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How to Install Carpet Tiles

Carpet tiles can be a stylish and affordable flooring choice—and their simple maintenance makes them a smart one. Luckily, installing carpet tiles is beginner-friendly, requiring just a few tools and a bit of preparation to get the job done.

Carpet tiles. Alamy

New carpeting almost always enhances the look and feel of a space. But installing traditional rolled carpet is labor-intensive and expensive, and waiting for a busy carpet installer’s schedule to open up is a pain. Luckily, if you learn how to install carpet tiles, you can achieve the same look and feel for less time and money.

Installing carpet tiles is easy, and since it’s a DIY-friendly job, it’s also affordable. Each tile is individually replaceable, making them ideal for houses with children and pets, where spills and accidents are likely to occur.

What is Carpet Tile?

Carpet tiles aren’t necessarily new, but their growth in popularity has many folks wondering what they are. Traditionally used in commercial environments because they’re easy to replace, carpet tiles are small pieces of carpet, usually between 18 and 24 inches square. They feature foam pads underneath, typically with peel-and-stick adhesive backs. Some require glue or an adhesive called mastic.

Are Carpet Tiles Worth It?

Carpet tiles are also popular because installers can create designs and borders with them. By utilizing different colors and patterns, or simply rotating the tile to change the direction of the pile, the possibilities are endless. Even DIYers are growing to love them because they weigh less and are easier to handle and install. Because they’re removable, cleaning and care are effortless, too.

Following these simple carpet tile installation steps, you can do a room yourself in just a few hours.

Carpet Tile Installation in 6 Steps

Step 1: Calculate the required materials.

Ensure you have enough tiles and mastic (if necessary). Measure the room by multiplying its length and width to find its square footage. Then, divide the square footage by the square dimensions of the chosen carpet tile, adding 10 to 15 percent for mistakes and future replacements and repairs.

For a room that measures 12 feet wide by 12 feet long, using 24-inch square carpet tiles, the calculation looks like:

  1. 12’ x 12’ = 144’ (square footage of room)
  2. 2’ x 2’ = 4’ (square footage of each tile)
  3. 144’ / 4’ = 36 tiles
  4. 36 x .10 = 3.6 tiles (10 percent extra)
  5. 36 + 4 (3.6 rounded up) = 40 tiles required

If you’re not using peel-and-stick tiles, the container of mastic will state how many square feet it will cover. Compare that to the room’s square footage to find the correct amount.

Step 2: Prepare the area.

Before installing carpet tiles, the room needs a bit of preparation. First, order your tiles. Divide the square footage of the room by the measurement of a single tile to calculate how many you need. Add 10 percent for waste and future repairs. The day before, prep the floor as needed. Gently remove the baseboards with a pry bar and set them aside to reinstall when done. Bring the carpet tiles into the room to acclimate to the temperature.

Step 3: Mark the center of the room.

Starting in the center of the room is the easiest way to ensure a consistent installation once you reach the walls. Find the center point of each wall and mark the subfloor at this point. Snap a chalk line on the floor between marks on parallel walls. The lines should intersect at the center point on the floor.

From the center point, dry-fit carpet tiles along the chalk lines, laying them in place without adhesive. Continue laying whole tiles until reaching the wall. If the gap between the last full tile and the wall is more than half the width of the carpet tile, adjust the row to fit another full tile, giving consideration to which side of the room you’d prefer the full tiles to be

Step 4: Test your layout.

Starting at the center and moving out toward the wall, lay the carpet tiles along the two baselines. If the gap at the wall is narrower than half the width of a tile, move your center point and lines over until you can fit at least half a tile in the space.

Step 5: Install the tiles.

With the beginning rows of carpet tiles appropriately adjusted, begin the installation. Note that all carpet tiles have a pile direction, and there will be an arrow on the back of the tile. Ensure that all the arrows point in the same direction for a seamless installation or rotate them according to a pre-planned pattern.

With peel-and-stick carpet tiles, remove the plastic film or paper to expose the adhesive backing. Ensuring that the pile direction is correct, lightly place the tile on the floor, adjusting to ensure it’s square. Once satisfied, press the tile in place by hand.

With carpet tiles that don’t self-adhere, use the V-notch trowel to spread adhesive over enough of the floor for two or three tiles at a time. Follow the manufacturer’s directions, as some mastic needs to become tacky before installation. Ensuring the pile is in the correct direction, lightly place the carpet tile on the mastic, being careful not to get mastic on the carpeted surface. Once in the correct position, press the tile in place by hand.

Note: Breathing in the fumes from some glues can be harmful, so don a respirator and open windows to improve ventilation.

Step 6: Cut and install the carpet tiles along the walls.

With most of the floor in place, cutting the pieces that run along the walls to size is simple. Measure the gap between the wall and the last full tile and transfer that measurement to a carpet tile. Using the straight edge and utility knife, cut the carpet tile to size.

Walls aren’t always perfectly straight, so don’t assume that all the final carpet tiles will be exactly the same size. Take your time and measure each space individually. Also, ensure the pile direction is correct before cutting.

Once cut, install these carpet tiles as you did in the previous step.

Step 7: Use the carpet roller to seal the deal.

After the carpet tiles are installed, it’s time to secure them in place permanently. Use the carpet roller to make several passes in every direction, going over each tile to ensure the adhesive makes solid contact with the subfloor. If you removed the baseboards during preparation, reinstall them after rolling the entire carpeted surface.

With that, the carpet tile installation is complete. Mastic carpet tiles might require a bit of drying time, so check the manufacturer’s directions before vacuuming.

Carpet tiles can last anywhere between 8 to 10 years making them just as durable as a traditional carpet. And, should a tile become exceptionally worn or stained, removing just one section of carpet is much easier than replacing ab entire roll. Just be sure to keep extra tiles on hand for these simple repairs.

Tools and Materials

The experience required for carpet tile installation is minimal and the tools are affordable, making this an excellent project for all skill levels. Here’s what you’ll need: