Everyone always asks me if the garbage man will come and pick up the old carpet if they leave it out by the curb and the answer is no. Most of the time they will just leave it there. It gets moldy very quickly and starts to deteriorate. The smell can be pretty bad to and you can get critters living in there and that’s the last thing you want.
One day I was on a job and there was a guy picking up some junk from one of he neighbors across the street. I was outside cutting the carpet when he was there, he saw me and came over to talk to me. He runs a company call J-Junk and they do junk removal, trash pick up and they pick up things like tree limbs or yard waste. Really nice guy, named Jason and I had a long conversation about getting rid of carpet for my customers. I thought to myself “man this is great, if I have someone that could pick up carpet for me and take it to the dump then it would keep me from having to do it”
Today I’m going to show you how to lay carpet in one room of your house if you are gung ho and want to DIY. To start off with, so that you can better understand I am going to draw some pictures to help demonstrate what I am talking about. I would take some but I’m not currently laying carpet. I’ll try to go to some jobs and take some.
It helps to have some experience in the trade but if you’re doing one room that’s pretty square you can get the job done without too much trouble. Later I will get into how to do more but for now we’ll start off with a square room just to get some of the basic concepts down.
Remove the Old Carpet
Most jobs have existing carpet in place. In order to install new carpet you need to get rid of the old carpet. Pull up the old carpet and take it out of the room, sounds simple right. Well let me give you the insider secret that I use to quickly get the carpet out without to much trouble.
First I take my carpet knife and cut a slice about a foot long from the corner of the room towards the middle of the room. I don’t start my cut right at the wall because you will be cutting across the tackless strip (we call tack strip) and that will dull your knife immediately.
Then I put my hand in the hole I just cut and pull. The corner of the carpet will come right up and then just continue pulling along the wall until you’ve pulled it up all the way around the room.
Next I cut the carpet in 5-6 foot wide strips and roll them up for easy removal. Some people think they are going to keep the old carpet and don’t want to cut it in strips, but trust me the carpet is trash. It looks pretty decent until you flip it over and see all the water stains on the back of it. It’s almost impossible to reinstall it in another house so you might as well make it easy on yourself and cut it.
Next pull up the padding. If there is any padding residue or any staples or anything sticking up I use a dull stand up scraper to make the job easy. If you don’t have a scraper use a square shovel to scrape up the floor. (You Do Not Need to Pull Up the Tack Strip)
Sweep everything out.
Carpet Tack Strip
I check it to see if it’s loose by taking my hammer and hold it normally like you’re going to hammer, put the head on the floor and slide the hammer into the tack stip. You can tell if it’s loose. If it is put a few nails in it.
If it’s a wood sub-floor I use a 1” thin nail or if you bought them at a carpet supply store they are called blue nails, but you don’t need to buy special nails for a wood sub-floor any nails will do.
If it’s a concrete sub-floor you will need some concrete nails and these nails, because of their size, can most often only be found at the carpet supply house or sometimes you can get them at a carpet store. Try the home improvement centers but I know the last time I looked for them there, they didn’t have any. You need concrete nails that are ½” to 7/16” long. You can also just pull some nails out of a new piece of tack strip if you have one.
If you have some areas where the tack strip becomes unusable or needs to be replaced you will need to buy a few pieces of tack strip. I think you can get it at home improvement stores now, like Home Depot or Lowe’s. If not call the local carpet store, they will be able to help you.
When buying tack strip make sure you buy the right stuff. Tack strip comes in 2 main kinds one is made to be nailed to wood sub-floors, the other is made to be nailed to concrete sub-floors.
When nailing tack strip down you need to make sure you have it going the right direction. The pins that stick up lean a little bit so make sure they lean towards the wall. Nail the tack strip down near the walls with a space between the wall and the tack strip that’s about a big fingertip in width from the wall. That way you will have a space to tuck the carpet into.
Installing the Padding
After you get the tack strip secured, bring the roll of padding into the room and roll it out with the smooth side up. Using a utility knife, cut the strips of padding so they are a little longer than the room, you will trim them later.
You can secure the padding to the floor with staples if it’s a wood subfloor or glue and or tape if it’s a concrete subfloor. If you are stapling it down just put a few staples here and there at the edges and put some down the seams.
If you are gluing, fold back the edge of the padding about 2 feet from the wall and put a thin stream of glue back and forth on the concrete or wood subfloor. It’s usually like syrup or sometimes it looks like thick milk. Then flop the padding into the glue.
Trim off the edges of the padding so they don’t go over any of the tack strip. Make sure you have no over laps in the padding as it will cause a bump in the finished product.
Cutting the Carpet
Most carpet comes 12 feet wide. Measure your room, let’s say you have a 14 foot by 11-foot room. First, roll the carpet out in an area that’s big enough to lay it out completely flat. Like the driveway. Cut off room sized pieces. In this case we would cut off a piece that is about 14 foot 3 inches by 12 feet. You want to cut it a little bigger than you need.
Bringing in the Carpet
While the carpet is still in the driveway fold it in half so that it’s 6 foot by 14 foot. Then roll it up so that it becomes a 6-foot-long roll. Then stand it up on one end and put it on your back holding the top of the roll with your hands bend over forward to lift the roll. Bring it into the room and drop it in the corner so it will roll out the way you want it to lay in the room and unfold it.
Move the carpet around in the room until you have it into position with the carpet being a little long on every wall so it goes up the wall a little bit.
Make sure the padding has not moved in the process. If the padding has moved and it’s over the tack strip or if you have an overlap in the pad somewhere just fold the carpet back and fix the pad. You don’t need to move the carpet just fold it back so you can get to the padding problem.
Stretching the Carpet
For this example, we are going to assume there are no seams to be made. I will go over how to make the perfect seam in the later. So let’s assume we are doing a square bedroom with no closet.
If the bedroom carpet is seamed onto the hallway we would use a power stretcher to stretch straight out from the hallway, pulling the hallway tight so it won’t get loose in the doorway.
Then using a hammer or stair tool, rub the carpet down onto the tack strip and release the stretcher. The tack strip will grab the carpet and hold it in place using the carpets elastic stability.
Next you want to set the wall between the door and where you just stretched to. Do this by rubbing the top of the carpet with a hammer or stair tool until the tack strip grabs the carpet.
Now that you have the carpet secure on one side of the room you want to change directions and stretch across the room to the other side.
Set the wall with the door to secure it by rubbing a hammer or a stair tool over the top of it and pushing it down onto the tack strip.
Next, you’re going to stretch to the final wall, finishing it off so everything is tight.
Trimming the Carpet
You can trim the carpet by hand or you can use a carpet trimmer. I do it both ways. If you use a carpet trimmer you have to be careful not to cut the carpet to short. Put the trimmer on it’s highest setting. Slide the trimmer along the wall and don’t push down to hard or the carpet will be cut too short. Try to keep the trimmer as flat to the floor as you can, holding it downward but kind of softly and don’t have it at an angle so the part by the wall is lower than the rest of the cutter because that will cut it short.
When you get to the corner pull the trimmer out and roll the carpet down away from the wall and cut it from the back until you get to the corner. With a little practice, you will be trimming in no time.
Using a stair tool go around the room pushing the edge of the carpet downward to tuck it in. Make sure you don’t have any strings or face fibers sticking up along the walls or around the door jam.
You are done, it’s time to vacuum.
If you keep your carpet clean by vacuuming every day and having it professionally cleaned by a carpet cleaner in Aspen, your carpet will last longer and give you many years of happy service.
(Carpet stretchers or “Power stretchers” can be rented at tool rental houses, you just need to call around.)