Laying carpets is a job within the capability of many do-it-yourselfers equipped with the right tools and a certain amount of patience. The most difficult part is tensioning the carpet correctly across the room, and for this reason it is probably best to lay your first carpet in a small room free of too many awkward corners. Unless you are skilled at the job, leave carpeting through rooms with expensive carpet to the professionals.
Begin by clearing the room completely of furniture, and inspect the floor thoroughly, punching down raised nail heads and fixing loose boards. Then lay stout brown paper over the floor, and, for a traditional carpet, fix gripper strips all round the perimeter of the room about 12mm (1/2in) in from the skirting board with the spikes facing the skirting. Use masonry nails for the job on concrete floors. Next, cut your underlay to reach from gripper strip to gripper strip, and tape the joins neatly.
Ready to lay
Unroll the carpet across the room, and position it so that it reaches from wall to wall. You will probably be faced with alcoves, bays and other awkward obstacles,
and it may be necessary to join offcuts of carpet to the main piece to reach into these.
Begin by fixing the carpet to the gripper strips along the longest uninterrupted wall. Hook the carpet over the strip, pressing it down firmly so that the spikes grip the carpet backing and the edge of the carpet tucks down neatly into the gap between the strips and the skirting board.
Now pull the carpet across the room to the opposite wall. Make any cuts that are necessary to fit around obstacles, and hook the carpet over the strips at that side, using the knee kicker to stretch the carpet taut across the room. Repeat the trimming and fitting process along the other two walls.
Foam-backed carpets can be laid with special gripper strips with modified spikes, or can be stuck down at the edges of the floor with double-sided tape.
At doorways, the carpet should be finished off with a special threshold strip, nailed to the floor.
If you have to join pieces of carpet, use special self-adhesive seaming tape, or hessian tape and latex adhesive. Cut the meeting edges absolutely parallel, lay one edge on the tape and press the other down alongside it, hammering the join to ensure good adhesion.
With cheap carpets, particularly those with long pile, you can avoid using gripper strips by simply tacking the carpet to the floorboards at about 150mm (6in) intervals round the edge.
Laying stair carpet
Stair carpet should always be put down over an underlay, although this can be fitted in the form of pads tacked to each tread with one edge overhanging the nosing by about 50mm (2in). The carpet itself can be tacked in place down the staircase, but a neater result will be achieved by using special staircase grippers which are pinned into the angles between treads and risers.
Lay the carpet with the pile facing down the stairs. Start laying at the foot of the flight, tacking the carpet to the face of the first riser. Take it over the first tread, and press the fold of carpet into the first gripper strip. Continue working up the staircase, keeping the carpet as taut as possible until you reach the last riser before the landing. Here, the carpet should be tacked under the last nosing, so that the landing carpet just overlaps it.
Where the flight contains angled treads (called winders), a series of folds are needed to take up the slack as the carpet turns the angles. You may find it easier to cut the carpet just below the nosing and tack it in place, since the bulky folds can be difficult to accommodate neatly.