Cut a Rug

Where the living room stands: we’ve pulled off wallpaper, pulled up carpet, painted (then repainted!), and got a couch. Think of the room like an outfit – we now have some basic pants and a shirt, but need to add nice shoes and a jacket. You know, the touches that make an outfit look more like it was selected by a personal shopper and less like it was selected by a court-appointed attorney.

Before we jump into the fun of accessorizing, let’s take a look at the carpet removal process. If you have been toying with the idea of pulling up your old carpet, just treat this as a step by step tutorial and do it. Gather up pliers, a utility knife, a claw bar, and work gloves, plus the usual eye and breathing protection. A small screwdriver and hammer are helpful, as is duct tape.

I like to start in a corner. Use a pliers to pull up enough for you to really get your hands around a section. Then give a good pull to yank the carpet off the tack strip. It’s easiest to just keep pulling all around the room until the carpet isn’t held down by the tack strip anymore.

Now, using a blade, cut the carpet into strips.  The size of the strip depends only on what you can handle.  When it’s in strips simply roll them up and wrap once with duct tape and dispose. (Hint: While a little more work, cutting them into smaller strips makes it easier to put into garbage cans.)

Continue to pull pieces of carpet off the floor and bundle them. Once you are done, you get to do it all over again: you now have the carpet padding to deal with. This can be really easy or really hard, depending on when the pad was installed. If the padding is newer it will be like sheets of foam. Simply remove it the same way as you did the carpet: cut into manageable strips and roll them up. If, like in our case, the carpet padding is older than you, it has probably disseinegrated into a crumbly mess. You handle this by rolling strips up, but with the added fun of putting the mess into garbage bags right away and then doing a lot of sweeping afterwards. Half of our pad was “newer,” meaning circa Nixon as opposed to circa FDR. The other half was perhaps original. This part required some scraping as it was a rubber-like material that had melded into the floor. For that, we used a large putty knife/scraper and sucked up the dust with the hose part of the vacuum. (If you just push the vacuum over the mess, it’s likely to stick to the wheels and get tracked through the house.)

Now, not much unlike the scary guy in Hellraiser, your floor is now peppered with sharp staples and nails. My favorite way to remove staples is with pliers. Just clasp on the top of the staple and give a good tug straight up.  It’s a better forearm workout than anything else I can think of. If a staple is embedded to the point that there is nothing to grasp, slip a screwdriver under the edge and lightly tap it with a hammer until the staple is raised enough to pull.

Lastly, you will have the tack strip. I used to think the only thing I really hated was snakes. But now I know that I hate snakes and tack strip. In fact, now my nightmares consist of snakes nailing down tackstrip.


The best way to remove tackstrip is with a claw bar (we used one called “Wonderbar”) and cursing. Start at an end of the strip and give the Wonderbar a wack with your other hand to pry it up ever so slightly.Once you have it wedged in there just pry it up a quarter to a half inch. You don’t want to pry it up all the way because it will snap and send splinters everywhere. Just keep working your way down the tack strip and prying it up little by little. Identify where the nails are and pry up those areas completely to remove the tack strip. If the people that installed it were sadistic, they will have used braided nails. These nails will make you break a lot of tackstrip, and I’ve found there’s no way around it but to accept that you are going to make a splintery mess.

Once this is all done, just give the floor a good cleaning and it’s ready to walk on. If the floor needs to be redone, stay tuned for our floor refinishing report in the future.

2 Responses to Cut a Rug

  1. Alexis says:

    Show us your floors! how does it look underneath?

    • The Wife says:

      Everything actually looks pretty good! There was a missing spot in the living room where a vent used to be, but right now it’s covered by a rug, AND… we have a cool/cheap fix for that spot that we’ll unveil soon.

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