Estimating for new carpet may seem confusing. Most rooms aren’t perfect rectangles, so it’s hard to measure. Then when you go shopping, some prices are in square feet, some are in square yards. And what about padding and installation? How do you know if you’re comparing apples to apples?

Help is here! With a little homework before you head for the store, you can simplify the process and carpet shop like a pro!

SmartStrand carpet in a bedroom


Your flooring retailer is your friend

Many independent retailers will offer to measure your home with no purchase required. What could be easier than letting the professionals do the measuring? Just call and make an appointment.

When they arrive, ask them to give you a measurement of the space to be carpeted, and also ask for an estimate of the total amount of carpet you will need. The two numbers are often not the same. Be sure to log the amounts they quote you in an easily accessible place like your phone so you can recall the numbers when you’re out shopping.

DIY measuring

If you’re too impatient to wait for a professional measurement, it is possible to do a rough estimate on your own. However, before making a purchase, we recommend getting a professional measurement so you don’t end up with too little flooring. It happens!

You may remember from geometry class that the basic formula for area is length times width (A = L x W). If a room isn’t rectangular, measure the largest dimensions in both directions, rounding up to the nearest foot, and multiply the two dimensions.

If you are carpeting multiple rooms, hallways, etc. figure the area of each individual space, then add them together for the total square footage. Don’t forget to include closets when you measure.

Because there may be waste due to carpet roll width, pattern matching and other issues, the rule of thumb is to add 10% to the square footage of the area (multiply by 1.10). The amount you will actually need may be closer to your original measurement or as much as 20% higher, but a DIY measurement plus 10% arms you with a number close enough to start shopping.

Compare footage to yardage

Some carpet is sold by the square yard. There are nine square feet in a square yard. So if you have a measurement in square feet, you can easily convert to square yards by dividing by nine. If you are looking at a square-yard price and want to know the price per square foot, also divide by nine. See, you can do this!

EverStrand carpet in a living room


So now that you know roughly how much carpet you need, all you have to do is multiply the carpet price by the area and presto, you know how much the project will cost, right? WRONG! There are a few additional costs to consider.

Your flooring retailer is your friend.

Yes, we said that already, but it’s worth repeating. Your retailer can help you make an educated guess regarding additional costs such as padding and installation labor and materials.

Talk openly with your retailer about any unforeseen costs your installation job may require so that you can create a more dependable estimate. Let your retailer know if you’ll expect your installer to install trim and transition pieces and touch-up paint. (Painting is less common, but some installers will offer the service.)

Estimate padding and installation

Padding and installation may not be the beautiful, exciting part of the carpet buying process, but they are vital to a successful carpeting project. Padding can make a carpet feel completely different under foot, help it perform better, and make it last longer. And many carpet warranties require both padding and professional installation. Be sure to read the fine print before you make any final decisions!

Carpet padding typically ranges from $.30 to $.60 per square foot, and you can count on installation adding approximately another $.50 per square foot.

When comparing prices between retailers, figure the total cost of carpet for your estimated square footage, then add the cost of padding and installation so you can compare apples to apples.

Inquire about additional fees

At each place where you shop, don’t forget to ask about additional fees. Even after accounting for carpet, padding and installation, there may be more costs before reaching the bottom line.

Installers commonly charge separately for carpet removal, dumping, product delivery, adhesives, transition strips and other materials. And some or all of your quarter round and base molding may need to be replaced in the process.

Subfloor issues

Another hidden cost may be lurking under your current flooring. Subflooring issues can occasionally add hefty costs to flooring projects. Although carpet is one of the most forgiving flooring types when it comes to subfloor condition, you don’t want to be caught off guard.

Walk around the areas to be carpeted. If you notice any spots that feel raised or that sag under foot, you should have them checked out before you plan your carpeting project. Water damage, failing joists and other issues can wreak havoc on your schedule and budget, especially if they’re discovered too late.

Helpful hint

Waking up on installation day to learn that you’ve completely blown your budget is a surefire way to take the fun out of any flooring project. Take the time to do your homework and piece together a best-guess estimate for the final cost of your entire flooring project before you make a purchase. That will help ensure that you don’t encounter unhappy surprises.

Once installation gets underway, it’s too late to switch gears, but if a thoughtfully estimated cost is out of reach, you will have plenty of time to halt the process and consider more affordable options.