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Your step-by-step on how to lay carpet

Laying a new carpet takes real skill. We'll show you all the steps on how to lay a carpet so you can decide if it's a job you want to tackle. Otherwise, sit back, relax, and hire a professional carpet layer instead.

You’ve clapped eyes on the carpet of your dreams. The next job is to work out how to lay the carpet so your new flooring looks amazing – and feels fabulous underfoot.

Laying a new carpet will cosy up your home and add an extra layer of decoration. Do be aware though that successful carpet laying requires extensive planning, measuring and accuracy to get it right.

That’s not to say that confident DIYers might not want to try their hand at laying carpet. This guide will help you understand what’s required.

Remember, though, for a top notch finish, hiring a professional carpet fitter will guarantee your carpet looks wonderful.

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How to lay a carpet – a step-by-step guide

steps to lay carpet

What you’ll need to lay a carpet

  • Gloves
  • Carpet grippers
  • Hammer
  • 19mm nails
  • Carpet underlay
  • Carpet
  • Carpet tucker
  • Carpet stretcher
  • Stanley knife

When it comes to laying a new carpet, there are certain steps that need to be carried out in a particular order.

Follow our step-by-step guide for how to lay a carpet.

1. Measure and prepare

measuring for carpet

Preparation is key to good carpet laying.

Before you unroll your carpet and get to work with the fitting, you need to take some key preparation steps:

  • Visualise the room you want to recarpet by drawing the perimeter of the space on a piece of paper. Each perimeter line represents a wall of your room
  • It’s unlikely you’ll have a simple square room to refloor. But ignore the indents created by features such as chimney breasts, alcoves or a fireplace – you want to measure the perimeter only. Your carpet will cut around these structures
  • Next, measure the space. Label the perimeter lines (walls) of your diagram with accurate measurements. Allow an extra 5-7% extra carpet for trims and overrun
  • Double check measurements a couple of times. You don’t want to order a carpet that doesn’t fit!
  • The next step is to remove any existing flooring and underlay. Be really careful not to damage the foundations of the floor – you want a flat, even surface so your carpet can look its best without getting damaged
  • Clear and clean the subfloor. This means giving it a good sweep to get rid of any dirt and grit. Remove or flatten any nails or tacks to create a flat surface
  • How to lay carpet on concrete floor might need extra attention. If an existing concrete or levelling compound is damaged, it’ll need smoothing. Look at self-levelling screeds that will do the job
  • If you are laying carpet on floorboards, check for any nails that are sticking out. Pull out any nails with the claw of a hammer – and don’t step on anything!
  • To achieve flat, level floorboards you might need to bang a few nails back in. Always use 19mm nails to prevent the risk of puncturing a pipe or cable underneath the floor

2. How to fit carpet gripper

carpet gripper

Carpet grippers are long, thin pieces of wood with small sharp pins to hold your carpet in place. It’s important to wear gloves to protect your hands as the pins are really sharp.

Gripper comes in large strips which you saw to fit the corners and the shape of your room. Fit gripper around the edge of your room, except across doors which are fitted with threshold bars.

Remember, you need to get carpet gripper down before underlay and carpet.

Step 1

Use a pipe and cable detector to check for hidden pipes or wires that run underneath the subfloor. You don’t want nails from the carpet grippers piercing these. Mark these areas and fix the carpet gripper with glue instead.

Step 2

Cut the gripper to size with a small saw or pair of tin snips. Fasten the lengths together. The angled edge of the gripper should face the skirting board. Leave a 7mm gap between the gripper and skirting boards.

Step 3

Hammer or glue the carpet grippers onto the subfloor. For sections that are being glued, pull out the nails using pincers and squeeze on the adhesive. Take care not to damage the skirting.

3. How to fit underlay

Underlay is fitted between the subfloor and your new carpet. It’s important to invest in a good quality, cushioned underlay to make your carpet last longer. Fitting an underlay will also make your carpet more comfortable to walk on and provide better insulation – which might also help cut energy bills!

You can also add floor lining paper to stop the underlay from sticking to the floor.

