Are you planning on changing your hardwood floors to carpet flooring? Are you considering installing the carpet flooring over your existing hardwood floor as opposed to ripping it apart first but not sure if this is even possible? You might want to preserve the wood flooring which is why you would want to do this but is it possible to install carpet over a hardwood floor without damaging it?
Carpet can be installed over hardwood floors with minimal damage and without ruining it. By using tackless strips with thinner nails around the room, limiting the use of staples, avoiding the use of adhesives, and careful carpet installation, you can minimize any damage done to your hardwood floor.
Of course, there are other things you need to consider if you are to install carpet flooring over your wood floors. This is especially true if you’re just a beginner and you’re doing this on your own. Proper preparation is needed and several steps that you need to take for this flooring project to be successful. Let’s go through each one of them below.
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Can You Install Carpet Over Hardwood Floors Without Damaging Them?
Carpet can be installed over hardwood floors without doing major damage to the floorboards. You can’t eliminate any damage done to the floorboards but you can minimize and make them easy to fix and patch up later on. The trick is to control and manage the use of the anchoring materials used for the carpet installation.
There are basically 2 major anchoring materials used for the carpet installation that will puncture and create small holes in the wood floors. The first one is the carpet tack strips installed around the perimeter of the room or the area to be carpeted. They use thin nails to fix themselves to the floor.
Tack strips or sometimes called tackless strips are thin pieces of wood, around 3 to 6.5 ft. (1 to 2 meters) long and around 1 in. (3 cm.) wide studded with several sharp nails or tacks above. They are used for hooking the carpet in place, from the end of the wall to the other end of the other wall or area.
The second anchoring material is the staples used to fix the carpet padding in place.
Both anchoring materials will place small holes in the hardwood floor which can easily be patched up or filled with wood fillers later on if you are to expose the hardwood floors once again.
To make sure you won’t be ruining the hardwood floor when you installing the carpet, use thinner tackless strips with thinner and longer nails and carefully fix them to the hardwood floor, around the area to be carpeted. When using the hammer tacker or staple gun to fix the carpet padding to the wood floor, try to limit the location of your staples just on the perimeter of the padding and then space them out at a minimum of around 10 to 18 inches from each other.
Avoid making any mistakes, so double-checking your measurements is a must. This is to avoid creating too many unnecessary holes in your hardwood flooring.
Other Things To Consider to Minimize Damage To The Hardwood Flooring When Installing Carpet Over It
- Avoid using adhesives like epoxy or polyurethane. Some door thresholds use adhesives that may damage the finish of the wood floor when installed. Use thresholds that use nails, screws, or those that snaps in place instead.
- Keep the work area clean and free from dirt and debris. If dust particles remain in between the carpet and the hardwood, overtime these will create scratches to the floorboards and damage the existing finish.
- Be careful while handling the rolls of carpet in your work area. The backing of carpets are rough and you could easily scratch, scrape, and gouge the floor, and the walls, if it were to hit or slide on their surfaces.
- Consider using a thicker carpet padding if the area will allow it. A thicker padding used between the carpet and hardwood floors will protect the floorboards better. One thing to take note of though, since you are adding height to the floor, make sure that the doors in the room, or closet, will still be able to function well. If the doors will get stuck or won’t function properly, you could consider undercutting or shaving the bottom of the doors to allow the additional thickness and height on the floor.
- After the installation of the carpet, make sure to keep the area dry. Don’t let water, pet stains, or any liquid soak and wet the carpet. Any liquid, as we all know, can damage wood, and a wet carpet will be like a wet rug over the hardwood floor which can damage it overtime.
13 Steps on How To Install Carpet Over Hardwood Floor Without Damaging It
Below are the steps on how to install the carpet on your hardwood floors without damaging them. As mentioned above, make sure to remove any dirt or debris before starting, and to minimize the number of penetrations that you will make to the wood floor.
1. Prepare the Tools and Materials
Let’s start first by preparing the tools and materials you will need. I’ve also included a link to Amazon just in case you would need to purchase the items online.
Tools and Equipment:
- Tape Measure
- Hammer Tacker or Staple Gun
- Carpet Knife
- Utility Knife
- Carpet Trimmer
- Straight Edge
- Carpet Stretcher
- Carpet Tucker
- Chalk Line
- Duct Tape
- Hand Saw or Snips
- Carpet Tack Strips
- Carpet Padding
Optional Tools and Materials:
You don’t actually need to purchase all the tools and equipment listed above. Like the carpet stretchers, some of them can be rented out from some of the hardware stores.
With regards to the staples that you’ll be using to fix the carpet padding to the floor, just make sure that they are long enough to get through the thickness of the carpet padding and puncture the wood floor. Also, when purchasing carpet tack strips, make sure you’re getting those that are made for wood subfloors and not the ones made for concrete.
