Installing carpeting and carpet pad
TOOLS: Tape measure, stapler, carpet knife, straightedge, row cutter, seam iron, knee kicker, power stretcher, hammer, wall trimmer, plastic broad knife, carpet trimmer
INDOOR/OUTDOOR CARPET - Indoor/outdoor carpeting, which used to look like bad artificial turf, is now available in many colorful patterns, designs, and textures, which, by the way, are easier on feet as well as the eyes. Installation is similar to that of vinyl flooring except that the adhesive is designed specifically for indoor/outdoor applications.
Unlike vinyl tile or wood flooring, carpet is stretched across the floor like the head of a drum and held in place around the edges by tack strips. They’re made of countless tacks, the points of which stick up through the top of the strip and hold the carpet in place. You’ll use two tools in carpet installation that you won’t need in any other home improvement job. A knee kicker is a rod with teeth mounted in a head at one end, and a pad mounted on the other. You put the teeth in the carpet and push—don’t kick—the pad with your knee to stretch the carpet onto one of the tack trips. The carpet stretcher is a variation of the same tool and is a bit easier on the knee. One end butts against the wall on the side of the room already attached to the tack strip. The other end has teeth that grab the carpet on the other side of the room. By pushing on a lever, you stretch the unattached edge of the carpet over the tack strips. Consider renting these tools rather than buying.
1 CUT THE TACK STRIPS to fit the perimeter of the room, including the door areas.
2 POSITION THE STRIPS WITH THE POINTS FACING THE WALL. Keep a space equal to the thickness of the carpet between the walls and the strips. Nail the strips to the floor, using concrete nails if installing on a slab.
3 LAY THE CARPET PADDING OVER THE ENTIRE FLOOR. Tape the seams together with duct tape, and then staple along them every 10-12 inches. Work toward the tack strips, stretching the pad and stapling as you go. Staple the pad against the edge of the tack strip. Run a knife against the strip to trim the pad.
GET THE RIGHT PADDING - Carpet padding generally is overlooked because it's not visible below the carpeting, but the consequences of installing an inferior pad are most definitely noticeable. Too many people I’ve known have tried to save a buck by installing a bargain pad under an expensive carpet. In terms of installation the carpet will go down without a hitch and look really great. But after a few months that probably won't be the case. You'll start to notice wear spots, unevenness, and lumps because the pad isn't doing its job, which is to support the carpet. It's an expensive lesson but a true fact, the quality of the pad is just about as important as the quality of the carpeting!
4 MEASURE THE ROOM. Snap chalk lines across the back of the carpet to outline a piece 6 inches longer and wider than the room. Fold the carpet over a piece of scrap wood so that the layout lines face up. Put a straightedge along the lines, and guide a knife along it. Change blades frequently. If you will need seams choose a carpet that will hide them well.
5 CENTER THE CARPET IN THE ROOM. If there are outside corners, make relief cuts so that the carpet lies flat.
HERE'S THE KICKER - Be careful using the knee kicker—it can severely hurt you. Hit it with the part of your leg just above the knee and don't be overly aggressive.
6 FACE THE LONG WALL NEAR A CORNER OF THE ROOM. Put the toothed end of a knee kicker in the carpet about 1 to 3 inches from the wall. Push the padded end with your knee, hooking the back of the carpet over the tack strips in the process. Push down with a plastic broad knife to anchor the carpet. Push, hook, and anchor carpet along about 3 feet of the wall. Repeat on the short wall.
7 TRIM THE CARPET AS YOU GO. Set a carpet trimmer to the thickness of the carpet and guide it along the wall to trim the edges of the carpet. Tuck the cut edges into the space between the strips and the wall using a plastic broad knife. Trim and tuck every time you hook a length of carpet over the tack strips.
8 PUT THE FOOT OF THE STRETCHER AGAINST THE SHORT WALL OF THE STARTING CORNER. Run the stretcher at about a 15-degree angle toward the opposite corner. Set the head of the stretcher about 6 inches from the wall. Push on the handle to stretch the carpet. Hook and anchor it to about 3 feet of tack strips along both walls of the corner.
9 WITH THE KNEE KICKER, PUSH THE CARPET AGAINST THE LONG WALL BETWEEN THE TWO INSTALLED CORNERS. Anchor with the broad knife. When you're finished, put the foot of the stretcher against the wall, and run it at about a 15-degree angle to the corner, as shown in "Closer Look" below. Stretch the carpet, and anchor about 3 feet along both corner walls.
