How to Lay Carpet Squares (2024)

Updated: Jun. 25, 2019

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

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How to Lay Carpet Squares (1)

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.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

A full day

    About modular carpet

    If you think installing carpet is time consuming and complicated, think again. Modular carpet, aka carpet squares, aka peel and stick 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 dining room.

    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

    How to Lay Carpet Squares (2)

    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 for peel and stick carpet squares.

    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 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 for peel and stick carpet squares

    How to Lay Carpet Squares (3)

    Photo 2: Layout lines

    Clean the floor, then snap chalk lines parallel to the walls to create perpendicular baselines.

    How to Lay Carpet Squares (4)

    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.

    How to Lay Carpet Squares (5)

    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.

    How to Lay Carpet Squares (6)

    Carpet knife

    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 direction.

    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

    How to Lay Carpet Squares (7)

    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 residue remains, remove it with rubbing alcohol.

    Fitting around doorjambs and corners

    How to Lay Carpet Squares (8)

    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.

    How to Lay Carpet Squares (9)

    Close up

    Mark both sides of the cut

    How to Lay Carpet Squares (10)

    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.

    How to Lay Carpet Squares (11)

    Close up of carpet tile adhesive

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

    How to Lay Carpet Squares (12)

    Photo 8: Slide into place

    Install the square against the archway wall. Fine-tune the cut, if necessary, so the square fits snug.

    How to Lay Carpet Squares (13)

    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.

    How to Lay Carpet Squares (14)

    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.

    How to Lay Carpet Squares (15)

    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 (Photo 11).

    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.

    Required Tools for this How to Lay Carpet Project

    Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Chalk line
    • Framing square
    • Tape measure

    You’ll also need a carpet knife.

    Required Materials for this How to Lay Carpet Project

    Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

    • Carpet squares
    • Graph paper
    • Stiff paper for templates

    Originally Published: August 01, 2018

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    How to Lay Carpet Squares (2024)


    How to Lay Carpet Squares? ›

    Some carpet tiles have a seal and stick system, where a layer is peeled off the back of the tile so it can be stuck directly to the subfloor. For those that don't come with an adhesive backing, carpet tiles will need to be glued in position.

    Do carpet squares have to be glued down? ›

    Some carpet tiles have a seal and stick system, where a layer is peeled off the back of the tile so it can be stuck directly to the subfloor. For those that don't come with an adhesive backing, carpet tiles will need to be glued in position.

    Are carpet squares easy to install? ›

    With their small size, carpet tiles are considerably easier to lift, move and install when compared to wall to wall carpets.

    What holds carpet squares in place? ›

    Several carpet tiles can be installed without the use of adhesives! However, when need be, adhesives such as double-sided tape or glue can help keep the tiles from moving.

    Do you put anything under carpet tiles? ›

    Well, many carpet tiles already come with underlay attached. So yes, they do need underlay, but technically there's no need to supply more.

    What do you stick carpet tiles down with? ›

    Laying carpet tiles is very similar to laying vinyl, with the only difference being that double-sided carpet tape is used to secure the tiles, rather than adhesive. Find the starting point in the same way as described for vinyl tiles.

    Can I put padding under carpet tiles? ›

    Carpet tiles padding is a material that is placed underneath carpet tiles to provide cushioning and insulation. It is typically made of rubber, foam, or fiber and is available in a variety of thicknesses. Carpet padding helps protect the floor beneath the carpet, provides insulation, and muffles sound.

    Do you have to roll carpet tile? ›

    Once you have laid all the carpet tiles, you will need to roll the floor. Rolling the floor will push out any air pockets. It will also make the carpet tiles adhere firmly to the subfloor.

    Is it cheaper to lay carpet or carpet tiles? ›

    Carpet tiles are cost-effective as they are low on waste, require little storage space and are easy to transport. The key saver is the installation cost as this will, generally, take a lot less time for a professional installer, than it would for wall-to-wall carpet.

    Do carpet tiles stay in place? ›

    Some of the tiles adhere to the floors using glues, while others are nailed or stapled down. This carpet flooring option is designed to go down easily, and it's often used with different colors blended together in checker or mosaic patterns to create more unique looks.

    How long do carpet squares last? ›

    High-quality carpet tiles are an incredibly hardwearing option for flooring, and they have been known to last anywhere between 10 and 20 years when properly cared for. Understandably, the amount of traffic they see will also be a factor that can vary this term considerably.

    Can you see the seams in carpet tiles? ›

    Possible Visible Seams

    Depending on the carpet texture and pattern on the carpet tile, the individual carpet tiles can be noticeable to an extent. This visibility may work fine with your planned pattern design, but it is something to think about if you desire a more subtle tile layout design.

    Can carpet tiles be loose laid? ›

    What is loose lay installation? Loose installation means carpet tiles are installed without an adhesive. This method is used for temporary settings like exhibition stands, rental settings, residential spaces, offices, or when creating a carpet tile area rug.

    Will carpet squares stick to concrete? ›

    Carpet tiles can be installed over concrete, plywood or particleboard. However, some adhesives can permanently damage hardwood floors. You can also install over existing flooring such as wood, tile or vinyl flooring. Make sure the existing flooring is no more than an inch thick.

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