There’s no better way to learn how to tackle home improvement projects than straight from an experienced professional, and this Project Guide was created by shadowing professional carpet installers on an actual job site. These guys have decades of experience, and in today’s article you’ll find the tips and tricks they used for a beautiful carpet installation.
The guys are laying approximately 800 sq. ft. of berber carpet in a basement here in Maryland, and regular readers will recognize this is one of the final phases in the basement remodel with general contractor Joe Bianco.
Already have carpet? Check out these great tips on how to clean carpet stains.
Step 1: Clean the Floor
Before unpacking tools or materials, the guys gave the floor a once over to clean up any debris. They scraped away bits of drywall compound on the floor and swept up any dust.
Step 2: Install Tack Strips
The installers distributed tack strips around the perimeter of the basement, in the closet, around support columns, stairs, and the HVAC closet located in the center of the room.
Pro-Talk: Sometimes tack strips are also called tackless.
For this carpet the guys are using a regular width tack strip with two rows of pins.
Pro-Tip: The pins are angled for gripping and securing the carpet after stretching.
The installers nailed the tack strips in place with the angled pins pointing toward the wall. All the strips are set 1/4″ off wall otherwise carpet doesn’t tuck in well.
When necessary, the guys used heavy snips to cut the tack strip to length.
Around the tile, the installers laid a double row of tack strip because it’ll be a high-traffic area, and they wanted to ensure the carpet wouldn’t pull away while vacuuming. Doubling-up also helps reinforce the tack strip to better prevent it from breaking.
Unlike the bathroom threshold pictured above, the transition to the unfinished parts of the basement (like the HVAC closet) are open, and in these instances the guys installed a binder bar that will provide a finished edge and secure the carpet.
After the binder bar was in place, the guys laid tack strip behind it.
On the stairs the guys nailed tack strip in the corners where the tread and risers meet, and the pins on these strips are angle into the corner.
The only exception was that the very first riser did not get any tack strip, and you’ll see why when the carpet goes on.
Step 3: Install Carpet Pad
For this project the guys installed an 8 lb. 3/8″ pad which is fairly standard for berber carpet.
Pro-Tip: The padding height should not excess the tack strips because it can cause the carpet to come loose.
The guys started laying the pad by unrolling it and cutting it to length leaving a generous 3-5″ of excess.
The installers taped all the seams to ensure adjacent pieces stayed tight against each other.
The guys trimmed excess length with carpet knives, using the tack strip as a guide.
Here’s a look at a carpet knife and the double-sided blade.
Pro-Tip: It’s important to make cuts with a sharp blade, and the guys said they go through 6-8 knife blades for a carpet installation of this size.
On the stairs the installers used 20 gauge, 9/16″ staples to secure the pad to the risers and treads.
Lastly, the installers spread an adhesive on the concrete around the perimeter of the basement to prevent the carpet pad from moving.
Step 4: Unroll the Carpet
These sections of carpet are 12′ wide and 30′ long, and the guys took some quick measurements to minimize the number of seams. After they had a plan, they started unrolling the first section of carpet.
Although the edges will be trimmed to fit, the guys worked to keep the carpet parallel to the longest continuous wall. This is important because it’ll make gluing the seams easier.
Pro-Tip: If the carpet and/or ambient room temperature is below (roughly) 65°, the carpet can become very stiff and difficult to maneuver.
The green line is a protective edge that needs to be removed during installation.
Pro-Tip: Although it may not look like it, this berber carpet does have a pattern, and it’s important to orient each section of carpet in the same direction. To help, manufacturers mark one edge of the carpet backing with a black stripe.
Step 5: Rough Cut the Carpet
Just like with the carpet pad, the installers starting cutting the carpet to size by measuring and leaving a generous excess to be trimmed later.
Most of the rough cuts were accomplished with a carpet knife, and you can see how they cut the carpet to move around corners.
In this way the installers laid out three sections of carpet, taking care to keep each piece parallel and cutting around corners and columns.
Step 6: Cut Carpet Seams
Along a seam, the two pieces of carpet must be cut very carefully so as to create an indistinguishable transition. To cut one side of a seam, the guys would first use a knitting needle to clear a path for the top cutter.
Once the needle was in a channel between carpet fibers, it was easy to move in a straight line (no straight edge required), and in the picture below you can see the faint groove left by the needle.
Next, the guys would set their top cutter (pictured below) with a blade on the appropriate side. In this example, the remaining section of carpet is on the installer’s right-hand side, and the blade is set on the right side of the top cutter.
The top cutter slices the carpet creating a perfect edge for the seam.
In this picture you can see how tightly the two sections of carpet butt against each other.
Step 7: Glue Carpet Seams
After the guys were satisfied that both sides of a seam were perfectly parallel, butted tight together and had a good cut edge, they went about gluing the seams. To do this they started by cutting a length of seaming tape and positioning it underneath the seam.
The guys set a seaming iron on the tape and let it sit for about 30 seconds.
Moving slowly along the seam, the installers pressed the two carpet edges tightly together and down on the tape.
The guys used a seam roller to press the glue into the carpet backing and also blend the carpet pile. The installers also used a toilet tank lid (any wide flat object would suffice) to put pressure on the seam as it dried.
Lastly, the guys went over the seam with napping shears to cut away loose or irregular fibers.
The result is a seam that is completely invisible.
Step 8: Stretching and Cutting the Carpet to Size
Working on opposite walls, the installers used knee-kickers to pull the carpet tight and press it onto the tack strips.
Pro-Tip: Wool is one of the toughest types of carpet to install because it only stretches in one dimension.
A wall trimmer (pictured below) runs along the wall and cuts the carpet leaving enough to be tucked underneath the baseboard trim.
The guys trimmed around door jambs by hand and tucked the excess underneath.
It was a similar process to cut and stretch the carpet up to the binder bar.
After the carpet was in place, the guys hammered the binder bar closed.
Along the transition to the bathroom and wet bar, the installers neatly tucked the carpet down over the tack strip and cut away any loose fibers.
Step 9: Lay Carpet on the Stairs
The guys began laying carpet on the stairs by cutting a piece of carpet to the necessary width. Starting at the bottom of the stairs, they stapled the carpet to the stair riser.
Next, they used a knee-kicker to pull the carpet tight over the tread.
The chisel-like tool is called a stair tool, and the guys used it to press the carpet into the corner and over the tack strips.
In this way the installers carpeted the stairs (with two separate pieces of carpet).
Eight hours later the carpet installation was done. It really makes the basement look like a finished space, and the carpet one of the last components before the basement is completely done.