Carpet Fitting Tips: How to Cut Carpet to Fit

hands measuring and cutting carpet
  • 2 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 50
What You'll Need
Tape measure
Utility knife or carpet cutters
Safety gloves
Hookbill knife
Carpet wall trimmer
What You'll Need
Tape measure
Utility knife or carpet cutters
Safety gloves
Hookbill knife
Carpet wall trimmer

Cutting carpet is one of the few things that looks pretty simple when you see it on DIY shows. But actually learning how to cut carpet to fit takes a bit of skill and some really good tools.

Use carpet fitting tips to get beautiful carpet that is perfectly sized. Figuring out how to cut carpet to fit is actually a little tricker than you might suspect, so it's important to learn the fundamentals and learn the right way to cut carpet.

Before You Cut

Before you even begin to cut, you have to measure. Take every single measurement twice, just to be sure, and be as precise as you can.

First, measure the room at its widest point all the way across and write this down. Now, measure the carpet from its longest point to get the length.

This will tell you exactly how much carpet you need for the room. Later, you'll have to take much more precise measurements but for now, this information will tell you how much carpet you need to purchase to get your project started.

Carpet is measured in square yards, so you will need to convert your measurements to this in order to know how much carpet to buy. To do this, multiply the length by the width and divide this number by nine.

The resulting number is how much carpet you need to cover the floor. Now, add about 15 percent more carpet to that number so you have a little extra to work with.

Most carpet comes in 12-foot wide rolls, so tailor your measurements to match this.

Cutting the Carpet

You don't need anything more than a good, sharp knife to cut carpet. A razor knife works beautifully for this task.

Wear safety glasses while cutting the carpet, as little pieces of debris can really move and they can get all the way up to your eyes.

You want to cut strips about two to three feet long from the roll of carpet, because this is much easier to work with.

How to Cut Carpet

Put yourself in a comfortable working position and hold the knife securely and firmly in your hand. Hold the knife so that the angled edge of the blade faces away from you.

Whenever possible, turn the carpet over so that you will make cuts directly onto the backing. This helps to prevent damage and it creates much cleaner cuts.

Press the knife firmly against the carpet, pressing down just enough to pierce the tough backing of the carpet. You don't want to press down too firmly, as this can damage the floor underneath the new carpet.

Use a level or a straight edge to guide you as you cut. You can draw a line in marker across the straight edge to guide you as you cut.

No matter how good you might be at cutting things, use a straight edge or a pre-marked line to guide your line.

Move in a slow, precise, and straight line across the carpet. Do not jam the knife or press too hard.

Maintain an easy, firm pressure across the entire carpet as you cut. If you get too aggressive, you will damage the floor beneath the carpet or even break the knife.

Keep your wrist firm and locked, maintain a good grip on the knife, and just work steadily while cutting carpet.

Maintain Your Tool

Even if you're cutting a whole lot of carpet, you will likely need to replace the blade of your knife at least once and probably multiple times during the project. Get some extra blades before you begin so that you have some handy and you won't have to stop your project to go buy new blades.

Cutting Away Old Carpet

You don't always cut carpet because you're installing new carpet. You will also need to cut old carpet sometimes.

First, create a small hole in the carpet using the tip of a knife. You want to be toward the middle of the room, if possible, and cut the hole about as big as your hand.

Loosen up the edges of the carpet where you cut it with a putty knife, until there is enough carpet for you to grip.

Hold the knife in your dominant hand and take hold of the carpet in your other hand. Moving with extreme care, pull up on the carpet and pull it up and away from the floor below.

Use the knife to make cuts in the carpet as needed so you can pull away pieces of the carpet. Be extremely careful and stay mindful of where your other hand is at all times while you are doing this so you do not end up cutting yourself.

You will need to exert some energy in order to lift up the carpet, which was likely stapled down or glued down into place when it was installed. This means you will have to use some pressure and maybe a little aggression to pull up the carpet.

Bear in mind that you don't have to make precision cuts or remove this carpet in neat pieces. This carpet is getting tossed out, so you can be messy.

Just don't be sloppy, as this is what will lead to cutting yourself.

Prevent Frayed Edges

No matter how precisely and neatly you cut, carpet edges can fray after being cut. Prevent this by finishing the edges with glue or liquid resin.

Use a paintbrush to spread a layer of the resin or adhesive all along the cut edge. This will prevent fraying and create a nice, clean edge.

Let the glue dry completely before you do anything else with the carpet.

Make Your Pre Cuts

If you're going to install wall-to-wall carpeting in the room, remove all doors that open into the room. This includes even the front door.

Take doors off the hinges but leave the hinges in place and set the doors out of the way while you work. You can leave the baseboards in place if you are replacing old carpet with new carpet.

Otherwise, you will need to remove and replace the baseboards as well. New baseboard can be installed before or after the new carpet is placed.

Many manufacturers recommend installing baseboards before carpeting and leaving a one-inch gap above the subfloor. The space is for the padding and the carpet.

