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Carpet Over Carpet

Easier and More Eco-Friendly...Or Completely Inadvisable?

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It's understandable why a homeowner might want to install carpet over carpet. True or not, possible motivations may be:
  • Saves on the cost of pulling up and disposing of the old carpet...
  • Provides one extra layer of insulation for cold floors...
  • Installing a pad is not necessary--the existing carpet acts as padding...
  • Existing carpet is glued-down, not tacked--so removal will be extra-expensive and time-consuming...
  • Keeps carpet waste materials out of the landfill...

Why You May Not Want to Put Carpet on Carpet

Carpeting industry professionals tell us that putting carpet over carpet is inadvisable for many reasons.

First, by leaving a layer of carpet, you make it that much harder to nail down the tack strips (those long, wooden strips around the perimeter with upward-pointing spikes). Nails on tack strips run about 3/4" long--far too short to penetrate carpet plus pad (if the carpet has pad) and into the sub-floor.

Second, carpeting needs an adequate base for installation. Carpet installed with an improper base will wear out quickly. There are many aspects to this, but consider just this one: traffic patterns worn into the existing carpet will be transmitted to the new carpet.

Third, studies show that mold and mildew in carpeting is exacerbated by the presence of dirt. Dirt and moisture, with high temperatures added, equal mold and mildew. It is virtually impossible to clean an old carpet enough to remove all of the dirt. Yet if you go the route of professional carpet-cleaning, you're already spending money that could have been spent on removing the carpet in the first place.

Let's also mention that you're adding an extra layer onto your flooring, effectively "lowering your ceiling." If this is a basement or any other height-challenged room, every inch counts. Don't forget that adding height to your carpet will mean that doors will scrape and trim will have to be repositioned.

Another good aspect to ripping up carpet is that it lets you assess the status of your sub-floor. This will provide you with an opportunity for repairing damaged sub-floor. Keep in mind that if a previous owner has installed low-quality carpet, this may signal problems underneath--particularly problems that are difficult to deal with, such as rot or mold.

Carpet on Carpet (or Not) Tips

Never say never, right? Some homeowners, because of their own circumstances, may simply want to install carpet on carpet. We also provide tips for homeowners you think that laying carpet atop carpet is the only route out.
  1. Insistent on doing this? Extremely low-pile carpet is the only kind that would work. The lower, the better.
  2. At best, carpet-on-carpet is a short-term solution. So, if you are house-flipping or intending to stay in your home for a short while, this option may work.
  3. Have you even tried removing that glued-down carpet? Even though glue-down can be notoriously hard to remove, some old carpet adhesives have essentially failed over the years and broken up. Test a corner of the carpet and see how hard it is to pull up. You might get lucky.
  4. Concerned about dumping carpet in landfills? There is a non-profit consortium called Carpet America Recovery Effort that helps plug homeowners into companies that recycle carpeting. Link below.
  5. When you do need to laboriously scrape up glued-down carpet, don't do it by hand; it's too hard. Instead, recruit the services of an electric scraper, like the multi-tool found in the Ridgid 12v Lithium-Ion Drill/Jobmax Combo.
  6. One contractor on an Internet forum has suggested using dry ice to harden the glue, making removal easier. I cannot vouch for this method, but would like to hear back from any readers if this meets with success (or not)!
  7. Thin plywood underlayment atop low-pile carpet is better than just putting the new carpet straight on. The underlayment would provide more of a rigid base for the new carpet.
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