Installing carpet requires specialized knowledge. Professionals can provide a smooth, durable finished installation job. Most pros charge about $5 per square yard. Removing and hauling away old carpet adds about $4 per square yard to the installation costs—or about $256 for a typical 16x16-foot family or living room. Installation (or reinstallation) of trim and repair or reinforcement of subflooring costs extra. Several other factors affect the cost of new carpet installation.
The cost of the carpet itself plays a role in the overall cost of new carpet installation. The most affordable olefin or polyester carpet costs as low as $1 or $2 per square foot and high-quality wool carpet can cost up to $10 or more per square foot.
Here is a quick primer on carpet material, including the pros and cons of each type:
Wool. Attractive because of its luxurious look and feel, wool is also the most expensive. Although it is durable, wool is also susceptible to fading and moisture absorption because it is a natural fiber.
Nylon. This synthetic, wool look-alike resists wear and staining, comes in a huge range of colors and color blends, and is easier to maintain and more affordable than wool.
Polyester. Like nylon, polyester is a durable, affordable synthetic fiber that resists fading, wear, and mold and mildew. Quality varies widely with polyester carpet, so check its construction and density before you buy (see below).
- Olefin: Also known as polypropylene, olefin is the fastest-growing—and least expensive—fiber used in carpet today. It is known for being extremely stain resistant and well-suited to high-traffic areas. Cost-effective Berber (loop pile) carpet is typically made of olefin.
The construction of the carpet and the yarn used to make it also affect the long-term wear—and price—of carpet. Here are the two main considerations:
Twist: The way the fiber filaments are spun into yarn and how the yarn is, in turn, twisted upon itself is called "twist." Twist is usually locked into the fiber with a steam or heat setting. The tighter the twist, the more the carpet will resist changes in appearance and texture.
- Density: The amount of pile in the carpet and how close the tufts are to one another is "density." In general, the more dense the carpet, the better the quality. Check density by pressing your fingers on the carpet to try to reach the backing. In a denser carpet, it will be difficult to reach the backing with your finger. Another test you can do is to bend a piece of the carpet into a U-shape with the tufts facing outward. The less backing you see between tufts, the denser the carpet.
The style or weave of carpet can also affect its durability and cost per square foot. Here are a few options:
Saxony: Standard, medium-height cut pile available in many different looks (velvety or textured)
Berber: Low-profile loop-pile carpet whose name actually refers to its traditional color scheme of a light base with darker flecks
Frieze: A modernized shag carpet that features long fibers that have been tightly twisted. Generally, friezes tend to be durable thanks to the high twist of the fibers. Sometimes called California shag.
- Cut-and-loop: Low-profile carpet in which some fibers are cut and some are tightly looped, creating an interesting look and texture
Installation of new moldings, baseboards, transition strips, thresholds, or other wood or metal trim adds $200–$300 to the overall cost, depending on how much is needed.
Some carpet professionals can do repairs to the subfloor before installing new carpet if necessary. Most charge an hourly rate of $50–$70 an hour plus materials such as additional plywood. Repairs will be required if there has been water damage, for example.
Padding and other extras
Costs for carpet padding start at $1 per square foot, depending on its thickness. If carpet installers have to make special cuts for irregular angles in a room or if they need to conceal seams where two pieces of carpet are stretched to cover one area, overall costs will be higher to cover the extra time involved.
Professionals charge between $3 and $10 per stair for carpet installation, which includes the step and the riser. Box stairs, with walls on each side, or stairs with spindles that installers must work around, cost about $15–$25 per stair.
- Some carpet installers will help move furniture before and after installation, and they may or may charge extra for this task. Be sure to ask about this before you hire an installer.