Carpet laying

One wrong cut and a large expanse of carpet could be ruined, so if you’ve spent a lot of money, on a Wilton or an Axminster for instance, you might think the cost of paying a professional fitter is worth the peace of mind.

On the other hand if you work carefully and double check your measurements, an expensive carpet is no more difficult to lay than a cheap one.

Measuring up

Before ordering the carpet you’ve chosen work out how it will be laid and how much you need. Make a floor plan, including the full width of door frames. Rooms are rarely true squares, so measure across the room as well as along the walls. Mark doorways and windows – where possible, the carpet pile should face away from natural light to avoid uneven shading and towards doorways to minimise wear. If seams are necessary, ensure the pile of adjoining pieces lies in the same direction and that any pattern can be matched up (allow one extra pattern repeat for this). Arrange seams in the same direction as people usually walk and try not to make them across heavily-used areas an ideal position would be under a permanent piece of furniture. It is difficult to make seams invisible but they will be less noticeable if positioned at right angles, rather than parallel, to windows so that natural light does not fall across them.


Clear the room of all furniture and remove any inward-opening doors. The floor should be smooth, level and rigid any uneven areas could eventually wear a hole in the carpet.

Carpets can be laid directly on to woodblock, cork and vinyl floorcoverings providing they are well secured. If you are laying it on a bare floor.

Ensure that the floor is clean anddry – dirt and grit can work their way up into the pile and damage it. They may also prevent the carpet from being secured properly to the floor. Leave the carpet in the room for 24 hours to acclimatise.

Laying the carpet

All carpets must be anchored to the floor to prevent movement as people walk or move furniture over them. As well as being unsightly, rucks accelerate wear and are liable to become dangerous foot traps. All carpets should also have a good quality underlay rubber, felt or polystyrene to prolong their life, improve heat and sound insulation and make them springier underfoot. Avoid the rubber type if you have underfloor heating.

Foam-backed carpets are the simplest to lay – they are pretensioned and have a built-in underlay and are simply stuck to the floor. Tensioning prevents rucking and also ensures the pile stands erect which makes for greater durability and easier cleaning. With all other carpets you need to put down a separate underlay. You also

A knee kicker is used to tension a carpet laid with a separate underlay have to tension them with a knee kicker – a tool with a toothed head which hooks through the carpet pile to just penetrate the backing material – you jolt the padded end forward with your knee. Knee kickers are available from most hire shops check that the teeth are in good condition and can be set to a suitable length for the carpet pile. (Note: carpets which have their pile glued into the backing material rather than woven or stitched must not be stretched – check with the carpet retailer if you are unsure about the type you are buying.)

Traditionally carpets with separate underlay have been anchored to the floor with tacks. This method is cheap but the tacks are usually visible and the indentations they make tend to collect dirt. You are also likely to damage the carpet if you try to take it up at a future date. (Tacks should never be used with foam-backed carpets as they would damage the backing.)

Much commoner nowadays are concealed fixings wooden strips with two staggered rows of angled pins. You nail or glue the strips around the room and stretch the carpet over the pins which hook on to the carpet backing without harming the pile. The carpet can be stretched back off the pins if it needs to be taken up at any time.

Turn-and-tack method

Cut the underlay to within 50mm of the skirting boards and tack it in place. Cut the carpet so that it rises 50mm up each wall. Fold the edges under so they butt the underlay. Put temporary tacks along the walls while tensioning. Drive 19mm non- rusting tacks through the double thickness of carpet every 125mm; use longer tacks at corners to cope with the extra thicknesses.


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