Why Does Carpet Buckling Occur?

Wrinkles, ripples, bubbles, buckles… no matter what you call them, you should have them fixed right away. It is from the carpet being loose and forming air pockets, which can pose a significant threat to people who might trip on it. The carpet is loose in the affected areas and seems to have waves or wrinkles in it, rising from the surface.

Ideally, when you buy a home with carpets or have them installed, they will last for years with gradual wear and tear over the decades. However, sometimes things go sideways, and your carpet might start looking like the surface of a pond on a windy day. Essentially, you are dealing with carpet buckling. It is also known as stretching or rippling, and it essentially means your carpet is loose or out of place in some way.

Reasons Why Carpet Buckles

Improper Installation

Carpet buckling may occur as a result of the poor installation of the carpet. If your wall-to-wall carpet was not correctly installed from the start, which means tightly stretching it and then holding it in place along its edges, it is likely to slightly loosen over time, which can lead to rippling. When a wall-to-wall carpet is installed, it must be stretched tightly and then is secured in place with tack strips along the edges of the carpet. If the installer has not stretched the carpet tightly enough, it may loosen slightly, which could cause it to ripple.

As an ideal way, carpet should be stretched during the installation using a power stretcher, which will reduce the chances of buckling. If the carpet is being installed in an area in which the conditions are significantly different than where it was previously stored, such as high variations in temperature, humidity, or both, you will want to give the carpet time to acclimate or equalize, before it is installed. The carpet should be allowed to acclimate prior to installation, to reduce the possibility of buckling.

Even experienced installers will use a knee kicker instead of the power stretcher because it is faster and they can get onto the next job quicker. But unless the room is small and your carpet installer big and strong, always you have to make sure a power stretcher is used to get your carpet nice and tight. And to tell if it is tight, simply use your fingers to lift the carpet from the nap in the center of the room. If it is stretched properly you will not be able to lift it very high and it will snap back down when you let go.

On the other hand in addition to improper installation, certain carpets are more susceptible to buckling or wrinkling. Usually, old carpets that have stretched out over time or carpets that have been improperly installed are more likely to buckle when the hot water extraction hits. Typically if your carpet buckles after carpet cleaning, it is best to wait 24 to 48 hours and 99 times out of 100 it will go back to its normal appearance.

Wrong Padding

Maybe the installation was done correctly and the carpet was stretched the way it was supposed to be. However, if you or your installers did not use a sufficiently dense underpad, the carpet might still end up buckling due to too much flexibility. In order to keep this issue from arising, you need to use the right underpad for the carpet.

Low-quality carpet and padding may save you some money upfront, but in the long run, it can cost you. It is a good idea to check the manufacture’s specifications for padding. This will vary depending on the type of carpet you purchase.

For example, if you are purchasing a cut pile carpet, you will want padding that is no greater than seven-sixteenths of an inch thick and no less than a six-pound density. Again, you may want to check with the manufacturer for the specs for your specific carpet. Selecting the improper padding can void the manufacturer’s warranty and lead to your carpet becoming wrinkled and rippled.


It is not incredibly common with modern carpet mills manufacturing carpet, but warranties exist for a reason. If your new or relatively new carpet is buckling, there is a chance that there is a manufacturing defect. Typical carpet has primary and secondary backing. When delamination occurs, the backings can separate. This is due to the latex adhesive that holds everything together breaking down. The result is obviously carpet rippling or buckling.

Broadloom has a primary backing, which is what the fibers are fastened to, and a secondary backing, which holds everything together and is what you see when you look at that back of the carpet. Delamination occurs when the secondary backing detaches from the primary backing, due to a breakdown of the latex adhesive. When this occurs, the top of the carpet is free to move and can buckle. Also, it can occur as a result of wet carpet or a manufacturing defect. If you suspect that the carpet is defective, contact your retailer or carpet manufacturer, who will likely send an inspector to look at the issue.

Flooding or Poor Cleaning

An overload of water from flooding or a botched cleaning job may cause carpet buckling. This is an acute version of the high humidity problem, which itself is a chronic version of this issue. The bottom line is that if your carpet gets very wet because your home flooded or because you used too much water when steam cleaning, your carpet will be particularly vulnerable to stretching. The solution would be that you have to make sure you have anti-flooding procedures in place and learn to properly clean your carpeting.

Too much water will not only expand the carpet to create buckles, but it can also even cause delamination where the backing separates from the rest of the carpet. Seams will even come apart in these water damaged areas. You can tell the backing is damaged when the buckles are not uniform. They can be going in all different directions. Carpet that still has a healthy backing will usually have buckles parallel to a wall unless the wall itself is at an angle. They will also be going in the same direction throughout the house.


