About modular carpet
If you think installing new carpet is time consuming and
complicated, think again. Modular carpet, aka
carpet squares, is one of the easiest floor coverings
to install. You simply lay the squares on the
floor; adhesive strips and the carpet's heavy backing
hold them in place. You can finish most
rooms in a day, if not an afternoon. And you can
use it anywhere. You can add whimsy to a kids'
playroom or create an elegant look in a formal
Or, if you don't need wall-to-wall carpet, these
squares make great area rugs. Cleaning, replacing
or swapping squares is easy too. They just pull
right up—even after they're adhered. You can
clean off stained squares in the sink or replace
them. Is that kid-friendly, or what?
Modular carpet is slightly more expensive than
most conventional carpets, but a carpet pad isn't required and
you save by installing it yourself.
In this article, we'll show you how to install the carpet and cut it to fit around obstacles such as
doorjambs. Installation is nearly goof proof—
you can easily pull up misaligned squares and
reposition them. And you won't need any specialty
tools. A tape measure and chalk line to snap
your baselines, and a carpenter's square and utility
knife to cut the squares will get the job done.
Plan your pattern and order the carpet
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Photo 1: Draw a layout
Draw the room to scale on graph paper to
experiment with different designs. Mark your
baseline rows on the sketch.
With practically unlimited carpet options,
the hardest part may be choosing a design.
You'll have to select the brand you want
before you start, since the brands have different
sizes of squares. Then sketch the
room to scale and use colored pencils or
markers to draw in the squares (Photo 1).
Arrange your layout to avoid leaving
narrow strips along the walls. They call
attention to any wall not perfectly square.
If possible, allow at least 4-in.-wide sections
of carpet along each wall. Your final
drawing will tell you how many squares of
each color you'll need.
Determine the room's square footage by
multiplying the length by the width
(round up measurements to the nearest
foot). For irregular-shaped rooms, divide
the floor into individual sections, calculate
the square footage of each, then add
them together. Order the carpet, adding
an extra 10 percent for waste.
Assess your existing floor
You can lay carpet squares directly over
concrete, plywood and OSB or particleboard
subfloors, as well as over vinyl, tile,
laminate and some hardwood finished
floors. One caution: The backing may
eventually discolor some wood floors. If
you later decide to remove the carpet,
you'll have to refinish the wood.
Conduct a moisture test (kits available at home centers) before carpeting a
concrete floor. If the moisture content is
too high, you can always seal the concrete,
then install the carpet. Let new concrete
cure for at least 90 days first. Any wood
subfloor or existing floor has to be solid,
dry and securely fastened. Screw down any
loose areas of floor and replace any water-damaged
sections. This is also an ideal
time to find and fix any floor squeaks.
Install the baseline rows
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Photo 2: Layout lines
Clean the floor, then snap chalk lines parallel
to the walls to create perpendicular baselines.
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Photo 3: Starting rows
Lay carpet squares along both baselines, starting at the center. Remove the
protective film, butt the squares tightly and adhere them to the floor.
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Photo 4: Cut tight to walls
Place the last carpet square face down against the wall and under the previous
square. Mark it, cut it to size with a carpet knife and install it.
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Make cuts with a carpet knife, which cuts carpet more accurately than a standard utility knife
Prepare the floor by sweeping or vacuuming
up all dust and grit. Then, using your
sketch as a guide, pick the spot for the base rows (Photo 2). Keep them as close to the
center of the room as possible, since they
guide the rest of the installation.
Measure and snap your perpendicular
baselines for those rows (Photo 2). Lay
carpet squares (without adhesive)
along both baselines to test the layout.
If you end up with gaps less than
4 in. next to walls, shift the layout and
snap new baselines.
To install the squares, start where
the baselines intersect and work outward
(Photo 3). Keep the directional
arrows (Photo 4) on the back of
the squares pointing in the same
Peel the film off the adhesive strips and
butt each square tightly against the preceding
one. Don't adhere the last full
square until you cut the final square to
size (Photo 4). After you cut the square,
add two adhesive strips so there's one in
all four corners. Extra strips come in the
box. Then adhere the final pieces.
You only have to adhere the baseline
rows and the squares on both sides of the
baselines and along the perimeter of the
room. The others stay put thanks to their
heavy backing. (No, they don't pop out
when you're vacuuming!)
A utility knife works OK for cutting the
squares, but we prefer a carpet
knife because it's a bit more
accurate. Use a sharp blade and make several
shallow passes. The backing allows for
a crisp cut that won't unravel. Cut the
squares on a smooth surface, like hardboard.
Avoid cutting on a plywood subfloor
since the wood grain can pull the
blade off line.
Fill in the quadrants
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Photo 5: Fill in
Install carpet squares in each quadrant, starting at the center and moving
outward. Adhere only the squares along the baselines and walls.
With the base rows in place, start back at
the center and fill in the quadrants using a
“step” pattern (Photo 5). Simply press
each square snugly against adjacent
squares, keeping carpet strands
out of the joints.
You can easily change
out squares for a more
pleasing design, even
if they're adhered.
If the adhesive
remove it with
Fitting around doorjambs and corners
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Photo 6: Mark cuts in place
Place a carpet square right side up against an archway wall, aligning it with
installed squares. Mark the wall location on the edges of the carpet.
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Mark both sides of the cut
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Photo 7: Cut on the back
Flip the square over and use a marker and a carpenter's square to draw the wall
shape from the marks you just made. Cut out the opening.
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Cut against the edge of the square for a straight cut.
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Photo 8: Slide into place
Install the square against the archway wall. Fine-tune the cut, if necessary,
so the square fits snug.
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Photo 9: Use templates for tough cuts
Make a full-size template for doorjambs with complicated trim and doorstops.
Transfer the outline onto a carpet square, then cut the square.
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Photo 10: Fillers hide mistakes
Cut filler pieces from scrap to fill any gaps between the walls and squares.
Wedge the pieces into place, then smooth them with your hand.
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Photo 11: No transition strips needed
Butt the carpet against the flooring in adjacent rooms, or overlap the edge of
the adjoining floor.
Cutting carpet to fit around outside corners,
archway walls and doorjambs is the
most challenging part of the job. Start by
setting a square against the face of the
archway wall, overlapping and aligned
with the previously installed square
(Photo 6). Mark the carpet on each side
of the wall, then place the same square
against the side of the wall and mark it.
Using the marks, outline your cut with
your carpenter's square as a guide (Photo
7). It's best to slightly undercut the mark,
then fine-tune as needed for a tight fit.
This same method works for marking and
notching squares to fit around corners.
To fit carpet around odd-shaped obstacles,
such as doorjambs with angular trim,
first make a paper template. You'll need to
make several measurements, transfer
them to paper, then cut out the opening.
It'll probably take several tries before you
get a good fit. Once the template fits, trace
the outline onto the back of a carpet
square and cut it (Photo 9).
Don't worry if the cut isn't perfect and
you end up with a gap—carpet squares
are very forgiving! Just cut a small sliver of
carpet from a scrap piece and tuck it snugly
into the gap (Photo 10).
Since the carpet won't unravel, threshold
strips aren't required. Instead, you can
simply butt against the flooring in the
next room or the existing threshold
After all of the squares are installed,
vacuum the floor. It's inevitable that
something will eventually spill on the
floor, but carpet squares are easy to clean.
If the spill doesn't wipe up, remove the
square and rinse it with water in the sink.
Let it dry and replace it in the floor. For
squares with permanent stains, just
replace the old square with a new one.