How To Install Carpet Pad- A Complete Guide

In This Post:Before You Install Carpet PadLeveling The Subfloor For Carpet Pad InstallationOption 1: Replace the Subfloor With New PlywoodOption 2: Pour a Layer of Self-Leveling Concrete as a Subfloor Option 3Fill in Cracks That are Wider Than 1/8 Inch With an Underlayment Leveling CompoundChoosing the Carpet PadInstalling Carpet in Five Easy StepsStep 1: Prepare the SubfloorStep 2: Install Tackless Strips Step 3: Lay Carpet PadStep 4: Trim the Excess Carpet PadStep 5: Secure the Carpet Pad to the Subfloor

Knowing the best way to install carpet pad doesn’t mean you will necessarily choose to do the job yourself; you may instead choose to supervise it.

But having the know-how under your belt, you can then hire qualified workers and know that they are doing a top-notch job installing both the new carpet and the padding.

If you do want to try to install the carpet pad yourself, however, look at these five easy steps and get an idea of just how easy the process can be!

The top rated tools for carpet installers are Roberts Carpet Tools.

Their professional quality but do-it-yourself pricing makes them a perfect companion for anyone installing carpet or carpet pads.

Laying carpet correctly is a big job, and more importantly, one that needs to be done correctly.

Part of the success of laying the carpet and what will help make the greatest difference in your overall satisfaction from your newly carpeted room comes down to not only selecting a quality carpet, but also using a quality carpet padding.

And, just as importantly, you will want to ensure that carpet pad is installed correctly, as many people fail to recognize the importance of how to install carpet pad.

Before You Install Carpet Pad

For new carpet to last, you have to invest in both a quality carpet that is durable and will hold up to the daily wear and tear and quality carpet padding, and you will need to install both correctly.

If you skimp on any one of those three steps, you may find yourself disappointed in your carpet.

A bad installation can cause carpet to look bad quickly, and wear out long before it should.

Here, we give you the overview on how to correctly install your quality carpet pad. Of course, you will want to get more detailed instructions from either the manufacturer, or potentially follow the steps listed in a how-to video such as this one:

You will also want to ensure that your subflooring is even. Installing carpet pad or floating floors on an uneven subfloor will only cover up the problem temporarily.

A carpet pad installed over uneven subfloors will wear unevenly and quickly with the pressure from feet and furniture, causing the carpet and the padding to wear out much quicker.

You need to fix the uneven floors by using a leveling agent or putting down a new subfloor before you install your flooring to ensure that your investment in flooring will keep its value,

Leveling The Subfloor For Carpet Pad Installation

If you have pulled up existing flooring of any type to replace with new carpeting and you note that the subfloor underneath is uneven, there are a few different fixes you can consider, depending on the situation.

Option 1:

Replace the Subfloor With New Plywood

This is something you will want to do if the entire sub-flooring is uneven or damaged, or even if more than a few minor patches are.

You can replace just a portion of the plywood subfloor if, for example, there is only one area of about a few square feet that was damaged.

If the entire sub-floor looks as though it is uneven or is coming apart, it’s definitely better to front the initial cost of replacing the plywood subfloor now.

While it is an additional cost, it is a pretty minor investment that will definitely go a long way to protect the larger investment of your new flooring.

Option 2:

Pour a Layer of Self-Leveling Concrete as a Subfloor

This is a great way to get a solid, level subfloor. Of course, you can only pour a concrete subfloor if you are on a slab or in the basement or you are absolutely certain that your framing can carry the weight of a concrete subfloor.

Do not risk guessing here; have a licensed contractor come and give you the ok to pour concrete if you are not on ground level.

Concrete is very heavy, so do not pour concrete if your home has a crawl space unless you have been assured by a professional that the framing can handle the weight, or you will end up with major cracking as the house shifts and settles.

You will only need about ¼” of self-leveling concrete poured as a subfloor, and you should look for a lightweight option like Ardex brand.

Also, if your flooring had a plywood subfloor previously, know that you should not pour the concrete over wood, as it will not cure correctly. You will need a backer board or heavy plastic underneath the concrete.

