Choosing and Buying Carpet

Tools: Hammer, nail set, pry bar, power flooring nailer, power miter saw, and saber saw.

Carpeting offers more colors and textures than anything else you can put underfoot. Compare the fibers to determine the one that best fits your needs and ask your carpet dealer about the density of the fiber or pile. The more fibers per square inch, the longer the carpet life. Most carpeting sold is tufted or “jute-backed,” meaning the yam is pulled through a woven backing and an additional backing is added for strength and stability.

Carpeting is sold by the square yard in widths of 9, 12, and 15 feet. To compute square yards, divide the square footage by 9. Take a drawing of your room to a carpet salesperson, who can figure the exact yardage requirements. A good pad prolongs carpet life and insulates against noise and cold. Avoid felt in high-humidity areas and avoid rubber over radiant-heated floors. Integral-pad carpeting is bonded to a cushioned backing. It’s skid-proof, mildew-proof, and ravel-proof, which means you can lay it directly over a concrete basement floor. Installation is easy. Indoor/outdoor carpeting also can be laid without a pad.

Carpet-laying tools. No matter what the job, things go more smoothly with the right tools. Carpet laying is no exception. You probably already have some of the basic tools: a utility knife, tape measure, hacksaw, straightedge, chalk line, pliers, and an awl. With integral-pad carpeting, you can get by without all the rented gear. But if you plan to stretch the carpeting, you’ll need to rent several other items.

A strip cutter makes 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. In addition a specialty carpet trimmer cuts neatly along walls.

Comparing Carpet Fibers



Relative Cost


The traditional standard against which other fibers are compared; durable, resilient, and abrasion-resistant; needs mothproofing; fairly easy to clean.



Closest to wool of all synthetic fibers; resists abrasion, mildew, insects, and crushing; wide choice of colors; some tendency to pill (form fuzz balls); sheds dirt.



The strongest synthetic fiber; very durable and resistant to abrasion, mildew, and moths; should be treated for static electricity; hides dirt.

Wide price range


Bright, clear colors; cool to the touch; resists mildew and moisture; can be used anywhere; susceptible to oil-based stains; resists soiling


Polypropylene olefin

A key fiber in most indoor/outdoor carpeting; extremely durable, moisture-resistant, and nonabsorbent; lower-priced versions tend to crush; the most stain-resistant of all carpets.

Wide price range

Installing a Tackless Strip and Padding

Tools: Hammer, plane, putty knife, and carpeting tools.

Before you start, unroll the carpet and padding in a separate room. Make sure you have the right amount of carpet, and see that it is free of defects. Prepare the room by removing all the furniture and baseboard shoe moldings. Plane down the high spots in the floor and fill wide cracks or dips with floor-leveling compound. For badly worn floors, install underlayment. Then install the tackless strip, carpet pad, and the carpet.

A tackless strip creates a framework over which carpeting is stretched and held tight. A standard tackless strip is designed to be installed onto hardwood or softwood; strips for concrete floors are also available. When abutting a floor covering other than carpeting, nail a metal threshold strip with gripper pins to the floor. Where one carpet section adjoins another, do not use a tackless strip. Later you will seam the pieces together.

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. Staple the padding in place, paying special attention to seam lines and edges. If the floor is concrete, roll back one section of padding at a time and spread pad adhesive. Lay the padding back in place.

1. Nail a strip to the floor. Cut a strip to fit and place it 1/2 inch from the wall, with the pins facing the adjacent wall or opening. The strip has integrated nails; pound them into the floor.

2. Attach the padding. Staple or nail padding to wood floors; glue it to concrete floors. Do not stretch the padding while you install it. Cut the padding precisely so that it just reaches the strip but does not overlap it.

3. Install a threshold. When abutting a hard surface, such as tile or wood flooring, use a metal threshold. Hammer the lip flat, using a protective board.

4. Finish the edge. Another way to finish an edge is to fold the carpeting under itself and tack along the edge. Be sure to stop the padding short if you will use this method.

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