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Tips for Laying Carpet

Although installing carpet isn’t difficult technically, it’s challenging because of the size of the rolls and the often limited workspace. Whether it’s cushioned-back carpet for a basement or plush carpet and pad for a living room, here is some general information to help you understand how to lay carpet in place.

Carpet typically comes in 12-foot widths, which makes a roll of carpet heavy and hard to handle, even for an average-sized room of 12 feet x 12 feet.

If your carpet needs a seam, plan on having a pro install it. You’ll be much happier in the long run. Also hire a pro if you need to carpet stairs. If the carpet isn’t tight on each step, someone may trip when going up or have his feet go out from under him when going down the stairs.

Laying carpet with carpet pad

This type of installation requires no glue or adhesive to hold the carpet and pad to the floor. You do, however, need to secure it to the floor at the perimeter to prevent the carpet from moving and forming lumps or bumps.

The first thing that you install is a wooden tack strip, which runs around the perimeter of the room. It’s nailed to the subfloor with its points angled toward the wall. The small points sticking up out of the wooden tack strip grab the carpet and hold it down once it’s stretched over the tack strip. Tack strips should be spaced away from the wall at a distance equal to the thickness of the carpet being installed.

Next, place the carpet pad within the tack strip layout and then staple it to the subfloor. The pad is easy to trim with a utility knife. You can seal the joints that form where two pieces meet with duct tape.

Loosely lay out the carpet in approximately the correct position. The less moving this monster of a piece, the better. Getting the carpet over the spikes of the tack strip requires the use of a carpet stretcher and carpet kicker. Again, these tools are easy for a professional to use but can be tricky for a novice to use correctly.

A competent installer will plan for seams to occur in low-traffic and low-visibility areas. All seams are cut using the double-cut method described in the previous section and the pieces are joined with seaming tape. The installer places the tape under the seam and then lifts the carpet to melt the adhesive on the tape with a seaming iron. Then he presses the carpet down onto the tape and pinches the pieces together before the adhesive cools.

Laying cushioned-backed carpet

This type of carpet is easy to install. It’s a lot like sheet vinyl in that you lay the material out in the room, cut it to fit, and then glue it down. You can cut cushion-backed carpet easily with a utility knife. The adhesive is easy to spread with a trowel. It’s also somewhat forgiving because you have a little time to reposition the carpet if it moves.

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