How To Install Carpet Tiles

Updated: Jun. 28, 2024

Lay a high-quality carpet floor in less than a day.

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Time

A full day

Complexity

Beginner

Cost

Varies

Introduction

Modular carpet, also known as carpet squares, is a DIY-friendly alternative to traditional wall-to-wall carpet. Even inexperienced homeowners can carpet a room in a day.

Tools Required

  • Chalk line
  • Framing square
  • Tape measure

Materials Required

  • Carpet squares
  • Graph paper
  • Stiff paper for templates

If you think installing carpet is time-consuming and complicated, think again. Modular carpet, sometimes called carpet squares or peel-and-stick carpet square tiles, 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 in an afternoon. And you can use it anywhere. You can add whimsy to a kids’ playroom or create an elegant look in a formal dining room.

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 can save on costs elsewhere 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 foolproof— 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.

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 the 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.

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.

Carpet Knife

A utility knife works okay 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 a hardboard. Avoid cutting on a plywood subfloor since the wood grain can pull the blade off line.

How To Install Carpet Tiles Carpet KnifeTMB Studio

Project step-by-step (11)

Step 1

Draw a layout

With practically unlimited carpet options, the hardest part may be choosing a design with peel-and-stick carpet squares. You’ll have to select the brand you want before you start since the brands have different square sizes. Then, sketch the room to scale on graph paper to experiment with different designs. Mark your baseline rows on the sketch for peel-and-stick carpet squares, and use colored pencils or markers to draw in the squares.

How To Install Carpet Tiles draw a layoutTMB StudioTMB Studio

Step 2

Layout lines

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. 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. Lay carpet squares- without adhesive- along both baselines to test the layout. If you end up with gaps less than 4 inches next to walls, shift the layout and snap new baselines.

How To Install Carpet Tiles Layout linesTMB StudioTMB Studio

Step 3

Starting rows

To install the squares, start where the baselines intersect and work outward. Remove the protective film, butt the squares tightly and adhere them to the floor.

How To Install Carpet Tiles Starting rowsTMB StudioTMB Studio

Step 4

Cut tight to walls

Peel the film off the adhesive strips and butt each square tightly against the preceding one. Be sure to keep the directional arrows on the back of the squares pointing in the same direction.

Don’t adhere to the last full square until you cut the final square to size. 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.

How To Install Carpet Tiles Cut tight to wallsTMB StudioTMB Studio

Step 5

Fill in

With the base rows in place, start back at the center and fill in the quadrants using a “step” pattern. Simply press each square snugly against adjacent squares, keeping carpet strands out of the joints. You only have to adhere the baseline rows and the squares on both sides of the baselines and along the room’s perimeter. The others stay put, thanks to their heavy backing.

You can easily change out squares for a more pleasing design, even if they’re adhered. If the adhesive residue remains, remove it with rubbing alcohol.

How To Install Carpet Tiles Fill inTMB StudioTMB Studio

Step 6

Mark cuts in place

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. Mark the carpet on each side of the wall, then place the same square against the side of the wall and mark it.

How To Install Carpet Tiles Mark cuts in placeTMB StudioTMB Studio

Close up

Mark both sides of the cut.

How To Install Carpet Tiles Close upTMB StudioTMB Studio

Step 7

Cut on the back

Using the marks, outline your cut with your carpenter’s square as a guide. 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.

How To Install Carpet Tiles Cut on the backTMB StudioTMB Studio

Close up of carpet tile adhesive

Cut against the edge of the square for a straight cut.

How To Install Carpet Tiles Close up of carpet tile adhesiveTMB StudioTMB Studio

Step 8

Slide into place

Install the carpet square against the archway wall. If necessary, fine-tune the cut so the square fits snugly.

How To Install Carpet Tiles Slide into placeTMB StudioTMB Studio

Step 9

Use templates for tough cuts

To fit the 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.

How To Install Carpet Tiles Use templates for tough cutsTMB StudioTMB Studio

Step 10

Fillers hide mistakes

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. Wedge the pieces into place, then smooth them with your hand.

How To Install Carpet Tiles Fillers hide mistakesTMB StudioTMB Studio

Step 11

No transition strips needed

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. Inevitably, something will eventually spill on the floor, but these squares are easy to clean. If the spill doesn’t wipe up, remove the carpet 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.

How To Install Carpet Tiles No transition strips neededTMB StudioTMB Studio