DIY Carpet Laying

Some types of carpet (e.g. some makes of carpet tile) are recommended for do-it-yourself laying. Foam-backed tufted carpets are also fairly simple for the amateur to lay. But unbacked woven carpets (e.g. Axminsters and Wiltons) are difficult to lay, as they need to be stretched by professional techniques. Certain types of cord carpeting (e.g. sisals and non-woven cords) will also look better if they are professionally stretched: indeed, these may require a second stretching when they have been laid for a short period.

Preparation of sub-floor.

As with all floor-coverings, this is very important. Remove or punch flat old nailheads, nail down loose floorboards and plane flat any high ridges. Fill wide gaps with strips of wood or papier macho. Uneven concrete floors should be levelled with a self-levelling compound. Before laying the carpet, unhinge and remove the door if it opens into the room.

Foam-backed carpets

Cutting and seaming. Line the floor with felt paper to avoid the foam back sticking to the floor. Stroke the surface pile to determine pile direction, which will be the way that feels smoothest and which should run away from the light. Unroll the carpet, keeping the surface even and in line. If bad distortion occurs, you must re-roll and start again.

If joins are necessary, first cut roughly to size. Use adhesive carpet-seaming tape. Now:

1. Check that the pattern matches, and that the direction of the pile on both pieces runs away from the light.

2. Ensure that edges butt together exactly. Make necessary adjustments by cutting through both edges in one operation, using a sharp knife.

3. Turn back the edge of one piece of carpet and tack it temporarily to hold it back.

4. Measure the width of the carpet tape.

5. Mark a line in chalk parallel to the edge of the carpet piece still in position and a distance of half the tape width away from it.

6. Repeat Step 3. for the second piece of carpet.

7. Measure and cut the right length of adhesive tape and place it in position, sticky side up. So that one edge is on the chalk line, with the tape on the side of the second piece of carpet tacked back.

8. Tack down the tape at one end and position it along the length of the seam.

9. On to the tape press down firmly first one carpet piece. Then the other. If necessary, join the cut edges with adhesive

To fit the carpet at skirtings trim as necessary with a sharp knife. If substantial areas have to be cut away, first mark the cutting line with chalk on the surface of the carpet. Then cut, leaving a margin of about 1 in. (25 mm) in excess of the chalk line. Finally, trim for an exact fit. Edges may be secured with double-sided adhesive tape to avoid shrinkage.

Unbacked carpets

Laying by amateurs of woven Axminsters and Wiltons is not recommended by manufacturers. You may, however, wish to lay areas of unbacked carpet yourself.

Use carpet grippers, wooden or metal battens with spikes sticking out at 60 degree angles. The spikes will grip the carpet backing and hold it in place; they should face into the skirting. Nail or glue the grippers to the floor around the room, ¼ in. (6 mm) from the wall. Put down the underlay: hessian-backed rubber underlays have the hessian side uppermost. Join the seams on the top side with adhesive tape if necessary. Trim to the inner edge of the gripper battens. Unroll the carpet as described for foam-backed carpets, joining seams if necessary and trimming to fit with 3/8 in. (9 mm) overlaps at wall edges. Coat the edges with latex adhesive to prevent fraying.

To stretch the carpet use a tool called a knee-kicker which you can probably hire. Stretch along the length of the carpet first and then along the width. Stretch and temporarily tack the carpet along two adjacent walls. For the opposite walls, retrim the carpet to a 3/8 in. (9 mm) margin if necessary, and, using the knee-kicker, push the carpet over the prongs of the gripper. Press the overlap down into the gap between the gripper and the wall, using a screwdriver. Return to the first two walls, remove the temporary tacks and re-stretch over the gripper spikes.

Carpet tiles

These may be loose laid or stuck down with double-sided adhesive tape. Some types are self-adhesive with peel-off paper backings. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for laying and fixing. As with other types of tile, work from the centre of the floor outwards, adjusting the layout to minimise trimmings. Tiles with a directional pile are laid at right angles to each other.

If you are laying a single-coloured floor, open several packets of the tiles and “shuffle” the tiles before laying so as to minimise any slight colour variations as between the tiles in one packet and those in another.


Unhinge and remove the door if necessary. Protect the carpet edges from fraying and curling with binder bars (protective metal strips). Replace the door, checking that the bottom will clear the pile of the carpet. If necessary, plane the bottom edge of the door, planing from the sides to the middle.


Always lay stair carpets with the pile running downwards. Amateurs are not advised to lay stair carpet edge-to-edge or with tacks.

To estimate: measure the depth of the stair tread and the height of the riser. Add the two measurements and multiply this by the number of stairs in the slight. Add 18 in. (45 cm) to allow the carpet to be moved periodically to shift wear. Stair carpet is available in the usual 27 in. and 36 in “body” widths.

Unbacked carpets require an underlay on the stairs as elsewhere to cushion wear and deaden noise. Use pads deep enough to fit snugly against the riser on one side and to extend at least 2 in. (50 mm) over the nosing of the tread. Width of the pads should be the same as the carpet or just slightly less. Underlay pads are secured with tacks. Use special angled tackless grippers for stair carpets: plastic versions are available for foam backed carpets, which need no underlays. The special grippers fit into the inside angle of each stair, holding the carpet safely and invisibly on angled pins across its whole width.


1. Nail pre-cut lengths of gripper into the angle made by each tread and riser.

2. Tack down the stair pad, butting it up to the gripper.

3. Turn and tack the carpet into place along the riser of the top step.

4. Using the special tool sold with the gripper fixings, press the carpet firmly onto the first set of gripper pins.

5. Take it taut over the step, down the riser and on to the second set of gripper pins.

6. Continue step by step to the foot of the stairs.

7. Turn in surplus carpet on the bottom riser and tack it.

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