It might be a good idea to wear knee pads curing the entire carpet fitting process, as you’ll be on your knees quite a bit.

Step 1

Roll out floor lining paper, if using, and fix with tacks or a staple gun. Adhesive is another option.

Step 2

Next, fit the carpet underlay, making sure it’s laid rubber-side down. Trim with a knife to make it level with carpet gripper rods.

Step 3

Join the edges of each section of underlay with tape to avoid any overlapping. It’s important that your underlay is smooth and level.

4. Get ready to lay a carpet

laying carpet

With all the preparation steps complete, you are now ready to lay your carpet.

Carpet can be really heavy and hard to move, so get someone to help you carry it into position.

If there’s one tool that’s worth investing in, it’s a carpet stretcher (or knee kicker). This clever tool allows you to push the carpet into place and flatten it out more easily – carpet fitters swear by them. I

Carpet stretchers have teeth that grip the carpet at one end and a padded cushion at the other. The teeth settle into the carpet while you push the carpet into place with your knee.

Here’s our step-by-step guide to laying carpet.

  1. Lay your carpet loosely in position to cover the room. Walk across the carpet to manoeuvre the edges towards each wall, into the corners and crevices. Leave an extra 50-75mm around the edges before you cut off any excess
  2. In each corner, trim the carpet upwards, following a vertical cut and fold it into place
  3. Start along the longest wall furthest from the door and work your way back towards the door
  4. Using your carpet tucker, create a firm crease against the skirting board. This will push up any excess carpet you can cut off with a carpet knife. Take your time with this step. Cut smoothly and precisely so there are no frayed edges and remember to leave about 5mm for tucking
  5. Next, place your carpet stretcher at a 25mm distance from the skirting board. With the teeth downwards, push the stretcher towards the wall with your knee and hook the carpet on to the grippers underneath
  6. Using the carpet tucker, tuck the 5mm excess carpet in between the skirting and gripper
  7. Repeat this process along the length of each wall. Remember to trim (leaving 5mm excess), stretch and fix the carpet as you go
  8. When you reach the doorway, fix a door bar to fasten down the carpet. Line it up with the flooring opposite

Remember carpet laying is a big job. You will need to be super accurate to achieve a really professional finish.

If you want to make sure your new carpets are laid properly and accurately, it might be sensible to hire a local carpet installer that you can trust.

Check out our article on hiring a good carpet installer. It is packed with hints and tips including carpet laying costs, questions to ask a carpet fitter and is there a carpet installer certification in the UK.

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How to lay carpet tiles – step-by-step

how to lay carpet tiles

Carpet tiles are great floor covering choice: they are durable, relatively easy to install and available in a wide range of colours. Plus, the underlay is already part of the carpet tile.

They are either stuck down using adhesive or are bought ready as a peel and stick tile.

Another benefit that carpet tiles have over wall-to-wall carpeting is that it’s so simple to replace individual tiles when they become damaged or worn. This makes carpet tiles perfect for children’s bedrooms, heavy traffic areas and rooms where your pets spend a lot of time.

Installation mess is kept to a minimum too. It’s a job that most DIYers can happily take on themselves, with great results.

Remember to acclimatise the carpet tiles for at least 24 hours before fitting. Simply take out of the box and stack in piles around the room to circulate the air between. You need the tiles to come up to room temperature before laying.

Follow our step-by-step guide to laying carpet tiles:

1. Prepare the floor

As with every type of carpet laying, the first thing to do is to make sure the subfloor is clean and debris free. Remove any existing flooring, adhesive and protruding nails.

If you are laying carpet tiles on wood, you need to lay hardboard down first, with the smooth side up.

If you are laying carpet tiles on concrete floor, make sure it is smooth and dry. And remember, if the concrete floor is new, it can take up to six months to dry out thoroughly.

2. How to lay carpet tiles with adhesive

For tiles that don’t have a self-adhesive backing, check the manufacturer’s instructions about which adhesive to use and how to apply it.

3. Planning and marking up your room

Measure the width and length of the floor to work out the centre of the room. Mark this out with a chalk line or pencil to see where the lines cross.

