall out, and the adhesive gives the rug body and dimensional stability important when used on the floor.

Carpet adhesive holds everything together; it's an essential part of the rug structure. Remember the Adhesive part; we will return to this later. It's a 3 part system, tufted pile yarn, foundation material, and adhesive to make a rug. The final finishing is shearing or clipping the front of the rug to set the pile/ nap height.

How Long Do Tufted Rugs Last?

The longevity of any rug depends on the area of use, foot traffic, cleaning intervals, materials used (wool, silk, cotton,) and, with tufted rugs, the quality of the adhesive used in the foundation. Since adhesives bond the tufted rug together; when the adhesive fails, so does the rug.

This is notable when a tufted carpet starts to leave a power film on the floor under the rug. The powder is usually white or pale yellow, and it's the adhesive drying out and disintegrating.

Carpet Adhesives

This is the most important issue with Tufted textiles; these are not woven and not the same as hand-tied rugs, tufted floor covering's longevity depends on the quality of the adhesive used in manufacturing and finishing.

In tufted rug-producing countries like India, the adhesive used in tufted carpets varies in quality. There are good quality tufted rugs made with high-quality adhesives and also cheaper lower quality tufted rugs with inferior quality adhesives.

Since high-quality rug backing adhesives are expensive, there are always unscrupulous rug producers willing to use cheaper, low-quality adhesives find their way into hand tufted rugs as a profit motive; profit isn't always in the selling but in cutting the cost of manufacturing.

Another cost-reducing strategy is cutting or thinning adhesives with cheap fillers such as clay or other filler to extend out the adheasives. This reduces the strength and longevity of the carpet, and as these adhesives age, they off-gas odors suhas burn rubber or ammonia.

Carpet Odors

Even when new, some hand-tufted area rugs smell ammonia odors, chemical smells, or burnt rubber is often described. Sometimes clients bring us rugs thinking the odor is an old pet accident since these odors originate from the backing adhesive; they aren't removable.

adding a new backing to a tufted rug at Renaissance Rug Cleaning
Re-backing a tufted rug with a high-quality adhesive
Are hand-tufted rugs toxic?

The rug is off-gassing from the adhesive odors, and backing deterioration doesn't appear to be toxic. We have never heard of anyone getting sick from the adhesives used in tufted rugs, just annoyed.

If you are sensitive to odors, you might think twice about buying a tufted rug and stick with a hand-woven carpet.

Can a new backing be applied to my tufted rug?

A new backing can be applied to an existing tufted carpet; however, it's not cheap. In some lower-cost Pottery Barn, west elm, and Wayfair rugs, the cost of applying the adhesive is close to the replacement value of the carpet. In some cases, the tufted carpet is no longer made, and the driver for repair isn't replacement value; it maintains the room's current aesthetics does make sense.

There is no one right answer; we re-back dozens of hand-tufted rugs yearly for clients, some driven by value and others by aesthetics.

Are hand-tufted rugs good quality?

Yes, there are good quality hand-tufted rugs; as we covered earlier, a quality adhesive is key for logneity to hold tufted rugs together. Even the best adhesive has a life cycle and breaks down, so a good quality tufted rug has a shorter life cycle than most handwoven rugs.

As we become more environmentally aware, I question the logic and reason behind such rugs, rugs with no staying power. Much of this is driven by interior and color design trends that change every few years; in such a fast-changing design environment, few people seem to be looking for a "forever rug," just a for-now rug; this is the tufted rug niche.

If you are looking for a long-term flooring solution, tufted rugs are not a good choice hand-woven, or machine-woven wool rugs are the best option. If you plan on redecorating your home every few years, a tufted rug makes sense.

Are Tufted Rugs Worth The Money?

Most hand-tufted rugs are more affordable than handwoven rugs and, in a way, a hybrid between hand-woven and machine-made carpets. Accessibility to a look closer at hand-woven rugs at a lower price point.

As mentioned, this lower rug price point comes at the cost of longevity and durability. We infrequently clean tufted glue-back rugs older than 20 years; they don't last or have the performance on a floor like handwoven rugs. There is no comparison regarding longevity and durability hand-woven oriental rugs win hands down Vs. Tufted rugs.

Yet, no one can deny the accessibility and speed of production of Tufted, and while they aren't our favorite rugs or what we consider the most cleanable or durable, they have their niche market.

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