Take note that if the room or area you’re carpeting is wider than 15 feet, you would have a seam in your carpet flooring. Since most standard carpet rolls come in 12 and 15 feet widths, if you have a wider room, you would need more than one piece of carpet in the direction of the width of the room.
The seams will be visible but you can minimize how much they stand out by carefully installing the carpeting properly. Place the seams in low foot traffic areas where they will less likely be caught in shoes and the fibers wearing out to reveal them. You may also want to position them where they will be hidden from view or direct lighting.
The optional tools and materials listed above will only be needed if the carpet flooring will have seams.
2. Remove the Quarter Round or Shoe Molding Along the Floor Perimeter if There Are Any
If you are a beginner and there are quarter-round trims or shoe moldings installed at the transition between the wood flooring and the baseboard, you have the option to remove them. The carpet installation will be easier with just the baseboard installed. It also looks better with just the baseboard and the carpet flooring as well.
Be careful not to damage your hardwood floor or baseboard while removing the trims and moldings. You can use your utility knife, hammer, and carpet tucker to do this.
Again this is just optional and you don’t have to remove the trims and moldings if you don’t want to.
Watch a video below showing one of the many ways of removing a quarter round.
3. Clean, Sweep, and Vacuum the Area of the Floor Where the Carpet Will Be Installed
Start cleaning, sweeping, and vacuuming the area of the floor where the carpet will be installed. As mentioned previously, any dirt or debris that will be left on the hardwood floor when the carpet is installed can scratch the wood floor and can damage the finish.
4. Install the Carpet Tack Strips Along the Perimeter of the Room
Start in one corner of the room and start installing the carpet tack strips around the perimeter of the room. The tack strips will have several sharp nails or tacks exposed above which will be slightly slanted to one direction. Make sure to position the tack strips so that the tacks are pointed towards the wall so that when you stretch the carpet later on the carpet could hook itself to the exposed tacks properly. Some tack strips will have an arrow that should be pointed towards the wall when you install them.
Leave a gap around 2/3 the thickness of the carpet from the edge of the tack strips to the wall or baseboard. This is usually around 1/4″ wide or the size of a fingertip. This gap between the tack strips and baseboard is where you will tuck the ends of the carpet.
Use a handsaw or a pair of snips to cut the tack strips to size.
Here’s a short video demonstrating how the tack strips are installed.
5. Place the Carpet Padding
Before laying the carpet padding, make sure that the hardwood floor is clean. If you need to, sweep the floor and vacuum it once again to remove any dirt or debris that may still be there.
Once everything is clean, unroll the padding. Rough cut the lengths and position the pieces at the center. Use your duct tape to connect the seams. Make sure that the pieces of padding don’t overlap each other and that they are placed side by side with no gaps in between.
If your carpet will have seams, make sure the seams of the carpet padding will be placed perpendicular to the direction of the carpet seams. If the seams of the carpet and the carpet padding line up, there will be a tendency for the seams to make a depression along the seam line or the seams can become more apparent.
Go around the perimeter of the room and start cutting and fixing the ends of the carpet padding to the wood floor. The padding should not cover the tack strips already installed, otherwise, the carpet won’t be able to hook itself properly. Cut them with just about a hairline space away from the edge of the tack strip. Use your utility knife or carpet knife carefully to cut the excess padding.
Use your hammer tacker or staple gun to fix the ends of the padding to the wood floor. Limit the spacing and distances of the staples to around 12-18 inches in between. This is to minimize the holes you will create on the hardwood floor.
Here’s a short video demonstrating how the carpet padding is placed.
6. Measure the Room or Area to Be Carpeted
Using your tape measure, get the measurements of the room or the area to be carpeted. Record the measurement on paper.
7. Rough Cut the Carpet Based on the Room’s Measurements
Do a rough cut of the carpet based on the room’s measurements. Turn the carpet so that the backside faces up. Be careful when handling your carpet and don’t let the backing touch the wall. The carpet backing is rough and can scratch and damage the wall surface if it gets hit.
On the backside of the carpet, snap a chalk line that is 6 inches longer than what you’ve measured. We’re adding an allowance so that you will have around 3 inches in excess on all sides for stretching and hooking later on. If your carpet will have seams, add another 3 inches to the dimension so that you will have enough allowance to adjust when you start trimming and connecting the seams.
Then, carefully cut the carpet following the chalk line using your utility knife or carpet knife. Use a straight edge when necessary. Use scrap wood or thick cardboard underneath the carpet while cutting it so you would have a solid cutting surface. Just make sure that you don’t accidentally cut through the already installed padding and into the hardwood floor below.
