How To Lay Carpet

Can You Lay Your Own Carpet?

In cooler climates carpet is favored for its warmth and is used widely for anywhere that requires bright color and pattern, combined with a luxuriant quality. Carpet once was a luxury only for the better off, but with the invention of synthetic materials, carpets nowadays can be one of the cheapest and most practical flooring materials available.

Although the thought of laying carpet yourself may seem time consuming and difficult, if you really are interested, I have taught myself that it is entirely do-able for the do-it-yourselfer. If possible, find a friend with at least some experience to help you the first time. Choose a room that is relatively simple in shape and not too big for your first attempt!

If you dare to try it yourself, read on. If not, it is still worth understanding what is involved so that you’re prepared when you hire a pro to install new carpeting in your home.

Determining What Type of Carpet to Install

Before you get to the procedure for laying your carpet, it is important to determine what type of carpet you are working with. You have the choice of either woven-backed carpet or rubber-backed carpet. They each not only produce different results but also require a difference in the method to lay them correctly.

Woven-backed carpets are laid over a rubber or felt underpad which helps to even out irregularities in the subfloor and also makes the carpet feel softer and more substantial. Rubber feels softer underfoot but felt is more resilient and thus a good choice for an uneven floor or a carpet that needs stitching together. The drawback of woven-backed carpet is that it needs to be stretched carefully over gripper strips to fit the room. This could be difficult for the amateur who has never laid a carpet before so it should only be attempted if you have laid carpet in your home before.

Rubber-backed carpet is a cheaper than woven-backed carpet. It has a rubber backing bonded to the carpet so does not require a second underpad. The main advantage of rubber-backed carpet is that it does not need to be stretched over gripper strips so even the amateur can use the opportunity to practice their skills.

What You’ll Need to Lay Carpet

Many of the materials you’ll need to lay your carpet you should find you already will have.  The remaining materials you should easily be able to rent from a hardware store.

  • Gripper strips
  • Sharp utility knife or carpet shears
  • Measuring tape
  • Knee kicker
  • Carpet stretcher
  • Seam cutter, iron and tape
  • Double-sided tape or liquid adhesive

Preparing the Space for New Carpet

I am writing these steps assuming that you are working in a fresh and clean space. If you aren’t, I’ll quickly state the obvious when it comes to removing an old carpet.

  1. Give the old carpet a good vacuum before removing it to lessen the dust that will lift from it. You can then use a sharp utility knife to cut the carpet into manageable strips to make it easier to remove. Throw it all out!
  2. Sometimes people are tempted to keep existing underpad but in the majority of cases they are worn beyond redemption so it’s best to get a fresh start to save on unnecessary extra work later. Lastly, strip all the old gripper strips from the perimeter of the room. Give the floor a good sweep out and take the opportunity to fasten any loose, noisy floorboards.
  3. With the space cleared you can begin with the important preparation steps:
  4. If you are working with a woven-backed carpet you need to begin by nailing gripper strips around the perimeter of the room, using a spacer to set them slightly away from the skirting (baseboard).
  5. Go on to install the underpad, trimmed to butt up against the gripper strips. Tape pieces together as necessary, then staple the underpad to the floor at intervals.
  6. If you are working with foam-backed carpet, firstly you need to put down a paper or cloth underpad on the floor the keep the foam from sticking to the floor. Tape it at the joins and staple it in place.
  7. Put double-sided adhesive tape all around the perimeter of the room.

Basic Steps to Laying Your Own Carpet

  1. Laying the Carpet: First step is the carpet needs to be laid out. Unroll the carpet and position it so it laps up the room walls about 4 to 6 inches. You can trim the edges roughly with a sharp utility knife and make cuts at external corners so that tongues of carpet will fit around them. Think ahead about where you want seams to go before you start cutting your carpet. This is where having assistance from a friend who’s done carpet-laying before is a huge advantage!
  2. Seaming the Carpet: If the room is large you may need another piece of carpet to fill it. Overlap the extra piece on the seam where the pieces will join. Cut through the pieces with your utility knife so the pieces will match exactly. Lay adhesive seaming tape where the pieces bond and then apply pressure from a wallpaper seam roller to ensure a good bond.
  3. Attaching the Carpet: Next the carpet needs to be attached. With a foam-backed carpet you needs to butt the edge of the carpet up against the longest straight wall in the room. Peel the backing paper off the tape and bed the edge into place. With a woven-backed carpet, press one edge of the carpet  onto the gripper strips using the ‘knee-kick’ tool to ensure that the angled teeth grip the carpet backing securely. Take the ‘toothed’ end of the knee-kicker and position it about 3” from the wall.  Push the padded end of the tool forcefully with your knee to drive the carpet over the tacks on the gripper strips. Cut off the excess carpet along the edge by running a sharp utility knife along the angle between the gripper strip and the skirting.
  4. Stretching the Carpet: Now the carpet needs to be unrolled across the room. With foam-backed carpet, work the carpet across the floor to the opposite wall to ensure it is lying flat then trim that edge against the skirting and tape it down too. With woven-backed carpet there is an extra but essential step. First use the blade of the bolster to tuck the trimmed edge of the carpet into the angle between the carpet strip and skirting. After the carpet is attached to the gripper strips of two adjacent walls, you need to begin the stretching process. A carpet stretching tool makes this job very easy.  One end of the carpet stretcher is laid against the wall that the carpet is already attached to, and the other is set approximately 6” from the opposite wall. Grip the carpet in the ‘teeth’ of the tool and push the activation lever which will stretch the carpet to the opposite wall. Continue trimming the edges with your utility knife, tucking the cut edges into the perimeter gaps of the walls.
  5. Finishing Up: Make release cuts at the internal and external corners. At the door frame and similar obstacles, trim the carpet to follow the contours of the obstacle as closely as possible and press it onto the gripper strips of adhesive strip.

Carpet Care Tips

  1. Vacuum your carpets twice a week.
  2. Clean up spills as soon as possible by blotting with paper or terry cloth towels.
  3. If you use detergent to remove spots, be sure to blot the area with a wet towel to remove the detergent.
  4. Have your carpets cleaned every 18 months by a professional service like Carpet Cleaning Portland.

Here are a couple of videos you may want to watch if you are considering trying to install carpet yourself:

Are you an expert carpet installer or do-it-yourselfer with experience? If so, please add your comments and advice for others to read!

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