Humidity is one of the biggest enemies of carpets, whether for mold growth or in this case, carpet buckling. Humidity is particularly likely to strike in places that experience four-season climates because there is a vast difference between indoor humidity levels in the summer compared to fall and winter. And if you are somewhere where it is humid year-round, it is even worse. In either situation, high humidity leads to the carpet absorbing excess air moisture and swelling as a result.

In order to keep your carpets from rippling when it gets humid, or at least to reduce the odds of this occurring, you will want to turn on the air conditioning or dedicated dehumidifiers to pull moisture from the air so your carpet does not act as a giant natural dehumidifier. In addition, humidity at the time of installation can affect the carpet. It is a good idea with all flooring materials to let it acclimate to the environment, which is going to be installed for at least 24 hours.


One of the causes of wrinkling can be from a house or room being left closed for an extended period of time in high temperatures. If you make use of your resources, research what you are buying, follow the manufacturer’s specifications and hire carpet installation professionals for your project, you and your carpet will be happier.

Carpet becomes softer and much easier to stretch in the hot summer months. But in the winter it can get cold making carpet much stiffer and more difficult to stretch. Add an installer not using a power stretcher, coupled with the coming summer heat and your carpet can be on the edge of buckling. But when you have carpet installed in the summer when it is nice and warm your chances go down considering that it is doomed for an early facelift. Because when it gets cold outside your carpet could potentially tighten up even more. And while this does not mean that you should not have carpet installed on a cold winter day, you will want to make sure you are getting a truly professional installation and not an average one.

Dragging Heavy Furniture

You should make it a point to never drag any heavy furniture across the surface of a carpet. If you drag things like furniture or appliances over your carpet without using plywood to “walk” them across, the objects will create waves the same way you would by pushing your hand through a sandbox, and the carpet will distort as a result. To keep your carpets from warping when you move heavy objects across them, you will either want to lift and carry them or use wooden planks as skis to push them wherever you need them to go.

The tackless strip that holds the carpet in place has little nail-like spikes that grip the backing of the carpet. The force exerted by dragging a heavy object across the surface can easily be enough to rip the carpet right off the tackless strip, damaging the carpet backing or loosening the strip in the process. Also, some carpet fiber types such as olefin have a very low melting point and the heat generated by dragging an object over it can be enough to melt it, causing permanent damage in the form of a line across the surface which cannot be removed by carpet cleaning.

Old Carpets

Carpets have a useful life. Once that useful life is exceeded, all bets are off. Sometimes a carpet with a 10-year useful life that is properly maintained and professionally cleaned at proper intervals can last 20 years. Other times, it is ready to be ripped and replaced at 10. The older a carpet is, the more likely it is that it is going to buckle. Over longer periods of time, the latex and backing in carpets can begin to relax, allowing the carpet to ripple. Depending on the age and condition of the carpet, sometimes it makes more sense to replace the carpet instead of trying to salvage it.

How to Fix a Buckled Carpet?

If you have carpet that looks loose and wrinkled, there is no need to be despair. If you have a buckled carpet in your home, it must be re-stretched. It can look as good as new with a professionally done carpet re-stretch. If the buckling is not severe and limited to a general area that is not near any seams or posts, you may wish to do the re-stretch yourself.

What a difference a stretch makes means that it is like a facelift for your carpet. It will remove the wrinkles and give your carpet a new and refreshed look. The sooner you do so, you can get the better. This is because extended rippling will only become worse with time, and your carpet will eventually start to crease.

Once you are dealing with a creased carpet or one where there is so much rippling that your carpet starts developing sharp folds, like a creased shirt or sheet of paper, you are no longer going to be able to completely fix it. Even though you might smoothen the ripples, the crease will remain and the buckles will still be visible, even if only slightly.

While you might be able to re-stretch your carpet on your own in a case of mild buckling in a limited area away from seams and posts, it is generally best to have the process done by professional carpet installers. If you are dealing with a carpet you bought from a retailer, you might have warranty coverage to cover the expenses.

While you cannot prevent carpet rippling simply by vacuuming and carpet cleaning, if you get into the habit of frequently maintaining your carpets, you will be far more likely to notice if something is amiss. On top of this, a regular cleaning schedule will also help you keep other enemies of carpet longevity at bay, such as mold, mildew, and staining and soiling.

Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like history and reading about carpets. I like to play soccer too :)

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