carpet tile guide

Unbiased Guide to Carpet Tiles

Cheap carpet tiles are fun, easy, and can be a long-lasting flooring depending on the room and the tiles you choose.

I’ve covered how to buy carpet in-depth, but carpet tiles are a unique floor. I’d still recommend browsing the carpet guide to learn what makes a carpet durable and it gives some shopping tips, but this guide will focus on only the tiles.

There are many things you might want to know:

  • carpet tiles vs wall to wall carpet
  • pros and cons of carpet tiles and how they compare to other flooring options
  • how to DIY carpet tiles (this can be helpful to read even if you plan on hiring an installer)
  • where to buy carpet tiles to find the best deal and selection
  • FAQ on carpet tiles: Berber tiles, basements, padding, and more

Let’s get started:

Pros and cons of carpet tiles

Carpet tiles give many of the same advantages of standard wall to wall carpet. However, being sold in individual tiles gives carpet tiles unique pros and cons. Let cover both the advantages and disadvantages of tiles:

advantages of carpet tiles

  • easy to DIY or lower installation costs: square tiles that stick to the ground are easier to install than any floor (except maybe rubber flooring)
  • messes and damage don’t matter much because you can pluck out and replace individual tiles
  • insulation of sound and warmth, especially with padding attached
  • softer underfoot than most flooring options
  • individual squares let you be more creative than any flooring (I’ve seen people draw pictures in their floor with tiles!)

More on these advantages will be covered throughout this article, but basically, I carpet tiles are a stress-free floor that’s easy to install and inexpensive to replace. Maybe, my favorite thing about carpet tiles is how creative you can get with them. People do some much cooler things with carpet tiles than I could do myself. You can check out Pinterest for some examples.

Sounds great, so what about the drawbacks?

disadvantages of carpet tiles

  • can have a sterile or corporate look: carpet tiles used to only be found in commercial buildings. now, new designs and creativity have led to some of the most fun floor being designed with carpet tile
  • tiles go together well but can’t mimic the plush “one-piece” look of regular carpet
  • usually durable, but some tiles will fray at the edges and/or buckle
  • can have padding but not as cushioned as carpet

All floors have their disadvantages, and I think the worst with carpet tiles is their unique look (although this can also be an advantage). They are kind of a like a carpet and hard floor hybrid. Which brings me to my next points, let’s compare carpet tiles vs a few other similar floors.

Carpet tiles vs wall to wall carpet

Carpet tiles and wall to wall carpet are made with the same materials, but have more differences than you’d expect. Carpet tiles tend to be better for creative DIY’ers, while wall to wall carpet gives a more traditional and uniform look. Let’s dive into the differences a little more:

Wall to wall is clearly more popular. At least for homes.

Much of the advantages and disadvantages of tiles vs wall to wall are covered in the pros and cons, but let’s recap a few things:

You might want carpet tiles if you want to DIY. Wall to wall carpet isn’t an option for DIY; it’s actually one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, floors to install. Carpet tiles, on the other hand, are much easier.

Carpet tiles also are better if you feel you might spill red wine, have a kid or animal vomit, indoor outdoor rooms, or other places where you feel carpet may be damaged. It’s much easier to replace a tile of carpet than it is a room of carpet.

Finally, if you’re creative, carpet tiles are the way to go. You can essentially draw carpet designs with your tiles, and the options are endless.

You might want wall to wall carpet if you don’t like the “disconnected” look of carpet tiles. Also, most carpet tiles have a short pile, which can look a little more commercial.

Another advantage of wall to wall is it’s softer. You can have thicker, better pad under carpet than you can carpet tiles.

Cost varies so much on both floors you can’t really say which is more expensive, but I’d say in general you might spend a little more for tiles. This is usually made up for with installation and no need for pad.

carpet tiles vs laminate or luxury vinyl

Outside of carpet, laminate and luxury vinyl are the closest competitors to carpet tiles. The reason is both are fairly easy DIY floors, come in tiles (or planks), and are around the same price range.

