Carpeting and Your Indoor Air Quality

Whether building a new home or commercial building, remodeling, or repairing a property due to water damage or another event, choosing the type of flooring to be installed is an important decision. In many circumstances, carpeting is selected due to its cost, warmth, and large selection of colors, patterns and fibers. Carpeting has additional advantages as well, such as its insulating and noise dampening properties and speed that it can be installed.

While carpeting can be a good fit for many situations, it also has a downside. New carpet systems (including adhesives and carpet padding), like many new interior finishing materials, will often off-gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for a period of time after being installed. These emissions can be significantly reduced, although not completely eliminated, in the initial days after installation through the use of proper ventilation techniques. As with any floor covering, low VOC emission products should be selected.

Carpeting can also act as a reservoir for dust, dirt, pollen, pet dander, mold, dust mites, pesticides and other materials and allergens which may originate indoors or be brought into the indoor environment from outside. Carpets trap a significant amount of particles, which can be removed through regular and effective vacuuming. However, poor carpet maintenance can allow large quantities of dust and debris to build up over time. Young children who play on carpeting are likely to come into contact with these substances if they have not been properly removed.

Carpeting can even act as “sinks” for the adsorption of VOCs from other sources (during application of paint and other finish coatings, for example) and re-emit them later. Moisture can also be trapped below or in carpeting which can result in mold growth and the release of mold spores. Effective moisture control is critical to protect carpeting and all building systems from the potential for mold growth.