15 Key Points and Tips for Carpet Installation

Depending on the size of the installation job, installing wall-to-wall carpet can be overwhelming and an intimidating task. However, with the correct tools, small jobs can be done by the average do-it-yourself homeowner. Some tools you will need, such as a knee kicker, seam heater and carpet stretch can be rented from a hardware store or check on line for a tool supplier near you. It is also recommended you attend a training class at your local home improvement center for a complete understanding of the carpet installation process.

  1. Be prepared by having the right tools available. Tools you will want to have on had are: steel tape measure, utility knife, metal ruler, tack strips, seam tape, carpet seaming iron, carpet knee kicker, carpet stretcher and knee pads. A miter saw, hammer and finishing nails may be needed to re-install the baseboards.
  2. Prep the sub floor and remove the baseboards. For the best carpet installation, the sub floor must be clean, level and water-tight. Use a scraper to scrape off any old glue or paint. Use a hammer to secure any loose flooring. If you are laying carpet on concrete, seal any cracks with calking or concrete repair putty. Make sure the sub floor is clean and dry before you begin.
  3. Measure the room where the carpet will be installed. Remember to add length for closets, hallways, under stairs, around columns, etc. Measuring for carpet is a very tricky business. We measured ours so exact; we only had 3 strips left over, each one only one foot wide. That was cutting it close! Measure and re-measure to make sure you get the right amount of carpet and padding.
  4. Select the carpet and padding. Padding is very important under carpet and the correct padding will extend the life of your carpet. Buy the same amount of padding as you do carpet. Don’t go cheap on the padding – it is worth the few extra dollars to have good quality padding under your carpet. Select your carpet for durability, type of use and ease of maintenance. High pile or low pile, which ever carpet you choose, make sure you buy enough carpet for repairs and miss-cuts.
  5. Consider replacement baseboards and style. Baseboards have a tendency to break when they are removed so now is a good time to consider updating your baseboards. A miter saw, hammer and finishing nails are needed to install new baseboards.
  6. Identify where the heat ducts and any under floor wiring is. Laying carpet will require tacks and glue. You do not want to nail into a heat duct or glue over a radiator line. Identify and remember where any heat ducts or electrical wiring is inside/under the floor. If you have radiant heat wires, pay particular attention to where the wires are located.
  7. Install the tack strip along each wall where the carpet will meet the wall. You may need either concrete tacks or wood tacks depending on what the sub floor is made of. Ask at the hardware store or home improvement center for advice as to which tacks and tack strip you will need for your room.
  8. Unroll and glue the padding in place. Padding will come in long sheets on rolls of various widths. If you need more than one row of padding, you must tape the padding to the next row of padding. You do not want the padding to shift and over lap under the carpet. Most installers will glue the underside of the padding to the sub floor. Use carpet tape or padding glue to secure the padding in place before you lay the carpet on top of it.
  9. Arrange the carpet in the area where you want to install it. Leaving 4-6 inches of extra length on all sides, cut and position the carpet. If your carpet piece is not wide enough to cover the whole area, cut another piece of carpet and lay it next to the first piece.
  10. If you have to join two pieces of carpet together, seal the seams with sealing tape and heat. For a carpet seam to be invisible and not come apart over time, it is best to use a carpet seaming iron and seam sealing tape. This is a hand held piece of equipment that looks similar to a regular household iron except the carpet seaming iron sits on the tape while it pulls the two edges of carpet together, and the heat seals the edges together with very hot sticky tape. You can buy a seaming iron; they range in price from $50 to $120 at your local hardware store or you can rent a carpet seaming iron. Some hardware stores rent them out and so do equipment rental companies.
  11. Use a knee kicker to tack down the carpet on the tack strip. A knee kicker is a tool used to push the carpet edge forward and press in down on to the carpet tack strip. It is called a knee kicker because you “kick it” with your knee, not your foot. This is the best tool to attach the carpet to the tack strip. They are available at hardware stores and home improvement centers for about $20-$100. Instructions on how to use the carpet knee kicker come with the tool. Read the instructions carefully before using a knee kicker and ask the sales person for any tips on proper, safe use of this tool.
  12. Use a power stretcher to even-out and smooth the carpet. Beware; there is a learning curve to using a power stretcher properly! A power stretcher is used to tighten the carpet and prevent bumps and hills as the carpet and padding settle. Just as you stretch plastic wrap for a good seal, you must pull and stretch the carpet to keep a secure fit on the floor. You can also use a carpet stretcher to smooth down and remove bumps in your existing carpet. A smooth carpet will last longer and wear more evenly. You can either rent or buy a power stretcher; they cost about $100 and up. If you used the knee kicker correctly, small rooms may not need a power stretcher.
  13. After your carpet is installed and all bumps are smooth, check the edges for loose ends, turned up corners or places where the knee kicker did not secure the carpet. Smooth out the carpet edges and trim any excess carpet. Tuck in all edges under the baseboards if you did not remove them. This is easily done with a clean grout knife or spreader. Just press down on the loose edge and use the grout knife to push the loose edge under the baseboard.
  14. Attach transitional edges, such as where the carpet changes to tile in the bathroom or where the wood floor changes into carpet. Transitional edges look a lot like molding but are designed to even the height between a tile or wood floor and a carpeted area. They make a clean transition from one floor material to another and help protect the edges from dirt, damage and accidental removal. They are available at the home improvement center and are usually found where the door thresholds are displayed.
  15. If you removed the baseboard and are replacing them, now is the time to install the new baseboards; make sure they will sit on top of the carpet and will attach flush against the wall.
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