Kinetex: Just Don't Call It a Carpet Tile
Kinetex is a hybrid: thinner and more durable than carpet tile, this “textile composite flooring” is suited for hard-surface tile applications.
By Brent Ehrlich
J&J Flooring Group, manufacturers of modular and broadloom carpet for commercial applications, recently introduced Kinetex, a soft-surface floor covering that blends attributes of hard surfaces (such as low first cost) and carpet (comfort and acoustics) to create a unique, hybrid flooring material for use in offices, hospitals, conference centers, and similar medium- to high-traffic applications. Officially launched at NeoCon in June 2013, Kinetex was designed primarily as an alternative to hard-surface flooring, but it also compares favorably with standard carpet tiles on environmental points.
The product of more than 15 years of development, “Kinetex is the first new category of flooring that’s been introduced in 10 years if not longer,” trumpets Keith Gray, director of product innovation at J&J Flooring Group. The 24" x 24" semi-rigid tiles are thinner, weigh less, and are less expensive than most standard carpet tiles—at approximately 0.20" thick compared to 0.25"–0.60"—and have a tough, woven-fiber-surface wear layer. Though Kinetex shares some similar materials to carpet, “We go out of our way to make sure people don’t think of this as a carpet,” he said.
Most carpet tiles have backings made from one material, such as PVC, and fibers made from something very different, such as nylon 6,6. Secondary backings, supporting mesh, and other components make up the rest of the carpet. The various layers are stitched and bound together with adhesives, so in order to recycle the carpet, the face fibers and backing are usually mechanically separated, an inefficient process.
Kinetex is unique because it is essentially a homogenous flooring made from approximately 93% polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and 7% polyethylene (PE) by mass. The face fibers and backing are chemically similar and can be thermally fused together without the use of resins or adhesives, so when its service life is over, Kinetex can be ground and processed into new backing in one step without costly material separation and sorting or loss of performance.
…and contains post-consumer recycled content
More than 60% of the materials used in Kinetex are from recycled content, with a minimum 50% post-consumer PET, sourced primarily from soda and water bottles. The face fibers are virgin, solution-dyed PET, with a textured, woven surface that minimizes slippage while maximizing abrasion resistance and durability, according to Gray. Virgin face fibers are used because they are generally more durable than recycled fibers and are available in more color and style options (the company is considering using recycled content in the face fibers as well). Kinetex uses solution-dyed fibers—where dyes are part of the fiber itself—which resist fading and stains and can be cleaned with bleach solutions and similar chemicals. Solution dyeing is also much better for the environment than surface dyeing, requiring significantly less water during the process.
Like most carpet, Kinetex is treated with short-chain(PFCs) to resist dirt and improve its lifespan; though the long-term health and environmental impact of these compounds are not fully understood, PFCs do not break down in the environment, and long-chain versions are carcinogens.
While Kinetex could be seen as a super-low-profile carpet tile, J&J sees benefits in to installing this soft-surface flooring where hard surfaces such as vinyl composite tile (VCT) are ubiquitous. Kinetex has a smaller environmental footprint than VCT, which contains PVC, and it is more slip resistant, is more comfortable to walk and work on, and provides a much better sound dampening than hard surfaces (with a company-reported noise reduction coefficient of 0.33), yet it also has low rolling resistance and resists compression, according to Gray, so wheelchairs and carts still move easily.
In order to compete with hard surfaces, however, Kinetex has to be durable and easy to maintain. As mentioned, Kinetex resists staining, but regular maintenance—a critical component of carpet and Kinetex durability—is similar to that of carpet and includes vacuuming, spot cleaning, and deeper interim cleaning, depending on foot traffic and dirt. Kinetex should be much easier to maintain than VCT, however, which requires regular chemical stripping and refinishing. Though it is new to the market, in a trial application at a Florida venue, J&J claims the flooring has withstood the equivalent of 5 million foot-traffic events (the equivalent foot traffic of 47 Super Bowls) with minimal wear.
Kinetex costs more than VCT, at approximately $2.75 (versus $1.35) per square foot installed using the company’s K-Tac zero-VOC adhesive (a glueless system is in development), according to the company, but J&J claims Kinetex ends up costing almost 50% less over a seven- to ten-year lifecycle that includes materials, installation, and maintenance. (Carpet costs approximately $3.25 per square foot installed.) Kintetex is currently available in 27 colors and patterns, and the company expects to have twice that many options available by fall 2013.
J&J has tried not to market Kinetex as a carpet tile, but when it came time to certify its environmental performance, the category it fit into best was carpet. Kinetex was certified Platinum to the NSF/ANSI 140 Sustainability Assessment for Carpet, and the company recently completed andetailing Kinetex’s life-cycle performance. Not bad for a non-carpet, hard-surface-replacement tile.
For more information:
J&J Flooring Group