Carpet Wrinkles & Buckling - Here's How To Fix That!

Carpet ripples and buckles can happen to old carpet, new carpet, in high traffic areas, and low traffic areas.  These ripples not only look terrible but can cause dangerous tripping hazards.  Since this unsightly phenomenon can happen any time during the life of your carpet, even when it is new, prevention is the best medicine.

Ripples Happen

Ripples can occur throughout the life of a carpet.  Ripples are small waves that usually appear sometime after the carpet is installed.   They can happen in a localized area or throughout the entire room.  Installer error is the most common cause.  Ripples can also develop from excessive rolling traffic, improper carpet cushion, delamination of the primary or secondary backings; sometimes they are caused by manufacturer defects.

To avoid ripples, carpet should be installed using a power stretcher.  Too often, installers save time by using a knee-kicker.  This results in an inadequate stretch of the carpet and the potential for ripples to develop as it relaxes.  Ripples also occur to carpet that is not properly acclimated to the environment before installation, especially if the carpet is installed in cold weather.  Carpeting needs to adjust to normal room temperature and humidity for at least 48 hours before installation.

Wrinkles Are Born

Wrinkles are usually seen in new carpets immediately after installation.  Carpet wrinkles are areas where the carpet has been folded or crushed during storage.  Wrinkles not only affect the surface yarns; they go all the way through the carpet backings and may be permanent.  It is best if this condition is identified before the carpet is installed.  If possible, the wrinkled portion of the carpet roll should not be used.  Wrinkles may be improved by steaming and grooming the carpet, but the results will vary based on the type of carpet yarn, backing, and the severity of the wrinkles.

If you are having carpet installed and notice wrinkles or ripples during the installation, point this out to the installer immediately and refuse to sign off on the installation until corrected.

Cleaning and Repair of Wrinkled and Rippled Carpet

Occasionally, carpet will develop ripples immediately after cleaning.  This can be quite disturbing to both the homeowner and the cleaner.  The cause is moisture absorption into the adhesive layer between the primary and secondary backing of the carpet.  Even though the ripples appear after cleaning, the root cause is the improper stretch of the carpet during installation.  Usually, once the carpet dries completely and acclimates to the home’s normal temperature and humidity, it will lie flat again.  This can take up to 48 hours, though in rare cases, the ripples may persist.

The only way to fix rippled carpet is to re-stretch it.  Re-stretching requires training, skill, and patience.

It is more difficult to re-stretch a carpet than it is to stretch it right the first time.  If ripples are ignored for too long, the carpet will develop buckles.  Buckles are large ripples that form breaks and/or wrinkles through the face yarns and carpet backing.  If buckles are not corrected, permanent damage to the texture and structure of the carpet results.  Even if the carpet is re-stretched, the damage from the buckles may still be apparent.

So what should you do if your carpet develops ripples?

If the carpet is under warranty, it’s best to contact the installer and retailer where you purchased it.  If you don’t get any help there, the manufacturer would be the next logical step.  You may have to be persistent and patient to get results, so keep track of names, dates, and times of all calls or e-mails.  A professional carpet stretcher should be called if your carpet is out of warranty and has ripples or buckles.

Tru-Clean Surface Care is a Certified Partner with the prestigious Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) and the International Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI).  We are an internationally approved WoolSafe Service Provider, A+ Rated by the Better Business Bureau, and an eight-year-in-a-row-winner of the coveted Angie’s List Super Service Award.

For more helpful tips about carpet stretching, repairs, or carpet cleaning, please visit Tru-Clean Surface Care online at or “call us on the carpet” any time at 239-541-4888 – Cape Coral and Lee County, 239-206-1935 – Bonita Springs, Naples, and Marco Island, or 941-621-2198 – Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte, Florida.

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