What To Know About Carpet Knives

A carpet knife is essential for any job involving carpet, and it's good for other DIY projects as well. Here's what you need to know.

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Cutting carpet, whether you’re ripping up old stuff or trimming new, is a physically demanding task. A dedicated carpet knife provides the control and cutting ability to easily and accurately slash, slice and trim your carpet rolls or pieces.

What Does a Carpet Knife Look Like?

Carpet knives are small, lightweight hand tools that resemble a typical utility knife or box cutter, only with an angled handle. This makes them comfortable to hold while generating the leverage needed for ripping through tough carpet.

One end of the knife will have some kind of placement mechanism for rectangular blades, either fixed in place or retractable. Some “hook handle” carpet knives feature a curved end that’s easier to grip when cutting through tough carpeting.

How Is a Carpet Knife Different From a Utility Knife?

A carpet knife blade is extremely thin and razor-sharp. Unlike pointed, triangular blades in utility knives, a carpet knife blade is square and less likely to snap during use. These square corners make it harder to accidentally cut too deep and damage the skirting or hardwood flooring underneath the carpet.

Carpet knife blades are also double-sided. You get four edges per blade, so they’ll last longer and require less frequent replacement. Where utility knife blades are often retractable, carpet knives tend to use a fixed or folding blade, requiring more careful use.

What Are Carpet Knives Used For?

Carpet knives help with a wide range of cutting tasks. Online forums frequently recommend them for cutting lightweight ceiling tiles for drop ceilings, because their thin blades create precise, clean, deep cuts.

We’ve personally had great success using carpet knives to cut and score drywall panels, and have known others who choose them for cutting and trimming leather. Plus, the double-sided blade is a real-time-saver on long jobs that require frequent blade changes.

No matter what you use one for, always keep safety in mind. Maintain a firm grip, and know what’s underneath your cutting surface. Remember, carpet knives are extremely sharp!

Buying a Carpet Knife

Here are three things to consider when shopping for a carpet knife.

  • Blade change mechanism: Some carpet knives utilize a D-ring to open the body and replace the blade, while others require a screwdriver. If you plan on changing the blade often, go with a D-ring model to cut down on time spent screwing and unscrewing the body.
  • Body style: Most carpet knives will be fixed (a blade mounted to a solid handle) or folding. Fixed blades are more durable because they have fewer moving parts, and yet more dangerous because the blade is exposed. Never slide a fixed-blade knife into your pocket.
  • Hook handle: These provide the most control. In our experience, they create less forearm fatigue because you don’t need to squeeze the handle as hard.

How to Use a Carpet Knife

Very carefully. Carpet knives are extremely sharp tools. Always be aware of where the blade is in relation to your body.

  • Don’t insert or reveal the blade until you’re ready to work, and remove or fold it away when you’re finished. Never store a carpet knife with an exposed blade.
  • Grip the handle of the knife with your dominant hand to ensure a firm, solid grip, and never cut toward yourself.
  • Carpet knife blades eventually become dull, at which time you must switch the blade. Dull blades are unsafe. They can easily jump unexpectedly, snag fibers and cause unsightly, messy rips.
  • If you can, cut the back of the carpet instead of the front. Carpet backing is easier to cut through and you avoid snagging the pile.

Best Carpet Knives

Whether you’ve got a large-scale project in your future or just like the simple design and angled grip of a carpet knife, one of these options should suit your needs.

  • Best multi-purpose: The flat, scalloped end of the multi-functional Roberts 10-220 Cut and Jam Carpet Knife jams carpet edges into gaps as you work. The bright red color makes it hard to misplace.

Alex Rennie
Alex Rennie is a freelance writer who specializes in the home improvement, DIY, and appliance space. Having spent more than five years as a residential and commercial carpenter in NYC–specializing in custom furniture construction and installation–Alex uses his hands-on experience and expert insight to craft product reviews, buying guides, and how-to articles. He has previously written for CNN Underscored, Business Insider, and Popular Mechanics, in addition to Family Handyman. He currently lives in Los Angeles, CA, where he spends his free time hiking and relaxing on the beach with his wife and their two dogs, Louie and Iggy.