DIY Carpet Laying

Installing Carpeting on Your Own

DIY carpeting may seem a daunting task, but it is not insurmountable. You'll need some special equipment, which can be bought or rented, and it is a bit physically demanding - you may use some muscles you're not used to using - but the end result is quite rewarding: new carpet in your home.

The first step in the DIY carpeting process is figuring out what kind of carpet you want to put down. The price you're going to pay is dependent upon the carpet's material and the type of weave in it. Also, the strength and durability of the carpet are likewise functions of these two factors. You have to decide: do you want to put down something that's going to last for years, or are you looking to redecorate the room every couple years - and thus a cheaper carpet is called for?

When it comes to materials, there are five to choose from: wool, nylon, polyester, acrylic, and polypropylene olefin. Wool is very durable, crush resistant (you won't get footprints from lots of people walking on it); it's easy to keep clean, and it's ideal for high-traffic areas. Its minus point is that it's very expensive. Like wool, nylon is durable and is actually easier to clean than wool, but it's expensive and tends to fade when exposed to excessive sunlight. Polyester is not very crush resistant, and it fades in direct sunlight; yet it's very durable and costs much less than wool or nylon. In the case of acrylic carpeting, it doesn't fade, and it's fairly crush resistant. It's also easy to clean, and fairly inexpensive, but it doesn't hold up well against abrasion - certainly not as well as the previous materials. Finally, polypropylene olefin is the most inexpensive of all of the materials; it's easy to keep clean, and it stands up fairly well against abrasives. When it comes to crush resistance, it can be quite good, but it depends on the pile of the carpet, which is the type of weave.

Once you settle on the material, you next need to prepare the floor. Typically, you'll be putting carpeting down on one of two materials: concrete or wood. In the case of the latter, you'll want to first go through and check the flooring over thoroughly for any loose or rotten boards. A solid base is important, so check for any bad spots and then either secure the loose boards and/or replace bad ones.

In the case of replacing some old carpeting, you may be able to use the underlay and tackless strips, if they're in good condition. This is one instance where you may want to consult with a professional carpet installer to get their opinion as to whether or not the old material is useable. After that, whether the flooring is concrete or wood, get it swept, vacuumed, completely clean and then dried. In the case of a concrete floor, check to see if there's any moisture build-up, as it can ruin the carpeting. You need the surface as dry as possible.

Next, there are a number of tools you'll need. A basic saw or shears, some tackless strip (cut to fit the job), some masonry nails, a hammer, and a good quantity of carpet underlay - essentially sized for each space you want to carpet, some heavy scissors, a utility knife (with several blades), a staple gun (or cement if you're going to cover a concrete floor), a roll of duct tape, and your carpet of choice. You'll need a chalk line, a row cutter, some seaming tape and a seaming iron (which can be rented); a rolling pin, a knee kicker, a power stretcher, a trimmer, a stair tool and a gripper edge.

First of all, cut some of the tackless strips to the right length for all of the walls you're going to be installing the carpet along. Next, nail them down all along the perimeter of the room. Whatever the thickness of the carpet, place the strips about 2/3 of that thickness from the wall. Now, if you're going to nail into concrete, check beforehand as to where any heating/air conditioning ducts under the floor are located; you don't want to accidentally put a hole in them. If you have no idea where such things are, put some water on the floor, and then turn on the heat. The ducts will be under the areas that dry first. Chalk out these areas, and then don't hammer a masonry nail into that part of the floor. Put at least two nails in each strip, make sure the strips come together at each corner, and that the pins in the strips face the wall. As a safety precaution, wear goggles and gloves when handling the strips and driving the nails.

Next, you need to cut the carpet underlay in long strips to the length of the room - and be sure they're long enough to cover the tackless strips along the walls. Once cut, put the underlay, waffle side up, on the floor. If on wood, staple it along the edge at 6" intervals. If the floor is concrete, use glue to secure the underlay to the floor. Do not overlap the underlay; have each piece placed tight against the other to make a clean seam. A utility knife can be used to trim the underlay to properly cover the tackless strips, and then seal the joins with duct tape.

After this, you're ready to cut and place the carpet. So, measure the room's length and width, and then cut the carpet about 4 to 6 inches longer than those dimensions. A utility knife is the best thing to use, and cut the carpet from the backside. Double check the measurements of the carpet, and then use a cutting board and straight edge to guide in the cut. You want to overlap the pieces of carpeting at each edge so you can trim them to fit. Much like with getting the grain of pieces of wood to line up, get the pile of each piece of carpet facing the same direction.

Once the carpet pieces are in position, overlap their edges, and leave around 2" of excess carpet at each wall. Use the chalk line to snap a sharp line on the back of the overlap, and then trim a straight edge; this will give you a nice straight seam. After that, overlap the straight edges of carpet, and use your row cutter on the bottom piece to get a good cut. The top piece is your guide so use its edge to cut the seam so it lines up correctly.

At this point, you're ready to put down the seaming tape. Cut a piece of the tape and center it under the seam with the adhesive side of the tape facing up. Also, push the joins of each piece of carpet up against each other as tightly as possible. Next, get the seaming iron, heat it up, and then slowly slide it up and down the carpet right over the area where the tape is located. This will melt the adhesive, and then you squeeze the carpet edges together. Hold for a moment, and then use a rolling pin to go over the seam. If done right, the seam should be virtually invisible.

Now comes the use of the knee kicker, which will attach the carpet to the tackless strips. First, attached the carpet in one corner to a tackless strip. Getting back from the wall about an inch, set the teeth of the knee kicker solidly into the carpet. Using your knee (as its name implies) kick the padded end of the knee kicker; this will secure the carpet to the tackless strip. After that, move to the mid point of the shorter wall in the room, and do the same.

Next, you'll need to use a power stretcher to stretch the carpet toward the opposite wall. First, set the base of the stretcher at the first wall you secured. As a little warning, put a piece of scrap carpet or underlay between the base and the wall (to protect the wall). Next, set the teeth of the stretcher into the carpet about 6 inches from the opposite wall. By pressing down the lever, you lock it in place, and then stretch the carpet toward the wall. After that, attach it to the tackless strips. You then want to use the stretcher to attach the carpet to the other corner opposite of the first one, and do so by means of the same procedure. After that, use the knee kicker along the long wall - between the first and second corners you secured - to attach it to the tackless strips. Then, do the same along the short wall (between the first and third corners). Next, use the power stretcher along the other long wall (starting near the third corner) and work your way up to the final corner. When that's done, secure the final segment - the short wall running from the second to fourth corner - with the stretcher. At this point, you've secured the entire perimeter of the room.

Next, set the wall trimmer to the thickness of the carpet, and cut off the excess carpet from each wall. You need to keep the blade on an angle, and keep the base of the trimmer flat, and then slice the carpet down the length of the wall. However, at the end of the wall, don't try to use the wall trimmer. It's best to use a utility knife for the last few inches of excess carpet. After that, a stair tool will help you to smooth the edge of the carpet between each wall and the tackless strips. Finally, you want the edge of the carpet centered under the door. So, trim it there, and then install a gripper edge or nail a metal strip to hold the edge of the carpet down.

Congratulations, you're done with your DIY carpeting project!