Carpet Installation Guide

installationDIY enthusiasts sometimes install their own carpet in their home, especially if they’ve had some experience and the job is pretty straightforward, like a square room. When stairs are involved, or lots of seams and trims, hiring a professional contractor is an attractive choice. Carpet installation is fairly affordable compared with other flooring such as tile or stone.

In this guide about carpet flooring, we’re going to share our experience with carpeting installation. The guide will help you understand more about whats involved in carpet installation, as well as the tools commonly used, how to prep the floor, installation techniques, and other common questions about the installation process. In addition, we encourage you review the carpet flooring buying guide, learn about carpet prices, maintenance and  cleaning, and much more.

Installation Overview

Sometimes an inferior carpet installation job shows up right away, with ridges in the carpet or corners that pull up. At other times, poor installation won’t show up for a 6-12 months, especially if the carpet hasn’t been properly stretched. When this occurs, the carpet will become loose, especially in high traffic areas, as it relaxes. Ridges will appear throughout the traffic areas.

Before you decide to take on the job, make sure you have a thorough grasp of the process. Watch several tutorials. Know what the necessary tools are and how to use them. Keep in mind that some manufacturers require professional installation or they won’t honor their warranty on seams.

Even if you decide to hire home flooring pros for the job, knowing something about the process will help you discuss the installation with contractors. This guide will help.

Tools and Supplies the Pros Use

Here’s a list of tools required for carpet installation. You may be able to find some of them from your local rental store. You will need: Carpet knife, measuring  tape, chalk line for making straight cuts, knee kicker, power stretcher, tack strip cutter, hammer, stapler for padding installation, stair tools if necessary and a seam iron. You may want to wear gloves when installing tack strip. A carpet cart is handy for moving large rolls of carpeting.

In terms of supplies, you’ll need tack strip and nails to install it, staples for the padding and seam tape.

Preparing the Floor for New Carpet

Thorough floor preparation is essential. If debris like drywall mortar is left on the subfloor, you’ll feel it every time you step on it. And eventually, it may cause premature wear in the flooring. Start by removing trim, toe kicks and doors from the rooms to be carpeted. Remove old carpeting, the padding and all the staples.

Then, if it’s a wood subfloor, walk the entire floor looking for squeaks. Now is your chance to silence them. Remove the squeaky board and apply glue to it, then screw it back down. At the very least, add a few screws to see if that stops the noise.

If the floor is concrete, fill in any cracks and sand them smooth.

Installation Techniques

Here are the main steps to getting your carpet down.

Step 1: Install tack strip around the entire perimeter of the room. Leave it approximately 3/8” from the wall. The printed arrows on the strips should face the wall.

Step 2: Next, roll out the carpet padding, now often called carpet cushion, onto the floor and cut to fit. It should not cover the tack strip.

Step 3: Use a carpet stapler to install staples about every 2 feet horizontally and vertically.

Step 4: Roll out the carpet and leave a 2-inch overlap along walls for trimming. You may find that cutting the carpet outside is easier. Make sure the driveway is clean of debris. Once the piece is cut, make a notch approximately where corners will be. This will help when it comes time for trimming.

Step 5: Lay the carpet along the longest exterior wall first, leaving 2” excess for trimming. A useful technique is to nail the carpet down with a 10lb nail every 6-8 inches. Place the nails about 6” from the wall. Drive in the nails about half way. This will hold the carpet firmly when you use the power stretcher on the other side of the room. The nails won’t leave a permanent mark.

Step 6: Affix the starting side of the carpet to the tack strip before trimming. Fold the carpet over and press the fold into the gulley between the tack strip and the wall. Use a 2×4 or similar object to press it firmly onto the tacks. Some use a rubber mallet.

Step 7: Now it’s time to use the power stretcher. Move toward the loose end of the carpet and stretch the carpet in increments. Move horizontally and diagonally over the piece of carpeting you are installing.

Step 8: When you reach the far end, use the stretcher to attach the loose end of the carpet to the tack strip. If a second piece will be seamed to the first, don’t tack down the last 1-2 feet of it so that it can be rolled back for seaming.

Step 9: Trim the ends of the carpet that have been affixed using a carpet trimmer or knife. Cut along the back side of the tack strip and tuck the loose end into the valley between the tack strip and the wall.

Step 10: If seams are required, cut the next piece of carpet. Roll back the piece that has been installed, so that the back of the carpet can be seamed. Lay the second piece next to it, facing down as well. Align the seams and cut a piece of seam tape to fit. Heat the seam iron, and when it is fully hot, iron the seam slowly and methodically. You may want to open windows for ventilation while ironing seams. Once the seam is secure, follow the steps above to install the added piece of carpeting.

Step 11: Cutting around obstacles requires a slow, steady hand. Cut slowly from the edge of the carpet toward corners. Then cut along the obstacle for trimming.

Step 12: Once the carpet is installed, vacuum it thoroughly.

Finishing the Job

After installation, install baseboard trim and hang the doors. You may also need to install transition strips where flooring transitions from one room to another. Now, you’ll get the best longevity from your carpet by keeping it clean. See our Rugs & Carpet Maintenance, Care and Cleaning Guide for the details.

Installation FAQs

Q: How important is the carpet padding?
A: It is very important to choose a quality padding. It should be thick high-density foam for the best cushion beneath your carpet.

Q: If I cut too far down a corner, will it show?
A: If the cut is just a few inches too long, it probably won’t show. If you’re concerned about it, fix the cut using carpet seam tape.

Q: Are there any green padding options?
A: Wool cushion is very green but quite expensive.

Q: Do you normally put padding under area rugs?
A: Padding is often attached to area rugs to improve comfort.

Q: Will carpet installers move the furniture?
A: Yes they will, but it might cost a bit extra to add that service to installation.

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