Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Shampooing the Shag

I must admit that carpeting is probably my least favorite flooring. Having grown up with both green shag carpeting and later, orange shag carpeting, I think I developed an aversion at a young age. The main problem for me is with maintenance and unless the guy in the photo above is on his way to your home, that means both vacuuming and the periodic steam cleaning. 

On a side note, why do all the Google searches for "man vacuuming" come back with these strange fantasy images of men in boxer shorts vacuuming while their woman sits and reads? Is this seriously supposed to be a turn-on?

Photo credits: Corbis Images

So, when we bought our house last year, one of the first things to go was the cream colored carpeting on the stairs that had turned to brown and developed a serious labrador retriever odour. Luckily, there was beautiful oak underneath, which we had sanded and re-varnished. That left us with the basement area, which was also carpeted and which also suffered from a fair bit of staining and smelling.

Photo credit: Filia Artis

Yep, I know, pretty ugly! 
You can see some of the staining even in this poor photo!

Our hope was that a good cleaning would allow us to salvage what was down there. (Unfortunately, that was not the case!) After debating between a DIY steam cleaning and a professional job, here is how we made the decision to go with a pro:

DIY Steam Cleaning

For this, you will need to rent one of those carpet cleaning machines that they sometimes have at grocery stores. We looked into the Home Depot, which has them available for rental as well.

The cost for rental was $30 for a 24hr day or $21 for 4 hours. In addition to this, you need to factor in the carpet shampoo that you will need and that will be based on the size of your room and the condition of the carpet. The bottles run between $9 and $18. We figured for our room that we'd need to spend at least $18. Finally, you may need to buy a chemical that will help with pre-treating any stains that you might have. 

The steps involved:
  • Remove furniture
  • Vacuum room
  • Price out and pick up machine
  • Purchase shampoo and chemicals
  • Pre-treat stains
  • Use carpet cleaning machine
  • Possibly go over again with machine
  • Let dry and return machine to store

We figured that this would be a full-day project for us and that the equipment cost would work out to a total of approximately $60. The risk here is that it is possible to use the incorrect methods on your carpet and to end up with too much water in the carpeting and the under-pad. If it takes longer than 12 hours to dry, you've got too much water.

Here is a good tip sheet in case you decide to go the DIY route.

Hiring a Pro Carpet Cleaner

The Pro's who did it for us

The key here is to shop around a learn as much as you can about their processes and equipment and then to decide which method works best for you. My preference was to hire a company that did not sub-contract out the service to another provider. For example, Sears simply hires someone of their choosing to come to your home and you are not actually choosing who does the work or how they do it.

I also wanted to go with a company that used steam instead of water in hopes that there would be less chance of water damage.

Since our carpeting was in what I would call very rough shape, I requested that a representative from the company I was considering come to my home to evaluate the situation and to let me know what kind of improvement would be reasonable. 

The cost to hire a company that came with a steam cleaning truck was about $100 for a 330 sq. foot area. They pre-treated stains and went over the job more than once to get the best results possible. ie. They were not done in 15 minutes - I've heard about crews that come in, speed over the job once and then are gone. It all dried in a pretty reasonable amount of time and no damage was caused. I was able to get less expensive quotes in the $75 range from other companies.

The final evaluation

Time-wise, the pro's saved me at least $80 (4hrs x $20/hr) in personal time because I didn't have to drive anywhere to get equipment or read any instructions, etc. In terms of cost, they were about $40 more expensive than attempting a DIY, but I had the peace of mind that they were going to do it correctly and not mess up my carpet any further - or at least I'd have someone else to hold responsible if things had gone terribly wrong!

Our reasoning here was that replacing the carpeting would cost about $1,500 - $3,000, so $100 to try to salvage it even if we did have to resort to ripping it out later was only a small fraction of that replacement cost, so it was worth a try. Sadly, the cleaning really wasn't enough and the areas that were unsalvageable just looked worse next to the areas that actually came out clean. I will admit that I felt the representative may have given us higher expectations than he should have. He would have lost this particular job by telling us we were damaged beyond what a cleaning would fix, but I would have hired him to come in and clean the new carpet in a year's time and probably remained a regular customer.

DIY Rating: 2

It's not that this is a very complicated job, 
but for a small bit more, you can save a lot of hassle
 by hiring a pro and spend the rest of the day 
working on your "outdoor carpet" - the lawn!

1 comment:

  1. If you ever have a time when you feel your carpet could use a little freshening but don't feel its quite time to hire a cleaner, we've used Resolve carpet cleaner, as well as Bissel-they come in cans and are about 4-5$ a can and it would probably require about 4 to clean your carpeted area. I'm not sure about the healthiness of these products but they do a good job of cleaning out the livestock filth from my carpet :)


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