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Removing Carpet

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 193 Projects

Removing carpet is necessary if it has been badly damaged or you are ready to install a different type of flooring. It is time-consuming work, but you can save money by removing carpet even if you intend to hire someone to install new flooring. Carpet is either installed with tack strips along the perimeter of a room, with adhesive spread along the perimeter of the room, or with adhesive spread along the entire floor.

Wall-to-wall carpet is stretched and secured to tackless strips along the perimeter of the room. Once lifted from the strips, the carpet and pad can be rolled up. The tackless strips are often nailed down and must be removed. Cushion-backed carpet has a foam backing bonded to it. It is secured to the floor with general-purpose adhesive. When removing this carpet, pieces of the pad will stick to the floor. Removing all of the stubborn pieces requires time and a considerable amount of effort.

How to Remove Carpet

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    Because you’re about to be handling your old carpet for a few hours, vacuum the entire floor thoroughly.

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    Use a flat pry bar to lift up the strips until they release from the floor. Dispose the strips in construction-grade garbage bags. You may be able to pull the carpet up without removing the baseboards.

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    Lift the carpet to release it from the tack strips. Continue to release the carpet from tack strips along the room perimeter.


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    Once part of the first strip of carpet is lifted, lay a scrap 2 x 4 under the carpet and use that as a cutting base—this step is necessary only if you want to protect the floor underneath (for example, if you have wood floors). After the first strip is cut, set the board on top of the carpet and fold the carpet back over the board, cutting from the underside. You may be able to cut the carpet pad and carpet at the same time; if not, you can cut the carpet pad separately later. Cut the strips into sizes that are manageable to you.

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    You may have to pull up on the strips with some effort if the carpet pad is stapled down. If you were not able to cut through the carpet pad, you will have to cut that into strips and roll the strips up once the carpet is removed. If you have perimeter-bonded carpet you must now remove the remaining perimeter piece glued to the floor.

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    Sweep up pieces of carpet padding and put them into a construction-grade garbage bag. If the pad was held down with staples, don’t clean away the bits of pad still attached to the staples—the padding makes it easier to find and remove the staples.

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    Place a thin piece of hard material (like a piece of 1⁄8” wood veneer) under the pry bar to protect the floor. Tack strips are attached to the floor with small nails spaced approximately 6 to 8” apart. The pry bar is most effective when placed directly under these points.  If it is difficult to insert the pry bar under the tack strip in places, use a hammer to tap the short bent end of the pry bar underneath the tack strip where it is attached by a nail; then pry back.

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