Sunday, September 2, 2012

How to Install a Carpet in 40 Easy Steps

Step 1: Prepare the sub-floor by scrubbing with a strong vinegar solution in the hopes of knocking down a bit of the animal essence left from a zillion feral cats running wild in the house the year before you moved in. Afterward you will smell like a dill pickle.

The living room "before".
Step 2: Paint the sub-floor with Kilz primer to further confine the barn yard perfume.

Step 3: Look up a helpful internet article on installing wall-to-wall carpet.

Step 4: Fall into despair.

Step 5: Remind yourself that anything is better than what you have now. Resolve to move forward.

Step 6: Measure the room and figure out the square and linear footage. This is best done by handing one's mother the list of figures and then hanging over her shoulder to point out when she makes a mistake. Don't be alarmed at her threats and shrill cries of annoyance. This means the "Mom" app is running correctly.

Step 7: Go shopping for supplies. Find out that all the carpet stretchers are rented for the weekend.

Step 8: Fall into despair.

Step 9: Remind yourself that anything is better than what you have now. Resolve to move forward.

Step 10: Buy supplies, including an expensive $100 knee kicker you will never use again.

Step 11: Think about having someone professional come and install it for you. Call some people, find out they are too much for your (non-existent) budget, and accept the inevitable. Begin telling your children, nieces, and nephews how much fun it is to be a carpet stretcher.

Caleb installing the tack strips.
Step 12: Nail down the strips of carpet tack board. This will be by far the easiest part of the project.

Step 13: Sweep floor one last time and begin to lay the carpet padding. This should be placed perpendicular to the direction of the carpet. Realize carpet will look like a crazy quilt anyway by the time it is all pieced together to make it fit the room.. Decide it doesn't matter.

Step 14: Take new installer's knife out of package. Stare at it in perplexity and mild terror. Finally figure out how to put blades in. Congratulate self on still having 10 fingers.

Step 15: Lay down carpet padding. Find out that most of the edges look like rats have chewed on them.

Step 16: Fall into despair.

Step 17: Remind yourself that anything is better than what you have now. Resolve to move forward.

Stapling down the padding.
Step 18: Rip out little tiny pieces of padding and  put them in the holes. After all, this will be under the carpet. No one will ever know.

Step 19: Trim the padding with your nifty professional installer's knife. Discover that "professional installer knife" means "DO NOT, under any circumstances try to use this knife unless you are a genuine professional with a name like 'Four-fingered Larry' or 'Lefty'".

Step 20: Put band-aids on your fingers. Lots of band-aids.

Step 21: Now you are ready to staple the padding to your sub-floor. Put staples in every 6-8 inches, alternating edges. Realize why they recommend a hammer stapler rather than one that must be squeezed each time. Wonder where you can buy new hands after you are done.

Finley spent the whole time lying down in one spot after another.

Step 22: Gather group of strong helpers and bring carpet pieces into the house. Getting mixed up on your directions and having to turn the heavy carpet several times is optional here. If you decide to go with the repositioning method, some grumbling from helpers is to be expected. This is normal. Do not be alarmed.

Step 23: At this point your carpet looks like the waves of the sea rolling into infinity. Press out the larger wrinkles, but rest assured, it will be easier to work with the piece once it has been trimmed.

"Gluing" with the non-stick tape.
Step 24: Trim carpet, leaving several inches extra on each side. Wonder if you can get new wrists at the same store where you get new hands. Now join the carpet seams using heat-free tape. Find that heat-free tape doesn't stick very well.

Step 25: Fall into despair.

Step 26: Remind yourself that anything is better than what you have now. Resolve to move forward.

Step 27: You are now ready to fasten the first side to the tack strips. Place the knee kicker against the wall and strike it forcefully with your knee. Don't worry if you don't succeed at first; you will get the hang of it about 3/4ths of the way through the installment. Repeat approximately 5,000 times per wall.

Step 28: Assemble your carpet stretcher and begin pushing it across the floor. Repeat several times; if your carpet stretcher weight complains about being bored or getting her ponytail dragged underneath the boards, ignore her. This means your stretcher is working correctly.

"I need some grapes!"

Step 29: Knee-kick, trim, and tuck the carpet on this wall, too.

Step 30: Wonder if it is possible to buy new knees at the hand/wrist store.

Step 31: Fall into despair.

Step 32: Remind yourself that anything is better than what you have now. Resolve to move forward.

Step 33: You are now ready to stretch the carpet going the other direction. Just as before, you need to kick the carpet in on one of the sides, trim it, and tuck the excess behind the tack strip.

Step 34: Stretch the carpet out, moving away from the side you have just anchored.

My understudy.
Step 35: Begin knee-kicking the carpet in. Give up in agony 1/4th of the way along. Call in your understudy to do the knee-kicking for you.

Step 36: You are very close to the finish now. It is easy to let little mistakes creep in due to your eagerness to finish. But don't worry, no one will notice the inch wide gap along certain sections of the wall. You can put an end table over it.

Step 37: You are basically done now, but for extra security, it is wise to take a moment and utilize a carpet installer's secret weapon. Screws. Place screws judiciously along all weak corners or seams to hold down the carpet. Don't worry about them showing. You can put an end table over them.

Step 38: Cut  patches to go in the old vent cover holes that are now in the middle of your floor. Find the glue doesn't stick well, so screw those corners down as well. Don't worry if the corners look funny. You can put an end table over them.

Step 39: If the installation has gone according to plan, you are now exhausted and ready to die. This is when you summon your inner reserves and clean up the gigantic mess of tools, trim, and trash you've just made. This will take approximately forever +1 day.

Step 40: Your installation is complete. Vacuum the carpet and enjoy. Then go to the chiropractor.

Finished at last!


  1. Nice work! Little Mo's family is in the flooring business & he used to install carpet when he was in high school. Back before they had heat activated seam tape: they used to have to SEW the carpet seams by hand!
    Big congratulations!

  2. “Remind yourself that anything is better than what you have now. Resolve to move forward.” – Very inspiring words! Yes, you have to finish what you started. And it worked for you guys! Look, you got a new carpet and it’s installed perfectly like it was done by a professional! Good job!

    -Jessie Tsui