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Removing Old Carpet

Updated: Feb. 21, 2023

Save $80 in an hour and fix floor problems before the installer shows up

FH08MAY_WHYTEA_01-2Family Handyman
Tear out carpet yourself and silence floor squeaks, eliminate odors, hide speaker wires, replace bad subfloors and save a few bucks too! All before the carpet installers come.

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Reason 1: Save money

Save money

Removing carpet is usually easy. You’ll save the cost of having the installer do it.

Installing new carpet yourself usually isn’t smart. When you consider the rental cost of special tools, your time and the risk of wrecking an expensive piece of carpet, it just doesn’t make sense. But tearing out the old carpet does.

Depending on where you live, an installer will charge $3 to $5 per square yard for tear-out. By removing the carpet from a 12 x 15-ft. room, you’ll save $60 to $100 for an hour’s work. Talk to your installer to find out exactly what you’ll save by doing it yourself.

Reason 2: Silence squeaks

Eliminate squeaks

Drive screws through loose flooring and into joists to stop squeaks.

With a bare floor, you can eliminate floor squeaks the easiest, most effective way: by driving screws into the floor joists. Existing nails or screws tell you where the joists are. Walk around the room, pencil in hand, and mark squeaky spots. Drive screws 6 in. apart and add more screws if needed until the squeak is gone. In most cases, 2-in. screws are best; for subfloors thicker than 3/4 in., use 2-1/2-in. screws. If you want to prevent squeaks from developing, add screws along all the floor joists.

Reason 3: Seal stinky stains

Apply sealer

Seal stains with stain-blocking primer.

Left untreated, pet urine stains can stink for years. To stop the stench, wet the area with a 50/50 mix of bleach and water. After five minutes, wipe up the bleach and let the floor dry completely. Then seal the stain with a stain-blocking primer, such as KILZ, BIN or 1-2-3. Be sure to choose a primer that’s recommended for masonry if you have a concrete floor.

Reason 4: Hide wires

Run coaxial cable

Staple cables that can be safely run under carpeting to the floor to hide them.

You can keep phone lines, speaker wire and coaxial cable out of sight and safe from the vacuum cleaner by installing them before the new carpet goes in. Just staple the wire every 3 to 4 ft. alongside the tack strip. Run it around the perimeter of the room, but not across doorways or other pathways where foot traffic will damage it. Most important, don’t use this trick to hide extension cords or electrical wiring.

Reason 5: Replace rotten subfloor

If your subfloor has any rotten areas, it’s best that you discover and fix them; the installer will charge you at least $75 and maybe much more. Rotten subflooring is common near exterior doors, especially patio doors. Set your circular saw depth to match subfloor thickness and cut around the damage. Cut along joists so the edges of the new patch can rest on them. Then pull out the damaged piece, cut a matching patch and screw it to the joists. To prevent additional damage, stop the water source. Caulking around the exterior trim and under the door sill may work, but the surest fix is proper sill flashing.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Circular saw
  • Drill/driver - cordless
  • Paintbrush
  • Staple gun
  • Wood chisel

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • 2-in. or 2-1/2-in. long
  • Bleach
  • Screws
  • Stain-blocking primer