Carpet is one of the most popular floor coverings in homes, and it sometimes needs extra attention. This Fix-It Guide on carpet repair tells how carpet works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a carpet problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to remove chewing gum from a carpet, how to patch a carpet, and how to repair a carpet seam or tear.
How Does Carpet Work?
Carpet is a floor covering made of heavy woven or felted fabric. It is stretched over a subfloor and secured at a room’s edge using tack strips. Rooms with dimensions greater than 12 feet. typically require a seam to connect two pieces of carpet. Most carpet flooring has a pad underneath to soften the texture and, in some installations, to protect the carpet backing from moisture.
Fabrics used in carpet include wool, nylon, polyester, acrylic, polypropylene olefin, or (more commonly) a blend of two or more materials. In addition, most carpet materials are treated with a stain fighter to reduce absorption by staining fluids. Carpet pad materials include polyurethane foam, bonded polyurethane, rubber, and natural or synthetic fiber. Pads are graded by their density or weight.
What Can Go Wrong with Carpet?
Because carpets are always underfoot, they are subject to food spills, pet damage, and even burns. In addition, seams between carpet pieces can separate over time and need fixing.
The most important thing you can do to extend the life of your carpet is to vacuum it regularly. Dirt and grit not only look bad, they can wear down the carpet fabric as they are ground in by foot traffic.
How Can I Identify a Carpet Problem?
- If chewing gum gets stuck into the carpet, use ice to get it out (see below).
- If you have other spills or stains on your carpet (including pet accidents), try one of the new oxygen cleaners and follow the label directions. There are also several good pet stain removers on the market.
- If a section of pile is flattened, use a metal pet brush to lift the nap.
- If loops on a shag or Berber carpet become loose, either carefully cut them off or reinsert them into the backing with an awl.
- If your carpet has a minor burn, carefully snip off the tops of singed fibers with cuticle scissors.
- If the carpet can’t otherwise be cleaned, make a patch from a remnant left over from the carpet installation or from a closet corner (see below).
- If a seam separates or a tear occurs in the carpet, you can stitch it back together (see below) or repair it with seam adhesive (see below).
If you have new carpet installed, ask for a copy of the fabric label. It will include information on the fabric materials as well as care instructions. Keep any scraps of both carpet and padding to use for patching and for matching colors or deciding how much wear the carpet has taken later.
What Do I Need for Carpet Repair?
To fix carpet you need only basic cleaning and repair tools. Some you already have and others you can buy at a flooring or building material store:
- Vacuum cleaner
- Mild detergent
- Dry-cleaning fluid
- Cleaning rags
- Carpet patch tool
- Carpet cutter
- Nails or tacks
- Upholstery needle
- Monofilament thread (clear fishing line)
- Double-sided tape
- Latex seam adhesive
What Are the Steps to Carpet Repair?
Remove chewing gum from a carpet:
- Scrape away as much of the gum as you can with a spatula, then vacuum away any loose pieces.
- Rub any remaining gum with a plastic bag filled with ice until the gum is frozen.
- Use the spatula again to chip away the frozen gum.
- Carefully apply a small amount of dry-cleaning fluid to dissolve any remaining traces of the gum. Blot up the dry-cleaning fluid.
- Blot the area with a solution of 1/4 tsp. of mild dishwashing liquid and 1 cup of warm water.
- Rinse the area thoroughly, but don’t soak it.
- If necessary, use scissors to trim out any fabric that still has gum on it.
Patch a carpet:
- Use a circular carpet patch tool (available through a flooring retailer) to remove a small section around a deep stain, burn, or tear.
- Peel the cover tape from a piece of double-faced adhesive patch tape. Cut it larger than the hole, and fold it to insert it into the hole in the carpet.
- Use the carpet cutter or utility knife to cut a patch piece from a carpet remnant, then press the patch firmly over the adhesive.
Patch a larger carpet area:
- Cover the area to be removed with a piece of trimmed scrap carpet.
- Temporarily nail or tack the existing carpet around the edge of the patch piece so the carpet maintains tension when the bad part is removed.
- Use the patch as a guide to cut through the bottom layer of the damaged carpet.
- Remove the damaged section and install double-faced seam tape on the subfloor or padding around all sides of the hole.
- Position the patch and press it firmly on to the tape.
- Remove the temporary nails or tacks to release the tension.
Repair a carpet seam or tear:
- Pull the sides of the carpet together until they meet.
- Temporarily nail or tack the carpet in place on either side of the tear.
- Use a curved upholstery needle and lightweight monofilament thread to stitch the carpet. If necessary, use needle-nose pliers to pull the needle through the carpet backing.
- Once the tear is sewn, secure the seam with a final stitch.
You also can use carpet adhesive (available through flooring retailers or home centers) to mend the seam or tear, following directions on the adhesive container.