How to remove old carpeting the right way

Well, it’s finally time. That dingy, worn-out carpet — the one that prompts cringy expectations of runs and pulls every time you get out the vacuum — has got to go. If you’re lucky, and your home was built before the 1980s, there’s potentially gorgeous hardwood flooring hiding under it. Even if you plan to replace the carpet or install a floating laminate floor, read on as a DIY carpet removal is fairly easy and can save you money if you plan to go with a new floor install.

Buried treasure?

The older your home is, the more likely the possibility of hidden hardwood under the carpeting. Due to how expensive repairing, restoring, or removing hardwood floors can be, previous homeowners may have opted to install carpeting — or even a floating laminate floor — over top.

Checking for hardwood floors

There are a few ways to check under the carpet without causing undue distress or damage to the existing carpet installation in case you’re not quite ready to make the change.

Since the carpet is stretched across the room and held in place at the borders using tack strips (thin strips of wood with tacks sticking up from the underside, nailed to the floor), check in spots where the carpet is not tacked down.

Two ideal places for this investigation are:

1. Around floor vents — This is the simplest place to check because you can lift the vent cover and likely see the flooring and subfloor layers. Then all you need to do is pull up or peel back the carpet and padding to see what’s underneath.

2. In doorways — You can check here by carefully removing the transition strip from the floor to peel back the carpet and carpet padding to get a look at the flooring material underneath.

Is the hardwood salvageable?

Discovering a hidden hardwood gem under your carpet is one thing, but the thousand dollar question is whether or not it’s suitable for restoration.

Even if the hardwood looks decent where you initially check, this may not be the case for portions where excessive wear, chips, splits, or deep stains are present. Stains are an inevitable discovery after removing all the carpet since it’s difficult to prevent liquids from seeping through carpet and padding to the underfloor.

If the damage isn’t extensive, an experienced flooring installer can repair smaller damaged areas before refinishing the entire surface to match.

Preparing to rip up the carpet

Before you begin ripping, you’ll need to equip yourself. Make sure you have the following on hand:

• Safety goggles

• Dust mask

• Work gloves

• Knee pads or a kneeling pad

• Floor scraper;

• Utility knife;

• Claw hammer or pry bar;

• Broom and dust pan, or vacuum and twine.

Once your gear is assembled, you’re ready to roll — pun intended! Follow these steps:


1. Relocate your furniture

You’ll want to remove all furniture from the room to make this job easier. If storage is an issue, consider temporary options like a storage container or a self-storage facility.


2. Detach the baseboards

Before removing the baseboards, you may need to run a utility knife along the top edge if the seam has been painted. If you plan to reuse your baseboards, delicately pry the boards free of the drywall or plaster from behind (not from above!) using your claw hammer or pry bar. Label the boards and mark their locations so you can easily replace them when finished.


3. Rip and roll

It’s time to don your mask, goggles, gloves and knee pads to get ripping! This is the fun part. Pull the carpet up from the tack strips around the perimeter of the room. Depending on the size of the room, you might want to cut the carpet into strips before rolling it for ease of removal. Be sure to lift the material as you cut to avoid marking the floor underneath. Do this for both the carpet and the padding, then secure the rolls using twine.

Be prepared for some dust and dirt, and in rare cases, mould or rodent feces. In the case of mould or feces, stop immediately and call a professional for remediation.


4. Remove staples and tack strips

After you remove the carpet and padding, the floor will look like a wasteland of staples, bordered by some gnarly-looking tack strips. Use the floor scraper to loosen any staples, and the claw hammer or pry bar to carefully lift and remove the tack strips.

Pro Tip: If you encounter stubborn staples, a blade (slot) screwdriver makes for easy removal. If only one side of the staple comes out, use plyers to pull the rest free.


5. Cleanup

Once all the staples have been lifted and the tack strips removed for disposal, give your floor a good pass with a broom or shop vac to collect any loose debris, staples and dirt.

Now your floor should be clear and ready for the next steps, whether that’s renewing your newly reclaimed hardwood floor, or installing new flooring or carpet.