Carpet Installation: What to Know Before You Buy

Carpet Installer Using Knife to Trim Wall Edge
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When shopping for carpeting—and for many other types of floor coverings—offers for free or included installation abound. It's a tempting deal. What can be better than free, especially when it comes to expensive purchases like whole-house carpeting

With flooring, installation is a service, and all services need to be paid for one way or another. If you're able to remain within the limitations of the offer, free or included carpet installation might genuinely be beneficial to you. In other cases, it might be better to pay for installation separately.

What You Get With Carpet Installation

With many carpet and floor covering companies, free or included installation usually includes:

  1. Moving furniture: Some light furniture removal is expected with most flooring installations. Furniture will usually be moved to an adjacent room but never upstairs, downstairs, or into a different part of the house.
  2. Baseboard removal: All baseboards are rapidly removed with prybars and set aside.
  3. Old carpeting and padding removed and disposed of: Existing carpeting will be pulled up, cut into smaller, manageable sizes if necessary, and disposed of.
  4. Carpet installation: Wall-to-wall carpet is installed. Separate pieces are seamed together.
  5. Transitions: A limited number of transitions between the carpeting and other flooring will be installed. Transitions smooth out differing levels and/or gaps between your new floor and adjoining floors. Whole-house flooring installation is one instance where you might not need to install transitions.
  6. Stair carpet installation: If the home has stairs, this might be an additional charge since this is slower, detailed work. Most installers offer two types of stair carpet: bullnose or waterfall. Bullnose is form-fitting to the stair's tread, riser, and bullnose projection. Waterfall stretches from the bullnose to the junction between the stair tread and the stair riser.
  7. Replacing baseboards: Baseboards will be nailed back into place.
  8. Replacing furniture: Furniture will be moved back into place.

Note that labor might be part of the included or free installation offer but materials never will be. You will pay for transitions, padding, and carpeting.

Typical Limitations of Carpeting Installation

The carpet must cost over a certain amount. Bargain-priced and clearance carpeting are usually not part of the deal. Regularly offered carpeting below a certain price tier will also not be included.

These offers typically do not include:

  • Glue-down carpeting
  • Commercial installations
  • Apartments, condominiums, and other multi-family housing
  • Special order carpeting
  • Certain types of padding

Note

Requiring a certain type of padding (usually higher priced) is one way that carpet installers offering free installation add premium pricing. While it's clearly a benefit to the company, it may also be a benefit to you since high-quality carpet padding will help the carpet last longer and feel more comfortable.

Services Not Included in Carpet Installation

Dismantling Furniture

Floor companies will never dismantle large built-in items. Moving certain types of heavy furniture or furniture that is attached to floors or walls will not be included. Items like wet bars and large built-in shelves or bookcases will not be removed by carpeting installers.

Removing Hard Flooring

Removing old carpeting is difficult but manageable by a floor installation crew. Removing hard flooring like laminate, engineered wood, tile, luxury vinyl, or sheet vinyl will never be done by a carpet installer offering included or even paid installation. You'll need to contract out this project to another service provider.

Subfloor Preparation

Hopefully, you have a subfloor and underlayment system perfectly suitable for your new floor. If not, you should hire a contractor or contract the flooring company to perform this service. Small areas that need to be leveled can actually be addressed inexpensively with a liquid, pour-on self-leveling compound. Larger areas need carpentry work and can be expensive.

Touch-ups and Repairs

Some walls and baseboards may become scuffed during installation. Installers do their best to avoid scuffs. But when scuffs appear, it's usually the homeowner who has to fix them or clean them.

Also, you'll need to ask whether certain materials are not included in the offer. A few transitions might be included. But if there is an excessive number of transitions, the company may charge for them.

Most free installation offers apply only to carpeting and laminate flooring. Rarely will you find free installation offers for ceramic tile or hardwood flooring, both labor-intensive activities. Wall-to-wall carpeting is not a do-it-yourself project. Installation is not as simple as unrolling the product and pressing the edges into tack strips.

Hardwood floor and tile installation are both considered as much an art as they are a craft, and you will be hard-pressed to find free offers for either.

When Included Installation Is a Good Offer

How can you determine if the free installation offer is good for you? When comparing the free installation offer against other companies' offers, simply separate materials from labor.

Imagine that you have a 1,000-square-foot space that you want to carpet. One flooring company offers free whole-house carpeting installation on any job over $699.  Materials for the job will cost $2,240, including taxes, for a grand total of $2,240.

Another company does not include installation; installation costs $600. Materials charges, including tax, come to $1,700. The grand total is $2,300.

Since the two estimates are within $60 of each other, you may decide between the two companies on other factors like reviews, reputation, and warranty.

  Company A Company B
Materials $2,240 (@ $2.24/sq. ft.) $1,700
Labor $0 $600
Total $2,240 $2,300

So, when shopping for carpeting, there is nothing inherently wrong or deceptive about free installation offers. It is perfectly valid to entertain free and low-cost installation offers, but they should be kept separate from materials- and labor-only estimates.