Carpeting Questions: Preparation and Installation

hands measuring and cutting a carpet with a tape measure and knife

Q. My carpet installer provided me with the measurements for my basement carpet and said I need to "allow for the pattern." The pattern of the carpet I've chosen is approximately 3/8" x 1/2". How much more carpet should I order to accommodate the pattern?

A. That is basically a pin dot pattern; 3/8" is not much. Give him three inches just in case you're measuring to the wall and not into the doorways. Remember, carpet has more waste, unless the room is exactly 12 feet wide. Avoid having a lot of seams just to save waste!

Q. We will soon be carpeting our basement floor. Do I need to seal the cement before the carpeting goes down? I have heard that especially if you have pets, it is a good idea to seal the cement. This way if the pets have an accident, the moisture stays on top of the cement, rather than soaking into it.

A. It's best to consider a better pad at this point. A solid rubber slab pad with a low absorption rate will perform better for these kinds of things.

Q. I have one question before I get started with installing my carpet: How far should the tack strip be installed from the molding? We've left the molding up off the floor by approximately half an inch, which I think is right for the thick carpet we're getting. Please specify if the answer you give is from the molding or from the wall.If someone could point me to a comprehensive carpet installation guide, that would also be useful. I've read about half a dozen but none that detailed.

A. The tack strip should be no farther then 3/8 inch from a fixed vertical surface (baseboard). If the carpet face yarn and backing are less then 3/8 inch thick, the tack strip should be the thickness of the carpet from the fixed object.

Q. I have a 5-year-old house and I'm finishing the basement. I want to put in carpet but I'm not sure what kind - meaning nylon vs. poly, oz., density, etc. I want textured carpet that will hold up well and look nice. I'm going with the blue micro-ban, 8# pad on the concrete. I don't have a moisture problem. Can anyone recommend what type of middle-of-the road carpet would do well in a basement environment?

A. Pick your price ranges and read the appearance retention warrantee section on the back of the sample. Nylon fibers last longer, and poly is easier to clean. Depending on the use of the room, go with nylon. But, it really boils down to warrantee and personal preference.

Q. I'm working on re-carpeting my Pontoon boat. What type of adhesive should I use? Should I use a roller on the carpet and if so, can they easily be rented? What type of stapler should I use to tack carpet along the perimeter?

A. Pontoon boats are a piece of cake to carpet. Remove the rails and seats and remove the aluminum molding that is screwed around the perimeter of the deck. Use outdoor carpet adhesive and have plenty ventilation, preferably outdoors, as the outdoor adhesive is highly flammable. You can rent a roller from any tool rental company.

Q. We had a carpet company come in to install a Berber carpet. When they got to the stairs, they had a problem. They said that the skirt board on one side is angled and will create gaps between the Berber and the skirt board if they lay it as is. They then explained that we'd be able to pull off the molding and straighten it out with no problem. We dutifully nodded our heads and tried to remember what they said. Now that we are trying to do it, we are a little confused as to what exactly we are trying to do and how to know when we are done. Therefore, we have a right angle and are trying to straighten out the skirt board. If we just measure it at the back of a step and get it vertically 90 degrees, is that good enough? Or do we need to measure elsewhere as well? The skirt is already covered by quarter round molding, which I removed, and I've already started trying to pull the skirt board out. If I check each step and measure it vertically, how perfect do I need to get the skirt board to make it easier for the carpet people?

A. Often times the skirt boards or stringers are nailed to the drywall and treated by carpenters as just a trim to protect the drywall. Stair building has become a lost art. If you can pry the skirting out from the drywall, you can use a square to measure the straightness of the skirting. If there is a gap between the top of the skirting and the wallboard, you can cover it with a quarter round molding.

Of course, the carpet installers can avoid all this by simply turning the sides of the carpet under, making adjustments on the carpet in and out, as they install each step. Call the carpet seller and ask about this option. They may or should charge extra for this service, but it will save you a lot of work. Rolling the sides of the carpet under to make these adjustments is an "old school" technique that made it easier to work on steps in old out-of-square homes. Give then a call and see if they will try this. If they employ a carpet geezer, it will be no problem.

As long as the width measures the same from the top of the steps to the bottom, and from the front to back of each tread, it will work. If they use tackless on the sides of the treads it will give them a little room for adjustments. Rolling the sides under is a more viable option.

Q. I am having carpet installed over my hardwoods because of a few permanent stains. I am also replacing the baseboards. My question is, should I inset the baseboards back into the hardwoods like they were previously or should I raise them up enough so the tack strip and rug can fit under the baseboard?

A. Since the baseboards are already there and it would be a big chore to remove and replace them, I would remove any shoe molding or quarter round and install carpet up to the baseboard. If you are replacing baseboards, raise them. It will give you a more finished look. When I installed baseboards on new construction, I took a few little pieces of baseboard and laid them along the wall to provide a gap the thickness of the baseboard. That way the installers had a place to tuck the edge of the carpet.

It's such a pity to have to cover hardwood flooring when it is all the rage. It seems everyone is tearing out their carpet and refinishing their hardwood. For severe stains, it is possible to do repairs. Affected boards can be pulled out and replaced by some pulled from inconspicuous areas, such as from inside the closet and under the bed. New boards would replace those. Then, the floor could be refinished. In addition, sometimes stains can be bleached to lighten and floor stained a dark color to camouflage stains. And, area rugs can hide a lot of sins. Hardwood flooring adds value to a home. Again, it is a pity to cover one of your most valuable assets.

Q. I have had a bid for some good, not too high-end carpet to be installed. I have about 90 yards, and the price spread is $2400. Why is the spread so much? I am looking at frieze carpet, and one carpet guy told me that the heavier it is, the harder it is to maintain. Another issue is pad - I always thought that the fiber pads were the best. Three sales guys have told me this also, but another guy says his rebound is the best on the market. Fiber or rebond?

A. Frieze carpets are very durable and hide footprints, dust and dirt, which makes them suitable for heavy traffic areas. They are not any more difficult to maintain than other carpets. Vacuum frequently in high-traffic areas, take care of stains immediately, and have the carpet professionally cleaned about every 12-18 months before it starts showing soiling.

Most often fiber pads are used under area rugs and rugs where there is concern about movement of carpet. Spun nylon is best. They can be made from jute, hair mixed with jute, synthetic fiber, or recycled textile fiber. 7.5 lbs per cubic ft. density is recommended for the synthetic fiber, and 12 lb density for the jute pads.

Rebond is made from of scraps of the high-density foams that are bonded together. Rebond padding comes in various thicknesses and densities. Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) recommends that for residential use, the pad should not exceed 7/16ths inch. A 7-7.5 lb pad provides the longest wear. If you are looking for longer wear, don't go with less than 7. 6.5 lb is the minimum recommended for heavy traffic like in hallways.

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