How to Install Carpeting

Preparing to Install Carpet

Nail fastening strips along the edge of the floor.

Probably the most difficult part of installing carpeting is calculating exactly what to buy and how to place it. Carpeting is sold in 9-foot, 12-foot, and 15-foot widths; padding is sold in standard 4 1/2-foot rolls. Before you buy, measure the room to be carpeted and draw a floor plan on graph paper -- make sure your measurements are exact. Mark the exact position and width of all doors, windows, fireplaces, radiators, and other wall interruptions, and include the full depth of door frames. Take this floor plan with you to the carpet dealer.

Plan the layout of the carpeting and the padding carefully with the dealer to take advantage of the full width of the carpeting and to minimize seaming in heavy-traffic areas. Calculate the square yardage to be carpeted -- length times width, divided by 9 -- and take the dealer's advice on the lengths of carpeting and padding you'll need.

It is possible to cut and seam the carpeting yourself, but this can be tricky. In a small room that is no wider than the carpet roll, you won't have to make seams; otherwise, have the carpet dealer cut and seam the carpeting to fit the room.

The dealer should also determine the amount and type of tackless strip fastener you need. The fastener comes in 4-foot strips. The type depends on the thickness of your carpet and the floor you're covering; the strips have preset edge tacks and preset nails for installation over wood or concrete. Be sure to buy the right kind, and buy a strip or two extra to allow for mistakes. Have metal door edging strips cut to the exact measure of your doors.

Finally, rent a knee kicker from the carpet dealer. The kicker is used to stretch the edges of the carpet onto the fastening strips.

Before installing the carpeting, prepare the floor. Move all furniture out of the room and remove doors that open into the room. Pound in any loose nails and reset squeaky floorboards with flooring nails, using a nail set to drive the heads below the floor surface. Condensation can be a problem when resilient flooring is carpeted; if the floor is covered with resilient tile or sheet flooring, remove the old flooring and then prepare the subfloor.

To complete preparations for the carpet installation, remove floor register covers and, if you want it to cover the carpeting, quarter-round baseboard molding. Fill in any wide cracks in the floor with wood putty, smoothed over with a putty knife, and let the patches dry completely. Vacuum the room thoroughly before you start.

The first step is nailing down the fastening strips. Starting at a corner, nail strips along the edge of the floor, 1/4 inch from the wall, with their teeth pointing toward the wall; use a tack hammer to drive the preset nails through the strips and into the floor. Wear work gloves to protect your hands. To make sure the strips are nailed evenly and to maintain the 1/4-inch gap, slide a 1/4-inch-thick piece of scrap wood, on edge, between the strip and the wall as you nail each fastener into place. Work around the room, sliding this guide board along the wall as you nail the fastener strips into place.

To work around corners, cut fastener strips to fit with a small handsaw. Nail strips in front of radiators unless there's enough clearance under them to admit the knee kicker with room to spare -- there usually isn't. Set strips closely around open floor registers. Nail a metal door edging strip across the floor in each doorway, with the open rim pointing into the room and teeth pointing out. The rim should line up exactly under the edge of the door when both carpet and door are in place.

Now that you've prepared the floor, the next page will show you how to put the padding and carpet in place.

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