Is Carpet Hard To Install? Here’s what homeowners need to know

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Have you been considering installing carpet in your home? Wondering whether or not it’s too cumbersome of a DIY project? Well, you should know that your concerns are completely valid. Installing new carpeting, whether it’s in a single room or the entire home, should be something you carefully consider before starting on it. But just how difficult can it be? Let’s discuss it.

Many homeowners would agree that installing your own carpeting can be a pretty challenging DIY project to complete. Certain tasks involved in carpet installation may not come instinctively to novice carpet installers (not to mention it takes a certain amount of strength), and will naturally require a bit more effort and time to complete. These tasks include:

  • Using Special Carpentry Tools
  • Carpet Stretching
  • Installing Tack Strips Correctly
  • Installing Carpet Padding
  • Seaming The Carpet’s Edges
  • Removing Old Flooring
  • Calculating Carpet Square Footage Requirements
  • Installing Carpeting Around Stairs, Railings, And Radiators

We’ll take a look at how these tasks can be slightly more difficult for newbies. We’ll also cover how quickly you can install carpet, whether or not a room has to be empty before laying carpet, and more. So be sure to keep reading. 

Woman standing on soft blue carpet floor, Is Carpet Hard To Install? Here's what homeowners need to know

Challenges of Installing New Carpeting

Close up of male hands unrolling carpet

Here we’ll cover the most common challenges of new carpet installations.

Using Special Carpentry Tools

Often, DIYers underestimate their ability to effectively and efficiently use the instruments required in common carpentry-related tasks. This can spell disaster very quickly. Tools such as seaming irons, knee kickers, and power stretchers can prove a bit challenging if you’ve never worked with them before.

There are also other tools such as tin snips, utility knives, and staple guns that can become more difficult to wield as you work your way around a 100 or 200 square foot room. Even more so if you’re planning on doing your entire home yourself. While most of these tools can be easily and quickly rented from your nearest home improvement store, using them effectively may take a bit of trial and error.

Check out this seaming iron on Amazon.

Carpet Stretching

Any professional carpet installation expert will tell you that proper carpet stretching accounts for over 90% of quality carpet installation. Though it is possible to install carpeting without using a stretcher, it can cause terrible results such as lumps, wrinkling, and ridging at the seams. The two most common types of stretchers used for installing carpeting are power stretchers and knee kickers.

Power stretchers use the wall as leverage to stretch the carpet tightly across the floor. Knee kickers are used to push the edges of the carpet into corners. This is so that they can lay over the tack strips, which are located around the room’s perimeter. The process of carpet stretching is very involved and physically demanding. If you’ve never done it before, it can take you twice as long as it would an experienced carpet installation expert.

Check out this adjustable knee kicker on Amazon.

Installing Tack Strips Correctly

These narrow, long strips of wood contain sharp tacks and are used to help attach the carpet to the subfloor. Many novice carpet installers will initially place the tack strips directly against the baseboard or wall, which is the wrong method. Tack strips should be placed a few centimeters away from the wall so that the edges of the carpet can actually go over the strips.

The space between the carpet’s edge and the tack strips needs to be precise. The carpet will need to lay snuggly against the surface of the wall on the baseboard. This can be challenging to estimate as a novice. Extreme caution and safety measures should be taken when working with tack strips; the sharp tacks can easily cause injury.

Installing Carpet Padding

Installing carpet padding for the first time can also be pretty challenging. Carpet padding refers to the cushioned underlayer of a carpet that makes it more comfortable to walk on. Padding can also dampen noises, provide insulation benefits, and extend the life of the carpet. This is why it’s so important that it’s installed correctly. The biggest challenge with installing carpet padding as a novice is getting the measurements correct.

When cutting the padding, even a 16th of an inch in inaccuracy can result in padding that doesn’t reach the tack strip or completely covers it. It should just barely touch it. If the carpet padding overlaps, you’re going to find a big lump around the carpet perimeter once it’s installed. Stapling carpet padding to the floor can also be pretty taxing if you’ve never used a staple gun.

Check out this carpet padding on Amazon.

Seaming The Carpet’s Edges

Seaming the edges of carpet pieces together can pose its own set of challenges for a first-time carpet installer. It involves taking the two separate pieces of carpet and binding them together with carpet glue and a heat gun (tape can also be used when repairing patches or seaming small areas). Even professional carpet installation experts have been known to perform this step incorrectly.

For the most part, visible seams on the surface of a carpet aren’t generally “acceptable,” and can make your carpet look less aesthetically pleasing, depending on their depth, length, and location. It’s easy to conceal seams in cut-pile carpeting. However, this can be more challenging with berber carpeting and other types of loop-pile carpets. They have irregular tufts and rows and are generally heavier.

Seaming a carpet correctly takes a considerable amount of concentration and effort to make sure that the seams line up consistently.

Removing Old Flooring

Removing old flooring could take a considerable amount of time, depending on the material. Be sure you’re prepared for this task if you’re planning on doing it yourself.

Calculating Carpet Square Footage Requirements

Calculating the correct square footage of the room is crucial for determining how much carpet you’ll need. Getting an accurate measurement is absolutely necessary. 

