July 1, 2006
Twenty-four years experience as a flooring installer has allowed me to discover several time-saving methods during the course of an installation. In this article, I will show several steps that will allow a staircase installation to go fast, efficient, and take less toll on your knee.
Over the years the installation of carpet has proved challenging to those who would dare to tackle the trade. These challenges vary from seaming difficulties to stretching problems and everything in between. One of the most vexing challenges arises from the installation of steps, a generally time consuming task calling for great attention to detail and technique.
When employing this method of stair installation, we'll need to remember one of Newton's laws of physics; Newton's third law of motion: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."
The statement means that in every interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects. The size of the forces on the first object (hammer and stair-tool) equals the size of the force on the second object (carpet).
Let us start with basics. If these procedures are followed, you will be amazed at how fast stair installation can be accomplished.
Photo 1: Size tackless to fit by using one as a template then cut all required lengths.
Move up the steps setting the riser first. Nail the steps as you come down then set treads as you travel back up the steps. This way there is no wasted step climbing thus saving time.
Photo 2: All flats will be tacked except the rolled edge. If the sides are not tacked, the step will wrinkle in the middle over time and no one can stop it by arguing the point.
Photos 3 and 4: To cut the pad I start with a T- square and cut one pattern.
Properly squared materials allow the installer no trimming thus saving time. Time is money, right?
Steps are cut and laid out in the sun to warm the material. If it is winter, I set the rolled cuts over a heater vent. If there is no heat, I am at home drinking coffee.
Photos 5 and 6: Start at top. Set top edge. Pull carpet over tightly with hands and force it to tack on each side. This is only to keep tension until work begins.
Pull the resulting bubble across length of the middle of step two. This is when Newton's Third Law kicks in. You cannot properly follow this procedure without this bubble. This is your reaction allowance.
I then drive the stair-tool with great force into the step with a downward motion. This pulls the carpet from the top and the bubble gives movement so the pulling force is equal. Start in the middle and work to the edges. Follow each step as directed. Do not forget your reaction bubble or it will not work.
Photo 7: Tighten your side flats with your kicker, this step will never move. You will live to install another day without water on the knee. Hey, you might get a break on your insurance premiums. Caution: This is not for the weak armed.
Photos 8-10: Open sides, pre-roll edges and follow all the same procedures. If both sides are open I mark lines with a cardboard template and pencil to keep me straight and of course, there should be no tack on those sides.
I documented the following time frames:
Prep time: 30-minutes.
Install time: 32-minutes.
Had the flight been box steps all the way, the staircase would have taken 40 minutes to complete from start to finish. Add 15-minutes for cutting of the carpet. The plush used here was a 50-oz; thinner carpet installs faster.
This is very basic to say the least. Be sure to caution the customer that they may feel like they're walking on a trampoline.
Stay tuned for the next article, "Compressive Thermal Sealing."