TYPICAL ROOM INSTALLATION - Carpet layers begin by anchoring carpet first in one corner and then in the other corner of a long wall. The rest of the corners are anchored as the job progresses, but the overall picture looks like this: The installer anchors carpet on long wall, followed by the adjoining short wall. The remaining long wall is next, followed by the remaining short wall. The exact order of work is shown here. Short arrows indicate where you push the carpet with the knee kicker. Long arrows show the angle and starting point of the power stretcher. Once you've attached the carpet near either the kicker or the stretcher, reposition the tool, and work your way along the wall.
10 STARTING IN A CORNER, USE THE KNEE KICKER TO PUSH THE CARPET AGAINST THE SHORT WALL, ATTACHING IT TO THE TACK STRIPS. Anchor, and then work your way along the short wall, pushing the carpet and attaching it as you go.
11 POWER STRETCH FROM THE LONG WALL OF THE STARTING CORNER TO THE OPPOSITE LONG WALL, running the stretcher at about a 15-degree angle. Hook and anchor the carpet over the tack strips near the stretcher head. Move the stretcher along the wall, stretching, hooking, and anchoring the carpet section by section. Power stretch from the short wall of the starting corner, running the stretcher straight across the room. Attach the carpet to the strips, and then work your way across the wall.
12 INSTALL A BINDER BAR WHEREVER THE CARPET MEETS OTHER FLOORING. Nail it to the floor, and push with the kicker to fit over the hooks in the binder bar. When the carpet's in place, put a block of wood over the bar to protect it, and hammer the flange closed.
Choosing carpet and padding
Carpet retailers carry a wide range of carpet grades, styles, and textures, as well as a choice of pad materials. Carpet fiber has two classes: natural and synthetic. Wool is the primary natural fiber used in carpet. It is commonly used in area rugs and not as commonly used in wall-to-wall carpet. Synthetic fibers include nylon, polyester, and olefin. Nylon combines superior durability, resilience, appearance, and stain resistance. Polyester is stain-resistant and softer to the touch, but less resilient. Olefin is best suited for indoor/outdoor carpet and commercial carpets. Certain carpet styles, such as berber, combine more than one of these fibers.
Carpet padding increases the durability of the carpet. The best pad is neither the thickest nor the most cushioned. In fact, thin and dense is generally best because it provides the optimal combination of firmness, support, and cushioning. Carpet manufacturers often provide padding specifications; using lesser padding can void the carpet warranty, so follow the recommendations carefully.
CARPET CUTS. Although carpet has a variety of patterns and textures, it comes in two basic types: loop-pile and cut-pile. In loop-pile, the surface of yarn passes through the backing, is looped over, and then returns through the backing. Cut-pile carpet has the tops of the loops trimmed off to create a more plush-feeling carpet. Berber, which salespeople often refer to as a third style, is really a looped carpet made with thicker yarns. Although durability, stain resistance, and resilience are determined primarily by the type of fiber, texture counts, too. Match the carpet color to other design elements in the room.
CUT-PILE - Cut-pile includes two styles: saxony and plush. Saxony is dense and has twisted fibers that make it firmer. Plush has longer fibers but they’re not as dense, giving the carpet a softer, luxurious feel. Because of the open fibers and cut ends, cut-pile carpets get dirty quicker.
LOOP-PILE - The loops on a level-loop-pile carpet are all the same height, creating a smooth, dense surface that cleans easily. It’s wear-resistant and ideal for high-traffic areas. Multilevel-loop has both long and short loops, creating a random, textured pattern. It tends to retain dirt because of the texture, and it wears slightly less well than level-loop. Cut-loop has patterns created by clipping off the top of some of the loops. It’s slightly less durable than multilevel-loop.
BERBER - Berbers were originally a level-loop, light-colored wool rug made from thick yarn. Modern berbers are available in wool, synthetics, or a blend of the two. Berbers are multicolored with one of the colors appearing as flecks against the background color. They tend to have a rugged appearance, with the loops readily visible. Because of its texture, it can be harder to clean than other carpets and should be avoided in high-traffic areas.
FRIEZE - Pronounced ’’freeze" or "free-ZAY,” these carpets have a nubby look produced by twisting the yarn. They may have up to seven nubs per inch; the more twists, the better the carpet is at hiding dirt and the more wear-resistant it is.