You will also place tack strips, also confusingly called tackless strips, around the perimeter of the room, positioning them so they are end-to-end and with the points facing the wall. Do not place strips across the openings of doors.

Nail the strips to the subfloor. If you can't nail them in place, use masonry tacks or an epoxy adhesive to secure them.

Carpet padding is installed next. The pad should be placed so that the seams of the pad will be at right angles to the seams of the carpet.

You will use the same knife to cut the carpet pad to fit the room, which will give you practice for cutting the carpet.

The edges of the pad will go right to the edge of the tack strips. The pad shouldn't go over the strips.

Fasten the pad along the edge of the strips with a staple gun. Trim away excess with your knife.

Installing Carpet

You will now take the strips of carpet you cut and begin placing them in the room, with the backing down on the padding. The seams of the carpet will be perpendicular to the seams of the pads and you will have about three inches of overlap coming up on the walls.

Make cuts in the corners of the carpet to make the carpet fit, going from the top of the carpet down the working carefully. Simply make slits to fit the carpet down into the corners, still leaving your excess carpet in place when you can.

Use seam tape when joining two pieces of carpet together and make sure the pile is going in the same direction with each new piece that you place. The edges should e touching, not overlapping.

Place heavy objects along the seams as you place the carpet. This will help the adhesive in the seaming tape dry flat.

Place a knee kicker about three inches from the first wall where you placed the first pieces of carpet. Move the knee kicker as you work, hooking the carpet onto the tack strip and stretching the carpet to get a nice, tight fit.

Now, you will begin trimming the excess carpet using your knife. Keep your lines nice and straight. Tuck the carpet under baseboards using a carpet tucker.

You will place small transition strips at the thresholds to finish the job, then place your carpet edges to transition the carpet to the next type of flooring.

Seal the edges of your carpet anywhere it isn't tucked into place and reinstall all the doors and trim you may have removed during this project.

Carpet Cutting Tools

You have several options for cutting carpet. The best one is the tool that feels best for you, the one that you feel the most comfortable with and in control of.

Standard razor knives, a tool many people are familiar with, can easily be used to cut carpet. You can also opt for a carpet knife, which is specifically designed to cut carpet.

Electric carpet cutters are made to provide a smooth cut and they take very little force to use. The blade cuts very fine edges.

If you plan on cutting a lot of carpet frequently, investing in an electric carpet cutter isn't a bad idea. However, you might not want to spend the money on this tool if you're only installing carpet in one or two rooms.

Carpet cutting scissors have a familiar look and feel that might be more comfortable for some DIYers. Everyone is familiar with handling scissors, so this feels quite natural and you may find these easier to use.

The only trouble is that you will have to make the repeated cutting motion over ad over again, which can really put a strain on your muscles. Your hand and arm will almost certainly be sore after you use these scissors for several hours.

Stand up cutters are attached to long poles, so you can literally stand up and cut carpet without bending down or kneeling. This is a good tool for those who have mobility issues or who suffer from back or knee pain.

Carpet Fitting Tips

Fit carpet by taking precise measurements and making careful cuts. It does take a lot of steps and a lot of work to cut and install carpet but it's also something that DIYers can do with just a few tools and perhaps several hours of work.

If you work carefully and precisely, you can make carpet that you cut yourself look amazing and feel good about the finished project. Stay mindful of safety at all times to avoid needless accidents, remembering that knives are sharp and dangerous tools.

Once you know how to cut carpet, you'll always remember how to do it and you can add this to your list of DIY skills. Who knows when you'll need it again?

Carpet Fitting Tips FAQ

What is the easiest way to cut carpet?

The easiest way to cut carpet is to use an electric cutter. You need to exert very little force to get this to work and they cut very smoothly and cleanly.

What is a good tool to cut carpet?

Carpet cutters are specifically designed to cut carpet cleanly and easily. These tools are made to fit in the hand and they're angled to help you provide optimal cutting power.

How do you seal the edge of a cut carpet?

Binding tape can be used on the edges of carpet to seal it. You should put just a little hot glue at the edges of the binding tape to cement it in place.

Why do carpet corners curl?

Rugs and carpets might curl upward in the corners for a few different resigns. This can happen in carpets that have a thick, tightly-woven pile because the weave creates tension that causes the edges to curl.

Excess moisture and improper storage technique can also cause the edges of the carpet to curl.

Place tape or a little glue at the corner of the carpet and press it into place. Put a heavy object in the corner for about six hours to let the adhesive form a strong bond and this should fix the problem.

How do you get waves out of new carpet?

A carpet stretcher is used to smooth wrinkles, bubbles, and waves out of carpet. You can find these tools in hardware stores.

Further Reading

4 Options for a Carpet to Tile Transition

5 Tips to Remove Stubborn Stains from Carpet

5 Ways to Prevent Carpet Mildew

DIY Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning

How to Install Carpet

How to Repair Spot Damage on Carpet

How to Repair Water Damaged Carpet

How to Restretch Carpet

Installing Carpet on Concrete