How to Install Carpet

A worker cuts and installs bedroom carpet.
  • 6-12 hours
  • Intermediate
  • $600-800
What You'll Need
Vacuum
Work gloves
Safety glasses
Utility knife
1 ½-inch screws (if needed)
Tackless strips
Underlay
Stapler
Duct tape
Measuring tape
Chalk line
Seam cutter
Seam tape
Seaming iron
Rolling pin (or rental seam roller)
Knee pads
Knee kicker
Power stretcher
Wall trimmer
Stair tool
Door edge strip
What You'll Need
Vacuum
Work gloves
Safety glasses
Utility knife
1 ½-inch screws (if needed)
Tackless strips
Underlay
Stapler
Duct tape
Measuring tape
Chalk line
Seam cutter
Seam tape
Seaming iron
Rolling pin (or rental seam roller)
Knee pads
Knee kicker
Power stretcher
Wall trimmer
Stair tool
Door edge strip

Installing wall-to-wall carpet isn't rocket science. By using some specialized tools (available at most tool rental outlets) and being prepared to take your time, carpet installation can even be a DIY job. Check out the steps below to learn how to install carpet efficiently and well.

How to Install Carpet over Existing Flooring

Many people like to install carpet over their existing flooring. As long as you have a hard surface floor already, this should not be a problem. For example, if you have laminate, hardwood, tile, or even vinyl, you should be able to install carpet tiles right over the top.

However, if you have carpet or carpet tiles installed, you should not try to install carpet tile over the top. The carpet is soft enough that it will cause the carpet tiles to move when walked on.

This will not provide you with a very solid floor to walk on and the carpet tiles will come up off of the floor. If you have carpet on the floor, you should definitely take it up before installation.

Before you can begin installing carpet, check the condition of your floors. Remove shoe molding to check for any floor squeaks. If you find some, mark them with an “X” and insert a drywall screw directly into the sub-floor right down into the floor joist.

Step 1 - Remove Old Carpet (If Applicable)

Your first step is to get rid of the old carpet. Start by removing the moldings around the floor and taking the door off the entrance so you can get the old carpet up and out easily. Give the old carpet a good vacuuming so you won't be breathing in dust as you pull it up, and then use a utility knife to cut the carpet into strips about 18 to 24 inches wide.

Start at one end and pull the carpet off of the tackless strips and roll it up in sections. Some people feel that you can reuse the existing underlay, but in most cases, it will be worn out just like the carpet, so you're better off getting rid of it as well.

Remove the existing tackless strips and make sure the floor is clean and dry. This is a good time to check your subfloor and securely fasten any floorboards that may be loose so they won't squeak under the new carpet (use 1½-inch screws in the underlying floor joists).

Install new tackless strips around the perimeter of the room, but not in front of doorways. Leave a space of about ½ inch between the strips and the wall, and be sure the pins or tacks face towards the wall. (They're called tackless strips even though they have two or three rows or very sharp tacks, because using these "tackless strips" means you don't need to "tack" carpet down.) At corners, make sure the tackless strips are butted tightly against each other.

Step 2 - Lay the Underpad

Put the underpad down in strips that overlap the tackless strips. Butt the strips against each other—don't overlap them—then staple the underlay down along the inside edge of the tackless strip. Trim the excess underlay along the inside of the tackless strip and use duct tape to seal the seams.

Step 3 - Climatize the New Carpet

A wall-to-wall carpet will shrink and expand with changes in temperature and air pressure. If you bring a carpet in from outside and install it right away, as the carpet adjusts to the conditions inside your home it may stretch and shrink away from the tackless strips, or may expand toward the walls and wrinkle and buckle in the middle. To prevent this, allow the new carpet to rest, uninstalled, in the room for at least 24 hours. It will adjust to your conditions and remain true to the dimensions you cut it to.

Step 4 - Measure and Cut the Carpet

To install the carpet properly, you need to start with a piece that overlaps the edge of the floor by 4-6 inches. The overlay can then be trimmed so the carpet fits properly.

To cut your first section, measure the room at its longest point and add six inches to that measurement. Mark the back of your carpet on both edges with that measurement and join the two marks with a chalk line. Fold the carpet over on itself, and using a straight edge and a sharp utility knife, cut through the backside of your carpet.

Be sure to place a piece of scrap board underneath your cut line to protect the underlying carpet.

Side Step - Carpeting Doorways

If your carpet will come up against a door threshold, measure the doorway width where your carpet will end. You will also want to measure the depth as well between the carpet and the material that it is going to meet.

You will need to know what the difference is in the height, if there is any, so when you are putting down the transition strip, it will line up the right way or if you need to make adjustments.

Using carpet tacks, you will need to secure the carpet in your doorway. Be sure that the carpet meets the material that you have in the next room.

The next is to get your transition strip to the correct measurements. To do this, you want to cut it to the width of the doorway using a hack saw. Make sure that you double check your measurements before you begin.

It is also important to clean up the area from the moment that you make the first cut. If you don’t, you risk having metal slivers scatter everywhere from the cutting that you have done.

You are now going to take the transition strip and place it over the seam where the carpet and material meet. If for some reason one side is higher than the other, be sure that the transition strip is over the matching floor material.

To keep the transition strip in place, you will use nails or screws that were made available with the strip that you purchased. As you are putting in your nails, make sure to use caution so you do not dent the strip with your hammer.

Step 5 - Set the Seams

If your room is wide enough that you're going to need another piece of carpet, follow the same process with the second piece—measure, mark, and trim.

