How to Install Carpet Tiles
Time Required: 2-4 hours
Carpet tile is an inexpensive, easy-to-install alternative to carpeting. Unlike traditional carpeting that is heavy and requires sharp tack strips for installation, carpet tiles are lightweight squares of carpet that are installed piece-by-piece with an adhesive. This guide will teach you how to install carpet tile confidently and quickly. With these instructions and relatively few tools, you can update an entire room’s flooring with carpet tiles in a single afternoon.
When determining how much carpet you need, don't guesstimate, calculate. Know exactly how much you need with our project calculators.
In preparation for installing carpet tiles, you will need the following tools and materials:
- Carpet tiles, which can be either glue down or peel and stick. Glue down carpet tiles require manually spreading an adhesive to the subfloor and are often used in commercial buildings. Peel and stick carpet tiles have a ready-made adhesive backing for an even simpler installation. Peel and stick carpet tiles also have the added advantage of being easy to remove and replace as needed.
- Carpet adhesive (for glue down carpet tiles only)
- Carpet cutter or utility knife
- Vacuum and/or broom
- Pry bar
- Measuring tape
- Chalk line
- Floor primer and paint roller (optional)
- Notched trowel (for glue down carpet tiles only)
- Floor roller, which is available to rent through The Home Depot Tool Rental Center.
Tip: To find out how many carpet tiles you will need, find the approximate area of your room by measuring its length and width in inches and multiplying those numbers together (A = L x W). Now divide the area of the room by the surface area (A = L x W) of a single carpet tile. The resulting number will be the number of carpet tiles you need. Purchase extra carpet tiles to ensure you have enough in case of error or in case you need to replace individual tiles later.
Before you can install carpet tiles, you must prepare the existing floor. Carpet tiles can adhere to concrete, plywood or particleboard subfloors. In some cases, you can also install carpet tiles over existing wood, tile or vinyl flooring so long as the existing flooring is no more than an inch thick. However, we highly recommend removing existing flooring. Since carpet tiles do not have padding underneath, you will be able to feel underlying grout lines and texture from prior flooring. Additionally, some carpet tile adhesives can permanently damage hardwood floors.
- Use fans and open any windows to ventilate the room as you work. This is especially important if you are working with glue down carpet tiles or floor primers or other potentially hazardous chemicals.
- For the best results, remove any existing flooring and ensure your subfloor is solid, dry, level and free of cracks. You may need to fill cracks with putty, use a self-leveler to correct sunken areas, sand down high areas or apply a floor primer to prevent moisture damage. If you decide to prep your subfloor with a primer, ensure you are using the proper floor primer for the type of subfloor material (e.g. concrete or plywood).
- If the room has a baseboard or molding at the bottom of the wall, use a pry bar to temporarily remove it and set it aside for reinstallation later.
- Thoroughly clean the subfloor with a vacuum, broom or mop as needed.
- Allow the prepped subfloor to rest for a full 24 hours. During this time, unpackage your carpet tiles and allow them to rest and acclimate to the room as well.
Once the subfloor and carpet tiles have rested, you can start the installation process.
- Begin by measuring the room and finding its center. Mark the center point with chalk.
- Divide the room into four equal quadrants by drawing two perpendicular lines that intersect at your designated center point.
- Using a T-square tool, ensure the intersection of the lines creates a perfect 90-degree angle.
The center of the room will be your starting point, and the lines will guide your installation.
- Mix carpet tiles from different packs to account for dye lot variations.
- Carpet tiles will have arrows on the back that indicate the direction of the carpet pile. Any two carpet tiles facing in different directions will appear to be slightly different colors. The manufacturer recommends how to orient the tiles. Orienting the tiles in the same direction will create a seamless look. Rotating each tile by 90 degrees will create a checkerboard effect.
- Do a dry layout of the carpet tiles to determine orientation and fit. Start at the center and work outward toward the walls, laying the tiles in rows within each quadrant of the room.
- When you reach the wall, you will likely have to trim the perimeter carpet tile to fit the space left between the last tile you placed and the edge of the wall. Measure the remaining distance and mark where you should cut on the back of the perimeter carpet tile. Set aside for now.
- IMPORTANT: If you have to cut the carpet tile to be less than half its original width, move your center point and guidelines over until you can fit at least half of a carpet tile against the edge of the wall.
- Starting at the center point, lay the first four carpet tiles at the corners of each quadrant to form a square.
- Peel and Stick Carpet Tiles: Remove the film covering the adhesive backing and carefully place the carpet tiles along the chalk line. Press down to secure the carpet tile.
- Glue Down Carpet Tiles: Use the manufacturer recommended carpet adhesive. Using a notched trowel, spread the adhesive onto the subfloor evenly. Start in small sections so that the adhesive does not dry out too quickly. The manufacturer may recommend allowing the adhesive to set somewhat before placing the tiles. Next lay the carpet tiles along your guidelines and press down to secure them.
- Working quadrant-by-quadrant, lay the carpet tiles in rows. You should start from the center tiles and work outward toward the wall.
- Nestle each carpet tile tightly against the edges of the neighboring tiles.
- Be sure to pay attention to the orientation of each carpet tile so that the pile leans in the desired direction.
- If you need to adjust a carpet tile, pull it up and relay it as soon as possible. Note that peel and stick carpet tiles are easier to remove and better allow for mistakes than glue down carpet tiles.
- Once you have completed laying carpet tiles in one quadrant, move on to the next quadrant and repeat these steps.
Since your room is likely not 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 you need to cut around odd spaces such as door jambs, first trace the area onto a piece of paper. Then use the piece of paper as a stencil and guide for cutting the carpet tile.
- If the cut isn’t perfect and leaves a gap, simply 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.
- Once you have laid all the carpet tiles, you will need to roll the floor with a 75-pound floor roller to firmly adhere the carpet tiles to the subfloor.
- Reinstall baseboard/molding.
- Vacuum the floor.
Since carpet tiles are affordable and forgiving, learning how to install carpet tile is an excellent flooring project for new and budget-savvy home improvers. When installed properly, carpet tile flooring can last up to eight years or even longer if you choose to replace individual tiles as needed.
Carpet tiles are easy to uninstall as well, making them a good long-term or short-term flooring option, depending on your needs.
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