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How to Install Carpet and Why You Might Want to Hire Professionals

Written by Joe Roberts

Published on December 12, 2022


How to Install Carpet and Why You Might Want to Hire Professionals

Recarpeting one or two of your floors? We can help. Read our guide to find pros in your area or learn how to install your new carpets yourself.

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If your old carpets are looking a little threadbare, you feel like making a concrete floor cozier, or you just want to change up your decor, it may be time to lay down some fresh carpet. This is easier said than done, though, and installing carpet incorrectly can be disastrous, so we recommend professional installation.

DIY carpet installation is much cheaper than hiring pros to install new flooring, though. And it’s a relatively simple home improvement project that most homeowners can pull off with the right equipment and know-how. 

Keep reading, and we’ll divide the carpet installation process into bite-sized chunks that any amateur could follow. We’ll also teach you how to tear out your old carpeting safely. From using a power stretcher to laying out carpet padding, we’ve got you covered!

Let us help you find a professional carpet installer in your area

How much does professional carpet installation cost?

Carpet is priced by square foot, so prices for professional installation vary depending on how much carpet you need.

The typical cost to carpet a floor ranges between $1.82 to $13.42 per square foot, on average, for labor and materials.

Be aware, though, that prices vary in similarly-sized rooms because the quality of the carpet you install also factors into your price. Low-end synthetic carpets like olefin and polyester are much cheaper than authentic wool carpeting, for example. 

As you might expect, simply buying a piece of carpet to install yourself is much, much cheaper than getting it professionally installed. 

While the carpet isn’t the only thing you’ll need to pay for when installing it yourself, you can still save thousands of dollars by doing all the work with your own two hands.

Why you should hire professional carpet installers

If you’ve been a homeowner for a while, you’ve probably done one or two DIY projects harder than carpet installation. That said, this isn’t a project that should be approached lightly. Installing carpet incorrectly can result in wasted material, frayed ends, and unsightly rumples that could trip you and your houseguests.

If you want to avoid any chance of these outcomes and you can afford the extra costs, then hire professional carpet installers. They won’t be cheap, but quality and convenience never are.

If you’re still confident you can tackle your own carpet installation and you’re ready to accept the risks, read on! 

How to install your own carpet

Step 1: Measure your floor

Before doing anything else, take measurements of the room you’re installing carpet in so you know how much material to get. With a measuring tape, measure the width and length of the room, and then multiply the two numbers together to find the floor’s square footage. 

Use this equation to calculate the room’s square footage:

The room’s width x The room’s length = The room’s square footage

Here’s an example of how the math works: in a room that measures 10 feet wide by 16 feet long, the floor space totals 160 square feet. 

If your room isn’t a perfect rectangle—say it has a nook or a closet you also want to carpet—you can measure each section in separate rectangular chunks then add the square footage of the chunks together to determine the total square footage of the room. If the room in our previous example had an additional nook that measured 4 feet wide by 2 feet long, you’d add 8 to the square footage for a total of 168 square feet. 

Once you’ve figured out the room’s dimensions, you’ll want to add roughly 10–20% to the total. This adjusted total is the square footage of carpet you want to purchase. 10% of 160 is 16, so for the room in the example above, you’d want to order at least 176 square feet of carpet. 

This excess carpet means you’ll pay a little more for the job and you might not use all of it, but it could come in handy if you’ve never laid carpet before. You’ll probably be learning how to use several tools on the fly, so having a bit of extra material leaves room for understandable mistakes. 

Measuring for your carpet tack strips

While you’ve got your measuring tape out, you should also measure the perimeter of the room so you know how much tack stripping to get. Measure each wall separately, add the numbers together, and add an additional 10–20% to that total. That’s how much tack stripping you’ll need. For the room we’ve been using as an example, you’d want 57–62 feet of tack strips.