Installing Carpeting Around Stairs, Railings, And Radiators

If you are installing carpet in a room that has floor-based heating (such as radiators, floor heaters, and floor vents), you will need to account for their square footage when taking the measurements of the carpet and cutting out the sections where they will come through the carpet.

Also, if you’re planning on installing carpeting on your stairs, considerations will need to be made for banisters and other rail assembly pieces.

Cutting around the banisters is an option that takes a lot of precision, effort, and skill. You can also simply remove the spindles and banisters and reinstall them after the carpet is laid. It’s something that requires even more effort and is a pretty involved undertaking itself.

Can You Install Carpet On Your Own?

Yes, although it is crucial to do a considerable amount of research before embarking on your own DIY carpet installation project. As a matter of fact, here are a few steps to help you get started.

Before looking at any carpet specs, it’s important to first measure the space in your home that will be carpeted. Figure out the total square footage of carpet needed for it. It’s easier to go room by room to calculate the square footage of each one. Then add up to 20% over this amount to ensure that you have enough extra carpeting if mistakes are made during the installation.

Buy this measuring tape on Amazon.

A few things to consider when deciding which type of carpet to get can include:

  • If the area to be carpeted will be a high-traffic area or a low-traffic area
  • What color carpet will work best for the room?
  • Do you prefer loop-pile carpeting or cut-pile carpeting?
  • If you plan to use carpet padding or not, and if so, the type of padding 
  • Do you need the carpet to be stain-resistant? Will pets and children frequent the room?
  • What maintenance requirements do you have for the carpet?

Once you’ve answered the above questions, you’re ready to visit a carpeting store to pick out a few swatches that will work for the room(s). If you have any pictures of carpeting that you’ve seen online, be sure to save it to your phone to show the flooring pro as a reference.

Also, it may be helpful to write down any questions that you have about carpet installation. The flooring professional may be able to provide you with tips on how to overcome certain obstacles or direct you to online resources that may be helpful.

Once you’re sure that you’re going to complete the installation yourself, you’ll need to decide how you remove and dispose of the old flooring. After it’s removed, be sure to inspect the subflooring for any damage such as moisture, warped/loose boards, or pests. If the subfloor looks fine, you’re ready to start your installation project.

How Quickly Can Carpet Be Installed?

Most carpet installation experts will tell you that it takes anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to install carpeting in a single room, and about a day or two to complete an entire home. However, if you have rooms with several irregular edges, odd-shaped walls, or are planning to install carpeting on stairs, it may take a bit longer (depending on the size of the contractor’s crew). And it will definitely take longer if you’re planning on installing the carpet yourself for the first time.

Does A Room Have To Be Empty To Install Carpet?

Yes. Being that carpet is installed directly on a subfloor, all furniture will need to be removed to complete the installation.

Can You Lay Carpet Over Existing Carpet?

Yes, it is possible to install carpet over an existing layer of carpeting. However, while there can be a few advantages to doing this, flooring experts recommend not doing this for a few reasons. Let’s discuss some of the benefits and risks of doing so:

Benefits

Installing a layer of carpet over another can definitely save you time and money on having to rip out the old layer of carpeting and dispose of it. And if the previous carpet was glued to the subfloor as opposed to tacked, it could also save you (or a carpet installation team that you hire) a considerable amount of effort. Pulling up glued carpet can be a time-consuming and physically demanding task.

Risks

Carpeting Isn’t The Best Underlayer

Many flooring professionals advise against installing carpeting on top of a layer of carpeting. It can be challenging to effectively install the carpeting tack strips. Trying to nail the tack strips to the room’s perimeter is going to be especially challenging if you have two layers of carpet to get the nail through.

The typical size of the nails used in tack strips is 3/4-inch nails, which means that longer nails would be needed to penetrate the carpet, the subfloor, and the underpad.

Old Carpets Can Be Dirt And Mold Incubators

The fibrous nature of carpeting can make it a breeding ground for pests, dirt, debris, and mold (in humid conditions). Installing carpeting on top of old carpeting can mean the transfer of these things, and can also increase the likelihood of developing mildew and mold issues.

Unless the carpet is regularly and professionally cleaned, you’re going to find that traces of dirt from the old carpet can quickly make their way up to the new layer of carpeting via foot pressure. This can be especially difficult to combat with plush and high-pile carpets.

A Couple of Tips For Installing Carpet Over Carpet

  1. Stay away from soft carpets and friezes. Instead, use a low-pile carpet so that you can save yourself a headache when setting up your tack strips.
  2. Consider placing an underlayment on top of the existing carpet before laying the second carpet. It will provide more support and make for a better foundation for the new layer of carpet (thin plywood would work well).

Wrapping Things Up

Now that you have an idea of the challenges that can arise when taking on a DIY carpet installation, you can decide if it’s worth the effort or not. If you’re still unsure, it may be helpful to check out a few YouTube videos to get more familiar with the entire process.

Before you go, be sure to check out our other posts:

How Long Does Carpet Last On Stairs?

The Best Type Of Carpet For The Bedroom

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