Flooring Pattern Repeat and Drop Matches Explained

Arabesque carpet roll with a full drop match pattern

One of the perils of purchasing a patterned flooring roll is making sure you buy enough material to actually cover the whole floor and get a flooring pattern match. Plenty of people buy patterned broadloom carpet or vinyl sheets using the exact square footage of their room, only to run into the dreaded drop pattern repeat.

What is a drop pattern, you ask? It’s a pattern that repeats diagonally across the surface of the flooring. That means that if you spread out two rolls side by side, the patterns won’t match up horizontally, even if there is a vertical pattern repeat. 

You need to drop the pattern to get a match, and that means you need just a bit more material to achieve full coverage if purchasing more than one roll. If you don’t factor this pattern repeat into your purchase, you just won’t have enough flooring to avoid a pattern clash.

So how do you make sure you’re ordering enough material to cover your floor when purchasing a patterned carpet roll or sheet vinyl flooring? The trick is to understand pattern repeats. Fortunately for you, I’m here to help you out with that.

Read more to find out the difference between a standard pattern repeat and a drop pattern repeat. 

Chart showing the different between a standard match pattern and a drop match pattern

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Standard Pattern Repeat vs. Drop Pattern Repeat

The difference between a standard and a drop pattern repeat is where that repeat occurs. Standard repeats are uniform. Meanwhile, a drop pattern, or a drop match, is stepped. This can be a bit difficult to conceptualize, so let’s try a thought experiment.

Imagine you have a rectangular piece of patterned carpet. Cut the rectangle evenly in half across the width. Take the top half and drop it down beside the lower half. Two things could happen with the pattern after you do this.

  • If you have a standard pattern, the carpet will align in a perfect match. This is because the pattern is exactly the same on either side of the carpet.
  • With a drop match pattern, you can’t do that cool split-in-half trick. The design will be offset, with one part lower than the other. This happens because the pattern isn’t identical from side to side.

How does that happen, and why? To figure that out, you need to understand how each pattern repeat works.

What is a Standard Pattern Repeat?

Black and white checkered vinyl sheet with a standard drop match

A standard pattern is the same on one side as it is on the other. It matches from side-to-side as well as up and down. This is also known as a full drop repeat because you can cut it along the repeat and “drop” the second half beside the first, and the pattern will continue without interruptions.

This simple alignment makes for an easier installation and shopping experience. However, simplicity isn’t always everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to flooring. Sometimes, it’s more fun to have a bit of complexity, and that’s where the drop comes in.

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What is a Drop Pattern Repeat?

A drop match is a pattern style in broadloom carpet and vinyl sheet flooring that doesn’t match exactly on each side of the roll. Instead, it matches somewhere down the pattern, and it varies from product to product. Many times, to get an exact match, you need to drop the second roll somewhere down the pattern instead of matching it evenly, side to side. That’s why many people call it a drop pattern.

While this can be a challenge, drop repeats do break up the uniformity you find with standard patterns. Since each corresponding pattern element drops down the length of the material as the design repeats, there’s a sense of movement and fluidity you don’t get anywhere else.

How to Calculate Square Footage for Flooring

Top view of sheet vinyl flooring with a drop match pattern

Calculating the right amount of carpet or vinyl is more than just finding the square footage of a room. You need to understand the dimensions of the carpet rolls or vinyl rolls you want to buy. 

Regardless of if you’re buying a product with a standard pattern repeat or a drop pattern repeat, you’ll need to make note of the width of each roll. By comparing the width of the carpet or vinyl to the width of your space, you’ll know how many rolls you will need. Generally, vinyl rolls can be 6’, 12’, or 13’2” wide. Broadloom carpet rolls can be 10’, 12’, or 13’6” wide. 

The width of a flooring roll may be fixed, but the length is a custom cut, so the length is where you’ll need to account for any extra material you’ll need. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is get a professional involved:

“Patterned broadloom carpet is a unique floor covering that unlike solid-color carpet, requires additional time, preparation and expertise to be installed properly. A successful installation requires the service of a qualified flooring professional proficient with patterned materials. Certification by the International Certified Flooring Installers Association is preferred.

 

The prospective buyer should provide the installer with all relevant information about the patterned carpet including width, construction, dimensions of pattern match, and a physical carpet sample, if possible. With this information, the installer can evaluate and measure the space, and estimate the quantity of carpet necessary to complete the project.” – Nick Dobosh, President of Joy Carpets

With that in mind, let’s find out how to order flooring with a standard repeat vs. a drop repeat! 

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Ordering Flooring With a Standard Pattern Repeat

Geometric carpet with a standard drop pattern

For a standard repeat, ordering a flooring roll is essentially the same as buying a carpet or vinyl sheet without a pattern. No extra flooring is necessary to continue to pattern from one roll to another.

Here’s an example: You have a living room that measures 15’ x 20’ (15’ x 20’ = 300sqft) and the flooring roll you want is 12’ wide. You would buy two 15’ long rolls and have 4’ of extra width on the side, which gives you 60sqft of excess (4’ x 15’ = 60sqft).

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Ordering Flooring With a Drop Pattern Repeat

Art deco carpet pattern with a drop match in a home theater setting

With a drop repeat, you need to study that pesky pattern, unless you’re only using one roll. If that’s the case, then congrats! This will be pretty simple for you. However, some spaces are large, so it’s not typically going to be that easy.

When you’re ordering more than one roll, the pattern length needs to be included in the length of the second roll. Even if it’s a large pattern, you need to include the whole length for the best results.

The first roll will be the required length for the space, and the second roll will be that length plus an additional pattern repeat. This will give you enough wiggle room to properly align the design.

Let’s go back to that same example of the 15’ x 20’ living room. You still need to cover that 300sqft, but this time your flooring has a drop pattern. The repeat drops 6” down the roll after each iteration, but the whole pattern repeat is 1’ long. 

You need to include a whole pattern length into the length of your second roll, so you will buy one roll that is 15’ long, and one roll that is 16’ long. You’ll still have the 4’ of extra width, plus an additional 1’ of length in that second roll. That totals up to 68sqft of excess (4’ x 15’ = 60sqft and 1’ x 8’ = 8sqft.)

It might seem like you’re throwing away extra flooring you never needed, but the truth is that the extra 1’ of length is kind of like insurance. You’ll definitely get an exact pattern match this way. Plus, that leftover carpet or vinyl can come in handy if you ever need to make a repair!

Conclusion

There you have it, folks! That’s the deal with drop pattern repeats. To get a vinyl flooring pattern match or carpet pattern match, be sure to make accurate measurements. Always remember to include an extra pattern length in your second roll. 

Now that you understand how to buy patterned flooring, are you ready to shop?

 

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