The MGA With An Attitude
CARPET ADHESIVE and Techniques -- INT-101D

At 03:46 PM 8/18/2010 +0000, Gary Powell wrote:
"What kind of glue do you use for the carpet -- contact cement, carpet glue, other"?

I have answered this one so many times that I thought I had it on line long before. The real answer should be, "Whatever you prefer that will make it stick". In the next article on carpet installation the word "glue" appears about 50 times in 5 pages as a verb or as a generic noun. I didn't mention what type of glue, because it will be a matter of personal preference. Here I will cover my choice and techniques first, then follow with some other options.

Since this is a hobby I commonly allow more time than money, and I tend to be somewhat fussy about doing a nice job. Not everyone has the same philosophy. Many people from pro shops to customers to home hobbyists would prefer to make it quicker and easier. On the extreme "easy" end of the spectrum, for mass production the preference would be precision cut carpet and padding that could be drop in and drive away. Unfortunately I don't think any of the currently available carpet kits are that easy. Also for durability and quality reasons, I prefer to have much of the padding and carpet glued in place. I have done this a few times and use the same materials and techniques each time.

For the sticky stuff I buy a gallon of generic "Carpet Adhesive" from Home Depot for about $20. The last one was Roberts Premium Indoor/Outdoor Carpet Adhesive 6700. Description says "environmentally safe solvent-free". I don't suppose you would want to eat the stuff, but it doesn't smell like much, maybe latex based. It will glue just about anything to anything, and it is highly water resistant. One gallon is enough to do padding from the top of the foot-well to the rear of the floor including the tunnel, plus carpet on front and rear of the tunnel, all along the side rails, and everything aft of the seats including battery cover and inner fenders. Last time when I did all of this at once I ended up buying another quart of the goo to do carpeting in the boot. The stuff is viscus so it stays where you put it, even on vertical surfaces, but easy enough to apply with a paint roller or stiff brush. It also stays slimy long enough to allow repositioning of a carpet piece in process. It is NOT intended to be removable. In fact if you want to remove the carpet to install new again some years later, the removal process will be a bit of a pain with a gasket scraper followed by solvents and scrubbing. But I only do it once every 100,000 miles or so.

Tools required will include a good pair of scissors for trimming the carpet, a couple of 3-inch wide medium nap paint rollers (cheap disposable type) with a comfortable grip handle, a couple of 1-inch wide paint brushes trimmed short to be fairly stiff (cheap disposable type), a 1-inch wide wall paper roller, and a work table large enough to lay out the largest carpet piece (saw horses and a sheet of plywood for instance). Also get a large bottle of mineral spirits (my preference), a few shop rags and some strong paper towels (Kleenex Viva for instance) for cleanup of the liquid glue (before it dries). If you don't like wiping your hands with mineral spirits you might also get some thin "rubber" gloves. The description of this particular adhesive claims clean-up with warm soapy water, but if you let it dry it will not be water soluble.

For application I lay the final-trimmed carpet (or padding) face down on the table, and clear the mating area inside the car. I use the 3" paint roller to apply a continuous layer of adhesive to the carpet back (or padding) and to the mating surface in the car. Use the stiff paint brush to apply glue in corners. When you slime both surfaces they will stick nicely. Carpet backing in particular may be coarse and open textured, so if you slime one side only it might require a lot more goop to be sure it will stick. Do try to minimize the amount of adhesive you may get on your hands, as sticky fingers will inevitably result in getting glue on the wrong side of the carpet. Keep a little dish of mineral spirits handy with a shop rag to clean your hands occasionally. If you do get glue on the top side of the carpet, use a clean rag and mineral spirits to clean (scrub) the glue off IMMEDIATELY before it can dry. If you don't like the idea of applying mineral spirits to the carpet face (and it's too late for soapy water) you might consider something more expensive for this, like Goof-Off perhaps.

Once the glue is applied, set the carpet (or pad) piece in place and press it down to mate sticky to sticky. You can slide the piece around a bit to nudge it into corners and place it exactly where you like. Finish by pressing it down firmly. I like to use the wallpaper roller around the edges and for any contoured surfaces (rear inner fenders for instance). Since this glue is slow drying, come back at 10 to 15 minute intervals for a while to press or roll it down again until it sticks permanently. Full cure says 24 hours, and wait 5 days before exposure to water.

For other preferences there are hundreds of different adhesives available that may work, and some with less work. There are some aerosol spray-on adhesives with perhaps any kind of stick character you like. This may be instant stick like contact adhesive, slow stick so you might pull it off to reposition while it is fresh, or tacky stick that might be pulled apart and stuck back together again sometime later. Take care with spray glue to NOT spray it on anything not intended. Application around the edges of carpet pieces may be important for initial stick down and to assure the edges won't peel up later in use.

Addendum, April 2011:
Tony Bullum in Southern California wrote:
"I found that 3M heavy duty spray adhesive worked extremely well. It dries super fast, like 30 seconds, so you can form it around all the odd shaped nooks and crannies no problem. You do have to be fairly accurate in your carpet placement, though. After spraying the surface, as well as back of carpet you have enough time to remove and re-position the carpet piece maybe one time before it dries and is immovable".
[Pre-fit all the parts (DRY) first just to check].

On February 5, 2017, Bob Krzywicki in northern Virginia USA wrote:
"I used the landau top adhesive. It's a high heat adhesive and is really good stuff. The Weldwood contact cement is also high heat compatible. The real difference is in set up time the landau top adhesive is very sticky very quickly".

A wallpaper removal steamer can help to form the contour carpet pieces before installation. The steamers were made by Black and Decker, and others, great for molding carpet over curved surfaces. Let carpet dry in place before final fixing. Don't use a steam iron, you may melt the carpet fibers.

As an alternative to glue, you can use double sided sticky tape. Most of these can be pulled off later, and if it looses its stick it can easily be replaced. It will most likely not stick to dirty surfaces, so it may require some cleaning before application or replacement. Sticky tape may or may not work well between carpet and padding.

On February 5, 2017, Joe Ahrberg in Hoosick Falls, New York, USA wrote:
"I had very bad results with carpet tape and used a 3M spray adhesive instead. Worked much better but be careful where you spray the carpets, it can get on everything. I put my carpets in before I put the body back on. Much easier".

Should you get some on the face of the carpet don't panic. Mineral spirits and a rag will wipe 3M adhesive over-spray right off if you get any on the carpet fibers.

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