If your floor is carpeted, there will almost certainly be tack strips under the carpet already, and you can likely reuse most of them. However, you won’t really know how many of the existing strips you need to replace until after you’ve torn up the old carpet. 

For this reason, you could wait to buy new tack strips until you’ve seen the existing ones and know exactly how many you’ll need. 

Step 2: Buy or rent your tools and materials

Once you have all your measurements in hand, go to the hardware store to pick up your carpet, tack strips, and any tools and materials you’ll need but don’t already have in your toolbox. 

Here’s a complete list of items carpet installation requires:

Tools and accessories this job will require

  • A utility knife or carpet knife with extra blades
  • A chalk line tool
  • A staple gun
  • A stair tool or carpet tucker
  • A knee kicker
  • A pair of knee pads
  • A pair of protective gloves
  • A pry bar
  • A pair of pliers
  • A hand saw
  • A carpet roller
  • A seaming iron
  • A carpet stretcher 

Materials this job will require 

  • New carpet
  • Carpet padding (the same square footage as your carpet)
  • Tack strips
  • Carpet transition strips
  • Duct tape
  • Seam tape
  • Seam sealer
  • Wood nails 
  • Masonry nails (if you’re installing on concrete)

Be aware that many of the tools we’ve listed can be rented from hardware stores instead of purchased, though rental policies and availability might mean you can’t rent from your local store. At the very least, you’ll want to rent a carpet stretcher since buying one new can cost several hundred dollars. Call ahead and ask about your local store’s available rentals.

Once you’ve purchased or rented everything on this list, it’s time to get started. 

Step 3: Remove the old carpet, padding, and tack strips

If the floor you’re working on already has carpeting, it’s time to rip it all up to make way for the new carpet. If your floor is bare hardwood or concrete, you can skip this step. Just make sure you thoroughly clean the floor before starting step four.

Removing the carpet

Go to a corner of the room and use your utility knife to cut a hand-hold into the carpet. Then put on your protective gloves, slide your hand into the incision, and yank up sharply. This will tear the carpet out from the corner and begin the removal process.

Once the first corner of the carpet is up, you simply have to keep pulling on it and the carpet will tear away from the tack strips along the walls. As you go, fold the carpet over onto itself so it’s easier to manage. It can also help to cut the carpet into lighter and more workable pieces along the way. 

Removing the padding

After you’ve removed all the old carpet, you’ll likely need to remove the carpet padding on your subfloor as well. If the padding is in good condition, you can skip this step and just leave the padding where it is, but if it’s stained, crumbly, or smelly, it’s best to replace it.

To remove the old padding, tear it away from the floor like you did with the carpet. Unfortunately, this won’t be as clean or as fast as pulling up the old carpet was. Padding isn’t very strong, so it usually comes up in broken chunks instead of one solid piece. 

If your subfloor is made of wood, there will probably be staples holding the padding in place. These prevent the padding from shifting, but they won’t stop you from pulling it up. However, you’ll need to remove them before moving on. You can either tear them out of the floor with your pliers or hammer them down so they’re flush with the wood.

If your subfloor is concrete, there will be glue holding your padding in place instead of staples. This will also need to be removed or it could give your new carpeting odd lumps and ridges. As best as you can, scrape the glue away using a paint scraper. You can also sand it smooth with sandpaper, but this might take a while.

Removing the tack strips

Lastly, you’ll need to tear out any run-down tack strips around your perimeter. Check for strips with cracked wood, rotting undersides, or rusty metal spikes, and use your pry bar to remove them. They’ll need to be replaced. You can leave and reuse any tack strips that still look serviceable, though. 

Once you’ve completed this step, clean your floor thoroughly and move on. 

Step 4: Install your new tack strips 

A tack strip is a slab of wood with metal spikes angled upward. The spikes hook into your carpet’s backing and hold it in place. Image source: Amazon

Go around the perimeter of your floor and install your new tack strips with the spiky sides facing upward. You’ll want the tack strips to sit about half an inch from your baseboards. Additionally, you’ll notice that the metal tacks in the strips will all be angled in one direction. You want to install the strips so the spikes are pointed toward your wall and away from the center of the room.

