What Would Bob Do? Removing Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

Bob Vila answers a reader's question about removing wall-to-wall carpeting. To submit a question of your own, visit the Forum!

How to Remove Carpet

Photo: charlesandhudson.com

I am moving to a new house where the living room and dining area have wall-to-wall carpeting. I asked the previous owner, and he told me there is hardwood flooring underneath. Could you please tell me how to remove carpet?

Even with regular vacuuming, carpeting accumulates a great deal of dust, dirt, and debris. So if and when you finally decide to rip it up, be sure to give the floor covering one last good vacuuming. Empty the room of furnishings, open the windows, and don your dust mask—then get to work!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Large contractor trash bags
- Nail puller pliers
- Steel putty knife
- Flat pry bar (at least 15″)
- Hammer
- Utility knife (or tin snips)
- Leather work gloves
- Carpet padding adhesive remover (optional)
- Scraper (optional)

STEP 1
Was your carpeting installed under shoe molding? Assuming it was, the first thing to do is remove that trimwork with your putty knife and pry bar. Check the molding for damage: If it remains in good shape, save it for reuse. Chances are the trim is full of nails; when pulling them out, take care not to inflict any avoidable damage. If the molding looks a little worse for wear, consider giving it a fresh coat of paint prior to reinstallation.

STEP 2
Now that there is no obstruction between you and the carpeting, use a utility knife or a sharpened pair of tin snips to cut the material into three- or four-foot-wide strips. (Cut all the way through the backing but stop short of the flooring beneath.) Once done, begin pulling the carpet away from the tack strips on the perimeter. Roll up the sections as you remove them, placing them into heavy-duty trash bags ready for disposal.

Related: Bob Vila Radio: Recycling Carpet

STEP 3
Go to work on the tack strips, which are typically nailed to the floor and have rows of staggered tacks that face up to “grab” the carpet. Because the tacks are so sharp, it’s wise to wear leather work gloves at this stage. Insert the hooked end of your pry bar under a tack strip, then press down on the long end to lift the strip. Place all strips within rolls of carpeting, so the tacks can’t tear through the plastic garbage bags.

STEP 4
The final step is to remove the carpet padding. If it has been installed with adhesive, laborious scraping may be necessary, or you can try a commercially available adhesive remover. If the padding has been stapled into place, you can rely on nail puller pliers to do the job without gouging your floor surface. Note that before being able to grab the nails with pliers, you might first have to coax them a little with a putty knife.

To submit a question of your own, visit the Forum!