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Learn to Install Carpet over a Concrete Slab

Using Knee Pads, a Knee Kicker, and a Carpet Stretcher, You can Lay Your Own Floor

© 2011 by ; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile


You will need several specialized carpet-laying tools to do a professional-looking job. Number one are a pair of high-quality knee pads. Next, a knee kicker and a carpet stretcher.

You will have to buy the pads, but the kicker and stretcher can be rented from Home Depot, Lowes, or some another home improvement store. Unless you’re planning to do this for a living, it doesn’t make sense to buy them outright.

First Step — Prepare your Concrete Subfloor

If you are starting with new construction, this part of the job might be a little cleaner. I like to begin by scraping up all the dried splatters from when the walls were textured and then cleaning it up with my Shop Vac (not sweeping!).

Most contractors will skip this step in favor of expediency; not me. Next, examine your slab. Your padding and carpet can be expected to hide minor imperfections, but you should correct any obvious bumps or humps.

There are several methods to look for these dips or highs. You can set up a rotating laser level and use a tape rule vertically. You can also use a helper and pull a string line taut in various directions.

Finally, you can use a 2’ X 4’. I don’t recommend this final method because you really can’t trust it to be true; plus, it is much more cumbersome.

Level your Floor

High spots are easily leveled with a cold chisel and a hammer. But it is critical to wear safety glasses for eye protection. God only gave you one pair and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Low spots can be corrected using a self leveling compound. Thinset is a good choice for very small imperfections. Remember, the slab doesn’t have to be level, just flat.

Install Tack Strips to Secure the Border

Next, install your tack strips. These strips are thin wooden plywood strips with small metal teeth angled in an outward direction to grab your carpeting next to the wall. They keep your carpet snugged up for years.

You can cut tack strips with a pair of tin snips; no need to get too fancy. Keep them about 1/4 inch away from the wall. You can use a spacer in order to maintain gap consistency.

The strips have small concrete nails embedded in them. Just hammer them into the slab. This might take a bit of practice to determine just what kind of whack secures the nail without chipping the concrete out. The older the slab is, the trickier it will be.

Installing your Padding; Cut your Carpeting

Now it’s time to install your carpet padding. Just roll it out over the subfloor just short of the edge of the tack strips (about 1/4’"). Where you have seams, secure them together with clear plastic tape.

Next comes your carpet; you will find it easier to take your measurements inside each room and then do the actual cutting of the sections in your driveway where you have more room to work.

Roll it up, carry it inside, and roll it out. You can connect the seams should with heat-activated seam tape. Ensure that your carpet pile is going the same direction. This may result in a bit more scrap, which of course means money, but you will see it every day.

Start the First Wall with the Knee Kicker

Start in any corner; use the knee kicker to pull your carpet towards the wall. Work it into the space between the strip and wall and attach it to the teeth of the tack strip. You can work it in with a blunt tool, like a heavy duty scraper if you don’t have a stair tool.

You might find that your kicker can be rough on your knees, so if you have knee issues you might want to think of delegating this step to a willing helper. Work across one side of the room. On the other side of the room, use your carpet stretcher.

It is advisable to protect the wall from the base end of the stretcher with a bit of scrap carpeting. The opposite end of your stretcher has teeth. These are sunk into the carpet approximately 6” from your wall. When you flip your stretcher’s lever the carpet will tighten up.

Secure it to the tack strip. Finish up by working your way around the room, performing any final trimming and tucking the carpeting behind the tack strip using a mallet and a stair tool.

Maintaining your New Carpet

With a new carpet, this is the perfect time to commit to maintenance.

  • Avoid spilling anything on it.
  • Vacuum frequently.
  • Use throw rugs or runners in high-traffic areas.
  • Invest in a high-quality shampooer-extractor and use it on a monthly basis and immediately following a spill.

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