Unless you’re fine with bumpy and loose carpets that you might stumble over, you can either pay a professional carpet installer to stretch the carpet or install new carpet — or use a DIY alternative that involves having access to two types of carpet stretchers and a carpet tack strip.
Homeowners should choose the right tool based on their specific needs, for practical and economical reasons. Overall, carpet stretchers for small and larger spaces are an essential part of maintaining a home.
What is a Carpet Stretcher?
A carpet stretcher is a tool used to layout a carpet in a room or other (carpeted) parts of the house to ensure that there will not be sags, bumps, or lumps in the carpet as people use the area. You can use it for carpet installation or at any other point in time when you have a loose carpet.
There are two types of carpet stretchers – a power stretcher which is used inside the main areas of larger rooms, and a knee kicker, that is typically used to stretch carpets to the edges of small spaces such as a closet, steps on a staircase, or small rooms (10’ by 10’ or smaller).
A carpet stretcher can be used for either laying down new carpet or tightening existing carpet. It's quite handy if you install carpet over hardwood flooring (if you're doing the opposite then you might need a floor nailer).
How to Use a Carpet Stretcher
To start with, carpet tack strips must be laid down at the perimeter of the room you are carpeting. Next, the carpet needs to be hammered in, but there is some stretching to be done before there is no “give” left.
Any carpet stretcher has a head and a long rod with a base at the other end. The head grips the carpet backing. With a knee kicker, the person using the tool gets down on a knee behind the base and knees it forward, thus stretching the carpet.
Knee kickers work fine for small rooms, but with larger areas, using a knee kicker will leave “ripples” that will inevitably lead to sags, lumps, and bumps.
A power stretcher can be used in tandem with a knee kicker in large rooms. It’s a tool that stretches from one end to the other. As before, the head grips the surface. In this case, the base is placed against the opposite wall – joined to the head by a long pole. A lever is operated to tighten the carpet to eliminate sags.
If you use professionals to install new carpets and stretch out old installed carpets when they sag, you don’t need a carpet stretcher. But anyone who wants to install or at least maintain carpets in both open and confined areas to eliminate bumps and sags absolutely needs these tools.
So unless you want to live with a sagging, loose carpet, consider buying one.
Bottom line, DIY enthusiasts will need them to maintain their carpets.
5 Best Carpet Stretchers
Roberts QEP Junior Stretcher-10-237 Value Kit Unit:
In general, Roberts is a well-respected brand and offers valuable tools for carpet stretching. The Roberts QEP unit includes three extension tubes (each 3”), an adjustable locking tube, and a transfer tube. With it, you can stretch a carpet up to twenty-three and a half feet. Additional support is provided by the 18” spring-loaded tail block with wheels.
It’s considered one of their most economical power stretchers. Its low-profile and lightweight head is easy to span with the knee kicker. There are many other features that make this unit useful for homeowners.
The junior size doesn't have a lock-in any position head, and it only locks when all the way down. The head size and shape are a little different as well as other Roberts models.
It also comes with a carrying case.
Roberts 10-254 Power Lok Stretcher
The Roberts 10-254 Power Lok stretcher allows you to stretch carpets up to 38 feet with extension tubes that are included in the package. In addition, it comes with a swivel head that can be used for stretching angles or corners and a variable pin penetration to suit varying carpet thicknesses.
The Roberts 10-254 Power Lok Stretcher unit includes a tall block with wheels, six extension tubes, and a quick-lok tube. It also comes with a carrying case. The tool is efficient and provides ease of use, perfect for DIY buffs to quickly fix ripples or install carpeting.
Since it does have some sharp teeth at the edges of the end piece with the wheels, you need to be careful when using it.
HF Tools Adjustable Stretcher
This basic carpet stretcher provides excellent value for the money. A no-frills unit (it does not come with even a carrying case), the HF Tools Adjustable Stretcher can save you money if you know what you’re doing.
However, this adjustable carpet stretcher is better used in closets and small spaces when it grades out as superior for the most part and not as effective in large areas.
The piece is held in place by a plastic grommet that slides out when extending the carpet stretcher. Sometimes the grommet is sized wrong and can not fit into the tool as-is. However, there is an easy enough fix for the savvy DIY buff, just ream it out with a drill.
All in all, the HF Tools Adjustable Stretcher works well in small spaces, but with a few tweaks, you can make use of it in larger areas as well.
QEP 10-237 Junior Power Stretcher:
Capable of stretching carpets up to 23 and a half feet, this junior power stretcher comes with six 3’ extension tubes, an adjustable locking tube, a transfer tube, and two carrying cases, an interlocking wheel stretcher carrying case, and a tube carrying case.
Like the Roberts model described above, an 18” spring-headed tail block with wheels provides additional support and a low-profile head that is easy to span with a knee kicker.
Roberts 10-501 Golden Touch “GT” Carpet Knee Kicker
The Roberts Golden Touch Knee Kicker delivers optimal performance while tightening carpets in small areas. In addition, the carpet kicker has a button allowing for easily stretching a carpet. Featuring a head that is wider than usual, this model is compatible with most power stretchers.
The extra-wide, center grooved head is a helpful feature that allows for optimal load distribution and easy adjustment of the power stretcher head. There is also an easy to read and adjust pin dial to set up a stretch more precisely.
Solid and comfortable, the front head grip is second to none, with working sliders and buttons that work compared to other models. The color at times tends to be more towards green than gold, but the quality of the kicker is as good as ever. This carpet kicking tool is an excellent choice when you need to stretch the carpet in a small area.
Benefits of Carpet Stretchers
The three main benefits of carpet stretchers are simple. You get:
- Pristine and beautiful looking carpeted floors
- Longer lasting carpets
- Diminished chances of an accident.
Power stretchers and knee kickers are absolutely essential parts of maintaining the carpeting in a house or for carpet installation. While calling for professional help at the drop of a hat is always an option, homeowners should know enough about carpeting – and stretching them out properly to make them last – so you don’t get a significant bill every few years.
A power stretcher and knee kicker are tools that should be in everyone’s garage. A slight stretch and tuck here and there could go a long way towards maintaining the right look inside your home.