Carpet tile is an inexpensive, easy-to-install alternative to carpeting. Traditional carpeting is heavy and requires sharp tack strips for installation. However, carpet tiles are lightweight squares of carpet that are installed piece by piece with an adhesive. Use this guide to learn how to install carpet tile confidently and quickly. With a few tools, you can update an entire room’s flooring with carpet tiles in a single afternoon.
Tools and Materials
You can purchase peel and stick carpet tile or glue down. Before installing carpet tile, make sure you have enough. Here’s how to calculate how many tiles you’ll need.
- Measure the room’s length and width in inches.
- Find the area by multiplying the room length and width (A = L x W).
- Determine the number of carpet tiles to get. Divide the area of the room by the surface area of a single carpet tile. Find the area of the carpet tile using the same formula (A = L x W).
- Buy 10 percent extra to account for mistakes and future repairs.
Gather the following tools and materials:
Prepare the Subfloor
Knowing how to lay carpet tile starts with preparing the subfloor. Your subfloor should be clean, solid, dry, level and free of cracks. For best results, it may be necessary to remove any existing flooring.
- Use a pry bar to temporarily remove any baseboard or moulding at the bottom of the wall. Set it aside for reinstallation later.
- Fill cracks with putty. Use a self-leveler to correct sunken areas. Sand down higher areas.
- Apply a floor primer to prevent moisture damage.
- Allow the prepped subfloor to rest for a full 24 hours. Unpack the carpet tiles and allow them to acclimate to the room.
- Clean the subfloor with a vacuum, broom or mop.
Tip: Work in a well-ventilated area. Use fans and open any windows. This is especially important when working with glue down carpet tiles, floor primers or other potentially hazardous chemicals.
Measure and Draw Guidelines
Dividing your floor into four parts or quadrants is the easiest way to lay carpet tile. Installing your tile quadrant by quadrant makes the job go quicker.
- Begin by measuring the room and finding its center.
- Mark the center point with a chalk line.
- Divide the room into four equal quadrants. Draw two perpendicular lines that intersect at the designated center point.
- Use a T-square tool to make sure the lines intersect at a perfect 90-degree right angle.
Plan the Carpet Tile Layout
Do a dry layout of the carpet tiles to determine orientation and fit.
- Start at the center and work outward toward the walls.
- Lay the tiles in rows within each quadrant of the room.
- Trim perimeter tiles to fit between the wall and the last full-size tile. Measure the distance. Mark where you should cut on the back of the perimeter carpet tile. Set aside for now.
Carpet tiles will have arrows on the back that indicate the direction of the carpet pile. Two carpet tiles facing in different directions will appear to be slightly different colors. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation. Orienting the tiles in the same direction will create a seamless look. Rotating each tile by 90 degrees will create a checkerboard effect.
Tip: Mix carpet tiles from different packs to account for dye lot variations.
Install the Center Carpet Tiles
Start installing the tiles at the center point of the room. Use the chalk lines to guide you. Lay the first four carpet tiles at the corners of each quadrant to form a square.
Here’s how to install carpet tiles that you peel and stick:
- Remove the film covering the adhesive backing.
- Carefully place the carpet tiles along the chalk line.
- Place each tile firmly against the other.
- Press down to secure the carpet tile.
Here’s how to install carpet tiles with adhesive:
- With a notched trowel, spread the adhesive onto the subfloor evenly. Use the type of carpet adhesive the manufacturer recommends.
- Start in small sections so that the adhesive does not dry out too quickly.
- Lay the carpet tiles along your guidelines and press down to secure them.
- Follow the manufacturer’s suggestion on how long the adhesive should set before placing each tile.
Install the Carpet Tiles in Each Quadrant
- Working quadrant by quadrant, lay the carpet tiles in rows. Start from the center tiles and work outward toward the wall.
- Nestle each carpet tile tightly against the edges of the neighboring tiles.
- Lay carpet tile so the pile moves in the desired direction.
- If you need to adjust a carpet tile, pull it up and lay it again as soon as possible.
- Don’t adhere the last full tile next to the wall. Wait until you cut the final tile to size. (See Step 7 to learn how to trim carpet tiles to fit.)
- Once you have completed laying carpet tiles in one quadrant, move on to the next quadrant and repeat these steps.
Trim the Carpet Tiles
Rooms are rarely perfectly square. The carpet tiles lining the walls will need to be trimmed to fit.
- Measure the space between the wall and the last carpet tile you laid.
- Use a carpet cutter and a straight edge to cut the carpet tile to fit.
- If the cut isn’t perfect or leaves a gap, patch it. Cut a small sliver from a scrap piece of carpet tile and fill the gap.
- Smooth the area with your hand until the transition looks seamless.
Roll the Floor
Once you have laid all the carpet tiles, you will need to roll the floor. Rolling the floor will push out any air pockets. It will also make the carpet tiles adhere firmly to the subfloor. A 75-pound floor roller works well.
- Make sure the roller surface is clean of dirt or grime.
- Push the roller out from the center of the floor to the outside edge. Roll back to the center along the same path.
- Roll out from the center again, overlapping the first path.
- Repeat until you’ve completed the floor.
- Reinstall baseboard/moulding.
- Vacuum the floor.
Carpet Tile Tips
- Consider doing any painting or remodeling before installing new carpet tiles.
- To fit around door jabs, trace the area onto a piece of paper. Use this stencil as a guide for cutting the carpet tile.
- Carpet tiles can be installed over concrete, plywood or particleboard. However, some adhesives can permanently damage hardwood floors. You can also install over existing flooring such as wood, tile or vinyl flooring. Make sure the existing flooring is no more than an inch thick.
- Use the proper type of primer on your subfloor. There is primer for concrete or wood.
Carpet tiles are more budget-friendly than traditional carpet. They are durable enough for high-traffic areas, require little maintenance, are relatively easy to install and are a great flooring project for beginners. When installed properly, carpet tile floors can last up to eight years. Or they can last even longer if you replace individual tiles as needed. Ready to put in a new carpet tile floor? Consider tool rental to get your project done. Use a rented floor roller once and then bring it back. There's no maintenance required and no storage needed.