Of course you will also need to seal the concrete to prevent moisture problems.

This video shows a really good example of how to lay a self-leveling underlayment of concrete:

Option 3

Fill in Cracks That are Wider Than 1/8 Inch With an Underlayment Leveling Compound

While you cannot simply cover your entire plywood subfloor with this, an underlayment leveling compound can be used to spot fix small areas of damage.

If you use a large amount of leveling compound on any type of unsound floor that is at all bouncy, it will break up over time and result in damage to your new floors.

Simply mix according to directions and smooth over cracks or gouges with a multipurpose trowel.

Choosing the Carpet Pad

Choosing a carpet pad is not as simple of a process as you may think.

Many people assume that thicker is better when it comes to carpet padding, and while you can see where this concept could have originated, it’s not actually true and choosing carpet padding that is either too thin OR even too thick can cause an issue with your carpet.

If the carpet padding is not thick enough, the carpet will be uncomfortable and will wear to quickly, as the carpet will end up having to absorb too much of the impact between foot traffic and the subflooring.

Should you choose carpet padding that is too thick for your particular carpet, it may not adhere to the tackles strip well and will peel up and separate from the floor.

The general recommendation is no thicker than ½ inch carpet pad is needed in a residential space, and that carpet padding for a commercial carpet or very low pile Berber carpet should be closer to 3/8 inch thick.

However, you should check with the recommendations of the manufacturer or supplier of your particular carpet before purchasing a carpet pad.

Additionally, carpet padding can be made from a variety of materials. Waffle padding was once the most common, and as the name implies, this has pockets of air built into the design.

When purchasing a waffle pad to go under carpet, it is a good idea to purchase denser padding, as this older style padding was known to have too much filler and therefore break down quicker and cease to provide sufficient friction absorption in the long term.

Bonded urethane carpet pads are the most popular on the market today, but are losing favor among consumers due to the use of a chemical compound in the manufacturing known as Bht.

Other carpet padding options include flat rubber, urethane foam, or fiber cushion, which vary in quality and performance, but can be very viable options when purchased from a reputable distributer.

The bottom line when choosing a carpet pad is the same as when selecting your carpet: make sure that you gather as much information as possible on your options and do lots of comparison shopping.

Be sure to get customer reviews on your different options and remember that sometimes, the best deal will end up costing you more in the long run.

So, you have purchased the carpet pad and carpet for the space needed in your home.

It’s now time to begin the installation! Believe it or not, the carpet pad installation can be accomplished in a single afternoon and in five simple steps.

Installing Carpet in Five Easy Steps

Step 1: Prepare the Subfloor

First, prepare your floors.

Clean the subfloor (whatever surface you will be laying your carpet on top of)  of dust, dirt, debris, old adhesive and paint spots so that the pad doesn’t get dirty, which will affect the carpet too.

Carpet can be installed over almost any surface — Cement, wood, linoleum, vinyl or even stone if you so choose, with the proper preparation. Starting with a clean base is the key here.

No matter what high quality carpet you have purchased, if the subflooring is not set up properly, it will have a direct impact on the feel and longevity of the carpet.

It is as simple as that.

Step 2: Install Tackless Strips

Once the floor is clean it’s time to install tack strips (usually referred to as tackles strips). Tackless strips vary in sizes (width, thickness, and length), so you should confirm that you are using the right size as recommended by the carpet supplier.

The tack strip will be laid around the perimeter of the room, except in front of doorways, being nailed at about 8-12 inch intervals.

The tack strips should not be placed in doorways, as they can wear through the carpet over time and could be dangerous if repeatedly walked over.

The pins should point toward the walls about 1/4-1/2 inch between the wall and the strips. Nail the tack strips to the sub floor so you have something to attach the carpeting to.

If you have masonry floors (such as cement or concrete), then the tackless strips should be glued down with an epoxy to install the carpeting.

Though masonry nails could be an option in this case, special adhesives have grown much more in popularity due to both their ease of use and effectiveness.

