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Carpet Sidematch Correction

A sidematch (side match) problem of new carpet installation is a visible color or texture difference at the carpet's seam. Sidematch (side match) issue(s) may involve only one seam, or it could involve every seam of an installation. The variance can range from being barely perceivable to extremely objectionable.

Color Sidematch
( Click on image for larger photo )
Color variation at carpet seams are known as sidematch problems. These are usually correctable situations, even when they are severe.

Types of Sidematch Problems

There are a number of sources for sidematch (side match), usually stemming from the manufacturing or the installation of the carpet. However, environmental sources can also be a factor, as will be discussed later.

The majority of sidematch (side match) will usually originate from one of five sources:

  1. A true color difference in the panels of carpet. This can be hue (i.e., red, yellow, blue), value (lightness or darkness of a color), or intensity/chroma (purity of a color) difference. This problem can arise from installing carpet from more than one roll and/or dye lot, or from a problem inherent in manufacturing. This is known as a color sidematch (side match) and is correctable – even with carpet fibers other than nylon or wool.
  2. The direction in which the nap leans is not consistant between the carpet panels. This would mean that one or more panels were turned 90 or 180 degrees and then seamed to the others; or a roll was reversed in manufacturing before the secondary backing was applied; or an attached backing was applied in a reversed manner. This type of sidematch will change from light to dark and dark to light as the viewing direction is reversed (see photos). This is known as a reversal sidematch (side match). At times some of these are correctable.
  3. A texture difference in the yarn. One panel may appear lighter than the other (even under good lighting) or there may be a streak at the seam. This is most likely to occur in a looped carpet (although not required), and can be caused from shearing, random tip shearing, uneven tension during manufacturing, pile height difference at the seam, or other factors. This is known as a texture sidematch (side match) and is correctable.
  4. A peaked seam near and parallel a main light source. In today’s stretch-in installation of carpet, all seams are peaked. It is when a seam is laid parallel to a primary light source that a sidematch will appear. It is the contrast between the lighted and shadowed sides that is apparent, much like that of viewing a mountain range in sunlight from above.
  5. A shading difference due to pile direction variance in one or both panels of carpet. This appears when carpet pile fibers are laying in different directions, bent or abraded. Although it could be inherent in manufacturing, it is usually not considered a manufacturing defect. Additionally, there can be a sidematch issue from pile compression or crushing that occurred during storage and/or transportation (known as roll crush). This also is not considered a manufacturing defect, and is easily corrected.

Sidematch issues of these types will be immediately apparent when installed or shortly there after.

Pile-Direction Reversal
( Click on image for larger photo )

A pile-direction reversal at a carpet seam is a sidematch problem not related to a color difference. It can occur in one of two ways. The most commonly know is when it occurs as a result of poor installation. The direction of one piece of carpet is reversed and then seamed to another that has not been reversed. This type is an installation defect that the installers are responsible for.

A less commonly know occurrence is when it is related to the manufacturing process. This occurs when a carpet roll is reversed during manufacturing and before the secondary backing is applied. This is almost never detected until installation. If there are backing directional arrows, they would be actually pointing in the wrong direction by 180 degrees. Probably the majority of this type is wrongly assessed to be installation related. The only pre-installation detection would be through use of the “pencil test” or pile comparison before seaming or glue-in. Field reports indicate that this type of reversal occurs more often that commonly believed. Awareness of its existence and caution in installation, will go a long way in avoiding some potential headaches.

On a direction reversal, the apparent color difference at the seam will change from dark to light and light to dark when viewed from opposite directions. The effect is caused by light reflecting from the carpet pile at different angles to its leaning direction. As the pile leans towards you, it will reflect less light and take on a darker hue of its color. As the pile leans from you, it will reflect more light and take on a lighter hue of its color. This is what causes the perception of a color difference, when in actuality there is none. The accompanying photos illustrate the phenomena.

The possibility for correction of pile reversal varies with situations. Many times it depends upon what type of carpet installation is involved. A glue-down (usually a commercial install) is more apt to be correctable than a stretched-in over a pad. A correction expert should be consulted and inspect the situation for possiblities.


On rare occasions, installed carpet can develop an issue by fading to a sidematch. Light, atmospheric gases, chemicals, heat, use of substandard or differing dyes in manufacturing, or other factors can cause a sidematch of this type.

Most Sidematchs Are Correctable!

It is only a small percentage of installations that may have a sidematch problem; of the few that do, the vast majority are correctable on-location and without reinstallation. Color correcting procedures known as feather dyeing or blending, in conjunction with other processes, use the same mill-dyes and expertise as in the original manufacturing. In the cases of texture sidematch, dyes and/or tip shearing may be employed. Hand sewing a seam can minimize even peaking, although that would possible be labor intensive. Most often only panel reversal requires reinstallation; but even some of these are correctable at times.

For correctable instances, expected results of correction range from bring the carpet color-consistence within industrial standards to near invisibility. When commissioned or authorized by the mills and using competent artisans, manufacturing warrantees will usually be extended to cover the needed corrections.

Sidematch, plus many other color-related problems, such as streaks, bands, end-to-end roll match, unleveled dyeing, and off-color are correctable. However, due to the lack of awareness and correction specialists, many carpets are replaced unnecessarily. Call us to discuss the correction options for any special color problems you may have.

Actual Sidematch Jobs w/Photos

Following are links to actual sidematch jobs with "before & after" photos. Included are job discriptions and invoice prices for your general reference. There are a number of factors that will impact a final price, so these should be viewed only as generalities.

  1. Job #002. Poor sidematches for newly installed carpet in a retail department store. Correction was achieved by feather dyeing and blending at the seams. The after photos were taken before the dye work had totally dried, so the seams appear somewhat darker in color in the photos. This job was serviced in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
  2. Job #006. Sidematch problem in a residential master bedroom carpet. Correction was made by feather-dyeing at the seam. Located in the Twin Cities Metro area.
  3. Job #008. An off-color sidematch at the seam, plus a mill nap-reversal. Correction was achieved by feather dyeing and nap steaming. Located in downtown Minneapolis.
  4. Job #009. A sidematch problem with two dye lots and a slight mill nap-reversal. Correction was achieved by feather dyeing and nap steaming. Located in downtown Minneapolis.
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