For successful carpet fitting you must have the right tools and equipment. If you are stretching carpet, for example, a knee kicker is essential; although an expensive item to buy unless you are going to use it several times, you can hire one. Carpet grippers are ideal fixings for carpets that have to be stretched, while those for carpets that do not stretch you will have to use the traditional turn and tack method.
Two basic items needed when fitting carpets are a sharp trimming knife and self-adhesive tape.
A knee kicker is used to stretch the carpet taut – but not too tight – onto carpet grippers. It is never used on foam-backed carpets, or hessian-backed ones which do not need to be stretched. In the head of the knee kicker are two sets of pins. The thinner pins are adjustable, so the amount they can project from the head can be increased or reduced. These pins are necessary when stretching shag pile carpets and must be set accurately to grip the carpet backing if they are set too short. they will snare the pile as the tool is projected forward; if they are too long, they will become embedded into the underlay and pull it out of place or catch the floor underneath. The thicker fixed pins (called nap grips) give the added purchase required for smooth pile carpets.
Using a kicker
The knee kicker is literally kicked with the muscle above the knee cap – never with the knee cap itself since this might cause injury. At each point of stretching only one kick should be used to stretch the carpet onto the carpet gripper; if a succession of kicks is made, the carpet will spring back to its original position between kicks. The hands play an important part in the technique of using a kicker. The tool is rested on the carpet with the palm of one hand exerting downward pressure on the head of the kicker while the fingers are used to bring the carpet into contact with the gripper pins at the peak of the stretch. The other hand is used to press down on the stretched carpet in front of the head. As the carpet is stretched and pushed over the gripper pins, the natural elasticity will enable it to spring back securely onto the pins. Generally the better the quality of carpet, the less stretch is needed. But remember the carpet should be taut never tight.
There are two basic types of carpet gripper . one with nails for fixing to timber floors and one with hardened pins for fixing to concrete floors. The gripper consists of a strip of wood about 25mm wide and 6mm thick with two rows of pins protruding from the upper face at an angle- The pins which grip the carpet are positioned every 50mm along the gripper and strips are available in 750, 1200 and 1500mm lengths. The carpet is stretched onto the pins. which hold it firmly in place. This is a superior method to tacking since the carpet is held continuously along its edge; carpet tacks normally hold the carpet at 150mm intervals, often producing a scalloped-edge appearance. A special flat steel strip containing dome-shaped pins has been designed for foam-backed carpets; the pins are made to penetrate cleanly through the foam. This strip is supplied in 2 and 3m lengths in boxes containing 60 pieces. A normal carpet gripper can be used on foam-backed carpet if preferred.
Fixing a gripper
The carpet gripper is fixed to the floor around the edge of the room, except in door ways. Lengths should butt up against each other at the edges; where short lengths are needed – at corners, for example – cut the gripper with a saw or tinsnips. There is no need to mitre joins at corners; simply butt together the adjoining pieces at right-angles. Always allow a space between the back edge of the gripper and the wall. The gully formed should be slightly less than the thickness of the carpet – 6mm is usually about the right allowance. Keep a uniform space all round to achieve a smooth, level finish to the carpet edge and make sure the angled pins project towards the wall. The gripper cannot be bent so in bay windows, for example, cut it into short lengths and fix these to the floor, leaving a small space between each piece. Arrange the gripper to follow the shape of the bay. At doorways, cut short lengths to follow the line of the door frame. If the carpet continues into an adjoining room, fix the gripper around the frame into the next room. With timber floors the gripper should be nailed down; use a hammer and nail punch to avoid any possible damage to the pins. Where short lengths have been cut off the gripper, insert at least two nails – one at each end. With concrete floors specially hardened pins are used to secure the gripper, although you can stick it down with PVA adhesive or an adhesive recommended by the manufacturer. Make sure the floor has been cleaned thoroughly or the adhesive will not hold the gripper firmly in place. Spread any surplus adhesive with your thumb onto the edge of the gripper that faces the carpet; by continuing the bond in this way you will ensure a firmer fixing. Allow two days for the adhesive to set. Even after levelling a concrete floor (if this is necessary), you may still find small uneven patches; in this case, if the longer lengths of gripper will not lie flat, cut them into smaller sections.
If you choose to tack down a carpet to a timber floor, you will need two lengths of carpet tacks. To fix the carpet around the edges use 19mm (fin) tacks; these will go through a double thickness of carpet (where it has been folded under at the edge) and into the floor. In corners, where three thicknesses of carpet result from folding under the edges, use 25mm tacks. Use only rustproof tacks or rust marks could form around the fixing points if the tacks ever got wet. Space the tacks at 150mm intervals around the room; closer spacing will be needed at corners and other awkward areas.
To give a neat, protective finish to the carpet edge, use a binder bar at the doorway. You can tack down the carpet or sew adjoining carpets together, but the edges may eventually work loose. Binders are available in aluminium or brass and in various finishes such as fluted, satin and polished. They are normally supplied in 8l3mm lengths, which is the common distance across the threshold; trim the binder bar with a hacksaw to fit smaller openings. Since the bars contain evenly spaced pre-drilled holes for fixing points, when trimming a bar you may have to take a little off each end to ensure the fixing points remain evenly spaced. The underside of the bar is usually ribbed to provide a key, if you want to fix it to a concrete floor with adhesive; but normally it is fitted with screws or nails.
Joining carpet to carpet
There is a double-sided bar available which enables you to make a neat join between two carpets at a threshold. Both carpets are stretched onto the angled pins so the respective edges lie close against the centre channel. A central covering strip is then tapped over to conceal the carpet edges and help keep them in place.
Joining carpet to hard flooring
For this operation there is a bar with both plain and fitting lips; the plain lip is placed over the edge of the adjoining flooring while the carpet edge is pressed onto the pins projecting from the other side of the bar and tucked under the protective lip. The lip is then hammered down lightly to hold the carpet edge securely. Place a block of wood between the hammer and the binder bar to prevent damage when tapping down the lip