DEAR MIKE: I am selling my house and need to repair a small hole in my hallway carpet. The hole is about 2 inches square. Can it be repaired, or do I need to re-carpet the entire hallway? -- James H.
DEAR JAMES: You can certainly repair it, and playing rug doctor isn't too hard -- if you can conquer the fear of slicing and dicing your carpeting.
When I was growing up, we had carpeting, but that word is a bit too kind for this particular material. It was shag carpeting, and it looked like it had been growing in an Ecuadorian jungle before it was trampled on by a herd of elephants with unclipped toenails. Combine this matted look with a putrid orange color, and you've just entered the Klimek household, circa 1975. My mother wanted to get rid of it, but needed to justify the expense of doing that. My brother swears that he saw her burning holes in the thing, as well as throwing gum on it. If my dad had realized these flaws could be repaired, that carpet might still be there.
For your carpet, you'll need to cut out the area around the hole and fill it in with a patch that you will cut out from another area of your house. To make the cut, you must use a razor-sharp blade, either a utility knife or carpet knife.
Slice a square out of the carpet around the hole, but you should cut just enough to remove the hole completely. In other words, if you have a 2-inch hole, don't cut a 3-foot square out of the carpet.
If at all possible, avoid cutting the carpet fibers. Try to separate them (as if you are parting your hair) and cut the backing of the carpet. Move the blade of the knife back and forth to start the hole and then continue around the perimeter.
So now you have a little square that has been surgically removed from your carpet. You could take it to a carpet store and try to match the color, but the dye lot would be different and wouldn't perfectly match.
Instead, find a spot in an inconspicuous area, such as the back of a closet, and cut out a patch of your own carpet to fit the new hole in your hallway. Take your square to the back of the closet and use the sharp knife to trace around it. Cut the square slightly larger than the template so that it fits snugly into the hole. It's easier to trim back the patch rather than cutting a new one because the original is too small.
Test fit the patch until it fits into the hole perfectly. All that is left to do is to apply some carpet adhesive and stick the patch into the hole.
Place a heavy object on the patch overnight until the adhesive dries, then use a fork to blend the carpet fibers together. By the way, you can buy a remnant at a home center or carpet store to plug the hole you made in your closet.
You can also find carpet repair kits that accomplish the same thing, although you may have to shop at a carpet wholesaler or go online to find them. These kits have a cookie-cutter device that you place over the damaged carpet and then rotate to cut through the carpet. A patch is cut the same way. The kit also comes with sticky discs that you use to keep the patch in place.
And one last thing: if your carpet is damaged due to a burn and just the ends of the carpet fibers are damaged, rather than cut a plug you might first try to snip off the ends using scissors.