How to replace the backing on a tufted wool rug

Could there be a more pain in the butt rug to maintenance than a tufted wool rug? Unfortunately these rugs are only becoming more and more popular. If you’re looking to better service your clients, and make more money, you could offer backing replacement service.

What is a tufted wool rug?

Hand-tufted rugs are made by shooting wool yarns through a canvas with a tufting gun. When done, a second canvas backing is glued to the back of the rug, stabilizing the wool yarns.

Unfortunately, these backings can become loose when the adhesive breaks down. This can happen for a variety of reasons: water saturation, pet urine, age, low quality adhesives. When the glue breaks down, a powdery substance can start to accumulate underneath the rug. A great add-on sale is replacing these backings. Replacing it can improve the look and add better structural stability.

Step 1. Remove the backing

Removing tufted backing Removing tufted rug border Water-stained tufted rug For this article, we’ll use a water-damaged rug as an example. When we first received the rug, most of the backing was already loose in many areas, so peeling it off was pretty simple. It did have a border, as many tufted rugs do. For the time being we left the border on, but removed all other backing. Using fabric scissors, we snipped the tiny bit of thread securing the border down around the entire perimeter. **Note** There are some borders on tufted rugs that are simply glued on and not actually part of the construction of the rug. It just so happens that the border on this rug is actually leftover canvas that all the wool yarns are gunned to. To see how tufted rugs are made, check out this great video by Jaunty Company. Once the border was no longer secured to the backing, we simply pulled the fabric off. Although there were many areas already loose, some areas were glued down quite well and it took two of us to get it all off as one pulled the fabric and the other held on to the rug. We did this slowly so that we would not damage or stretch the rug. Once the backing was completely removed, we dusted the rug with a rug badger and thoroughly vacuumed it to remove any loose debris, glue or other contaminants. **Note** If the rug backing does not come off easily, let it soak in water (preferably hot water) for a couple hours; this should help loosen the backing from the adhesive.

2. Get it cleaned and sanitized

At Kansas City Rug Cleaning we wash most rugs on a concrete floor. Rugs that have pet urine, mold or mildew, will be soaked in a tub for 1-2 hours.

If the backing had became loose because of a flood, we would recommend soaking the rug in a tub with Decon 30.

If this rug was saturated with urine, we would soak it in either TCU made by Bridgepoint or UPT made by Chem Max. You can also use dichlor, which is a chlorine compound used to purify swimming pools.

After soaking it in a decontamination bath, we proceed with our normal washing: wash, centrifuge, dry.

Sometimes the backing may only be loose in a few spots, so soaking the rug can actually help loosen the backing even more making it easier to remove.

3. Glue the backing

At this point the rug should be cleaned, sanitized, dry and free of any soils. The items you’ll need are:

  1. Glue
  2. Trowel
  3. Backing & Border
Glue options

The recommended glue is Roberts 6700 indoor/outdoor carpet adhesive, found at Home Depot: Roberts 6700

You can also use Parabond M-267

Trowel

We prefer cheap plastic trowels found at Lowes, but any precision trowel with 1/16 or 3/32 notches will work. You’ll get a little messy, so wear some gloves and have towels handy!

Backing

There are a couple options we recommend for the backing. If you need the

glue on back of tufted rug

glue on back of tufted rug

backing immediately, you can purchase a painters drop cloth from any hardware store. What we like about the painters drop cloth is that it’s relatively cheap and readily available. But unfortunately what we don’t like is the fact that the larger ones are made by sewing smaller pieces together.

However, the best option is purchasing monks cloth from Carpet and Rug Backing Supplies. They come in 12′ wide rolls and can be purchased at a minimum of 10 yards. They look much closer in appearance to the original backing of the rug and adhere fantastically. We ordered 20 yards of this material and it was at our shop within three days.

Border options

Some tufted rugs do not have a border on the back, but even if the rug did not originally have a border, we recommend installing one after you replace the backing. It just makes for a nicer and cleaner look when it’s all said and done.

Option 1:  Cotton “twill tape”. We really like the border options at Twill

installing border on rug backing

installing border on rug backing

Tape. They have a variety of styles and colors.

Option 2: Cotton border at Hobby Lobby. We couldn’t find a link online, but if you browse the fabric isle at Hobby Lobby, you should be able to find rolls of cotton border. We don’t love their limited options, but if you’re in a pinch, they should probably have something.

To secure the border we prefer to use a fabric glue as it’s much easier to control; we like Fabric Fusion found at Hobby Lobby. Or you can also use a hot glue gun.

Installing the backing

Once you have all your supplies and are ready, lay out the rug with the back facing up, on a clean, flat surface. We recommend laying it on plastic sheets because it can get a little messy. If your new rug backing has wrinkles, lay your new backing on the rug and use an iron to smooth them out. Make sure that the new backing you are installing is at least a few inches over-sized; don’t worry, we’ll cut the excess later. Remove the backing and start applying the 6700 glue evenly at one end with the trowel. You can do this one of two ways: either apply glue over the entire rug and then lay your new backing over it, or apply glue in sections and fold the backing over the glue, section by section. If you have two people working on the rug, we recommend the former.

Once the new backing is one, try and removed all wrinkles. You can do this by pulling on the canvas to “stretch” out the wrinkles. You also want to press down on the backing so it even distributes the glue and helps press the backing into the adhesive. You can use a clothing iron, broom, or squeegee.

**Note** Make sure that every single square inch of the back of the rug has glue on it. If you miss ANY spots, you’ll have a bubble in that area once it’s completely dry. You don’t need or want globs of glue, but you do want to have a consistent, even amount throughout. Leave about 1/2″ unglued along the edges; the border will cover the perimeter. Once the backing is glued, let it sit for at least 24 hours to dry.

4. Installing the border

The border, also called binding, is the fabric glued around the perimeter of the rug. It’s typically about 2″ width and many, but not all, tufted rugs will have this. We’ve found it easier to complete this project when there is a border: it is very difficult to get the backing lined up nicely on the edge of the rug, but a border is much easier to line up and will overlap the backing. So even if the rug you are working on did not originally have a border, ask your client if they are OK with having a border, as it will make your job easier.

Once the glue on the new backing is completely dry, go ahead and trim the

tufted rug border

tufted rug border

excess canvas backing along the edges. Don’t cut too much off as to where your border will not overlap the canvas backing. Lay out your border and begin gluing it down using the fabric glue. When you get to a corner, let the borders overlap, but cut one of them at a 45-degree angle to make it more visually appealing. Border of a tufted rug Laying out the border Once complete, let the rug stay flat and completely dry for at least a day, and then you’re done!

Costs to replace the backing

Generally we charge about $3 per sq ft for this service, but it depends on the size of the rug: if it’s a small rug we’ll charge more, a larger rug maybe less. So for a typical 5×8 rug we would charge $120 just to replace the backing; that does not include the price to clean and sanitize.

Time invested

For a 5×8 it took us about 10 minutes to remove the backing, 30 minutes to apply glue and set the new canvas backing, and about 20 minutes to set the border.

Total time replacing backing: 60 minutes

Material 1 gallon of 6700 adhesive – $13

5×8 linen backing – $11

Fabric glue – $9

Plastic trowel – $2

Border –- $10 Total: $45

Check out our video to see in person a backing we replaced.