Stains, tears, burns, loose areas and other issues with your carpeting can be a real eyesore, and in some cases can even be a potentially dangerous tripping hazard. Rather than replace an entire roomful of expensive carpeting, you can often repair those problem areas instead.

Restretching carpeting

Wall-to-wall carpeting is installed by stretching it into place in the room. Over time, the weight of furniture and the action of people moving over the carpeting can cause the carpet’s backing to break down, resulting in random loose, wrinkled areas. When that happens, assuming the carpeting is otherwise in good shape, it can be restretched to remove the wrinkles.

When the carpet is first stretched into place, it’s hooked onto a tack strip that’s located around the perimeter of the room, just out from the wall. The tack strip has hundreds of tiny nails in it, which are angled toward the wall. The carpet is stretched over the tack strip during installation, then as it’s released from the stretching process, it slides back and catches on the angled nails, holding it in place.

A small area of loose carpet can be restretched using a knee kicker. This is a specialized tool with angled metal teeth on the bottom at one end, and a big pad at the other end. Place the kicker on the carpet about six inches away from the wall with the teeth down and in contact with the carpet, then apply steady pressure with your knee against the pad on the end of the kicker. This will push the carpet toward the wall, and allow you to release it from the tack strip and pull it up.

With the carpet loose, you can now use the kicker to restretch and tighten the carpet back up over the tack strip. Each time you kick the kicker with your knee, the carpet will move over the tack strip and catch, tightening it a little further.

When the wrinkles are gone, maintain a light, steady pressure on the kicker with your knee, and press the carpet down firmly into contact with the tack strip. Use the edge of a hammer or other metal tool for this — NOT your hand (all those little nails are sharp!). Finally, trim off any excess carpet you may have created at the wall.

Larger areas of loose carpet are handled with a tool called a carpet stretcher. Carpet stretchers have a series of telescoping poles with a pad at one end and a large head with angled teeth and a top-mounted handle at the other end.

A carpet stretcher works like a kicker, but over a larger area. The padded end is placed against a wall, then the poles are extended so that the head ends up near the opposite wall. Pressure is then applied to the handle, allowing the teeth to grip the carpet and move the head, stretching the carpet.

Carpet repairs

To take care of burn mark or a stain you can’t remove, you’ll need to patch in a new piece of carpeting, so the first issue is to locate some carpet that matches. If you saved some scrap pieces from when the carpet was first installed, you’re ahead of the game.

If not, your next best option is to take some matching carpeting out of a small closet. You can then replace the flooring in that closet with something else — a remnant of complimentary carpet from a carpet store, or, better yet, a little bit of ceramic tile or prefinished wood flooring.

One of the best methods for repairing small areas of damage is to use a carpet "cookie cutter." This is a special, round tool with a sharp blade on the bottom that cuts out the damaged carpet, and then cuts a perfectly matching patch from a piece of scrap. The patch is then adhered in place with a special self-adhesive disk, or with carpet repair tape.

Larger repairs or damaged seams are more difficult to deal with. For a large damage area, first the damaged area is cut out, then a patch is cut from matching carpet. After carefully fitting and trimming the patch, it’s adhered into place using a special carpet heat-seaming iron and hot-melt tape. The tape is placed under the carpet and centered under the seam, then the hot iron is placed on the tape, melting the adhesive. The carpet is then pressed down into the hot adhesive, making a permanent joint.

Loose seams are repaired in the same way. The edges of the seam are carefully trimmed to remove any damaged material, then a kicker is used to push the seam back together temporarily while it’s glued back together with hot tape.

For do-it-yourselfers who want to give this a shot, most of these tools, including the seaming iron, stretcher, kicker and usually even the cookie cutter, are available at most rental yards. Otherwise, contact your local carpet store for referrals to an experienced carpet repair person.

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