 Step 3: Lay Carpet Pad

Now it is time to install the carpet pad. Laying the carpet padding is an important part of the carpeting installation process, not only because it can make the carpeting feel more comfortable, but it will also have an impact on the durability of the carpet.

If using the waffle pad style of carpet pad, the “waffle side” of the carpeting pad should be face up for maximum cushioning and it is cut to fit inside the tackless strips with about ¼” gap so that the carpet itself can be attached to the tackless strips and the padding does not interfere with the securing of the carpet.

Lay the carpet pad perpendicular to the direction you plan to lay the carpet.

Step 4: Trim the Excess Carpet Pad

Cut the carpet pad to roughly the right size and then trim the pad to be just short of the tack strip.

A carpet trimmer can make the job much easier and neater, but any sharp blade will do the trick.

You want to have the padding away from the tack strip a little so that when you stretch the carpet the padding doesn’t ride up onto the tack strip, interfering with proper carpet installation.

Carpet padding pieces should be butted together, as you lay them down, rather than laid on top of each other for maximum durability and comfort. Tape or staple any seams together to keep the padding from creeping or shifting under the carpet.

Step 5: Secure the Carpet Pad to the Subfloor

The padding can be either stapled or glued directly to the subfloor. If you choose to staple the padding to the subfloor, stale it every six inches.

A tacker can make this process much quicker and more efficient, but a regular staple gun will do the trick if you don’t have access to a tacker.

If you are choosing to glue the carpet pad to the subfloor, as you would especially want to do on cement, select a low VOC (volatile organic compound) adhesive so you don’t pollute your indoor air and be sure the area is well ventilated.

Be sure to collect any scraps of carpet pad or other extraneous items or trash that any blend into the carpet pad before installing the carpet over top, as these can cause bumps or bubbles in the carpet after the final installation (imagine a Princess and the Pea scenario, where you can feel the additional bubble through the carpet as long as it is in place).

By following the five simple steps above, you can install carpet padding yourself and ensure that the padding and carpet will remain in optimum condition for the maximum amount of time.

A professional carpet installer would also follow exactly these five steps when installing carpet pad. If you still do not feel confident to tackle this home improvement project alone, start by attempting the installation it in a small area.

Once you get the hang of laying carpet padding, you will see laying carpet padding even in an entire home is a simple five step process.

If you do choose to hire a professional, use the above steps as your guide to monitor the installation process of your carpet.

56 thoughts on “How To Install Carpet Pad- A Complete Guide”

  1. we had rubber carpet padding for my living room and stairs just put in. the installer put the waffle side facing the wood floor and the straight side which had a moisture block protection facing up is that the right way?
    also when he did the stairs he did not round the steps with the padding so when i climb the stairs and walk on the edges it feals a little hard was this done correctly?

  2. I have a thinner wool carpet on a thinner pad in the bedroom and a thicker nylon carpet with thicker pad in the hall. Should I install a layer of subfloor in the bedroom to bring the carpets to the same height? Also, how do I seam the two different height carpets at the doorway so that they lay at the same height? Is it okay for the seam to lie over the transition between heights in the doorway after laying the subfloor?
    Thanks a lot.

  3. Hi Ox,
    How big of a height difference do you have? If it’s not too big of a difference, you could might be able to use a thicker pad in the bedroom and/or a thinner pad in the hall, though intalling a layer of subfloor can work well too if the joists can support the extra weight (if applicable). Most of the time, just use a joiner carpet bar. Carpet seam tape is what is used to seam any two pieces of carpeting. You can use either the glue type that you have to heat the glue to get it to bond or the pressure-sensitive type, carpet edges can also be tucked under.