If you’re installing carpet over hardwood flooring, you can nail down your tack strips with wood nails. If your subfloor is made of concrete, though, you’ll need to use construction glue and masonry nails. 

When you’re finished, the room should have a solid, unbroken border of tack strips with each strip directly touching the next one. This will probably require you to cut a few tack strips down to size with your hand saw before nailing them down.

Step 5: Install your carpet padding

Once you have your perimeter of tack strips installed, it’s time to lay out your carpet padding. Plan ahead and unroll your padding in the opposite direction so that you’ll eventually unroll your carpet. This will prevent any seams in the carpet from lining up with seams in the padding. 

Take your roll of padding, lay it down in one corner of the room within the tack strip border, and start unrolling it across your floor. When you reach the opposite wall, cut the padding away from the roll with your utility knife and start unrolling another piece parallel to the first. You want the pieces to touch each other without overlapping. Repeat this process until the floor is completely covered. 

Additionally, your padding should go right up to the border created by your tack strips, but it should never cover them. Any tacks covered by padding won’t be able to hold your carpet in place.

If your subfloor is concrete, you’ll need to apply padding glue to the underside of your padding as you go. This will hold the material in place, preventing it from shifting underfoot. If your subfloor is made of wood, use a staple gun to staple the padding into place once you’ve covered the entire floor.

When your padding is laid out and secured, use duct tape to cover up any seams between pieces. This will keep them from moving away from each other and creating noticeable divots in your flooring.  

Step 6: Cut your carpet down to size

With your padding in place, it’s time to cut your carpet. In another room, unroll your new carpet upside down with the pile against the floor. Measure out the amount of carpet you’ll need to reach from one end of the room to the other plus six inches. If your room measures 10 feet from one wall to the other, for example, you’ll want your carpet strip to be 10 feet 6 inches in length. 

Some of the extra material in these six inches will need to be trimmed off when you anchor the carpet, but it’s good to have a little extra upfront to ensure your carpet can reach under your baseboards. 

Once you’ve measured out your first piece of carpet, use your chalk line tool to snap a straight line of chalk across the backing. This will help you guide your knife when you cut. For extra guidance, use a large metal ruler or a piece of plywood as a straight edge while you cut.

When you’re ready to make your cut, put on your safety gloves and use your carpet knife to carefully remove your first piece of carpet from the roll. 

Then, repeat these steps until you have as many strips of carpet as you’ll need to cover the entire floor. For some pieces, you may need to make multiple cuts to wrap around corners or to fit the room if its length isn’t perfectly divisible by the width of your carpet pieces.

Step 7: Install your new carpet

Now that you’ve cut all your pieces of carpet, it’s time to install them.  

Lay the first piece along the far wall

Start by laying your first carpet strip parallel to the far wall of the room. Since you cut the carpet strips six inches longer than the actual wall-to-wall distance, the carpet will likely curl up at the edges, but that’s fine. You’ll cut away the excess shortly. 

Use your knee kicker to secure carpet

A knee kicker features a vertical pad on one end for kneeing and a downward-facing toothed end for hooking into carpet. Image source: Home Depot

With your first piece of carpet laid out, put on your knee pads and pull out the knee kicker. It’s time to anchor the piece’s first edge. 

Face one of the walls your piece of carpet is lying perpendicular to and get down on your hands and knees on top of the carpet. Then stick the toothed edge of your knee kicker into the carpet a few inches away from the perpendicular wall. When the teeth are secure in the carpet’s pile, bump your knee forcefully against the padded vertical end of the knee kicker. 

This will shove the edge of your carpet under your trim and secure the carpet’s backing onto the carpet tack strips, anchoring that section of carpet in place. You’ll need to move along this edge of the carpet and repeat this step in several places until it's completely secure. 

