Nothing’s better on a cool morning than bare feet on a cozy carpet, keeping your toes off the cold, cold floor. Bare wood may be beautiful, but carpeting both looks good and feels good. It brings design to a spartan room, it adds warmth to a chilly room, and it even provides quiet in an echoing room.
But putting down carpet can be daunting to the do-it-yourselfer because the tools are unfamiliar. Fortunately, the process isn’t that difficult, whether you rent the tools or hire a pro to do the work for you.
If you hire a pro, installation should include the initial measurement (a pro is trained to see things such as traffic patterns and incoming light, and can suggest the best places to hide seams) and a floor plan showing how the various pieces will be installed. With large rooms, a few seams are inevitable.
Good installers use a carpet trimmer. Some installers use a utility knife, but the exposed blade tends to hack up floors and baseboard moldings. While installers once used kneekickers for an entire installation, rooms larger than 10-by-10 feet should be power-stretched to keep the finished product bump-free.
How to Install Carpet
1. Install the Carpet Tack Strips
- After removing all the furniture and old floor covering from the room, cover the wood subfloor with carpet padding. Tack down the padding with a stapler.
- Using a hammer, nail down tack strips around the perimeter of the room. Cut the 1-inch-wide strips to length using a small handsaw or special wood snips. Set the tack strip about ½ inch away from the baseboard to allow space for slipping the carpeting underneath.
- One row of tack strip is sufficient to hold down most types of carpeting, but for heavily woven Berbers and woolen carpets, it’s best to install two rows of tack strips side by side. This double-strip trick will provide extra “bite” to prevent the carpeting from pulling loose or shifting out of position.
2. Stretch the Carpet
- Unroll the carpeting flat onto the padding. If the carpeting has a particular pattern or texture, be sure it’s oriented correctly in the room. Use a knee kicker to force the carpeting into position against one wall. Move along the wall, striking the kicker with your knee until you’ve pulled out all wrinkles and slack.
- Switch to a lever-activated stretcher to pull the carpet tight to the wall. Use your hand to firmly press the carpeting down onto the pointy spikes of the tack strips below. Check to be sure the oversized carpeting laps up onto each wall by at least a few inches.
3. Trim the edges
- With the carpeting secured along one wall, use a special carpet-edging tool to trim the carpet flush with the baseboard molding. Keep the metal shoe of the tool pressed tightly against the carpeting, and keep the carpeting tight against the baseboard. (If you don’t have an edging tool, you can trim the carpeting with a utility knife, but be sure to use a brand-new blade and change it as soon as it starts to get dull.)
- Before pulling away the excess strip of carpeting, check to be sure it isn’t still attached at any point. If you pull on the strip while it’s still connected, even if just by a thread, you could unwind a fiber from the carpeting.
4. Push the Edges Under the Baseboard
- Use a wide-blade carpet chisel and force the edge of the carpeting into the space beneath the baseboard molding. Be careful not to scratch or dent the molding.
- With the carpeting secured to the tack strips along one wall, move across the room to the opposite wall and repeat the process: force out wrinkles with the knee kicker, pull it taut with the stretcher, then trim away the excess carpeting. For some types of carpeting or in large rooms, you may need a little extra force to pull the carpeting tight. In those cases, attach an extension pole to the lever-activated stretcher, and extend the pole across the room so that it pushes against the opposite wall.
- Once the carpeting is secured along two, opposite walls, repeat the procedure for attaching and trimming the carpeting along the final two walls.
5. Seam Together Adjoining Pieces
- If you need to seam together two or more pieces of carpeting, you’ll need an electric seaming iron, seaming weight, and roll of heat-activated seam tape. Plug in the iron and let it heat up. Butt the edges of the two pieces of carpeting tight together, but don’t allow them to overlap.
- Lift up and fold back one edge of carpeting. Slide a length of heat-activated seam tape halfway underneath the edge of carpeting that’s flat on the floor. Run the tape along the entire seam, making sure it’s positioned halfway under the carpeting.
- Lay flat the folded-back piece of carpeting, and check for a tight fit along the seam. Starting at one wall, slip the hot seaming iron into the seam. Slowly glide the iron between the two pieces of carpeting, activating the adhesive on the seam tape. Ask a helper follow closely behind with a seaming weight, and firmly press down on the carpet to adhere both edges to the tape.
- As you work your way across the floor, you may have to stop occasionally and use the knee kicker to close up the seam.
6. Carpet the Stairs
- When carpeting stairs, there are two basic ways to attach the carpet. The traditional cap-and-band method involves running the carpeting down the riser, across the tread, and then tightly wrapping it around the nosing (front edge) of each tread. To hold the carpeting in place, use an electric stapler to tack the carpeting to the underside of the nosing of the treads.
- The second stair-carpeting method, called the waterfall treatment, allows the carpeting to flow from one step to the next without being tucked up under the nosing. The carpeting is tacked down along the rear edge of the tread, right where it meets the riser. The waterfall method imparts a more modern look and works best with carpeting that has smaller patterns.
7. Bind the Edges
- After the carpeting is cut to fit a set of stairs, you must finish the edges to prevent it from unraveling. One common method is to simply turn under the edges and tack them down to stairs.
- However, to produce a more-finished, cleaner look, use a binding machine to finish the edges of the carpeting. The binding machine looks and operates much like a sewing machine, and is used to permanently bind the edges. If you can’t find a portable binder, like the one shown here, bring the carpeting to a carpet installer. They typically have one in their shop.