Installing carpet: a few tricks

Most homeowners believe that installing a wall-to-wall carpet is a job for professionals. But the fact is, unless a carpet installer knows how to use a power stretcher and how to create a good seam, his finished job will probably leave something to be desired. The best carpet installers earn their certification from the Floor Covering Installation Contractors of America, which we consulted for this article. We also consulted the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Residential Installation Standard No. 105. With the right tools and the knowledge of how to use them, you can do a job you’d be proud of.

GETTING STARTED

Using a steel tape measure, find the length and width of the floor you wish to carpet. Add about 6 in. to the longest and widest parts of the room to make sure you buy enough material. Carpeting is sold by the square yard, so divide the nominal length and width in feet each by three. Multiply the quotients to determine the square yardage needed. For example, you’d need 28.41 sq. yd. of carpet for a room measuring 15 ft., 6 in. x 15 ft., 6 in. Here’s how it was figured: [(15 ft., 6 in. + 6 in.) / 3] x [(15 ft., 6 in. + in.) / 3] = (16 ft. / 3) x (16 ft. / 3) = 5.33 yd. x 5.33 yd. = 28.41 sq. yd.

Carpet manufacturers produce carpet in 12-ft. rolls. If both room dimensions are longer than 12 ft., as in the example, you’ll have to make some seams. Make a dimensioned sketch of floor area to be carpeted to determine how you’ll piece the carpet material together in the most efficient way. Place seams away from high-traffic areas. Depending on the shape of the room and how many irregularities there are, you might need a little more or a little less carpet. At the same time you buy the carpet, buy appropriate padding, following your carpet dealer’s advice.

You’ll also need to buy tackless strips, which are lengths of wood about 1 in. wide buy 1/4 in. thick with pins protruding from one side. They are installed along the edges of the floor to hold carpet in place. Measure the perimeter of the room to determine the amount of tackless strips required for the the installation. If you’re working with thick carpet, you may have to double up on the strips.

You’ll have to rent a seaming iron and a power stretcher from a tool-rental shop. When you rent the iron, buy hot-melt tape at the same time. The tape is used to bind pieces of carpet together when you seam them.

You may have trouble finding a power stretcher, but if you can possibly get your hands on one, it’ll be worth the effort it may take. If your tool-rental shop doesn’t have one, try to buy or rent a used one from a carpet-tool distributor or a local carpet shop.

Once you’re ready for carpet installation near Lansing, take all furniture out of the room. Since the old carpet may be full of dust and other debris, vacuum thoroughly before taking it up. Once the old carpet is gone, vacuum the bare floor.

INSTALLATION

Nail the tackless strips to the floor along the entire room perimeter. Tackless strips usually come with pre-installed nails, so you just have to drive them home. Secure small pieces of tackless strip with at least two nails. Set the strips at distance from baseboards equal to slightly less than the thickness of the carpet, but no more than 3/8 in. away. The pins in tackless strips protrude at an angle; they should point toward the wall.

Don’t place tackless strips across openings and doorways. Instead nail down trim molding, which will hold the carpet and create finished edge

Next put down the padding in the longest continuous lengths possible, overlaying the tackless strips. Lay the padding seams at right angles to carpet seams. If this isn’t possible, be sure padding seams fall at least 6 in. to one side of any carpet seam.

Staple the padding to the subfloor 1 to 6 in. within the perimeter edges. Space staples every 6 to 8 in. around the perimeter and along seams. Once the padding is secure, trim it back to reveal the tackless strips.

The next step is to lay-in and pretrim the carpet. With a helper, carry the carpet to its preplanned spot and unroll it. Position it so that 3 in. laps onto the walls. Cut inside and outside corners at an angle and trim away the excess carpeting.

If you have to seam the carpet, make sure the pile on the adjacent pieces lies in the same direction. You can check this by running your hand over the carpet. When you run your hand one way the pile will appear to stand up or darken. Run it the other way, and the pile will look like it’s lying on it’s side or will appear lighter.

Carefully trim back about 1 in. on both seam edges using a straightedge. Put hot-melt tape under entire length of the seam with the glue side up. Preheat the seaming iron. Starting at one end of the carpet, separate the seam slightly and place the iron on the seaming tape. After about 15 to 30 seconds move the iron up to the next section of tape. Carefully press the just-heated seam together. Separate the carpet fibers with your fingers and look at the backing to make sure it forms a good joint, with no overlapping and no gaps.

Place a heavy object on the completed seam to hold it down until the adhesive cools. If the object is metal, such as a toolbox, make sure the weight sits on piece of wood to prevent heat conduction. Work your way along the entire seam in this manner.

Once the seams are completed, stretch and hook the carpet as shown in the illustrations below. As you hook the carpet with the knee kicker, trim the fabric along the baseboard with a razor knife.

You may be able to rent a wall trimmer, which is special cutter that trims the carpet precisely along walls. After trimming, use a carpet chisel or a 4-in.-wide cold chisel to tuck the carpet in the space between the tackless strip and the wall.

One the carpet is stretched, trimmed and tucked, vacuum it to remove excess fiber and fluff it up. Replace all the furniture in the room, and you’re finished.

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