WARRANTIES: OH, WHAT A TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE
A warranty, or guarantee, is an assurance of the quality of or of the length of use to be expected from a product offered for sale often with a promise of reimbursement. In the floor covering industry warranties can be very confusing. A wear warranty, for example, to a consumer means an appearance change in the product. That is, a change in the appearance of the product after it has been installed that is different from what it looked like when it was brand new. To be more specific, the traffic lanes of a carpet may appear matted and crushed or the texture of the carpet may look frayed and disarrayed in front of a favorite sofa or chair. These changes to a consumer may, and often do, constitute the meaning of wear. The product does not look the same in these areas as it does in areas not used. So wear in this respect is the “ugly out” of the product; it doesn’t look like it did when it was new. To a manufacturer wear means the abrasive loss of fiber, up to 10% loss over a period of five or 10 years, depending on how the warranty reads. So what a consumer thinks they have a warranty for they don’t. Whatever the warranty gives you in the first paragraph it takes away in the next three. No synthetic carpet has ever been replaced because it wore out.
There are warranties for matting, crushing, appearance or texture change, stains or soil, scratches, color change, buckles or wrinkles, fading, manufacturing defects and installation. Depending on the product, be it carpet or some hard surface flooring material all warranties come with exclusions. This poses a problem to consumers or end users because the warranty, as interpreted, covers what they think it does but the language of the warranty most often does not. For example, wear. As explained it is the abrasive loss of fiber or change in the products appearance. To a consumer or end user it is any change to the product they weren’t expecting – generally after a short period of time. Most warranties do not cover damage caused by negligence or improper maintenance, burns, pulls, pilling, matting, shedding, fading, cuts or damage due to improper cleaning agents, and do not apply to carpets installed on stairs or outside areas. Also be aware of the legality of warranties. Since warranties are often written by attorneys and the marketing departments. Here’s an example, “All consequential damages of any kind resulting from breach of or failure to perform under the terms of any of the above warranties, including without limitation any damage to the home in which the flooring is installed or to any property contained in said home, any injuries sustained by any person, or any economic losses, commercial losses, loss of time, loss of use of said home or incidental damages such as telephone, travel or lodging expenses, are hereby excluded from the coverage of each of the above warranties. Some states do not allow the exclusion or limitation of consequential damages, so the above limitation or exclusion may not apply to you.”
Let’s look at a warranty near and dear to so many; stain warranties. Stain warranties typically state that the specific warranted carpet will offer improved resistance to stains provided that the carpet is properly installed and maintained in its original single family interior location. You have to understand what “properly installed and maintained” is since it’s likely the warranty won’t tell you that. Also of utmost importance is the difference between a spot and a stain. A spot, the most commonly perceived “stain” is caused by a foreign substance spilled on the flooring material that leaves a residue and attracts dirt that creates a dark spot. A stain is the result of a foreign substance or material that comes in contact with the surface of the flooring material that either imparts color or strips the color from the material. Spots will clean out, stains will not.
Stain warranty coverage excludes stains from non-food and non-beverage substances. Staining from acne medications, household cleaners, swimming pool chemicals, chlorine bleach, insecticides, plant foods, vomit, feces, and other harsh substances are not covered by these warranties. These warranties cover staining only and not soiling. Most perceived stains are actually spots or soil. All those “Oxy” type cleaning products you see on TV; they’ll stain flooring.
Here’s one of my favorites the No Mat / No Crush Warranty:
No mat no crush warranties say the carpet will not mat or crush from foot traffic. This warranty excludes stairs and hallways. Now carpet is a vertically oriented textile floor covering material and when walked on repeatedly, particularly in concentrated, unalterable and pivotal areas, it mats and crushes. This is what it does naturally; it’s the law of physics at work. What the warranty should say is that the carpet is guaranteed to mat and crush or compact to a certain extent. Depending on the construction the matting may be unnoticeable or very noticeable but it is going to occur. Warranties are the single biggest injustice perpetrated on the consumer for floor covering products. What you think they cover they don’t and whatever you think that is, they take away in the same warranty. Just try enforcing one of these warranties if you have a claim or complaint on your flooring material and see if you don’t find out for yourself. Warranties are marketing tools more than protection against a product failing to perform up the expectations of an end user. More important than warranties is buying flooring material from a conscientious floor covering dealer who qualifies the end use and user. You can be assured if the dealer is knowledgeable about flooring materials and their installation and cares about you and how and where you will use the flooring material, that you’re likely to get the right product. The right product in the right place won’t need a warranty. Those selling and those buying flooring materials should not rely on what a warranty says. They should understand that for every application there is an appropriate product. The right product in the right place, and there always is one, will perform up to the expectations of the end user. That will make a warranty null and void.