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What is a Knee Kicker?

By Cathy Rogers
Updated May 17, 2024
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A knee kicker is a tool helpful for installing carpet on stairs and small areas, including closets, and also used to position carpet in larger areas. It is a handled tool that consists of a pin plate attached to a short segment of metal tubing. On the opposite end of the pin plate is a padded cushion where the installer applies pressure with his or her knee to position the carpet, hence the tool’s name.

Although it may be used as such, the knee kicker is not sufficient for general stretching; a power stretcher is required for that task. In a normal four corner room, a knee kicker takes up the excess sag from the carpet in the center of the room. An installer will use one to pull the carpet toward the edge of the room and then hook it onto a tackless strip.

The tackless strip, or tack strip, consists of wood with tack points that hook onto the backing of the carpet. The edge, after being trimmed of excess, is tucked between the strip and the baseboard, usually with a putty knife. Some installers use a stair tool to tuck the strip down against the wall. After using another tool, the carpet stretcher, the installer will go back down each wall again with the knee kicker.

Despite its name, the knee kicker must be pushed, rather than kicked, to stretch carpet into place. Place the padded end of the tool a few inches above your knee and apply pressure. Also, avoid using the knee kicker on one side of the carpet if the other side has been installed on a tack strip.

To properly adjust a knee kicker, begin with a setting of 3½ and adjust as necessary. Be sure to remove any lint from between the teeth so the tool grabs properly. Other tools designed for carpet installation include a carpet iron, carpet knife blades, stair tool and carpet stretcher. A carpet knife blade is two-sided and is sharper than a basic utility knife. To join seams, installers use hot-glue heated with a carpet iron. The carpet stretcher has small teeth that grab the carpet and assist is stretching it toward the edges.

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