Learning More About Hardwood Flooring

Answers To Three Common Questions About Using A Carpet Stretcher

by Juanita Perkins

Wall-to-wall carpet installation is a relatively straightforward task--if you have the right tools and know how to use them, that is. Many people fail to realize the importance of utilizing a carpet stretcher. If you have plans to upgrade or replace the carpeting in your home, read on. This article will answer three commonly asked questions about using a carpet stretcher.

What is a carpet stretcher?

A carpet stretcher, also sometimes referred to as a power stretcher, is a type of hand tool used when installing wall-to-wall carpeting in a large space, such as a living room or bedroom. As its name would imply, the purpose of a carpet stretcher is to ensure that the carpeting sits tight and flat along the floor. Working by hand, you simply wouldn't be able to stretch the carpet taut enough to prevent the formation of wrinkles and folds.  

How does a carpet stretcher work?

A carpet stretcher is a long tool capable of spanning the entire width of a room. The head of the stretcher is studded with several rows of metal teeth. These are used to grip the carpet, thus allowing you to make the stretch. The opposite end of the stretcher consists of a rubber "foot," which is placed against the opposite wall.

These two sides of the stretcher are connected by a series of detachable metal pipes. These allow the stretcher to be shortened or extended depending on the width of a particular room. The idea is that, in every case, the foot must be firmly braced against the back wall in order for the stretcher to do its job.

Attached to the head is a lever arm. When this lever is pushed down toward the tube, the head of the stretcher is extended forward, thus pulling the carpet taut. This method allows a carpet installer to generate the large amounts of force necessary to properly stretch a carpet. 

What is the difference between a carpet stretcher and a knee kicker?

A knee kicker is another commonly used carpet installation tool. Though much smaller, it is similar to a carpet stretcher in that it has a head studded with metal teeth. The opposite end of a knee kicker consists of a of a thick flat pad. With the head of the kicker gripping the carpet, this pad is then "kicked" by the knee of a carpet installer.

Though they serve the same general purpose as a carpet stretcher, knee kickers should not be considered an appropriate replacement for carpeting a large room. The relatively limited force they generate makes them most suitable for use in small rooms--those with dimensions less than 10' x 10'--or areas such as closets and stairs.