Rug Repair Part 1: Introduction

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    Repair 1 - Image 1
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Rug repair is a craft requiring knowledge and skill.

Why offer rug repair? Being a full service rug cleaning and restoration facility sets you apart from most carpet cleaners that also offer rug cleaning. Repair is a challenge to learn but can be a great source of income for your business.

Rug repair is a craft requiring knowledge and skill. The knowledge is easier to acquire than the skill, but it can be developed with a good mentor. Understanding rug structure is a key to rug repair. If you don’t understand how a rug is put together, it is impossible to repair it properly. 

Learning to be a skilled rug restorer is a long process, but learning to do simple maintenance repairs does not have to be difficult. With good training and a little practice, most anyone with aptitude for handwork can learn to secure ends and repair the sides of rugs. These are some of the most common repairs your customers need.

Most people begin by sub-contracting out repairs while slowly developing their own skills in house. It’s a good way to build a customer base while learning how to bid and sell repairs, as you develop your own capabilities. 

There are a few books on repair and the occasional class or seminar. Whether you decide to learn how to do repairs, or simply want to learn what can be done, taking classes, reading and looking at rugs with restorers is the best approach. It’s not as hard as it seems. 

There are different types and approaches to repair and restoration:

  • Conservation: Defined as preserving an object from further deterioration with as little change to its current condition as possible. Rugs that are conserved usually are rare and have exceptional scientific, historical or artistic value. An example of this sort of treatment for a home setting might be sewing the worn edges of a rug to prevent further unraveling and hanging it with Velcro on a wall to remove it from foot traffic.
  • Restoration: Defined as returning a rug to a condition as close as possible to original condition. Ideally, this requires matching dyes, fibers and structure as closely as possible to the original. This level of work is done when the value and rarity of the rug justifies the expense and the owner is willing to pay for restoration.
  • Repair: This is a compromise between conservation and restoration most often appropriate for rugs sent in for cleaning. Repairing allows the rug to become functional again. Rug repairs include patching, reduction in size, overcasting of fraying ends and sides, new fringe and spot dyeing.

In practice, repairs are what most rugs need. Deciding what to do will involve a discussion with your customer and possibly the person you sub work to. Repairs can lower the value of the rug if they are not skillfully executed or consistent with the quality of the rug. To determine if a repair makes economic sense, a few things must be considered:

  • The market value of the rug.
  • The cost of repairs.
  • The market value of the repaired rug.
  • The cost of repairs-to-value ratio is an important measure, but the cost and practicality of finding a replacement rug can be a major factor as well. It is often useful to ask a retail client what they would do if they had to discard the rug in question. How hard would it be to find a replacement they liked as well? What would it cost? What is their sentimental attachment to the rug?

It is important to be able to outline all reasonable options for a client when considering repairs and restoration. There is often no right or wrong way to proceed, as there are no objective or concrete standards to serve as guidelines. Because there are so many trade-offs between the cost of doing the work and the quality of the work desired, it is important for the restorer to be ready to help decide what not to do as well as what can safely wait until the customer is ready.  

There a few rug repair rules to follow. They are:

  1. Avoid repairs that involve gluing and patching with adhesives. Though sometimes a valid option, such repairs are hard to reverse and are often the work of less skilled restorers.
  2. Do not perform any repair without first discussing all the options and costs with the customer.
  3. Explain why any specific level of repair is recommended.
  4. Repair should be commensurate with the value of the rug unless the customer tells you otherwise.
  5. Carefully explain any limiting conditions.
  6. Do not attempt repairs beyond your level of expertise.

If you are not able to perform the repair work yourself, it is possible to sub-contract the work to a local repair company. The skilled companies will be known locally by word of mouth. Start with an Internet search for your market. Make inquiries with dealers in antique or old rugs - they often have good resources for restoration and repair. Visit repair shops and ask to see work done. If you can’t find resources locally, rugs can be shipped to restorers in other cities. Learn to package rugs correctly for shipment. Rugs should be wrapped in Tyvek and insured through UPS or FedEx.  It’s often not expensive to send a rug out to be restored.

What does repair and restoration cost? A lot of jobs, such as end and side work, are priced by the foot and typical charges for end securing by hand can run between $15 and $30 per linear foot. Overcasting edges can be about the same for simple wear and even more for rebuilding missing or damaged sides. Reweaving and more complicated repairs are generally priced by the job with restorers charging between $300 and $600 a day. 

An individual restorer’s skill and experience can be a major factor in cost - sometimes the more skilled and experienced individual can offer a better price as well as a more certain outcome. Ask lots of questions and be sure you know what to expect, as your customer will want to know as well and you need to be prepared to provide accurate answers to their questions.

Take lots of pictures, before and after. This can be a big help in keeping track of what is to be done. A few good sets of before and after photos can be a very effective tool for explaining and selling repair services to customers. 

As with most service transactions, you often get what you pay for. Developing a good working relationship with the people providing your repair services is the first step to protecting your customer’s interests and your profit. Helping your customer understand the value of preserving or restoring their rug can go a long way in helping them to understand the need for work that often may seem expensive at first.

Turn-around time is also a factor, as the customer does not want to be without the textile for a prolonged period of time. Most repair shops are small operations and often have a hard time staying on schedule. Working closely with your repair person can help keep jobs on track.

In the next installment of this “Rug Repair” series, we will discuss rug-end securing and fringes with the pros and cons of the most common methods. 



Part 1: An Introduction to Rug Conservation, Restoration and Repair

Part 2: Rug-End Securing

Part 3: How to Deal with Worn Fringes

Part 4: Sides and Selvages

Part 5: Curling Edges – Why Rugs Won’t Lay Flat and How to Correct it

Part 6: Torn Corners and How to Repair the Problem


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