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When it comes to preparation there is much discussion as to what constitutes proper floor prep. Some installers think a quick pass with a push broom is enough or even just picking up the big pieces of debris. Never mind about the dirt under the raised baseboard. "I don't get paid enough to chase that," is a common response. A lot of installers feel stretched-in carpet over pad is the great cover-up and you don't need to spend much time on floor prep.

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Jon and I have discussed this and we both agree that proper floor prep can make or break a job. Let me share what we do to make sure a floor is ready for carpet.

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After the old carpet, pad, and tack strip is removed, we will do a quick first sweep because I don't like working in dirt and you can't see what needs to be removed from the floor, such as clumps of dry wall taping compound. Yes, in most cases we remove the old strip for a wide variety of reasons: too far from the wall, not well fastened, animal damaged, too narrow and so on.

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We use two types of brooms (Photo 1), the smaller broom for the edges and the push broom for the rest of the floor.

Photo 5A
. The next step is to remove the old staples. Jon is using a hand scraper to remove the pad staples from the stairs (Photo 2). For the flat areas we use the large stand up scraper with the 8-inch blade. Using the scraper is fast and easy; it pops the staples off the floor. Use a dull blade so it doesn't dig into the floor. After the strip is down we do a final sweep, then vacuum to get the last of the dust. Yes, I hear the groans, "What, is he nuts? Sweep and vacuum!" It doesn't take that much time, the shop vac we use cost about $50 and we use it to vacuum the job after we are done. It also allows you to get all the dirt from under the raised base boards. It is also a great opportunity to sell yourself; we always make sure the customer knows the extra steps we take.

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You will be astounded as to how much they appreciate small thing like vacuuming before the pad goes down (Photo 3).

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Let's touch on some everyday problems and their solutions. Probably the most common problems installers run into are uneven baseboard heights and higher floors in doorways.

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In this case the third floor of an old house had been remodeled into a master bedroom suite The contractor did nothing to level the floor. There were areas along the walls and in front of the fireplace that baseboards were up to an inch off the floor (Photo 4).

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The carpet was a low wool loop about 3/8 of an inch thick. The floor was too uneven to use leveler strip. We used layered strips of cove base as shims for the tackless (Photos 5, 5a, and 6) so the carpet would finish even with the bottom of the base boards.

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The job turned out great (Photos 7 and 8). If we had not taken the time to shim up the strip at the walls, the finished job would have looked terrible. Did we charge for it? You bet we did! Jon and I thoroughly explained to the customer the problem and what we were going to do to resolve it.

Photo 10A
Getting carpet an equal height with ceramic tile or hardwood at doorway transitions always seems to be problematic. I'm sure you have seen doorways with a double layer of strip one on top of the other. This looks OK at first, but in a matter of weeks it turns into an ugly lump. One thing to be careful with ceramic edges is make sure the mortar bed extends all the way to the edge of the tile. If it doesn't the unsupported edge could break off easily. We carry a tube of caulk to fill unsupported edges; we learned that the hard way (Photo 9).

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The best way to handle the transition is with one of three products on the market: #3 Cedar Undercourse shingles (Photo 10) Kind of a pain in the butt, because they vary from 2 inches to 1 foot in width so it takes longer because each one has to be fastened individually (Photos 11 and 12). To determine how much of a ramp is needed to bring the carpet level with the other floor, lay a piece of your ramping material sideways the tile. Slide a scrap of the carpet with a small piece of strip under it up and down the ramp until you get to the level you want for the transition (Photo 10a). Mark the ramping material at this point and cut off the excess.

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Covebase manufactures have leveler strips made of vinyl four feet long and a foot wide ranging from 1/4 to 1/2 inches at the thickest point (Photo 13).

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A problem to be aware of is if you are using these vinyl shims during a direct glue-down installation. Multi-purpose adhesives are not compatible with vinyl. Plastizer migration, in which the oils in the vinyl attack the adhesive, will break down and dissolve a multi-purpose adhesive.

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To avoid this condition, the ramping material should be completely encapsulated with floor patch.

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Carpet Shims, invented by an installer to solve the shingle problems, are a wood product that comes in a wide variety of sizes. Cutting to size is an easy matter of scoring and snapping. Carpet Shims are a wood product, therefor there is no plastizer migration to break down a multi-purpose adhesive with Carpet Shims.

Following are the available sizes: 1/2-by-8-by-32 inches; 3/8-by-8-by-32 inches; 1/4-by-8-by-32 inches; 1/2-by-12-by 48 inches; 3/8-by-12-by-48 inches; and 1/4-by-12-by48 inches. Carpet Shims also have a side shim for a smooth side transition and an easy way to make an outside corner (Photos 14 and 15).