Loosely lay down the tiles from the centre cross outwards to give you an idea of how the tiles will look when fitted.

This way, you can work out the number of full tiles that can be laid down both ways. Try to leave at least half a tile to cut round the edge.

If you end up with narrow strips that don’t fit well around the perimeter of the room, re-draw the chalk lines. This might mean your starting point is slightly off centre but you won’t be left with unsightly narrow edges

When you are happy with the positioning, cut the border tiles to size using a Stanley knife. (Remember to place the carpet tile on top of scrap carpet or cardboard so you don’t damage anything underneath)

4. Laying the tiles

Peel off the back of self-adhesive tiles and press them firmly on to the floor. Make sure the tiles sit snugly together with no gaps.

If your carpet tiles aren’t self-adhesive, apply carpet glue in a straight line on each edge. Work on a single carpet tile at a time.

Repeat the process until all the tiles are fixed to the floor.

If you’d prefer to leave it to the professionals, check out our carpet tile installation cost guide.

How to lay stair carpet

how to lay stair carpet

Laying a new stair carpet has so many benefits. It can transform your hallway and create a striking statement. Be inspired by our stair carpet ideas for your home.

Carpeting a staircase will also cut down on clatter and noise of foosteps up and down the stairs. If you have young children, carpets are also much softer landings for any slips or trips.

Stair carpets need accurate and professional installation. If they’re not installed correctly, stair carpet can easily move underfoot which can pose a serious tripping hazard.

You’ll also need to work out how much carpet you to need buy for your staircase. Measure one step from the back of the tread (the flat part of the stair) to the front, and then down and around to the bottom of the riser (the vertical part).

Once you’ve measured for one step, add around 25mm onto this and then multiply by the number of the steps in the staircase. Don’t forget you also need to buy the same amount of underlay.

We would recommend hiring a professional carpet layer for complete peace of mind – especially with the potential safety risks of a botch job on the stairs.

However, if you do want to learn how to lay stair carpet, read on for our DIY guide.

Step 1: Prepare the staircase

Remove any old carpet along with underlay, gripper rods, tacks and nails. Give the staircase a good clean by sweeping each step and then vacuuming. If your staircase looks a bit worse for wear, head to our staircase refurbishment cost guide.

Step 2: Fit new carpet grippers

Grippers are so important on a staircase as they will secure the carpet in place and make it safe to walk on.

Place the gripper at the back of each tread (with the barbs facing away from you) and at the base of each riser (with the barbs angled down). Leave a 10mm gap and repeat this for every step.

Remember not to put gripper on the bottom step.

Step 3: Add underlay to each step

Cut pieces of underlay to fit the shape and size of each tread. Place these on the inside of the carpet gripper and use a staple gun to hold in place.

Step 4: Lay out the carpet

With all the preparation done, it’s time to lay your stair carpet. Roll up the carpet with the underside facing outwards and leave a foot unrolled. Make sure the pile is facing down the staircase.

Step 5: Fit the stair carpet

Start at the bottom step and staple it to the first riser. Pull the carpet tightly over the first step using a knee kicker and stair tool to push it firmly and snugly against the carpet grippers. If the carpet has an overhang (or a nose) staple this area as well, to prevent any gaps or lagging.

Step 6: Repeat to the top

Repeat this process on every step until you reach the top of the staircase. If possible, it is better to use one strip of carpet for the entire staircase. If you can’t do this, always cut the carpet at the base of the rise and start the next length on a full step. This will help prevent visible joins.

How much does it cost to lay carpet?

price of a carpet fitter

As an average cost, a carpet fitter will charge between £120 – £150 per day.

Carpet fitting prices will vary from home to home and carpet to carpet. Factors that might affect price include the size and shape of the room, the type of carpet you’re having fitted and of course the carpet fitter you chose.

Other factors that may impact this include the location of your property and how accessible it is. You also need to think about new underlay, door threshold strips and carpet grippers.

Check out carpet laying costs here.

Or, get accurate costs from professional carpet layers near you.

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