Then, use your carpet tucker to tuck any remaining exposed fringe along this edge beneath your baseboard. This might also entail using your carpet trimmer to trim excess carpet off the edge so it will fit perfectly under the baseboard. You want this first edge to look completely finished when you’re done.  

Use your power stretcher to stretch your carpet to the opposite wall

Now that your first strip of carpet is completely anchored on one side, it’s time to use the biggest piece of hardware this project requires: your power stretcher. 

Put the flat, horizontal end of the stretcher against the baseboards that you just anchored your carpet along. To protect the baseboards, wrap a piece of scrap carpet around the end of your stretcher. 

Then, extend the stretcher until the toothed end is only six feet away from the wall on the other side of the room. Dig the toothed end of the stretcher into your carpet as you did with your knee kicker’s teeth, and then begin pumping the stretcher so that it extends, stretching the unanchored end of your carpet over the tack strips on the far wall. This should anchor the unanchored edge, but you may need to use your knee kicker to complete the job. 

Once the second end is entirely anchored, use your carpet trimmer to take off the excess carpet and then tuck the edge down under your baseboard with your tucking tool.

Use your knee kicker and carpet tucker on the remaining side

Now that you’ve got the two ends of your first piece of carpet anchored, use your knee kicker and carpet tucker to anchor and tuck the edge of your carpet that’s parallel to the far wall. Remember, you want any edge of carpet that has undergone this process to look completely finished as-is, so take your time.

You may also need to cut horizontal slits in the corners of the carpet to make them fit nicely into the corners of your room, but this isn’t always necessary. 

Repeat these steps and use seam tape to seal up seams

Once you’ve got one strip of carpet anchored, stretched, trimmed, and tucked, repeat these steps as many times as you need to install the rest of the carpet you cut out earlier. Lay each piece of carpet out touching the one before it, anchor and tuck its first edge, stretch it, and then trim and tuck the remaining edges.

Every piece of carpet you lay down will have a seam between it and its neighbor. You’ll need to seal up these carpet seams as you go. After you’ve anchored a piece, slip seam tape into the seam between two adjoining pieces. Make sure that the tape’s adhesive side is pointing upward, and then use your seam iron to heat the tape’s adhesive. Once the adhesive is melted and tacky, run your carpet roller over the seam to press your carpet’s backing down into the adhesive. This will seal the seam.

As an added benefit, your roller will also comb and ruffle the pile along the edges of both pieces of carpet, mixing them together to better hide the seam. 

Step 8: Clean everything up

Once you’ve carpeted the entire room, it’s time to add the finishing touches. At entrances to the room where the floor transitions to another type of flooring, seal up the carpet’s edge with a seam sealer, then install a transition strip or door saddle to cover up the seam between the two types of flooring.

At this point, you can also make cutouts in the carpet for floor vents and seal up the edges around the cutouts with seam sealer.

Once this is done, let all the adhesives dry completely following the directions on their labels. Then thoroughly vacuum the carpet to remove stray tufts of pile, replace any furniture you removed, and open the room back up to foot traffic. 

Should you install your own carpet or leave it to the professionals?

Laying down your own carpet can be tough, and it’s not an ideal candidate for a first home improvement project. However, by following the steps we’ve laid out here as well as the operating instructions for each tool and material the project requires, you can probably pull it off, even if it is your first time. 

However, no one would blame you for leaving this laborious project to professionals. We can help you with that!

Use our tool to find a flooring installer near you

Written by

Joe Roberts Content Specialist

Joe is a home improvement expert and content specialist for Fixr.com. He’s been writing home services content for over eight years, leveraging his research and composition skills to produce consumer-minded articles that demystify everything from moving to remodeling. His work has been sourced by various news sources and business journals, including Nasdaq.com and USA Today. When he isn’t writing about home improvement or climate issues, Joe can be found in bookstores and record shops.