CARPET INSTALLATION Techniques to floor you

Some rooms are best left to the pros, but installation kits can help you get the right tools.
So you want some new carpet, and you think you can install it yourself?
Well, maybe you can, but don't go gung-ho and rip up the old living-room rug just yet.
Installing carpet is a tricky task that's often better left to a professional.
"Nine times out of 10, when people say they are going to install carpet themselves, they come back a week later and say they'll never try that again," said John Skidmore of Prizant's Carpet in Warren.
The right type: "If you must do it yourself, get the right tools and buy a type of carpet that is designed to be installed by someone who is not a professional," he advised.
Skidmore said carpet with buckskin backing is a good choice for do-it-yourselfers because this type of carpet can be installed without a power stretcher, a tool used by professionals to stretch carpet into place for a snug, sturdy fit. Some types of carpet will not rest on the floor properly unless they are stretched into place with this tool.
After carpet is stretched with a power stretcher, it is fastened to rows of tackless stripping, or strips of sharp pins that rest beneath the carpet along the perimeters of the room and hold the carpet in place.
"Carpet with a buckskin back doesn't need to be attached to the floor with tackless stripping, so there's no need for a power stretcher," Skidmore explained. Such carpeting can be fastened with carpet tape or adhesives.
Getting a stretcher: Most do-it-yourselfers don't own carpet stretchers because they cost about $500, although Tom Gilmour, co-owner of the Carpet Gallery in Warren, said some carpet stores will rent out power stretchers for much less money.
Skidmore said a smaller version of the power stretcher, called a knee kicker, can also be rented for even less money and for smaller jobs.
Another type of carpet that doesn't need tackless stripping and a power stretcher is integral-pad carpeting. This type of carpet is bonded to its own cushioned backing and is ideal for concrete floors or small spaces such as closets or bathrooms.
Size: Gilmour said do-it-yourselfers can usually install carpet in smaller rooms with little trouble, but if a room is longer or wider than 12 feet, it's time to call a professional.
"You need more sophisticated tools and a lot of experience to install carpet in a large room. If you try to do a large project on your own, you will most likely be disappointed with the results and end up calling a professional anyway to fix your mistakes," Gilmour said.
However, Skidmore said installing carpet in even a small room requires more time and effort than people generally assume, and with the cost of carpet installation at an all-time low, it's usually not worth the trouble to tackle even a little job by yourself.
"You can have carpet installed in a 12-by-12 room for around $75 and save yourself a lot of hassle plus the cost of tools," Skidmore said. "The price of installation has gone down over the years because carpet is mass-produced and because it is a saturated market."
Skidmore said 30 years ago, it would have cost about $12,000 to have carpet installed in a 2,500-square-foot home, but today it will cost only about $5,000.
Tools: If, however, you are determined to install carpet yourself, there are some basic tools you will need. They include: a hammer, a plane, a utility knife, a strip cutter (to cut pieces of tackless stripping), a staple hammer (to fasten padding to wood floors) and a seaming iron (to join pieces of carpet together).
Gilmour said carpet installation kits, available for purchase and sometimes rental, include some or all of these tools.
Before beginning installation, there are some things to keep in mind.
U Plush carpeting, for instance, might prevent doors from swinging clear. You may have to remove the door and hang it again. If re-hanging doesn't work, the door might have to be trimmed.
U It's also important to provide plenty of fresh air during and after installation because the "new carpet smell" can be overwhelming. During installation, keep the room well-ventilated, and after installation, continue ventilation for 48 to 72 hours so odors can dissipate.
U Before you begin, you must vacuum the current carpeting thoroughly to cut down on dust and debris and remove all furniture and baseboards from the room to be carpeted. You will also need to plane down all high spots in the floor and fill in wide cracks with a floor-leveling compound.
Step by step: To install carpet, consult first with the retailer and follow these steps:
U Unroll the carpet and padding (if you have opted for padding) in a separate room to ensure you have the correct amount.
U If you will be using a tackless strip, install it using a hammer and nails. If not, place carpet tape or carpet adhesive around the perimeter of the room. (For concrete floors, you will use carpet tape or adhesives.)
U If you will be installing padding, lay the padding in the room and cut it to size with a utility knife. Make sure the side of the padding with the slick surface faces up and the padding doesn't overlap the tackless strip.
Whether or not you choose a layer of padding is usually a matter of preference rather than necessity. Gilmour said in most cases, padding isn't necessary.
U If you have bought padding, nail or staple it into place. (If the floor is concrete, use a pad adhesive.)
U Next, place the carpet on the floor and attach it to either the tackless stripping or the carpet tape or adhesive.
U If you need to join two carpet pieces together, use a heated seaming iron. Trim carpet edges straight and butt them together carefully. To do this, fold pieces back and lay heat tape along the floor beneath them. Move the heated iron slowly over the tape and press carpeting down over top.
Also, remember that you will need metal threshold strips and gripper pins to fasten carpet in doorways.
Before you attempt installation, you should always consult with the retailer to determine what type of carpet will be best for the selected room.
Skidmore recommends short, looped carpet for high-traffic rooms such as the kitchen and living room. Gilmour said plush carpeting works best in rooms that receive less foot traffic, such as the bedroom or computer room.
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