Home Improvement

What Causes Carpet Ripples and How to Fix Them

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Did you just trip over your carpet in a rush to get to the door this morning? We feel for you, as this can happen totally out of the blue. But what are the causes behind carpet ripples that can play a joke with your balance and make you stumble, or worse – fall?

This post will do exactly that – give you all the plausible reasons behind buckled rugs and wall-to-wall carpets. You’ll also learn how to remedy the problem and what to do to prevent this from happening again.

Table of Contents:

What causes carpet ripples

Regardless of whether you’ve had your broadloom for a while or it has been recently installed, carpet ripples can happen, due to various factors. Those could be environmental, related to human error and negligence, or they may be connected to some manufacturing defects. Either way, we’ll cover them all below, so read on and stop stressing out. After all, there are some solutions, you can try, and fix your overstretched carpet with satisfactory results.

Environmental factors


A high level of moisture in the air will inevitably affect the structure and performance of your carpet. All-year-round high humidity makes it swell and overstretch, which can eventually cause ripples on the carpet.

Furthermore, fluctuations in the level of humidity in four-season climates, where dry summers are followed by wet weather, also cause temporary buckling during the cold rainy months. And the point, here, is that the carpet may or may not “repair itself” once the moisture in the air drops.


Regardless of whether an event of flooded carpeting has been caused due to the force of Nature or a plumbing issue, the result is the same – a wet floor covering. If not dried properly with the help of a good quality dehumidifier, you can expect the appearance of heavy buckling and ripples all over the surface as a result.

“Man-made” reasons

Problems with installation:

Wrong type of underlay
Fitting the wrong type of cushioning or padding under the carpet will result in the latter becoming buckled. Why? A properly installed carpeting needs appropriate support underneath so that it doesn’t move when in use.

Poor workmanship
The actual process of fitting a wall-to-wall carpet requires expertise and the right tools, such as a power stretcher and quality fasteners. A DIY job or hiring a carpet fitter without the right credentials, for that matter, may result in your carpet becoming a bit too flexible and loose. Only an expert knows how to tightly stretch your carpet during installation and secure it correctly in place with tack strips and staples.

Carpet acclimatisation
Another reason for getting a buckled carpet at some point after installation is the failure to allow sufficient time for the carpet to acclimate before the fitting task takes place. Temperature differences affect carpet performance (cold storage units vs. heated residential properties). So, you should always leave your new carpet to get “accustomed” for a few hours to the temperature conditions of your home before proceeding with the installation process.

Wrong cleaning techniques:

Over-wetted carpet
Again, professional carpet cleaning is far superior to doing the job with a hired steam cleaner of average quality or by manually shampooing and scrubbing your floor covering. Remember, any high-moisture DIY carpet cleaning method poses the risk of over-wetting your carpet. This is one of the prime causes for ripples in the carpet later on, especially if you don’t take extra care to dry it properly (ex: switch on a heater or a fan).

Cleaning vs. carpet material
This one is related to the above but in a more specific aspect. Basically, some carpets are so delicate that they should be always dry cleaned rather than steam cleaned. For instance, if you own a sisal carpet, even the popular, in most cases, and highly effective low-moisture hot water extraction cleaning method is never recommended. Instead, trust the safe and proven dry cleaning technique.

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Neglecting common sense:

Physical damage
You may cover a small tear in the corner of your carpet with success by placing a mat or an indoor plant over the spot. But over time, the loosened-up structure of the carpet, due to the inconspicuous now damage, may well result in the formation of ripples elsewhere on the carpet surface.

Moving heavy items
This one is no brainer. If you want to rearrange the furniture in a room, do it properly by lifting the piece, rather than dragging it onto your carpet or rug. Also, to avoid rippling your carpet, you can use a pack of four furniture moving dollies or apply the good old plywood furniture moving technique. With the latter, you’ll need a couple of pieces of plywood, where you “walk” your heavy desk slowly over them by placing one piece in front of the other, if needs be.

Factory defects


You may end up with a buckled carpet soon after installation if you’ve purchased a product, where the primary or secondary carpet backing has been somewhat detached in places from its pile. The fibres and different layers of the carpet are glued together. So, when there’s a partial breakdown of the adhesive, ripples may occur.
Note that delamination can be caused by moisture, as well (high level of humidity or over-wetted carpet during cleaning).

Poor quality rugs:

Inexpensive and low-quality carpets may not appear as defective, at first, but they are sold with an overall compromised lifespan by default. They are not durable at all and the slightest mishap, such as a spill or a pet stain may result in a ripple on the affected area soon after, even if you’ve addressed the accident straight away.

What can you do if your carpet has buckled?

First and foremost, you need to confirm the reason behind the ripples on your carpet, in order to resolve the problem, if you can. After all, you’ll consider a completely different course of action if the carpet pile has been detached from the backing (delamination). And you’ll employ another remedial method if a huge ripple appeared straight after you dragged your wardrobe across the room, right?

Also, as discussed earlier in the post, when humidity is at play, oftentimes, you don’t need to do anything but turn on the air conditioning, a fan or a heater, depending on the season. As soon as you eliminate the excess moisture in the air, your carpet will turn flat again in no time.

Still, sometimes the ripples are so severe (for whatever reason) that if you don’t act, they can turn into permanent creases. In such cases, it’s best to contact your retailer or the manufacturer for advice, as well as hire a professional to restretch your carpet. And if you suspect a factory defect behind the buckling, seek your warranty rights without delay.

How to restretch your carpet yourself

If you boast practical skills and the cause behind the ripples is not a severe structural fault or damage, you may be able to restretch your carpet yourself. You’ll need to invest in a few important tools and follow the steps below.


The key tools, you’ll need to use, are a power stretcher and a knee kicker. You’ll also need needle-nose pliers and a flat-head screwdriver to remove the staples, a pry bar to get the tack strips out, a rubber mallet to place new tack strips, a carpet cutter to remove any excess carpeting, and a staple gun to secure the restretched carpet to its underlay. It’s also a good idea to get some heavy-duty working gloves since you’ll be in contact with sharp objects and nails.


  1. Prepare the room by removing all furniture, as well as any baseboards, if applicable.
  2. Remove the old tack strips with the pry bar. (If they are not damaged by moisture, for instance, some experts say, they can be reused).
  3. Install the new strips with the help of the rubber mallet about an inch from the wall.
  4. Then, position the power stretcher in the middle of the room, with its base – about 6 inches from the wall, making sure that the teeth engage with the carpet.
  5. Stretch the carpet by pushing the lever of the device and cut the excess carpet strip with the cutter as you go. Repeat this step as needed throughout the room.
  6. When done, address the corners by smoothing out any remaining ripples with the knee kicker.
  7. Secure the carpet to the underlay with the staple gun.
  8. Fit the baseboards back in place and move your furniture again into the room.

As you can see, carpet lovers, it’s important to have your new investment fitted by a professional to avoid problems later and the need of re-stretching your carpet. In addition, to prevent your carpet from getting buckled, follow these tips:

  • Control the humidity of the room, when necessary, by using a dehumidifier or a heating/cooling device.
  • Always let new wall-to-wall carpeting to acclimate before installing it.
  • Ensure to use suitable padding, in order to fit your carpet correctly.
  • Resort to a professional carpet cleaning service to avoid over-wetting your rug, because this may result in delamination.
  • Don’t drag heavy items across your carpet.
  • Should you need to restretch your carpet, it’s best if you get a specialist to handle the job for you.

Get help with restreching your carpet or installing a new one from our professional handymen!

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