Carpet Stretchers: Knee Kicker and Power Stretcher

A carpet stretcher is an essential tool for installing wall-to-wall carpet. It is a specialized tool used in order to install generally wall-to-wall carpet. The tool grips the carpet with a set of tines on the head. A force applied to the tool then tensions the carpet and pulls it closer to the wall, where it can be fixed to a tack strip.

This is because carpeting is not just laid onto the floor; it is actually stretched and hooked onto tack strips along the edges so the carpet backing is taut. This enables the carpet to lie flat without lumps, bumps, and loose areas. If you are considering tackling the job yourself, you will have to rent or buy these essential tools and learn how to use them.

Although you can lay a carpet without a stretcher or a knee kicker it is not recommended. Improper installation can lead to buckling and creases in your carpet that can ruin how it lies flat in your room and how it looks in general.

A carpet stretcher will help you lay carpeting down easily. The way it works, the stretcher will have teeth of adjustable depth on the end of it to grip into the carpet. You can experiment with the teeth depth for the carpet you are working with. Positioning the stretcher, push the teeth down into the carpet, and then move the kicker about an inch away from the wall. You will then need almost slam your knee into the cushion to get the carpet in place. You can also use a carpet stretcher to get rid of any bumps or bubbles in the carpet.

Most likely it is not worth it to buy a carpet stretcher unless you are planning to go into the carpet business or you are up for installing carpet in an entire house and don’t want the time pressure of a rental. Quality carpet stretchers are out of reach of most DIYs. Less expensive carpet stretchers will not perform as expected, leaving the carpet wrinkled and bumpy.

If you are serious about buying a carpet stretcher, you need to be sure to compare what’s included in each set. Better sets have more extension tubes for greater reach. Rental of a basic set usually doesn’t include a knee kicker tool for stretching carpet on stairs and other tight spaces. Keep in mind that for novice carpet installers, one extra day should be factored into the rental period to allow for the learning curve.

It is possible to stretch the carpet with the furniture, but ideally, it needs to be at least 50% vacant of furniture for the sake of space. Removing furniture isn’t because it removes weight on the carpet, it is about getting proper access to perform the work.

Carpet stretchers are not just for installing a new carpet. If you have got old, wrinkled and bubbled-up carpet, it is possible to rent a power stretcher to smooth down and revive your carpet, extending its life by a few years.

Types of Carpet Stretchers

There are two main types of carpet stretchers which are power stretchers and knee kickers.

Power Stretchers

They apply tension with a lever, and use a pole, typically collapsible, in order to extend the tensioning force across the room. Power stretchers create more tension than knee kickers, and they are used to tension carpeting in large rooms.

A power stretcher is a long tool that stretches from one side of the room to the other. It is used to stretch carpet in large areas. The head is placed by the loose edge of the carpet and grips the carpet in order to pull it tight. A long pole is placed from the head to the opposite wall. A lever is then pumped by the arms, which creates pressure and stretches the carpet with greater force than a knee kicker is able to create.

Knee Kickers

They apply tension using a kick of the knee to the back of the tool. They are used to tension carpet in smaller spaces, such as closets, staircases, and rooms up to 10 feet (3.0 m) square. It is very useful for getting a tight fit on stairs or in closets. Features include a sturdy aluminum frame and a foam comfort grip to cushion your knee while working. Failure to properly stretch carpet during installation can lead to the formation of wrinkles over time.

A knee kicker is a smaller tool, generally used to stretch a carpet in a small space, like in a closet or on stairs. It can also be used to position the power stretcher. What’s considered a “small” room? Generally, a knee kicker is suggested for rooms 10’ x 10’ or smaller. To use a knee kicker the installer will get on the floor and “kick” the tool with his knee. The head grips the carpet and the kicking on the back end stretches it.

A knee kicker, by itself, doesn’t have the power to effectively install carpet in a large room. It will leave too much slack in the carpet. This slackness, unseen at first, will appear in the form of carpet ripples, possibly in a matter of months, depending upon the room’s use. If you find that your installer stretched a large carpet with a knee kicker, you will most likely have to get someone to come back with a power stretcher to fix the ripples all too soon.

The design of the knee kickers makes a difference. To an inexperienced carpet installer, all knee kickers are the same, but as they become experienced, they will see that this is not the case. Some kickers are not as comfortable to work with as others. A person needs to adjust to the product to get the best performance from it, but there are other name brand knee kickers that tend to be more user-friendly. An experienced carpet installer will know the difference and the comfortability of a knee kicker when compared to other knee kickers.

Comfortability and performance from a product will allow the user to properly stretch the carpet to its most maximum stretch without using a power stretcher. An understanding that not all knee kickers are the same in comfortability and performance, will allow the consumer to make a wise purchase according to their preference in knee kickers.

