How to Lay a Carpet

Laying carpet is something that many people would consider attempting themselves and whilst it is perfectly possible for the average person to make a good job, there are several things you should know if you want to make a good job a great one.

Preparation

Make sure the floor is clean and dry. Rubber-backed carpets will need to be stuck down with 50 millimetre wide double-sided tape around the edge of the room. Woven-backed carpets can be held with special gripper strips nailed to the floor (or stuck to a concrete floor) around the edge of the room. Fix your gripper strips about 6mm away from the skirting board with the teeth angled towards the wall.

Laying Underlay

If you are using rubber or foam-backed carpet, you won’t need to use underlay. However, in this case, it is a good idea to lay brown paper to stop dust rising from the concrete or wooden floor. Underlay is usually marked so that you know which way up it needs to be laid. Cut the underlay so that it butts up against the gripper strips all the way around the room. You can you use carpet tape to seal the joins in the underlay. You can see our complete guide to choosing and laying underlay here.

Laying the carpet

Roll up the carpet to the length of the room and get it roughly into position. If possible start in a corner of two plain walls and line up the machine cut edge with one of the walls. Fix this edge, using either the gripper strips or in the sticky tape depending on which type of carpet you are using. The edge of the carpet can be tucked underneath the skirting using a bolster. You now need to make sure the carpet is stretched taut across the room. To do this you need to use a knee kicker, which can be hired or bought fairly cheaply.

Get the carpet laid out as flat as you can, and then working at the opposite wall to where you started, used in the kicker to stretch the carpet onto the gripper strip. You can then trim the edge, leaving around 5mm to tuck under the skirting. You now need to go across the room in the other direction, using the knee kicker to stretch the carpet onto the gripper strips.

Trimming Carpet to fit

In almost all rooms, you will need to trim the carpet to fit into alcoves and other awkward areas. Take your time when doing this and make sure you leave enough excess to fit under the skirting boards. To fit the carpet around radiator pipes, simply cut a slit into the carpet and fit this around the pipe. You can then stick down the edges of the slit using PVA glue.

Carpet classification

All carpet types are classified for durability in one of four ways:

Light domestic: Should be used mainly for low traffic areas such as bedrooms.

Medium domestic: Suitable for areas of medium traffic such as dining rooms or bedrooms.

General domestic: Suitable for use in living rooms.

Heavy domestic: For use in hallways, stairs and landings.

 

Laying Hessian-backed Carpet

Hessian-backed carpet should always be fitted on top of underlay. It can be laid on almost any type of subfloor (concrete, hardboard, etc.) For the best finish, hessian-backed carpet needs to be stretched, using a knee-kicker, and fixed around the edges of the room with gripper rods. Hessian-backed carpet is usually more expensive than foam-backed carpet, but should last longer.

Step 1 – Fixing Gripper Rods

Gripper rods are lengths of flat wood (or sometimes metal) with small, sloping teeth all over the top face. They are used to hold the stretched hessian-backed carpet at the edges of the room. Nail the gripper rods all the way around the edge of the room, with the sloping teeth pointing towards the wall. Leave a small gap between the gripper rod and the skirting, equal to approximately the thickness of the carpet.

laying hessian-backed carpetUse ring-shank nails which are long enough to penetrate the floorboards, but not so long that they go all the way through, or you risk bursting pipes under the floor. The gripper rods need to be firmly attached, so space them no more than 200mm apart along the length of the rod. If you need to fit the gripper rods around an obstacle such as a door frame, cut small lengths which will allow you to roughly follow the shape.

Step 2 – Laying the Underlay

Roll out your chosen underlay material across the floor, letting it overlap the gripper rods. You can then cut it to size, using a sharp Stanley Knife, by following the inside edge of the rods. Remove any excess underlay and you should be left with a neat, flush finish.

Using a staple gun, staple the underlay to the floorboards to stop it shifting underneath the carpet. Tape any joints in the underlay using masking tape. If laying on a solid concrete floor, use underlay adhesive to stick the underlay down. Ventilate the room and allow the adhesive to dry before continuing.

Step 3 – Laying the Carpet

The carpet should be cut roughly to the size of the room already. If you are cutting the carpet yourself, or if you are having it cut at the store, make sure that you allow for an excess overlap of at least 150mm all the way around. Position the roughly cut carpet on the floor, allowing the overlap to run up the walls. Move the carpet so that the overlap is even on all sides.

Smooth out the carpet as much as you can across the floor. At the corners of the carpet, make small cuts, at right angles, to allow the carpet to sit flat in the corners of the room. Be careful not to cut too far into the corner. Repeat this process to fit the carpet into alcoves or around fireplace hearths, for example. The carpet should now be laying fairly flat over the whole area.

Using a very sharp Stanley knife, trim the excess carpet flush with the base of the wall or skirting boards. In one corner of the room, use a bolster to press the carpet down onto the gripper rods to secure it. You will now need to use the knee kicker to stretch the carpet tight. Work from the secured corner to the adjacent corner. Again, use the bolster to press the carpet onto the gripper rod teeth to secure it. Don’t expect a huge amount of stretch, you are simply pulling the carpet tight.

Return to the first corner and use the knee-kicker to stretch the carpet towards the other adjacent corner. Secure this corner as before. Return to the first corner again. Now stretch the carpet diagonally across the room to the only unsecured corner (assuming it is a square or rectangular room) and use the bolster again to attach the backing to the gripper rods. You now need to work your way along each wall, pressing the edge of the carpet onto the gripper rods all the way around the room. Use the knee-kicker to stretch out creases if required.

Expert Tips

1 – If the carpet needs to be repositioned or lifted for some reason, you should be able to unhook it from the gripper rods as required. You may need to use a knee-kicker to take up some of the tension before unhooking.

2 – If lengths of hessian-backed carpet need to be joined, it is probably best to get a professional in. This is a tricky task which requires specialist tools such as a hot seaming iron, seam roller and seaming tape.