- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Before putting a home on the market, Realtor Boyd Campbell makes a thorough inspection. He starts by looking down. A dated or stained carpet can turn off buyers. At least 20 percent of the time, especially if there are pet odors or heavy blemishes, he advises sellers to replace their carpet before holding an open house.

“Carpet does make a big difference,” says Mr. Campbell, managing partner for the Century 21 Home Center in Lanham. “You want to diminish any objections a buyer may have.”

For some homeowners, that can mean a hefty investment — up to $8,000 for medium-grade carpet to cover 1,500 square feet.

There are alternatives.

Some Realtors advise clients to offer a rug-replacement stipend as part of the selling process to encourage new buyers.

Professional heavy-duty cleaning and qualified spot removers might be able to salvage old floor coverings.

Increasingly, some Realtors are advising homeowners to dye their carpets, relying on a relatively old technology that is producing some amazing results.

“You need to weigh what it can do to the value of your home, or whether it is a big enough investment to [dye your carpet],” says Barbra Wilson, a technical manager for the Carpet and Rug Institute. “It’s strictly an individual choice.”

Just what to do with your old carpet depends on its condition.

Carpets that are threadbare will have to be replaced. Anything more than 10 years old with heavy, old stains probably can’t be cleaned correctly, says Chet Langworthy, owner of Budget Carpet Cleaning in Gaithersburg.

“Normal household traffic cleans up well, and there’s a lot of cleaning systems that work,” Mr. Langworthy says. “But it’s not unrealistic for a 10-year-old carpet not to respond well to cleaning.”

A carpet that is well-maintained and vacuumed regularly is easier to restore with heavy-duty cleaning, but in cases of heavy staining, especially pet stains, replacement and dyeing may be the only options.

Homeowners who opt to try to restore rugs should know what to ask for when talking to cleaning companies. For best results, ask for deep cleaning, using a hot extraction steam-rinse system that uses a rotary brush.

Many firms offer steam-cleaning with a wand that does little to remove dirt and odors from older rugs, Mr. Langworthy says.

That system also should be used in conjunction with a heavy-duty pile lifter to remove embedded soil and particles from the rug, he says.

Heavier cleaning costs more — 18 to 21 cents a foot for deep cleaning. Simple steam cleaning costs 12 to 15 cents a square foot, he says.

“Heat cleaning is always more successful, and it dries faster,” Mr. Langworthy says.

A reputable company should offer to make a free visual inspection to determine if the carpet can be restored.

To determine if a stain is removable, Mr. Langworthy tests by applying a cleaner such as Woolite to a stain using a white terry-cloth towel. He dabs it on the stain. If it picks up any dirt or discoloration, the stain likely is removable.

Otherwise, the alternatives are replacement or dyeing the carpet.

Carpet-dyeing technology has been around for years but has only recently been embraced by such organizations as the Carpet and Rug Institute, headquartered in Dalton, Ga.

Few companies offer the service. Perhaps the largest is Color Your Carpet, which operates 200 franchises in eight countries.

Technicians must complete more than 1,100 hours of training as part of the franchise agreement, and the company says it can offer more than 16 million varieties of colors.

Recent clients in the region include the White House, the Maryland Capitol and the National Gallery of Art.

“Carpet doesn’t wear out; it uglies out,” says Connie D’Imperio, CEO and president of Color Your Carpet. “We can restore it to the original color or change the color. There are a lot of alternatives.”

The company uses the same technology used by carpet mills, spraying color on carpets with air guns and using hypodermic needles.

Technicians can change the color of a carpet to a new color — say from beige to hunter green — or tone or tint the carpet a deeper color, or add a border or design to a rug.

The firm also can remove stains or restore the old color of your rug and can freshen and clean the rug through a treatment process called color freshening.

“It’s an Old World master art we’ve revived in this century,” Ms. D’Imperio says. “Don’t let the wrong [carpet] color stop you from buying a home, because there are options there.”

Restoring a rug can cost a fraction of replacing one.

Buying 1,500 square feet of medium-grade carpet costs about $8,000, says Chris Howell, owner of the Clarksville, Md., Color Your Carpet franchise. Redyeing the same carpet would cost $2,000 or less, he says.

“Carpet dyeing can save a homeowner a great deal of money. Cost is 50 to 80 percent less expensive than the cost of premature replacement,” Mr. Howell says.

Carpet dyeing is relatively simple. Technicians use air guns to spray on the dyes or hypodermic needles to inject the dyes into stained areas to restore or change the color. A room will require about an hour’s work, and a whole house will take four to eight hours, depending on the type and age of the rug, Ms. D’Imperio says.

Fees range from $1.50 to $1.95 per square foot, depending on the type of carpet, she says. The dyes are nonhazardous and dry within minutes.

“It’s always going to save, and it’s convenient,” Ms. D’Imperio says. “It’s worth re-evaluating. Even to this day, people are skeptical, but once they see it, it’s great.”


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