Flooring: Introduction

Laying sheet vinyl or woven-backed carpet requires quite a high level of skill. However, coverings such as tiles and clip-together wooden flooring are more straightforward to lay. In some cases you may need to lay a sub-floor before the flooring. Be aware that clip-together flooring or sanded boards may be too noisy for an apartment or condo.

Preparing to Lay Carpet or Sheet Vinyl

Although carpet and vinyl are vastly different materials, they are laid in a similar way. Try to avoid joining lengths; if it's unavoidable, locate seams below any furniture or other fittings. For more on carpet and vinyl tiles.

Types of Flooring

Rolls usually come in set widths -- 15 ft. (4.5 m) for carpet is the most common. This may dictate which way to run a design across a room.

Carpet: This may have fabric-woven or fabric-laminated backing. The vast differences in quality and price are due to a carpet’s make-up. It may be 100 percent wool, a wool/acrylic mix, 100 percent acrylic, or another synthetic fiber. Texture and pile include smooth velvet, twist, loop, and shag pile. Most brands have a grading system for suitable use, such as light domestic (e.g., in a bedroom) or heavy domestic (e.g., hall and stairs). There are also natural-fiber floor coverings, e.g., jute or coir.

Sheet vinyl: Since vinyl is hardwearing and easily cleaned, it's often used in bathrooms and kitchens. To increase its waterproof qualities, you may choose to run a bead of silicone around the edge. This also disguises rough edges.

Foam: Foam acts as a shock absorber between the carpet and floor, provides greater comfort underfoot, protects the carpet, and reduces carpet wear.

Other types of sheet flooring: Rubber and linoleum are durable and easily cleaned, but are more difficult to lay.

Rolled Flooring

Primary-backed carpet (left top): Laid with an underlayment. Needs to be stretched as it's fitted. It can be laid on nearly any type of subfloor, or directly on to floorboards if they are in good condition. Tackless stripping is used around the perimeter to hold the carpet in place.

Foam-backed carpet (left middle): This does not require stretching or an underlayment. It is normally stuck down with carpet tape. Some manufacturers suggest using an underlayment, but it can then be difficult to stick the carpet and underlayment to the floor surface.

Sheet vinyl (left top): This is usually laid dry, on a subfloor (suitable floors include plywood, self- leveled, and hardboard). Vinyl, especially if it's lightweight, can be stuck down.

Underlayment Pads

Foam roll pad (top left): This creates a cushioning effect under the carpet. It also provides good heat insulation, and helps to absorb noise. Protects carpet from dirt or unevenness below.

Felt pad (bottom left): An alternative to foam roll underlayment. Comes in various thicknesses. Thicker, higher-quality examples are more expensive.

Tools and Materials

There is a variety of tools available for laying carpet and vinyl. Pictured below is a selection of the ones most commonly used for laying these types of flooring.

Napping shears: Used for trimming seams in a carpet. One blade is flattened and rests on the pile along the seam, acting as a guide for trimming. Flattened section rests on seam.

Carpet shears: Heavy-duty scissors used for cutting underlay as well as carpet.

Carpet knife: Heavy-duty utility knife designed for cutting all types of carpet and vinyl. Retractable blade

Vinyl cutter: Precision tool for cutting vinyl. Cutting blade

Seaming iron: Used with seaming tape and the seam roller to join lengths of carpet.

Carpet bolster: Tucks carpet behind tackless stripping to secure it in place.

Knee kicker: Used to stretch and position woven-backed carpet. The adjustable teeth can be set for different thicknesses. Dial to set depth

Tackless stripping: Thin length of timber, with razor-sharp teeth. Secured around the edge of a room to hold woven-backed carpet. Teeth grip fabric backing of carpet

Seam roller: Used to roll along seams when joining carpet with a seaming iron. - Serrated wheels grip carpet

Double-sided tape: May be used for securing foam- backed carpet or vinyl in position.

Tack lifter: Acts in much the same way as the claw of a claw hammer. Shaped to deal with carpet tack removal. Notch for gripping tacks

Estimating Quantities for Carpet and Vinyl

Basic estimate

As a basic rule of thumb, base quantity estimates on the floor’s area minus the area covered by permanent fixtures—but see below for roll flooring.

Flooring supplied in rolls

For rolls, do not deduct permanent fixtures from your calculations of the floor area.

Wastage and trimming

Allow about 10 percent, whatever the material being used. It may be less if you have very specific dimensions for a sheet or carpet floor.

Tackless stripping

Calculate requirement by measuring the perimeter of the room.


Calculate requirement by measuring the actual floor area.


Consider subfloor requirements, which can add considerable expense to a flooring project.

General Considerations For Flooring

Squaring patterned flooring: Patterns look best if “square” in a room. Walls may be uneven, so do not use them as a starting point to lay patterned flooring: any unevenness will make the design noticeably misaligned, because the effect becomes exaggerated across a whole room. To judge the best orientation for tiles, dry lay them as shown here and adjust as necessary. For sheet vinyl or carpet, allow generous overlap when rough-cutting before laying.

Adhesives: Many coverings -- vinyl tiles, some cork tiles, and some sheet vinyls -- can adhere with latex adhesive. Use double-sided tape or spray adhesive for foam-backed carpet or vinyl.

Threshold strips: These cover the joint between two kinds of flooring, usually between two rooms. The type used depends on which floorings meet. Those shown here are the most commonly used.

Wood finishing strip: A simple hardwood strip provides a decorative edge.

Carpet-to-carpet: Used where two woven-backed carpets meet in a doorway. Carpet edge hidden by raised lip.

Carpet-to-laminate: Joins woven-backed carpet to rigid edges such as tiles, laminate, or wooden floor.

Finishing strip: Ends a floor covering, in this case woven-backed carpet, at a threshold. Teeth grip woven backed carpet

Flush strip: Joins vinyl to vinyl. Also available as carpet-to-carpet or carpet-to-vinyl strips.

Sunday, June 15, 2008 17:14 PST