You will want to note that most carpet manufacturers state their carpets must be power stretched when installed. Installing a large, high-quality carpet with a knee kicker causes you to lose some of that quality. Not to mention, improper installation may invalidate your warranty with the manufacturer. Carpet can be a large investment. In order to ensure your investment, always make sure your installer is using the proper tools for the job.

On one side of the wall, the carpet is hooked onto the tack strips on the floor using a tool called a knee-kicker, which is operated by striking the padded end with your knee. However, on the other side, you need something stronger to stretch the carpet tightly onto the tack strips. This device is a power stretcher.

You will need a power stretcher to stretch carpet in a 12′x12′ room. The knee kicker is only used to position the carpet on the tack strips not to stretch the carpet. In order to stretch the carpet ‘ drum tight’ in all directions, the power stretcher is the only way.

How to Use a Carpet Stretcher

  1. Start with testing the length of the teeth in the head of the power stretcher. Because the teeth should be long enough to go through the carpet fibers and grip the backing, but not go through the carpet backing. You can adjust the length with a knob at the power stretcher head.
  2. You need to create a pad for the wall that has already had the carpet attached to the tack strips. You need to protect it from the power stretcher. A scrap piece of carpet or a board padded with carpet will do. You should place the pad against the base of the wall opposite the area where you want to start stretching the carpet.
  3. Then, you need to place the base of the power stretcher against the pad. The other end, the head, is the one with teeth for gripping the carpet.
  4. And, you should place the head about 6 inches from the base of the wall where you want to stretch the carpet. Change the length of the stretcher if needed; the tube connecting the head and the base type is adjustable, with smaller tubes sliding into the outer tube. Angle the head slightly from the opposite wall so you are stretching at about a 15-degree angle.
  5. Lastly, you need to press down the lever on the stretcher to stretch the carpet. Lock the stretcher in place. Hook the carpet over the tack strip. You should repeat the process until you have stretched all the carpet between the two walls.

Recommended Products

ROBERTS 10-422BK Deluxe G.T. Carpet Knee Kicker, 17-1/2 Inches to 21-1/2 Inches, Black

It features an extra thick foam-filled bumper pad and a checkered, non-slip hand grip. Its high profile design provides clearance over stretcher heads. The die-cast aluminum body is lightweight and durable for easy and reliable use.

Roberts 10-505-2 Gel Pro Knee Kicker

If you are looking for a high-quality stretching tool, you might want to take a look at the Roberts deluxe knee kicker. Overall, this is a well-made tool, suitable for professionals and novices alike. It is a solid option. It is constructed from diecast aluminum to be durable and lightweight and features a non-slipping checkered handgrip and a foam bumper pad to cushion the knee kicking. It is a favorite of installers. The kneepad can be unscrewed and replaced with a thicker one, which is great if you are using it every day the way he does.

They are well-known for producing quality products, and it is likely that if you purchase a cheaper brand model your carpet will be bubbling up again within 10 months and you might end up shattering your knee from poor cushioning in cheaper knee kicker models.

MaxWorks 80742 Carpet Stretcher Knee Kicker with Telescoping Handle, Regular, Silver

The product is heavy duty and works great. Good quality, adjustable length, and teeth paid for itself. It seems to have all the features of the much more expensive ones. It includes extra-large rubber bumper and heavy-duty rubber grip handle for added comfort. Handle telescopes allowing carpet Stretcher to have 4-different length settings from 18-1/2 inch to 21-1/2 inch long in 1-inch increments. Conveniently placed knob to adjust the height of steel spikes. It has heavy-duty aluminum and frame construction with a power coat finish.

Roberts/Q.E.P. Economy Adjustable Knee Kicker

It is great for small jobs. It is an adjustable knee kicker for all carpeting installations. This product is manufactured in Taiwan. This product meets customer requirements.

Pit Bull CHIC0151 Carpet Kicker Installer

The knee kicker makes the job easy. It has an adjustment for a carpet of different thicknesses. It is sturdy and well made. It is made in China, but it is a good quality tool. It is easy to use and simple to understand. With a little practice, you can start to work out those areas in your carpet that need to be re-stretched. Great product, good price.

It is well-designed, well-constructed and an excellent choice if your carpet needs re-stretching. Users love the high-quality construction, but some do note that it is heavier than they expected. This carpet kicking tool has a size of 18″ x 2.5″ x 2.5″, a weight of 7.2 pounds, a padded bumper, and a plated steel teeth construction. The kicker also has a telescoping handle that has four adjustment positions so you can extend it from 18-1/2″ to 21-1/2″. Overall, this could be the right fit for you if you want an effective, but reasonably priced carpet stretcher.

QEP 10408 Economy Knee Kicker

Compared to most of the other options out there, this is a very good value. Solid feel and great price. Excellent for small DIY projects. Not a carpet “stretcher” but a decent option for carpet repair or re-stretching. It works fine for some small areas and fixes. Not really designed for laying down a full room of new carpet, though if you had nothing else you could make do with this and it would be way better than no stretching method. Ideal for a closet type area or re-stretching and fixing some loose carpet.

