Laying carpet: how to fit those gripper strips!

I wish I’d read this page before I started. What I did read was a Guardian DIY pamphlet which was nowhere near clear enough.

In “Covering Your Ground: Carpet Installation” the author gives much advice on selecting and “taste” – and then gets down to the important bit:

Laying the Underlay The first step is to install new tackless strips. (They’re gripper strips in the UK). Tackless strips are wood or metal strips fastened to the floor near the walls of a room. They contain either two or three rows of pins on which the carpet backing is stretched and secured.

The page continues:

“They’re called “tackless” because they eliminate the need for tacking carpet from above. Cut a length of tackless strip to fit each wall. Nail the strips around the perimeter of the room. Allow a space between the wall and each tackless strip that equals roughly 2/3 the thickness of the carpet (using spacers makes this easier).”

That’s the bit I wish I’d read!

“Fasten the strips to the floor with masonry nails if installing over concrete. The pointed pins in each strip should always face the wall. The strips should also meet each other at the corners with no gap.”
 
Next, lay the underlay pad.

The role of the pad is to improve underfoot comfort, absorb impact on the pile and accommodate imperfections in the floor. It also helps with sound absorption and thermal insulation. Underlay pads are available in felt, foam and rubber, and your retailer can advise on an appropriate material based on your carpet selection. Cut the padding in strips that fit the length of the room. Each padding strip should cover the tackless strips. With the “waffle” side facing up, lay out the underlay, stapling along its edges, just inside the perimeter of the tackless strip, every 5 to 6 inches. If the pad is going over concrete, you can cement the pad in place. The edges of the pad should butt together to form an even seam rather than overlap. Trim away any excess underlay that covers the tackless strips and cover all seams with duct tape.

We then move onto the important bit: Carpet Installation

Cut pieces of carpet that will join together to cover the floor 4 to 6 inches longer than the room’s actual dimensions. After measuring the carpet, flip over the excess and trim it to fit. Use a utility knife to trim the carpet, cutting from its backside. Use a cutting board and a straight edge to guide the cut. The carpet should overlap the walls or edges of the room on all sides to allow for trimming.

Here we get a lot of stuff not relevant for my purposes, and then, back to the nitty-gritty:

To attach the carpet at the edges, you’ll need a carpet Knee Kicker. This tool ensures a snug fit at walls and corners, but be aware that it can be pretty tough on the knees. Starting in a corner, hook the carpet to a tackless strip. Sink the teeth of the Knee Kicker into the carpet about an inch from the wall. Then kick the cushioned end of the Knee Kicker to push the carpet forward and fasten it to the tackless strip.

At this point, I found I was staring at a rumpled carpet.

OK, it was an old carpet, and the main reason it’s rumpled, is that I folded it up, and the folds are pretty permanent. My fault. But I knew the next bit:

You’ll need a Carpet Stretcher to finish the installation.
Once one corner is fastened, use the Carpet Stretcher to pull the carpet to the opposite wall. A Carpet Stretcher is especially critical for continuous lengths of carpet of more than 10 feet. Put the base of the Stretcher at the corner where the carpet is fastened. Use a piece of scrap carpet to pad the wall. Sink the teeth of the Stretcher into the carpet at the opposite wall, about 6 inches from the edge. Press the lever on the Stretcher, pulling the carpet into the unfastened corner and attaching it to the tackless strips. Then use the Stretcher to fasten the corner opposite from the first corner installed.

I went to the hire shop and asked for a carpet stretcher. Mistake! What they will give you, if you do this, is the short tool that this web site calls a Knee Kicker. As the picture shows both of these tools you can see how different they look, and how utterly different they are in function!

Once all the corners are fastened, work your way around the room, stretching and “kick-fastening” the carpet along the walls, alternating sides and corners.

He continues:

A knee-kicker is not very expensive, but a carpet stretcher can be,  and it may not warrant an outright purchase for a one-time job.

Yeah, but they don’t sell carpet stretchers here in the UK; if you ask for one, you’ll get a knee kicker.

Which doesn’t do the job of ironing out those folds.

I also screwed up the gripper strips. I read the DIY pamphlet as saying “leave a good two inches between the gripper and the wall.”

As this picture shows, the idea is to have the edge of the carpet wedged between wall and gripper, so the gap has to be less than the thickness of the carpet – and you whack it into the space with a tool that looks very like a masonry chisel.

I now have a rumpled carpet, a kicker hire charge of nearly twenty quid, and very, very sore knees! What I should have done, say all my friends, is call in a professional but I did that… long story, no happy ending.

What I would do next time, I think, is make my own carpet stretcher. A long, stout pole, two by two, and a shorter, similar, would make a great lever. Make sure they both fit in the space between the kicker and the opposite wall, but with a foot or so too much length. Push the longer one against the kicker pad. Lift the other end up, and wedge the shorter one between the long one and the wall. Push down hard!

I’ll let you know…

Check in at Covering Your Ground: Carpet Installation before you get started. Oh, and practice on old carpet, and then go out and buy the new one!

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8 Responses to “Laying carpet: how to fit those gripper strips!”

  1. Naughty Girl Says:

    Good tips. I didn’t know about all this stuff as well. Can I assume you have new ‘self installed’ carpet now? 😉

  2. munchyrat Says:

    I have the self-installed carpet! I’m not impressed with my skills, but it’s old rugs, and when I get time and budget, I’ll stick a professional in, and get it done right with new carpet!

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