Carpet installers: 6 tips to find a great one

Holly Dolezalak
Holly Dolezalak | 6 min. read

Published on June 17, 2015

This is the second article in a two-part series about choosing and installing carpets in your rental properties. In the first article, we looked at how to pick out the right carpet and padding.

In this post, we’ll cover how to choose the right carpet installation company. Should you go with whoever your carpet dealer recommends? Or how about one of those companies with the hideous jingle you hate yourself for whistling while you wait for the train?

Before we explore picking a professional carpet installer, let’s take a look at carpet installation prices.

How much does carpet installation cost?

According to Homewyse’s Carpet Installation Cost Calculator, the cost to install mid-grade olefin carpet in Boston is between $3.99 and $5.21 per square foot. In Phoenix, the same job would cost between $3.72 and $4.86 per square foot. And in Miami, between $3.64 and $4.76. It’s no surprise that prices vary by area, and nationally, they hover in the $3.50 to $5 range.

When calling vendors, if anyone gives you an estimate of $6 or more per square foot, hang up and try someone else. Always insist on a per-square-foot estimate to ensure you don’t start the project on the wrong foot by overpaying.

Make sure to hire a top-notch pro, or you won’t be happy no matter how attractive the price is. Below are six major factors to consider, along with recommendations from flooring expert Alan Fletcher, a.k.a. The Carpet Professor.

#1: Experience counts

Find out how long the installation company has been plying its trade, and how much work in apartments or houses its team has done. Less experienced installers (or the large company that employs them) may tempt you with prices that are less per square foot than what the experienced companies offer. And if saving some money by having your own maintenance staff tackle the job crosses your mind, Fletcher warns that it pays to stick with the seasoned pros.

“It has been my experience that experienced flooring installers tend to do a much better job at completing the necessary floor preparations and repairs,” Fletcher says. “Doing a better job on floor preparation can significantly increase the lifespan of the flooring to be installed.”

Fletcher recommends hiring an installer with a minimum of five years’ experience. But if an installer has been doing strictly apartment work for those five years, they may not have enough experience with stairs, common areas, and other challenges that arise when installing carpet in houses and complexes. You’re less likely to run into the unexpected and keep the project moving smoothly when the installer has mastered the trickier aspects of the trade.

#2: Check out the installer’s credentials

Before contracting a carpet installer, make sure they have:

  • A current contractor’s license
  • A surety bond
  • Business liability insurance
  • Workers’ compensation policy that covers the installer and any helpers on the job

To learn how to verify a contractor’s license and workers’ compensation policy, see this handy resource compiled by Fletcher.

#3: Nail down floor preparation estimates & other specifications, to avoid unexpected charges

Unforeseen floor prep and repair can add to your bill. So in addition to getting the square-footage estimate, ask for floor prep and repair estimates — in writing. “There needs to be a written estimate that details what needs to be done, how long it will take, what materials will be used, why it is necessary, and the total additional cost to complete the repairs,” Fletcher says.

Fletcher also recommends asking a lot of questions. “Why does this need to be done at this time? What are the benefits of performing this floor prep or repair? Is there a cheaper way to go with a similar outcome? What happens if we don’t do the floor prep or repair you suggest? The goal in asking these questions is to assess the actual need versus the cost to make sure the money charged is worth the end result,” he says.

#4: Beware the offer you can’t refuse

Be wary of any flooring provider whose price is much lower than all the others. “These new ‘lower cost’ flooring replacement providers often have a hard time finding qualified installers and often end up hiring installers that do more harm than good,” Fletcher warns.

“The materials they offer may not be as good as they claim, and if you install a lower quality carpet or flooring material you may end up replacing the flooring way faster than you might expect,” he says.

One way to measure quality of workmanship is to ask about materials and tools. Will they use a power stretcher to make sure the carpet doesn’t develop loose areas? What kind of glue, seam tape, or transition metal do they use? If they’re not going to use a power stretcher, or they’re unwilling or unable to answer questions about materials, it’s best to look for another installer.

#5: Shop around — & prioritize word of mouth

If your property is a single-family home, you might be better off with a local company. But property managers with large, multi-unit buildings should at least consider a national company to get the best material prices, and then hire a local company for the installation.

And as with many professional services, nothing beats a word-of-mouth referral. Once you find a good rate with a company that comes highly recommended and answers all your questions, don’t let a cheaper price from a less reputable or straightforward company sway your decision-making.

“You can always re-negotiate prices from time to time as necessary to keep their prices in-line with other flooring replacement competitors who would like to earn your business,” Fletcher says.

#6: And finally, don’t forget safety

Carpet installation isn’t a life-threatening profession, but like any repair or maintenance work, it can involve dangerous conditions. Make sure to spell out what safety precautions you want the contractor to take.

For example, don’t let them throw the old carpet or padding off a balcony or roof to save time. Tell them you don’t want extension cords left across stairwells or walkways, and that you do want them to clean up thoroughly afterward, and keep track of nails, tacks, and other potentially hazardous materials.

“It would be wise for every property manager to have a basic set of rules that every installer should read and agree to before working on the property,” Fletcher says.

And that ends our two-part series in the essentials of picking out the right carpeting and installation service for your properties. Now if you could only erase that relentless, annoying ad from your memory…

What tips do you have for choosing carpeting and an installer? Leave us a comment below!

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Holly Dolezalak

Holly Dolezalek is a freelance writer in Minneapolis. Over the last 15 years, she has covered general business, real estate, finance, and the green economy for local and national business publications.

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