The only downside is that that soft rubber/foam grip around the handle tends to slide up (or in the direction that you are pushing) during use. Also, if you use this method in order to stretch your carpet for re-tacking, you will need two people, one to kick the carpet into place and the other to tack it down. Or you can get the other model that expands and allows you to use the wall for support.

Bon 24-612 Deluxe Adjustable Carpet Knee Kicker

It has 5 setting adjustments and 16 adjustable pins. There is a trigger lock as well. This economy knee kicking tool offered by Bon is well-constructed, efficient and convenient for do-it-yourself projects. Overall, this is a high-quality, but inexpensive knee kicker and it could be an excellent choice for anyone who doesn’t want to rent a carpeting tool every time they need it. As a whole, users are extremely satisfied with the Bon knee kicker, and they praise its performance and functionality.

M-D Building Products 48113 Adjustable Knee Kicker

It allows you to make your next carpet installation easier. It stretches carpet over the tack strip. It has an adjustable pin depth. It works with any carpet. Handle adjusts from 19-Inch to 24-Inch.

XtremepowerUS Carpet Installation Knee Kicker With Adjustable Stretcher

It works great and doesn’t hurt your knees. It is the most popular knee kicker and has been the industry standard for over years. It is ideal for small installations and fixing loose carpet easily. The tool makes carpet fitting easy and gives you a professional finish. The ultra-wide aluminum head with steel teeth grips your carpet firmly and the teeth can be raised and lowered for you to use on different carpet thicknesses.

Knee kicker provides adequate performance for the Dyer or infrequent installer. The high contour neck is specifically designed for use over stretcher heads & poles. The superior die-cast aluminum body is lightweight and durable Foam-filled seamless bumper pad for extra comfort. A lever-action PVC handle enables you to stretch the carpet as needed for quick and easy installation, even in tight areas.

Crain Cutter 505H Adjustable Carpet Knee Kicker

This kicker holds up great and does the job magnificently. It has a steel telescoping mechanism, with 5 adjustments for length. The new double-engagement buttons eliminate wear or hole elongation. The wide head grips carpets with the combined hold of 3 replaceable nap grippers, and 16 adjustable hardened-steel pins. Nine position settings of the long pins provide adjustability to carpets of all usual thicknesses.

HF tools Adjustable Carpet Stretcher

It works as needed. This stretcher works well for the homeowner. This is a great stretcher for the money. It is very easy to add more extensions of any length. This short one is much cheaper than the longer ones and it easily extended by sticking 3/4″ pipe of varying lengths in between the sections. This stretcher, plus a four by four by eight, will fit any room in the house and is far handier than the carpet professional.

The ones that are long enough are way too expensive for the DIY homeowner. The 2 x 4’s works great. This packs up very small, so you can store it with ease. This works much better than a knee kicker. For the price, you can’t go wrong with this. If you have never put down the carpet before, don’t worry, just go to youtube and learn how to use it.

Echelon Power Carpet Stretcher with Case

It comes in very handy in your business and great price and good quality. It makes stretching way easier than with just the kicker. Everything you need to stretch your carpet in any size room and extremely good quality. They are standard poles and are compatible with similar-sized stretcher poles.

Roberts/Q.E.P 10-237 Junior Power Stretcher

The stretcher is commercial quality and over a year later the carpet will still tight. Very good quality tool, the finish is perfect, the storage box keeps things neat and made transport easy. Solidly built with a lightweight head that makes maneuvering throughout a room less of a chore than more bulky power stretchers, but no less sturdy than units twice its price. This unit includes one power unit, tail block with wheels, three 3 in. Extension tubes, adjustable locking tube, transfer tube, and durable carrying case.

Kraft Tool FC502 Carpet Power Stretcher

Drive head has an adjustable locking head for various lengths of stretching. Stretcher adjusts from 3 to 22-feet. Adjustment knib on the head allows easy adjustment of power pins for various carpet thicknesses. The driving head has an adjustment for partial carpet stretches. Equipped with 4 standard size extensions tubes.

Veena Shop Lever Action Carpet Stretcher Adjustable Extendable From 17-3/4 to 59 1/2″ Kicker Installer Head Foot Lenght Wall Fits

The stretcher comes with four attachable bars with the bracing foot, allowing for adjustments from 17-3/4 inch to 59-1/2 inch. Take the strain off your knees and back with this adjustable carpet stretcher. A lever-action PVC handle enables you to stretch the carpet as needed for quick and easy installation, even in tight areas. Lever action stretches carpet without having to strain your knees or back. It has an adjustable length which allows you to work in tight areas Length adjusts from 17-3/4 inch to 59-1/2 inch. 16 head teeth with 7 depth settings PVC handle grip. There are four attachable bars with the bracing foot. The product length is 17-3/4 inch to 59-1/2 inch.

Roberts, 10-128, Matching/Seam Repair Carpet Stretcher

Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like history and reading about carpets. I like to play soccer too :)

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