You may need to change blades as you go as they can easily become dull cutting the carpets.
8. Join Carpet Seams Together
If your carpet will have seams, connect and weld them together before stretching them towards the walls. If it won’t have any seams, you can proceed to the next step.
Start by placing the carpet pieces side by side and overlap them by around 3 inches. Make sure that their pile is facing the same direction. There usually are arrows drawn at the backside of the carpet showing the direction of the piles, and you could also use that as a guide as well.
We want a very straight edge and cut on both carpet pieces for the seams to look less visible. As mentioned before, all seams in the carpet will still be visible but making a nice and clean seam edge will help make them less noticeable.
Start with the first piece. Roll the top piece back and carefully measure around 1 inch from the edge. Snap a chalk line to mark the edge. Carefully cut the edge using a utility knife following the chalk line. Place scrap wood or thick cardboard underneath to protect the carpet beneath. Use a straight edge to make sure that the cut will look clean.
Once the first piece is cut, lay it back above the second piece. They should still overlap around 2 inches. Place the scrap wood underneath both carpet pieces. Using your straight edge aligned to the edge of the top carpet, cut the bottom piece of carpet using your utility knife. Make sure that the cut is as straight as possible and take care not to cut through the padding and wood floor underneath.
Lay down a line of carpet seaming tape underneath the two pieces of carpet with the adhesive facing up and then cut it to size. Carefully position the two pieces of carpet side by side with no overlapping or gaps in between.
Then, using a carpet seaming iron, start heating the adhesive tape underneath. Careful not to burn the carpet while doing this. Follow the tape and iron manufacturer’s instructions on the recommended heating times. As soon as the adhesive actives, move the seaming iron down along the seam line and carefully press down, using a carpet roller, on the two carpet pieces where the adhesive has already been activated.
After rolling, place heavy objects above the seam until the adhesive sets properly. It will take around 15 minutes to set.
Check the video below demonstrating how this is done.
9. Position the Rough-Cut Carpet at the Center of the Room
Once you have the carpet cut to a rough size of the room, position it at the center of the room. You should have around 3 inches in excess on each wall side.
10. Anchor and Stretch the Middle Parts of the Carpet on Opposite Wall Sides
On one wall side, trim the excess carpet edge using a carpet trimmer. Make sure to cut it enough to be able to tuck in the carpet ends to the gap between the tack strip and baseboard. At the center, along three feet of the wall, use a knee kicker to push the carpet over the tack strips to hook on to it. The tack strip should immediately catch the carpet underneath. Then, using a carpet tucker, tuck the carpet to the gap between the baseboard and tack strip.
Below is a video showing how to properly trim the carpet at the edge.
Using a power stretcher or knee kicker or a combination of both, anchor the carpet in the middle on the opposite wall side. In most cases, a knee kicker will do the basic job of stretching the carpet. Using a power stretcher though will ensure that the carpet will be stretched tight and that there will be no bubbles or bulging showing up in your carpet. Some installers prefer using both pieces of equipment at the same time for stretching carpets.
Trim and tuck the ends. Make sure that the tack strip catches the carpet well.
11. Stretch the Carpet on the Adjacent Wall Sides
Move to the adjacent wall side and starting from the center moving towards the right, stretch, trim, and tuck the carpet ends until you reach the wall corner. Then go back to the center and move towards the left to stretch, trim, and tuck the carpet ends until you reach the other wall corner.
If you would like to restretch the carpet, you could always pull and unhook the carpet from the tack strips to redo the stretching.
12. Stretch the Rest of the Carpet Sides
Continue stretching the rest of the carpet until you finish all the sides. You could follow the graphics below on a suggested sequence of stretching the carpet. Basically, always start from the middle of the wall then go in one direction, then return to the middle of the wall, and do the other direction. And just repeat that process on all the wall sides.
Click the thumbnail below to open the image in full resolution.
You could also watch the video below showing how to stretch carpet flooring in a room.
13. Do the Finishing Touches on the Carpet Installation
To finish the carpet installation, you may need to install a transition strip where it meets a new floor. Just make sure to use the appropriate transition strip that fits both flooring materials. Also, avoid using transitions strips that use adhesives that will stick to the hardwood floor.
Another method of ending the carpet where it meets another floor is to tuck it back onto itself and using a staple gun, fix it to a tack strip underneath. Watch the video below on how to do this.
If you followed the preparations and carefully completed the steps above to install the carpet on your hardwood floor, you will be able to ensure that your hardwood floors will not be ruined. You will be able to reveal and expose the wood floors later on and do just a few patches and buffing to bring it back to its shiny and beautiful look.