Stretching and Trimming Carpeting

Laying carpeting can be done only with the correct stretching tools; otherwise the carpet will soon develop folds and waves. Rent or buy a knee kicker and a power stretcher. A knee kicker is a short tool used near the wall. A power stretcher telescopes out to the length needed. It has teeth at one end and butts against a wall at the other end. To operate, bend it up in the middle, set the teeth, and position the other end against a wall. Then push down in the middle to stretch the carpeting. Rent a power stretcher that’s long enough to reach most of the way across the room. If the layout requires a carpet seam, position it in a low-traffic or out-of-the-way area. Be sure to run the seam perpendicular to a window or other light source - it will be less visible there.

1. Stretch the carpeting. Use the following sequence:

a. Use a knee kicker to stretch carpeting tight to the wall opposite the doorway.

b. Knee-kick the carpeting tight to the adjacent wall.

c. Power-stretch the carpeting into the adjacent corner.

d. Knee-kick to the adjacent wall.

e. Power-stretch the carpeting diagonally into the opposite corner. After each stretch or kick, push the carpeting down on the tackless strip with the heel of your hand to be sure it grabs.

2. Trim the carpet. Start trimming anywhere and work your way around the edge of the room, using either a utility knife or a carpet trimmer. Leave 1/4 inch of excess carpeting as you trim. Use a masonry chisel to tuck this edge between the tackless strip and the baseboard.

3. Replace the shoe molding. Finish the job by replacing the shoe moldings. Old molding may look out of place next to new carpeting; if so, replace it with new molding. Nail the molding to the baseboard, not the floor.

Carpet seaming. You once needed a heavy-duty needle, some thread, and lots of patience to join two pieces of carpeting. Now most pros bond a special heat-setting tape to the backing. Make seams prior to stretching the carpet. Trim the carpet edges straight and butt them carefully. Fold both edges back and lay the tape along the floor where the seam will fall. Move the heated iron slowly along the tape. 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.

Do It Yourself or Hire a Pro? Before you purchase carpeting and install it yourself, compare the cost of having a company lay the carpet for you. Sometimes a company can get the materials at such low prices that it costs little more than doing it yourself— especially when you factor in tool rental. Stairways are particularly difficult to carpet (see below). Carpet layers will charge extra for stairs, but it may be well worth the cost.

Carpeting a Stairway

To carpet stairs, you can use a strip left over from carpeting an adjoining room or purchase a runner. If you opt to use a carpeting strip, use tackless stair strips to anchor it. Make sure the pile of the carpet runs down the stairs (that is, it feels smoother when you run your hand in the downstairs direction).

If you decide to use a runner, the best way to secure it is with rods. Stair rods are work to install, but add a decorative touch and are easy to maintain. To install rods, first lay padding in one strip from top to bottom and tack it temporarily at the top. Tack the runner face down to the bottom tread next to the second riser; then stretch the runner under the nosing at the top of the first riser and tack it in place. Then attach the rods as described at far right.

Secure carpet with tackless strips... You can use special tackless strips to secure carpeting. Lay the pad first, then nail the strips on top of the padding. Cut the carpet several inches wider than needed, and lay it by pressing into the tackless strips as you go. Then trim the sides.

...or install stair rods. Screw an eye or rod bracket to each side of the tread, 1/2 inch outside the carpet edge. Slip a rod over the carpeting and through the eye. Pull the carpeting taut. Proceed to the next step. At the top, nail carpet tacks to the end just under the nosing.

Laying Integral-Pad Carpeting

Tools: Tape measure, utility knife, seam roller or kitchen rolling pin, drill and drill bits, hammer, and nail set.

Integral-pad (or cushion-backed) carpeting is bonded to its own cushioned backing, thus eliminating the need for a carpet pad. It’s especially ideal for applying carpet directly over concrete. Cut-pile, berber, and other styles are available in a good selection of colors. In small spaces, such as bathrooms and closets, you can cut the carpeting to fit and lay it without carpet tape. Edges have a tendency to curl in time, however, so it’s best to anchor big pieces with double-sided tape.

Prepare the room as you would for any other type of carpeting. The floor should be structurally sound. Clean the floor well so the tape can adhere. Buy double-sided carpet tape, which is 2 inches wide. It has a protective paper that covers the top; remove the paper only when you are ready to attach the carpet. If the installation involves seams, buy 5-inch-wide carpet tape and a seam adhesive recommended for your type of carpeting.

1. Test fit the carpeting. Cut the carpeting several inches larger than the room and set it in place. Make sure piles fall in the same direction. Allow about 1 inch extra all around the perimeter of the room.

2. Mark for seam locations. Join any seams by folding back one piece and drawing a line on the floor along the edge of the other piece.

3. Apply double-sided tape. Center double-sided tape on the line and stick it to the floor. Check to see that the seam runs through the middle of the tape, then peel off the protective paper on top.

4. Apply seam adhesive. Press one piece of carpeting into place, taking care not to create folds. Apply seam adhesive along its edge to cement the pieces together.

5. Roll a seam. Use a rolling pin or seam roller to press the carpeting firmly against the tape. Brushing the pile will cause the seam to virtually disappear.

6. Make a tape border. Without sliding the carpeting out of position, fold it back from two of the walls and apply a tape border. Smooth the tape before removing the paper.

7. Smooth the edges. Roll the carpeting back so it retains its original position, then drop—don’t slide—it onto the tape. Smooth the edges with your hands so the tape adhesive gets a grip.

Adhesive Installation - Integral-pad carpeting can also be installed using a latex adhesive. This holds the carpet more firmly in place, thus reducing wear and helping the carpet last longer. (Of course adhered carpeting is much more difficult to remove.) To install, cut the carpet to fit and set it in place. Fold back half the carpet, and use a notched trowel to spread adhesive onto the floor. Unfold the carpet and press into place. Repeat for the other half of the floor.

8. Trim off excess. Trim off excess carpeting with a utility knife or a carpet knife. Tamp the edges down by rubbing the carpet with the heel of your hand. The pile will hide minor irregularities.

9. Finish with base shoe molding. Finish by installing or replacing the base shoe molding. Nail molding to the baseboard, not the floor. Drill pilot holes and drive in finishing nails. Set the heads of the finishing nails with a nail set.

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