Eight years ago this month I moved into my new-construction home complete with wall-to-wall frieze carpeting. It hasn’t exactly been a love story, but I’ve made my peace with it and, with two fully carpeted staircases, I’m in no hurry to change any of it. But the thick carpet does have one sworn enemy: my wheeled desk chair.
Here you see the chair in its natural environment, my guest bedroom/office, with five malicious wheels ready to mash the pad and gobble up any stray yarn that dares poke its head above the rest. As much as I didn’t want the chair to destroy the carpet, I also didn’t want to ruin the whole room with one of those unsightly clear plastic chair mats. Not only are they hideous, but in my experience they don’t play well with thick carpet and always end up warped and cracked. I needed something that could appease my vintage design sensibilities but also be functional for daily use. A few years ago, I stumbled on to the answer at my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore—commercial carpet tiles.
They work! The shorter nap lets the chair roll easily and their flexibility allows them to adjust to the squishy carpet below. Plus they looked great and were cheap. Score and score. Actually the mat shown in this picture is a new one I just made. Since I doubt I’m the only person with this problem, I thought I’d share how to make one for yourself.
Finding these amazing tiles was the inspiration behind replacing the mat I made a few years ago. At the time, I couldn’t find colors I really liked and ended up with some really dark grays and greens. But when I found these in a massive pile of miscellaneous carpet tiles at the ReStore, they look like they were made specifically for the color palette of my office. Since they are all samples from carpet installers, no two are exactly the same. It took me about an hour to dig through hundreds of tiles to find six that were similar enough to work well together, but for only $1.50 each I consider it time well spent. You can find your own tiles at your local ReStore or possibly even directly from commercial carpet distributors or installers in your area.
The tools needed to make the mat are pretty simple: anti-skid tape, duct tape and a pair of scissors. The duct tape is to join the seams on the back side of the tiles to keep them from gapping. If you’re installing these on a hard surface flooring instead of over carpet, you probably won’t need to tape the seams, the anti-skid tape will keep them tight. The anti-skid tape should be available in the flooring section of any home improvement store. If you need to cut any of the tiles to fit or to make a pattern, you’ll also need a utility knife. Always cut carpet tiles from the back.
First, I put duct tape perpendicular to the seam. Push the tiles as close together as you can. Put the tape on one tile and then pull it horizontally toward the other tile and stick down. This will help hold them flush.
I also like to put tape over the entire seam. Since it will depress into the carpet below, this tape will help prevent the mat from gapping under the pressure of chair wheels.
At areas where four corners touch, I like to put tape at 45 degree angles to the intersection. Join as you would the first tape, affixing to one tile and pulling horizontally toward the other.
After all the seams are taped tight, you can apply anti-skid tape to help keep the mat from moving across the floor. Apply the tape to a few places, peeling off the protective liner just before you put the mat down. Don’t confuse this tape with solid double-sided carpet tape which has a permanent adhesive that might damage your flooring. This tape is sticky, but peels off easily and doesn’t leave residue on your carpet or floor.
And there you have a custom chair mat that costs a whopping $10, including the tape. Since it’s usually difficult to find enough tiles that match exactly, I suggest getting creative and having fun with it. Find a few different coordinating colors and make your own block pattern or even cut them into smaller rectangles or even triangles to make a truly custom design. Since these tiles are commercial quality, they’re made to hold up against heavy traffic in offices, schools, hotels and retail environments. In your home, they may just last forever. They usually have extreme stain resisting properties and waterproof backing materials, so they also work great for making custom door mats and area rugs. So, go nuts and if you make any great rugs for your home, please share them with us. We love to see what our readers are up to!