With older rugs, if in person inspection is a viable option, it's one to take advantage of. Whether new to rugs or a seasoned specialist, with a few minutes of time, it's fairly easy to determine whether a rug has propensity toward spliting or tearing. This test is important, as it can provide valuable insight as to whether the rug should be avoided, or may require significant repairs before investment or use.
Smaller rugs are generally easier to inspect for obvious reasons such as lower square footage and ease of manipulation. The same principles for inspection go for larger rugs as well, although may need assistance from several individuals to thoroughly inspect.
Generally, before a rug splits, tears or cracks, there will be signs of potentialy problematic areas to come if they are not already immediately apparent.
Spotting with a propensity toward cracking will not necessarily be visually apparent. The test below may cause stress to potential problem areas. It is important in any instance of testing to proceed with caution, and release the rug immediately if resistance to the point of concern occurs.
A good starting point is to first determine if the rug already has splits or tears. This may be done by inspecting both the front and back of the subject.
The rug above exhibits signs of stress as splits (although shown horizintally, actually run with the direction of the warp). Clearly this rug is in need of professional attention, and further testing will require caution.
If the rug exhibits signs of splits, tears or cracks, being new to rugs, you may already have the advantage of feeling in and around the affected area to have a sense of what to look for, or what is to come. Otherwise, find areas of the rug which clearly exhibit healthy and supple pile/malleability under light folding: These will be your control.
Testing several areas scattered throughout the carpet should help serve as an indicator for the normal structural tension. In these areas, with light but gradually increasing steady folding pressure should exhibit no serious difficulties or resistance in folding any direction to the point of maximum compression. No physical or audible signs should exist: This would include 'hard' areas, or sounds of cracking/popping, even to the point of firm creasing with hard pressure. The objective is to cease pressure immediately if additional force indicates strong resistance to the point of potentially fracturing or splitting. If pressure applied leads to these concerns, you may have selected a problematic area unknowingly. Continue testing other areas to determine if this may be consistent throughout the rug as a natural characteristic of the weave, or alternatively, a potentially isolated problematic area.
As previously established, spotting areas of a rug with a propensity toward splitting or cracking will not necessarily be visually apparent, although a good starting point is to locate anomolies such as light staining or tinting on the pile (face of the rug) or reverse sides. Often, these are the first areas to be wary of, but are not the only ones. Once a suspected area has been identified, gathering up enough slack to created a vertical 'mound' for testing (running with the weft or warps) will enable light flexing within the confines of the affected area. If these areas feel hard or stiff even with light pressure, based on your knowledge of healthy areas (your control), determine whether continued pressure or further compression may result in fracturing of warp or weft. If so, you may have an area which has been compromised by staining, dry rot, or otherwise weak foundation and structure. Carefully continue to experiment in and around areas of concern to determine the extent of potential problem.
If the rug passes several spot-checks and is of manageable size for the hands available, you may continue with another more strenuous inspection. With the pile side up, gently 'walk' the rug over itself by slowly bringing one corner to to its diagonal opposite. If the rolling area of the fold 'raises' higher than normal, stop and check these areas for stiffness by applying light pressure on the suspected area.
Deciding on how severe potentially problematic areas are may require inspection by an expert. However, if a thorough inspection does not raise suspicion, you may have a perfectly healthy and structurally sound rug.