photo 1
Many readers may not be aware FCI has a Website, located at The bulletin board forum found there is developing into a great place to communicate with installers around the country and the world. The topics can be fairly wide-ranging, but deal mainly with installation problems and the solutions to them. There is a wealth of information to be found there, and usually a lively discussion of some sort is going on.

An installer came to the bulletin board with a pattern-elongation problem. The job was direct glue-down on concrete. Two of the shots were 47 feet, and the pattern was 4-inches off. After attempting to move the pattern with a knee kicker, he was at a loss as to what to do next.

The first thing is to contact the manufacturer and advise them of the problem. Seek the help of the technical support department; the installers on staff there are highly skilled and knowledgeable, and they are there to help. Andrew Aufiero, who works in that capacity for a carpet manufacturer, thinks they keep him around because he’s cute. I’d say his expertise has something to do with it as well.

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To the problem. First, measure how many pattern repeats there are in the first 12, 20, and 30 feet on each piece; the manufacturer will need this information in order to help. If it is out of tolerance, they may replace it or, even better, pay extra if the installer can get it in.

For stretching the pattern, use a power stretcher; knee kicking is for the birds. Assuming it is a level-loop or commercial cut-pile carpet, buy a cotton head for the stretcher (photo 1). A cotton head has no teeth, just nap grips, so it will not tear up a glue-down carpet or ruin the stretcher’s teeth by dragging them across the concrete.

Make a "deadman" to allow for stretching from anywhere in the room. This requires tackstrip and a 4-foot length of 2”x12” or 2”x16”. Cover one side of the board completely with tackstrip, making certain all the pins point in the same direction (photo 2).

Next, stretch up the short side. The best approach is to start in the middle; this cuts the distance that has to be stretched, while making it match in half. Instead of a 47-foot seam that is 4-inches off at the end, there are two 23 ½-foot seams 2-inches off at the end, and they are much easier to deal with.

photo 3
Fold back the seam. Snap a line on the floor, running the length of the room, on each side no farther than 4 feet from the seam. This provides a uniform end-point for the glue. Next, determine how much of the seam to do on the first glue spread, all or half (half translates to 12 feet in each direction from the center starting point). For the first time, I would suggest half or less while getting accustomed to the technique.

Spread the glue in an 8-by-24-foot area. Lay the carpet into the glue, and stay-tack the center where the pattern is straight. It can be done, even on concrete. I like to use 1-inch concrete pins. Make sure to get the shiny silver ones that used to be referred to as "perma-clean;” some masonry nails will leave a grease stain on light-colored carpet.

Don’t drive the nails all the way in, just give one good hit to set the tip. Installer Jackie Jones uses a piece of architectural (double-wide) tackstrip, puts it on top of the carpet, and nails through the carpet into the floor. The tackstrip holds the nail, allowing a hard swing. Placing the nails every 6 inches to hold the wood strip tight to the floor helps hold the pattern straight.

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Pick one side of center to start on. In this instance, the seam runs north to south, and the installer begins on the north side of center. Set the stretcher head just past where the pattern begins running off to the north. Set the "deadman,” tackless-side down, next to the center of the seam where it is stay-tacked, with the pins pointing south. Have a helper stand on the "deadman" to set the pins of the tackless in the carpet; they will work like the nap grips on a kicker(photos 3 and 4). This creates a temporary wall to stretch off. Stretch the pattern up to match the stay-tack, and let the glue set for at least 40 minutes to an hour or longer, depending on conditions.

After the glue has set, continue with the seam, working the remaining parts in the same fashion, stretching and stay-tacking. It will probably be necessary to straighten out the pattern in the field as well. Use a dry line (chalk line with no chalk) to help check that the pattern is straight across the width. If not, stretch and stay-tack with the stretcher and deadman as at the seam

Remember the chalk line? When the sides are folded back to allow the rest of the room to be done, the installer will greatly appreciate the straight line the glue was stopped at now that it's set up.

There are many installers who by now are thinking, “Wow, that sounds like a lot of work and time!” Yes it is. That is why it is important to know exactly what installations with patterns involve, and to charge accordingly.