Before the tear-out
Talk with your installer to find out exactly how much you'll save
by doing the tear-out yourself. Your installer can also give you
advice on handling any unusual situations in your home and
what to do with the old carpet. Many trash haulers will accept
short rolls of carpet along with the regular trash and some cities
have carpet recycling programs.
Before you begin tearing up carpet, remove any doors that
swing into the room, including bifold closet doors. Doors that
swing into adjoining rooms can stay in place. Then clear the
floor completely, removing all the furniture from the room. Slip
on a pair of gloves to protect your knuckles from the abrasive
carpet backing and the needle-sharp tack strip. There's a lot of
dust trapped inside old carpet. So if you're sensitive to dust,
strap on a dust mask, too.
Pull, cut and roll
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Photo 1: Fold and cut
Fold the carpet over for easy cutting and slice it into
narrow strips. Roll up the strips and tape them for easy
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Photo 2: Leave transitions for the installer
Leave transitions alone. Cut the carpet a few inches from
where it meets other flooring and let the installer tackle
the transition work.
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Photo 3: Scrape off staples
Get rid of carpet pad staples fast
with a floor scraper. If the blade digs
into the wood, scrape from a low angle.
To detach the carpet from the tack strip that holds the carpet in
place along walls, start in a corner; just grab the carpet with pliers
and pull. Then grab the carpet by hand and continue to pull
it up along an entire wall. Fold back about 3 ft. of carpet and cut
it into easy-to-handle strips (Photo 1). Carpet is much easier to
cut from the back than from the front. Use a sharp new blade in
your utility knife and be careful not to slice into baseboard or
Keep pulling back the carpet and slicing it into strips. When
you come to a “transition” where the carpet meets another section
of carpet or other flooring, cut the carpet and leave the
transition in place (Photo 2). If you have a metal transition
that's in good condition, the installer may decide to leave it in
place. That can save you about $10 per transition. If the carpet
is seamed to another section of carpet, the installer can separate
the seam without damage to the carpet that's staying in place.
To remove carpet from stairs, start at the top. If there's a metal
nosing at the top of the stairs, pry it up to remove it. If not, cut
the carpet near the top of the top riser, grab the cut end and pull
the carpet off the stairs by hand. Wear gloves to protect your
hands from the staples that hold the carpet in place. Some stairs
are covered with short sections of carpet that wrap over just one
tread and riser. If you find yourself pulling up one long piece,
slice off sections as you go to make pulling easier. When you've
torn off all the carpet and pad, pull out all the staples with
Cut the pad into strips and roll it up just as you did with the
carpet. On a concrete floor, the pad is glued in place, so big
chunks of pad will remain stuck to the floor. To remove them,
use a floor scraper. Long-handled scrapers cost about $30 at
home centers. Shorter versions cost about $10. Some scrapers
have razor-sharp blades; others have blunt
blades. Either type works fine on concrete.
On a plywood or particleboard subfloor,
you'll have hundreds of staples to
deal with. You can pull staples with pliers,
of course, but that can take hours. With a
sharp-bladed floor scraper, the job takes
just a few minutes (Photo 3). The blade
will shear off some staples and yank out
others. Be sure to go over the whole floor
so you don't leave any behind. If the
scraper digs into the floor, flip it over so
that the blade's beveled side faces down. If
it still digs, work at a lower angle.
Trash the tack strip?
In most cases, you should leave the old
tack strip in place, but there are a couple
of exceptions: Remove any sections that
are rotten, delaminating or badly rusted.
Rust can “bleed” through the carpet, creating
stains on the surface. You should
also remove the tack strip if it's less than
1/4 in. from the baseboard. The installer
needs a gap at least 1/4 in. wide to tuck the
edge of the carpet down against the baseboard.
To remove tack strip, just pop it up
with a flat pry bar. Tack strip is available at
home centers (about 20¢ per ft.), but
you'll save very little money, if any, by
installing it yourself.