Laminate and luxury vinyl have the advantage of being a little more sterile. Both floors can be clean or dirty depending on how you take care of them, but purely hard surface floors like laminate are easy to mop up daily, whereas liquid and debris can be more difficult to remove from carpet tiles.

Carpet tiles still have the creativity advantage with their unique styles. They’re also softer, reduce room noise, and insulate better than laminate or luxury.

What about in rooms with high moisture? Luxury vinyl > carpet tiles > laminate in most cases. Vinyl is the best. Carpet can mold or mildew. Laminate has become better, but historically it buckles easily with high moisture.

How to install carpet tiles (how they work)

So how do carpet tiles work?

It’s pretty simple:

  1. Start at the center of the room.
  2. Peel the backing off each tile (one at a time) and it will expose adhesive.
  3. Stick tiles to the floor until it is covered

Okay, there’s a little more detail than that. But that’s really all there is to it. If you’re looking for step-by-step instructions on how to install carpet tiles, check out our carpet tile installation guide.

Where to buy carpet tiles

Another thing I might have not mentioned earlier that I love about carpet tiles:

Measurements are much easier (more on this later) than standard carpet. Okay, but what does that have to do with where to buy?

Because you can buy carpet tiles anywhere. Want to go to your local store? They’ll likely have carpet tiles. Want to go to Home Depot, Lowe’s or Menards? They’ll have them.

What about online? I often don’t recommend online for flooring, but for carpet tiles, you can simply enter your square footage and the online stores know exactly how many tiles to send you. It’s as easy as buying shoes.

How many carpet tiles do I need to buy?

Good news:

This is one of the few types of flooring where you can simply measure the square footage of your room, and when you purchase, there will be an area to enter your room square footage. The website will automatically calculate the perfect number of boxes for your job.

If you buy in store, there obviously won’t be an automatic calculator, but the store help will likely calculate the amount for you.

If you want to do it yourself, it’s pretty simple:

  1. Measure the length of the room and the width of the room.
  2. Multiply these two numbers (length x width) in a calculator.
  3. Take the number you just calculated and multiply it by 1.1.
  4. Now, you have the amount of square feet you need.
  5. Next, figure out how many square feet come in a box (usually carpet tiles are sold by the box not the individual tile. If it is sold by the tile, calculate the square footage of the tile–length x width)
  6. Finally, take the ‘square footage you need’ and divide it by the ‘square footage per box’. This is how many boxes you need. Round up.

Other frequently asked questions on carpet tiles

This list of questions will be a work in progress as I see what questions you have (feel free to leave comments below).

For now, here are some common questions for carpet tiles:

do carpet tiles need underlayment? what are underlyament options?

Carpet tiles don’t need underlayment. They can, and usually are, directly applied to the floor surface.

But if you want extra softness, insulation, and warmth, there are carpet tiles that come with underlayment attached. These are less common but aren’t difficult to find.

Captain’s warning! You can’t add your own pad under carpet tiles even if you love extra cushion. Since carpet tiles are individual pieces, they need more support.

are carpet tiles good for basements?

The short answer is yes. Carpet tiles are a great option for a basement. In fact, I think it’s one of the areas of many homes they fit the best: the unique design, ability to replace individual pieces, and their lack of a formal look like hardwood usually isn’t missed in basements.

However, they are still carpet so moisture isn’t the best for carpet tiles. Some have backings to block moisture, but I still think these can present problems if you have a bad moisture problem. If moisture problems are minor, tiles can be a good choice because they are easily replaced. Also, go with a short pile and synthetic fiber (nylon, polyester) because the will dry much more quickly and greatly reduce chances of mildew.

Captain’s parting words!

Hopefully this gave you what you needed to know about carpet tiles.

I think it’s one of the most fun DIY flooring projects. And it’s one of the easier flooring projects to undertake.

Any questions on carpet tiles? Let me know in the comments below.

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