Removing Carpet, Tackstrip & Padding
If you’re contracting work in your home you may want to consider removing the carpet yourself. By calculating carpet removal costs on an example of 1,000 square feet, savings could run in the 250 to five hundred dollar range. For all practical purposes most homes will have stretched in carpeting where tack strip is used. By all means, use gloves with the tack strip removal part as the pins are extremely sharp.
Start In A Corner
Any corner is the ideal place to start. Professionals will use pliers to lift a section of the carpet (shown above) then wiggle or shake it aggressively. This releases the tension created when the carpet was stretched in. Next it’s important to cut the carpet into manageable sections by cutting into three or four foot sections. You’ll understand why when it’s time to take it to the street for the garbage guys. For any hardwood beneath the carpet and padding, be careful with your cuts. Minor cut marks can be sanded out, but the best logic is prevention to begin with. It's best to hold the carpet off the floor surface then cut.
Staples And Padding
Again, for those with hardwood underneath, hopefully your padding is not attached with thousands of staples. This will depend on the original installer as some will load a bunch of 'em into the floor. To remove staples, needle nose pliers work well. It may take time but you should get the hang of removal by not yanking them quickly, but grabbing a piece and twisting in rollover fashion. Placing a wide bladed putty knife underneath will protect from dinging floors. Should the padding be glued to the existing wood floors, the use of mineral spirits to soften the adhesive will work.
Often with much older wood floors that were carpeted over, previous owners may have used nails or screws to stop squeaks. Yea, I know...pretty disheartening to think someone could actually do this to what was probably a jewel of the house. Removing the nails is often too troublesome and causes too much damage. If there are far too many, you may want to consider keeping a distressed or antique appearance rather than trying to use a nail set.
If you should happen to have concrete subfloors some padding may be perimeter glued. This padding can be removed with the use of a flooring scraper. Flooring supply stores are a great source, but Home Depot and Lowes also carries them.
Removing Tack Strip
Informing the contractor that will handle the wood floor work you've taken care of the removal doesn't stop there. Tack strip removal becomes the hardest part if the subfloor is concrete. Removing can be accomplished with the use of a hammer and pry bar (wonder bar).
With existing wood floors that are to be refinished, it becomes important to be careful once again as damage can be incurred. A wide putty knife works ideally (shown right). Tack strip is commonly attached with small nails that are spaced about six inches apart. Set your pry bar near where it will engage with the nail and pound with hammer. Carefully pry back and move onto the next one.
For concrete subfloors, tack strip or the actual nail removal can be frustrating. If you're aggressive enough, one or two solid blows with the hammer against the heel of the pry bar should be sufficient to dislodge the nails. During removal, small divots in the concrete will appear and should not be a concern.
Tools Needed: Work gloves, utility knife, pliers, needle nose pliers, hammer, pry bar, safety glasses vacuum cleaner or broom.
Some Questions Fielded over The Years
Oak Floors Covered By Carpet
Question: I have red oak floors that were previously covered by rugs. They are in fairly good condition except that they have no finish (polyurethane) on them. Since we haven't been able to afford to refinish them right away, we have had area rugs mostly over them. I have also (which I am wondering now may have been a mistake) been cleaning them with a product made from orange oil since it is the only product that I could find that said could be used on unfinished wood. BTW, when I use this product to clean them, the floors look beautiful afterward. Now that I am finally going to have them refinished, I am worried that this product may have adverse effects with a polyurethane finish, like the finish may not adhere or something. The floors will be sanded prior to having a finish put on them. Since I don't know how much this orange oil is absorbed by the wood, I am wondering if it may cause a problem with a new finish. Any help?
Reply: Chances are very good you will have finish bonding problems with the newly finished floors. It really depends on how much the floor has absorbed over time.
Carpet Removed - No Hardwood In Middle Of Room
Question: We just bought our dream home fixer upper, pulled the up the rugs and found old wood floors underneath but they didn't install any in the middle of the floor. Now we have what we thought may be a jewel as you so elegantly put it on one of your web pages. Why did they do this and is and what kind of options do we have here?
Reply: At one time there was probably a large area rug in the middle of the room. In cases like this, hardwood was installed around the perimeter and plywood inserted in the middle. It was likely a cost reduction issue. You have a few options. Call in an experienced installer and install what they call an inset. He can put together a variety of design ideas, but it will require a lot of work. The question is how square the area is at the moment? If it's out of square he will have to re-cut or trim the old to accept the new.
Here's an example of a hardwood floor that didn't have the plywood but only hardwood on the perimeter. Considering the home was built in 1991 in a high end neighborhood, we just assumed it had more to do with the customer and not cost. The new home home owner wanted to fill the area so they chose hardwood running on a diagonal with borders on the perimeter.
Carpet inset before
Hardwood installed after
Nails Left Stains In Old Floor
Question: Help! We just pulled up some old nasty carpet, removed the tack strip, but now there are stains and holes in the floor from the nails. Can this be sanded out and filled with putty?
Reply: The stains are caused by moisture that affected the nails. They've basically rusted and seeped into the grain of the hardwood. Not all of it cannot be sanded out. The nail holes will probably be so small only you may notice them after the floor is finished. But there are several types of floor filler that can be used.
Cover Up Old Radiator Holes In Floor
Question- Hi great site. Do you have any ideas how we can fix the old radiator holes that are left in the floor after we pulled up some old carpet? TIA
Reply- Depending on how large they are, I've heard some use special made plugs that are tapered on the bottom. You can just hammer them into the floor, refinish and you're done. If that doesn't work for you, boards can easily be replaced in the area by an experienced professional.
Image Source: woodflooringedu.org (3rd from top)