  4. Hi
    My Fiance and I are having a disagreement as whether or not to have carpet professionally installed. Our livingroom is a total of 12 x 19 from the patio door to the wall. We are only carpeting with padding 12 x 15. My Fiancee says that he was told that they will lay the carpet and roll the edges under so the carpeting will look very neat. I can not understand that. I think that is impossible I think that we should just buy the carpet 12 x 15 and lay it on the floor with out padding because if we buy padding then the carpet will be too high off the floor and it will look silly. We just layed a wood look linoleum in our dining area and up to the front door which looks great so now all we need to do is lay the carpet in the living room which will extend a little less than one foot over the lineolum on each side. How will my fiance way look good with padding and rolled under? I hope you can help because I am so confused and I say why spend all that money if we do not need to.
    Thank you so much

  5. Hi Sharon,
    Sorry, but you’re fiance is correct – carpeting can be rolled under at the edges to create a very neat appearance. The padding will extend to just before the edge, so the padding isn’t rolled under. Remember too, not all padding is thick. ;~)

  6. Hi
    Thank you so much for getting back to me so quickly. OH SHUCKS! I was hoping he was wrong. I wanted to save $301.00 and just lay the carpet on the floor without the padding thinking that it will look much better so now I have no way of convincing him. I can not wait to see the out come.
    Thanks Again (smile)

  7. Hi, I lay carpet and tile for some landlords in town. I usually do a straight glue down to the sub floor, but I have contracted with a new landlord and he wants me to do something different. He wants a pad down under a very thin and cheep rubber backed carpet, using no tack strips. He wants the carpet glued down to. I know how to lay a pad and how to stretch a carpet, but I am confused as to how to do it when gluing down the pad and the carpet. I think the glue won’t spread well on top of the pad.Thank you for any advice.

  8. I live in military housing in Hawaii. We are wanting to lay down carpet in our garage and seal off the door so we can use it as a play room for our kids. The issue is that we CANNOT use tack strips. We definitely want to use carpet and not just rugs. Any suggestions?

  9. I have a new plywood floor that I want to carpet without the use of a pad. This is an office area where chairs with rollers will be used. Is this a good idea? Should glue be used, or is it OK to just use tacking strips and just stretch it? Could you, or would you provide me with step by step instructions as to how to do it? Thank you, Ed Doyel

  10. Hi Joe,
    I would suggest carpet tiles. Yep – there really is such a thing! Honestly though, I’ve never used them, so I can’t tell you what to expect. They’re usually applied with adhesive and there’s also the peel and stick kind.
    But, I suppose you’re not allowed to use glue either, correct? You know, you could put down particle board or plywood first – think of it as a ‘floating’ floor. You could then glue it down or staple it – you could still use carpet tack strips too! Just be sure that the nails are shorter than the height of the board and strip combined. See these articles: and .
    You could still use carpet tile – all you’d need is some thin sub-flooring material under it.

  11. Hi Ed,
    What type of carpeting are you thinking about? It’s not a good idea to not use a carpet pad. Pads extend the life of the carpet. Please see this article about carpet pads.
    In an office setting, plastic type mats (most likely acrylic??) are used at the desk area where a chair will be used to help protect the carpet.
    There’s further information about installing carpeting and the pad, please check the Full Archives – the link is on the top right-hand corner. It doesn’t go into as much detail, but there are do-it-yourself sites that give wonderfully detailed instructions. Do a search at Google.
    Good luck!

  12. Thank you very much Flooring Lady for the fast response. I didn’t expect a reply within 24 hours. I will follow your advise and use a carpet pad and then use acrylic mats. Thanks again. Ed Doyel

  13. Hi, our basement flooded (slightly) enough to get all our carpet and padding wet. This happened about four months ago. We pulled up all the carpet and padding. We threw out the padding but kept the carpet. We dried out the carpet and feel we can still use it. Is it reasonable for us to reinstall our own fresh padding and either try to put the carpet back on, or hire someone to reinstall the carpet on top of our padding job? The carpet is all there, but is back in its original strips (needing to be seamed again).

  14. Hi John,
    If you feel that you can do the job well enough, then sure, try to do it yourself. I would recommend figuring out where the water came in from and addressing that problem first so that hopefully, you won’t have to be bothered with all of this again. The basement floor should also be sealed if it isn’t already.

  15. We pulled up old carpet out of my mom’s house. The old padding is basically stuck to the wood floor. Can we install new pad and carpet without having to remove the old pad. We are talking about 30 year old pad.


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