While removing wall-to-wall carpet can seem like a difficult task, getting started can be the hardest part. However, the thought of the new floors that are waiting after the carpet is gone should help motivate you to get started. If the carpet was installed over hardwood floors that you will be refinishing, then it is important not to cause additional damage to the floors when removing the carpet. If you will simply be replacing the old carpet with new carpet, tile, or other flooring, you will not want to cause unnecessary destruction, but you will not have to be quite as careful. |
Before starting, don't forget to think about lead dust. If the carpet is in a home built before 1978, then there may be lead dust in the carpet, and special care should be taken to ensure that you and other residents of the home are not exposed to toxic lead dust. Check with local authorities to determine the rules for disposing of lead-contaminated objects in your area. If you are not sure about lead dust, consider cutting out a small square of carpet and have the lead levels checked.
You are now ready to begin removing the carpet. You will need the following tools: heavy work gloves, utility knife, putty knife, pliers, needle nose pliers, hammer, pry bar, safety glasses, and a vacuum cleaner or broom for cleaning up dust and debris.
First, remove any molding or baseboard that helps to hold the carpet in place. To remove this molding, use a utility knife to break the paint seal between the molding and the wall or baseboard. Then gently insert a pry bar between the wall and the molding. If the pry bar does not fit, start with a putty knife, then once you have a small gap between the molding and the wall, slide the pry bar into the gap. To keep from damaging the wall, insert a thin piece of cardboard or 1/8-inch thick masonite or luan between the pry bar and the wall. Then gently ease the molding away from the wall. Continue until the molding has been removed. If you will be replacing the molding after the carpet is removed, make sure to label the molding so it can go back in its original location.
Finally, you are ready to begin removing the actual carpet. Carpet tacks and the pinheads used in so-called tackless strips are extremely sharp. Always wear heavy gloves when working with them, and be careful to clean them up when you are finished. With the utility knife, cut the carpet into strips that you can carry easily. Using pliers, pull up a small section of the carpet in a corner of the room. You may also be able to pull up an edge of the carpet where it joins another flooring surface such as tile. Pulling up a few inches should be enough to let you get started. Once you have a start, pull up the remainder of that section.
Carpet padding is located under the carpet, and if you are very lucky the padding will not be attached to the subfloor with hundreds or thousands of small staples. If you are not that lucky, use the needle nose pliers to remove the staples. Generally, do not try to pull the staples straight up, but twist them out by rolling your wrist over. If the carpet padding is glued down, mineral spirits can be used to soften the adhesive on wood flooring. If you plan to leave the wood bare, use a plastic scraper to remove the residue so you do not scratch or gouge the floors. If the padding is glued to concrete or tile, use a floor scraper (available at flooring supply stores and some big box stores) to remove it.
Finally, the tack strip itself must be removed. Tack strip is generally held in place with small nails spaced about six inches apart. Use the technique that you perfected removing the molding to remove the tack strip. Insert the pry bar carefully under the edge of the tack strip, near a nail holding the strip down. If you want to protect the floor, again use thin cardboard or masonite between the pry bar and the floor. Then tap the pry bar with the hammer, loosening the nail. Carefully pry the strip back and move on to the next nail. If you have a concrete subfloor, it may be necessary to swing the hammer more forcefully to dislodge the nails. Small divots in the concrete should not cause problems with your new floor.
When your new floor is ready to show the neighbors, don't forget to mention that you removed the old carpet yourself.
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