Installing own carpet can be satisfying job

Carpets offer an attractive and a practical floor covering. You can install them yourself with only a few tools, but you need to be aware of two problems.

First, carpets are heavy, so it helps to do this project with a friend. Second, without expensive tools it is difficult to stretch the carpet tightly to the wall. You can, however, achieve a good, though maybe not perfect, result on your own.

Before laying carpet, you must prepare the subfloor. This means getting rid of all dust, repairing any cracks, and securing loose tiles and/or floorboards.

The next step is to obtain an accurate measurement of the room to be carpeted. This will require measurements from several places because the room may not be square. Once you have obtained the dimensions of your room, you will need to purchase enough carpet so that there is an overlap of four inches for each wall. While at the carpet store, you should also purchase tack strips to fit the dimensions of your room, seam tape if the room is wider than the carpet, and a utility knife with plenty of razor blades.

Carpets are bonded to a subfloor with glue, double-sided tape or tack strips. Glue is used most frequently for laying down commercial carpet and is not necessary for most residential situations. Double-sided tape often does not provide an adequate bond and is therefore not recommended. This leaves tack strips.

Tack strips are narrow wood slats with tacks sticking up from them. They need to be placed alongside each wall about 1/2 an inch from the wall. If you have a wooden subfloor, it is easy to nail these strips in place. If you are working with a concrete subfloor, the job is more difficult. You can nail the strips into the concrete with masonry nails, or if that is too difficult the strips can be glued in place.

You can now lay out the carpet, starting from the middle of the room and working toward each wall. Press the carpet against each wall and allow the carpet to settle for a few hours. This allows gravity to take care of some of the wrinkles and folds. To further straighten the carpet, raise one of the corners, stand on the subfloor, and gently kick it.

Once in place, the carpet can now be cut. Be sure to leave four inches of overlap on each side for trimming. The best tool for cutting carpet is a utility knife. Make sure that the blade is sharp. Sharp blades make your cuts easier, cleaner and safer.

At this point, you will know if you will need to attach two pieces of carpet with a seam. If that is the case (the width of the carpet is smaller than the width of the room), plan to keep the seam away from high traffic areas such as a doorway. To join two pieces of carpet together with a seam, you will need to purchase seam tape and rent a seaming iron.

With your two large pieces of carpet in their approximate places, it is important to align the carpet naps so that they are facing in the same direction. The nap consists of the fibers that make up the surface area of the carpet. The best way to solve this problem is to rub your hand along the carpet fibers. Rubbing in one direction will smooth out the fibers while rubbing in the other direction will raise them.

Once satisfied that the naps are facing the same way, fold back one carpet section and draw a line on the subfloor along the edge of the carpet that remains in place. Fold back the other piece of carpet and place the tape on the subfloor with the line serving as the midpoint. Now run the seaming iron across the tape to melt the glue. Place one section of the carpet firmly on the tape and lay the second carpet section as close to it as possible. Use your hands on both sides of the seam to press the two sections of carpet together as tightly as you can.

You now have the carpet in place with a four-inch overlap along each wall. The next step is to trim the carpet. If you have baseboards, cut the carpet again so that the overlap is reduced to one inch. If you don’t have baseboards, push the carpet firmly against the wall and trim as close to the edge as you can. To trim a door frame, cut the carpet at right angles to the floor for both sides of the frame. Fold the carpet over and cut away the strip. Then create a crease at the door opening and cut along the crease. If the carpet ends there, it is a good idea to purchase a metal doorstrip to help hold the carpet firmly in place.

You secure the carpet by pushing the carpet edge into the tacks on the tack strips. If you have a baseboard, push the carpet into the tacks and then slip the excess carpet under the baseboard. If you don’t have baseboards, push the carpet edge as close to the wall as possible and then press down hard on the tacks.

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