How to Lay Carpet

Carpet fitting doesn't have to be complicated. Learn how to install indoor carpets with our expert advice and see which tools you need for a professional look.

Reconsider Carpet

No matter the job, things go more smoothly with the right tools. Laying carpet is no exception. You probably have some basic tools: a utility knife, tape measure, hacksaw, straightedge, chalk line, and awl.

You'll need to rent several other items if you plan to stretch the carpeting. (With integral-pad carpeting, you can get by without all the rented gear.)

  • Strip cutters make quick work of cutting tackless strip, which fits around the perimeter of a room.
  • A staple hammer fastens padding to wood floors. (Use pad adhesive if the floor is concrete.)
  • Join pieces of carpeting using seam tape and a seaming iron.
  • A knee kicker and a power stretcher help you pull the carpeting taut. A carpet trimmer cuts neatly along walls.

Before starting your DIY carpet installation, unroll the carpet and padding in a separate room to ensure that you have the amount you ordered and that the carpet is free of defects.

Prepare the room by removing all furniture and baseboard shoe moldings. Plane down all high spots in the floor and fill wide cracks or dips with floor leveling compound. For badly worn floors, you should install underlayment.

Before you begin laying carpet tiles or wall-to-wall carpets, you'll need the following:

  • Hammer
  • Plane
  • Putty knife
  • Carpeting tools (as described above)

How to Lay Carpet

1. Install Tackless Strip

Illustration 1.

Tackless strip creates a framework over which carpeting is stretched and held in position. Make sure the pins face the adjacent wall or opening when laying out the strip. Position 1/2 inch from the wall and nail in place (see Illustration 1). For concrete floors, use adhesive.

2. Install Carpet Padding

Illustration 2.

Lay the carpet padding within the framework and cut it to size with a utility knife. Make sure the side with the slick membrane faces up and that the padding does not overlap the tackless strip (see Illustration 2). Nail or staple the carpet padding in place, paying particular attention to seam lines and edges. If the floor is concrete, roll back one padding section at a time and spread pad adhesive. Lay the carpet padding back in place.

3. Abut a Floor Covering

Illustration 3.

To abut a floor covering other than carpeting, nail a metal threshold strip with gripper pins to the floor (see Illustration 3). Use a metal threshold and hammer the lip flat using a protective board.

4. Trim and Fit Carpet

Illustration 4.

To finish off where one carpet section adjoins another, seam the two carpet pieces together. Trim the carpet edges straight and butt them carefully. Fold back both and lay heat-seating tape along the floor where the seam will fall. Move the heated iron slowly along the tape. (See Illustration 4.) As the adhesive melts, press the edges of the carpeting into it with your other hand. Weight down the seam for a few minutes after joining the carpeting.

5. Finish Edges

Illustration 5.

Another way to finish an edge is to fold the carpeting under itself (see Illustration 5). If you choose to fold the carpeting, be sure to stop the carpet padding short.

Integral-Pad Carpeting

Integral-pad carpeting is bonded to its own cushioned backing, eliminating the need to use a carpet pad. It's ideal for applying directly on concrete floors. You can cut the carpeting to fit and lay it without carpet tape in small spaces, such as baths and closets. Edges tend to curl in time, so it's best to anchor big pieces with double-faced tape. Clean the floor well before you begin because tape won't adhere properly to a dirty surface.

How to Lay Carpet with Integral Padding

To install carpet with integral padding, you'll need the following carpet installation tools:

  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife
  • Seam roller or kitchen rolling pin
  • Hammer
  • Double-faced tape
  • Seam adhesive
  • Nail set and nails

1. Dry-Fit the Carpeting


Make sure piles fall in the same direction. Allow about 1 inch extra all around.

2. Join Carpet Seams


Join any seams by folding back one piece and drawing a line on the floor along the other piece.

3. Lay Tape

Center double-faced tape on the line and stick it to the floor. Check the seam before you peel off the tape's paper.

4. Apply Adhesive


Press one piece of carpeting into place and apply seam adhesive along its edge to cement the backings together.

5. Adhere Carpet


Press the carpeting firmly against the tape, using a rolling pin. Brush the pile lightly for an invisible seam.

6. Line Trim with Tape


Fold back the carpeting from the walls and make a tape border. Smooth the tape well before removing paper.

7. Pull Carpet to Walls


Pull carpeting taut, then drop onto tape. Smooth edges with your hands, so the tape adhesive gets a good grip.

8. Trim Carpet


Trim off excess carpet with a utility knife and tamp edges down. The pile will hide minor irregularities.

9. Install Molding


Finish by installing or replacing the base shoe molding. Nail molding to the baseboard, not the floor.

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