Installing wall-to-wall carpet is a job most of us assume we should leave to a pro, but with a few specialized tools and some careful attention, it is a reasonable job for a handy homeowner to take on. If you don’t plan to use them regularly, carpet installation tools are usually available at tool rental centers.
Before starting your installation, be sure to measure the yardage you will need for the entire project, and buy an extra 10 percent of both carpet and padding to allow for cuts, waste, and mistakes. Carpet is commonly available in 12-foot widths and is cut to length by the retailer. If your room is wider than 12 feet you may be able to find a wider carpet in order to avoid having seams, so be sure to check with the seller, since finishing seams raise the complexity of a carpet installation quite a bit. Also, cutting carpet to rough room size is much easier in a wide open space like a garage or driveway, so be sure to prepare a clean spot for making your cuts.
|Tools & Materials||Skill Level||Estimated Time|
|• Carpet||Intermediate to Advanced||3 to 6 hours|
|• Carpet pad|
|• Transition strip|
|• Tack strips|
|• Duct tape|
|• Carpet tape|
|• Utility knife|
|• Carpet seam cutter|
|• Carpet wall trimmer|
|• Knee kicker|
|• Carpet stair tool or tucker|
|• Carpet seam iron|
|• Carpet roller|
|• Power stretcher|
|• Staple gun and staples|
Carpet Installation Process
Follow the steps below to install your carpet.
1. Prepare the Subfloor
Remove floor vent covers and the existing flooring and make repairs as needed to provide a stable and level subfloor. For concrete floors, a self-leveling cement can be used to fill low spots, and wood floors can be improved by replacing damaged material or tightening loose boards with 2 1/2” wood screws. Scrape or sweep the floor as needed to provide a clean and smooth surface.
2. Install Tack Strips
Cut tack strips to length with snips and nail them in place around the perimeter of the room, with the exception of doorways. Leave ¼” to ½” of space between the strips and the walls or trim, be sure the tacks are angled toward the wall, and butt the ends of the strips together snugly. Be sure to use the correct strips for your application, since the types of nails used are different for wood and concrete subfloors.
3. Cut Carpet Pad
Measure carpet pad to the dimensions of the room and cut to fit with a utility knife. Plan your cuts to create the minimum number of seams in the room.
4. Install Carpet Pad
Lay padding on the subfloor and butt pieces together snugly. Tape seams with duct tape along the entire length. Trim the padding around the perimeter of the room with a utility knife so it fits inside the tack strips, rather than over the top of them. To prevent shifting, anchor the pad around the perimeter with staples every six to twelve inches on a wood subfloor or with an appropriate adhesive on a concrete floor.
5. Cut the Carpet
Measure the carpet to exceed the dimensions of the room by three to six inches and cut with a utility or carpet knife. If a single piece is not large enough for the entire room, try to cut for seam placement in low-visibility areas and with the nap running in the same direction for all pieces, and allow a little extra overlap to cut the seam in place.
6. Lay the Carpet in Place
Lay the carpet in position with the nap in the preferred direction and the excess evenly distributed around the room. If necessary, cut angles or notches in the corners to help position the carpet over the tack strips.
7. Cut the Seams
If your carpeting has seams, overlap the edges of the carpet at the seam location and use a seam cutter to cut through both layers at once to make a precise cut. Be sure to leave enough excess at the perimeter to secure the edges later.
8. Secure the Seams
Fold back the carpet on both sides of the seam and lay a strip of carpet tape along the floor, centered over the seam. Lay the carpet over the tape and fit the edges together tightly. Use a seam iron to adhere the carpet to the tape by running the heated iron over the tape, but under the carpet. Press the seam in place firmly with a carpet roller.
9. Secure the Carpet
Place the toothed end of a knee kicker a few inches away from the wall. Drive a knee into the opposite end to push the carpet into position over the tack strips. If necessary, press the carpet over the tack strips by tapping with a hammer or the base of a stair tool. Trim the excess carpet with a wall trimmer, and tuck the edge behind the tack strips with the stair tool. Work your way along the wall to finish one side then repeat the process on the opposite wall. Using a power stretcher for opposing walls can simplify the job, if one is available. After securing the first side with a kicker, place a board along the wall or trim to protect it and place the toothed end of the stretcher about six inches away from the opposite wall and press the stretcher’s lever to position the carpet. Trim and tuck the edges as before, then secure the carpet along the perpendicular wall with the kicker and continue with the stretcher on the final opposing wall.
10. Cut Openings
Use a carpet or utility knife to cut openings for vents through the carpet and pad. Be sure to cut along the inside of the hole, not leaving any of the subfloor exposed, so the vent cover will secure the cut edges and prevent tripping and fraying. Place the vent cover in position and press it firmly into place over the carpet.
11. Install Transition Strips
Trim carpet in doorways so it is centered under the door and/or meets other flooring. Cut an appropriate transition or edge strip to length and install over the seam with nails or screws as provided with the strip or indicated by the manufacturer.
Level of Difficulty
Installing carpet requires the use of a few specialized tools and precise measuring and cutting, making it a project suited for an intermediate to advanced do-it-yourselfer. If installing carpet is above your experience or comfort level, a pro can get the job done very efficiently, but you can still save on the cost of installation by handling the removal of old flooring and the preparation of the sub floor on your own.
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