How to Measure for Carpet

Careful Measuring to Determine How Much Carpet You Need

Tape measure laid across carpet
Follow these tips to accurately measure for new carpet. John Nordell / Photolibrary / Getty Images

Whether you are considering installing your carpet yourself or just want to be able to get a realistic idea of price when you go shopping for carpet, there are some special considerations when measuring for wall-to-wall broadloom.

What You Will Need to Measure for Carpet

  • a measuring tape or a laser distance measurer
  • a calculator (unless you prefer doing ​the math on your own!)
  • some graph paper and a pencil, if you choose to draw your layout

The Basics

The basic method of measuring a space is to measure the width of the room, and then the length of the room, and then multiply the two dimensions to get the square footage of the room. Lay your tape measure against the wall at one end of your room, and then extend it to the opposite wall. Do the same for the other two walls in the opposite direction.

Measure to the Middle of Doorways

One common mistake is to measure simply from wall to wall. Unless your room is entered by a step, all rooms have a doorway leading into them. Some rooms have additional doorways to closets, bathrooms, etc. You must be sure to measure into the middle of the doorway. This will add 2 to 3 inches to your overall measurement, so if you have a doorway at either end of the room, you could be up to 6 inches beyond the exact room dimension.

Measuring Carpet for Stairs

If you are measuring an area that leads to stairs going down (such as a hallway or landing) be sure to measure around the nosing (the ledge at the top of the stairs). Hold your tape measure against the opposite wall (or halfway into a doorway), and wrap it all the way around the nosing until it touches the back (riser) of the stair below. Your carpet will need to be this measurement in order to wrap around the nosing.

If you are measuring the stairs themselves, see this article on how to measure and calculate carpet for stairs.

Add a Little Extra

Once you have taken your measurements, you should always add a little extra to your requirements. This allows for walls that are not perfectly straight and gives you a bit of a safety net. When measuring, it's suggested to add about 3 inches to each piece of carpet that you will need.

Carpet Widths

Unfortunately, just calculating the square footage of your room doesn’t tell you how much carpet you will have to buy. Broadloom comes in specific widths – usually 12’ or 15’, but sometimes 13’6”. Therefore, when you buy a piece of carpet off the roll, you have to buy the length you need, by the width of the roll.

For example, if your room is 10' by 10' – which equals 100 square feet – and you are buying a carpet that comes in a 12’ width, you will actually need to buy 12' by 10' of carpet, which equals 120 square feet.

If you are carpeting a fairly small area, you may be able to find a carpet remnant that will save you from having to purchase extra carpet.

Square Feet vs. Square Yards

Although most of the floor covering industry has been transitioning to the consistent use of square feet over recent years, there are still some retailers and installers who prefer to use the older unit of a square yard. So, when you are shopping for carpet, you may see that some products are priced per square yard.

There are 9 square feet in 1 square yard, so to convert square feet into square yards, divide your total by nine. For example, 12’ by 10’ is 120 square feet, which is 13.33 square yards (120 divided by 9).

Beyond the Basics - How Much Carpet Do You Need?

Now that you have the basics of measuring covered, you’re ready to delve a bit deeper into the task of figuring out how much carpet you need. The next step is understanding pile direction and the effect that has on your calculations. See this article to learn how to calculate your carpet requirements.