How to Remove Carpet

Rolls of old carpet stacked into a pile

Carpet seems like the perfect flooring material when it’s first being installed. It’s soft, warm, and muffles sound to keep the busy parts of a home quieter. However, it also tends to trap dirt and bacteria, ages badly over the years, and eventually can contribute to allergies. When it comes time to remove carpet, it needs careful handling to keep years of dust and dirt from flying loose in the air. The same tacks that help hold the flooring in place also pose a hazard to your hands and knees during removal. Make sure you’re ready for this challenge so you can move on to flooring that suits you better with a few simple tools and some basic preparation.

Deciding on Safety Equipment

Work gloves, utility knife, and a scraper by red carpet that has been torn back

While carpet may seem harmless enough, the removal process is a lot easier and faster with some personal safety equipment. Thick work gloves are a bare minimum because of the chance for injuries from the sharp carpet tacks. Even the carpet and padding itself can cause abrasions when yanked on with bare hands. A pair of goggles or safety glasses are a good idea, but they don’t need to be expensive to help. Keep a dust mask handy in case there’s more dust produced than you expect as well.

Collecting the Tools You Need

Removing carpet is not a job you can do with just basic tools. You’ll need at least the following to make the process go smoothly:

Planning for Disposal

Two people trying to put a roll of old carpet into a clear garbage bag

Before pulling up any old carpet, figure out where it will go and how you’ll get it there. Carpet is messy to transport uncovered in a car, so use large contractor’s trash bags to cover each roll of material you remove. Duct tape is a good way to keep the roll together as you slide it into a trash bag and carry it to a dumpster or car. Not all landfills or trash services accept construction waste like old carpet, so find a waste facility that accepts this kind of material before starting the removal. You may be able to hire a general trash hauling company to locate a disposal solution for you and handle the work of hauling the carpet away post-removal to save you some effort.

Preparing the Room for Carpet Removal

Open room stripped of carpet

Start by taking off any doors that open into the room, especially closet and en-suite bathroom doors. Use the appropriate screwdriver to remove the pins from the hinges and lay the doors down in another room. Then use the pry bar to remove baseboards and any other equipment installed along the base of the wall in the room. Once the space is empty and there is nothing overlaying the edges of the carpet, it’s time to move on to removal. Vacuum one last time to lift as much dust and dirt as possible.

Starting the Removal

Man pulling up carpet

Use the utility knife to cut the carpet into two-foot-wide strips, starting at one end of the room and working towards the other. If the carpet is extra heavy or waterlogged, limit yourself to one-foot-wide strips to reduce the weight of each roll of material. This measurement doesn’t have to be perfect, but check your measurements every few cuts to ensure they’re all more or less the same size.

Pick a corner that isn’t right by a doorway or other opening into the room. Grab near the corner with the large pair of pliers and pull until the material lifts. If it’s resistant, you can use the pry bar along the wall to lift a section of spiky tack strip away until you have an edge to grab. Use both hands to start pulling the strip away from the wall. The first and last strips of carpet in a room that run along the two longest walls are the hardest to remove because of the sharp tack strip. Take your time and pull from different angles to get the material off in one piece. Roll it up and tape it once it’s all free of the tacks. Then move on to the next strip of carpet.

Dealing With the Carpet Pad

Man rolling up green carpet padding

After removing all the carpet on top, it’s time to take off the underlying carpet pad. In most homes, this pad has been glued down to the subflooring. Use a sharp floor scraping tool designed for carpet and vinyl to lift it away in sections. The old pad may crumble, slowing the removal process. If the carpet pad peels up like the carpet, cut it into strips and roll it up as well. Then scrape away any adhesive clinging to the subfloor.

Removing Tacks and Strips

Close-up of tacks and strip from carpeting

Finally, take the pry bar and lift the tack strips at the edges of the walls, pulling them away carefully. Look for tacks and broken tines from the strips in the center of the floor and remove these with small vise-grip pliers. Use a shop vacuum to capture residual dust and the last bits of carpet pad for a clean subfloor that’s ready for a new layer of flooring.

Carpet removal is something most homeowners can handle on their own. However, actually disposing of the old carpet may require the help of a professional. Make sure to watch out for dust inhalation and keep your hands away from the sharp tack strips that run around the edges of a carpeted room.

While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.


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