Before you cut, be sure the carpet pile is running the same way in both pieces, and that the carpet piece is large enough to overlap the wall by 4-6 inches, as well as overlapping the first piece of carpet by four to six inches. Try to lay out your carpet pieces so the seams won't be in noticeable areas even if sometimes that just isn't possible.

Where the carpet pieces will join, overlap the two pieces, and then using a utility knife or a rented seam cutter, cut through both pieces of carpet, ensuring the edges will match exactly. After cutting the carpet, center a piece of seaming tape on the floor underneath where they join, adhesive side up. Use the seaming iron to activate the adhesive (the iron goes on the tape, not on top of the carpet), and then butt the edges together and seal the seam with a rolling pin or a carpet roller.

Step 6 - Attach the Carpet

Use a knee kicker to attach the carpet along one edge. A knee kicker is a solid metal tool about 18 inches long with "teeth" that will grip the carpet on one end, and a heavily padded "butt" on the other.

Place the toothed end of the kicker about 3 inches from the wall and drive your knee forcefully into the padded end of the tool. This will stretch the carpet over the tackless strip where the tacks will grab it and hold it firmly in place.

A carpet stretcher will finish attaching the carpet. A carpet stretcher is similar to knee kicker, but much longer. Put one end of the carpet stretcher against the wall where the carpet is already attached and place the other end about 6 inches from the far wall. The carpet stretcher also has teeth to grip the carpet, and when you push on the activation lever, it will stretch the carpet over the tackless strip near the far wall.

Work your way around the room stretching the carpet over the tackless strips, and trim the carpet near the wall with a utility knife or a wall trimmer.

Step 7 - Deal with Stairs

Using a stair tool, tuck the carpet down into the gap between the tackless strips and the wall. At the doorway, trim the carpet so the edge is centered under the closed door and install a door edge strip. Finally, cut any vent openings and reinstall the molding on the baseboards.

Step 8 - Add Transitions

Properly installing a hardwood-carpet transition piece is often part of a successful hardwood installation. In order to properly transition from hardwood to carpet, you need to make sure that you install the right trim piece. This will give it a very professional and finished look.

Before you can install hardwood to carpet transition, you need to know how big of an opening you have. Most of these transition pieces come in 6-foot lengths, and you should plan accordingly. Therefore, if your opening is 8 feet wide, then you are most likely going to need two pieces to do the job.

Take your tape measure and get the dimension from one end of the opening to the other. Write that dimension down to the nearest inch so that you don't forget it when you get to the store. Once you know the dimensions that you need, purchase the proper transition piece.

There are many different types of transition pieces that are available for wood flooring. You should be able to get a matching piece for the type of wood that you bought. Check with the store where you purchased your hardwood first. They may have the proper transition piece in stock, or they can usually order for you if not.

If they do not have access to the transition piece that you need, check other flooring stores as many of them have an abundance of transition pieces laying around. The transition piece that you need is called an end mold and is often referred to as a carpet reducer. This type of transition looks like an "L" shape. Make sure that you leave the store with the right transition piece for the job.

Measure again just to be exact and get the dimension that you need. Mark the dimension on your transition piece and then cut it with a saw. Make sure to make a clean cut so that there is not a jagged edge on the end of the transition, and so that it will fit in the doorway properly.

If you're on a wood subfloor, you may be able to nail the transition piece in place. You can also use liquid nails to glue it down to the subfloor. Cover the edge of the wood with one end and glue the other end to the ground. Then stretch the carpet up to the side of the transition piece with the knee kicker and tuck the edges into the tac strip with the stair tool.

Carpet Styles

You have a wide range of carpet options. Pick yours based on factors like affordability, depth, and ease of installation.

Berber Carpet

Berber carpet is a popular type of floor covering because it is available in so many different tones and colors. Because the carpet hides dirt and marks, it almost always looks clean.

It's more difficult to hide the seams when you fit Berber carpet. This is why Berber carpet is available in wider widths (to minimize the number of seams required to fit the carpet).

Carpet Tile

Carpet tile is an excellent type of carpet because it is fairly easy to install. Before you begin, keep in mind that you need to acclimate the carpet tile to the environment that you plan on installing it in. Carpet tiles can expand and contract depending on the temperature of the room.

Therefore, you need to put the carpet tiles in the room in which they will be installed for approximately 24 hours before starting the installation process. Otherwise, you might run into problems with the carpet tiles expanding after they are already installed.

One of the most important parts of the carpet tile installation process is properly preparing the floor. If you do not prepare the floor correctly, it can affect the integrity of the flooring installation. If you have imperfections on the floor, you may need to use self-leveling compound to level them out.

One of the great things about carpet tile is that you can install it in a variety of different patterns. Many people like to install carpet tile with a quarter-turn pattern. You can also install it running all the same direction if you would like.

The important thing to remember is that you need to keep the pattern consistent throughout. The bottom of the carpet tile will have an arrow on it to help you determine the direction of the knap. Remember to pay attention to the arrow when you are installing as it will allow you to make sure all of the carpet is running in the direction that it should be.

If you are gluing the carpet tile to the floor, you will need to make sure that you use a roller on top of the carpet when you are done. If you can use a 100-pound flooring roller, this will be ideal. By doing this, you will make sure that the carpet tile is pressed firmly into the adhesive and you will remove any air that is trapped underneath.

Conclusion

You will now have to get rid of your old carpet.

By following these steps you will be able to successfully install carpet. Now all that's left to do is stretch your back, check to see if your knees still work, and then take some time to admire what all your hard work has accomplished.