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Rolled Carpets

How To Remove Old Carpet

Tips for Pulling Up Wall-to-Wall Carpet

Replacing your flooring is a great project to increase your home’s value. But professional carpet removal for a 500 square foot area can range from $200 to over $500, plus disposal. After you tack on the costs of new flooring and installation, you’re looking at quite an investment. Tearing out old carpet is a strenuous task, but many homeowners still choose to pull up carpet themselves in order to save big bucks on renovation costs. 

If you’re considering this option yourself, we wrote this guide to walk you through the process with professional advice from the National Wood Flooring Association

After you’ve selected your new and improved flooring, follow these six steps to remove your old carpet without straining your back or your bank account. 

Important Carpet Removal Tools & Supplies

Safety Supplies
  • Utility knife 
  • Pry bar
  • Hammer
  • Putty knife (optional)
  • Floor scraper
  • Pliers
  • Broom
  • Vacuum
  • Roll off dumpster*
  • Gloves
  • Dust mask or Respirator
  • Knee pads
  • Safety glasses
  • Long sleeved clothing

*Depending on how much carpet you pull up, curbside trash pickup may not be an option.

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1. Prep Before Pulling Up Carpet


Before you start ripping up the carpet, clear all furniture from the room. Remove entry or closet doors that might interfere with your work. You might also consider vacuuming the carpet one last time to minimize the mess during removal. Even then, you’re bound to kick up a dust bunny or two, so wear a dust mask and safety glasses for protection and put on gloves and knee pads for safety.

NWFA logo“It is very common to find old stains and years of dust, dirt, pet urine, dead bugs, etc., under the carpet during the removal process.  For this reason, it is highly recommended to wear a respirator during removal.” 

Brett Miller | VP of Education and Certification, National Wood Flooring Association

2. Detach Carpet from Tack Strips

Tack strips are metal nails that line the perimeter of your walls to hold the carpet securely in place. They can be tricky to deal with, so start in a corner, take your time and follow the steps below. 

  1. Use pliers to grab the carpet and pull it away from the subfloor. If the pliers aren’t cutting it, you can also use a small crow bar to pry it back. 
  2. Continue pulling until you’ve separated the carpet entirely from one wall. If you reveal a carpet padding beneath, keep it in place for now – we’ll tackle that later on. 
  3. Roll the carpet a few feet back before cutting.  

3. Cut Carpet into Easy-to-Handle Pieces

Carpet can be extremely heavy to handle, especially if you’re tackling a lot of square footage. To save yourself the pain of lifting it all at once, cut it into easy-to-manage pieces with a utility knife: 

  1. Cut carpet from the back, instead of from the fiber side, and make sure your blade is sharp and new. 
  2. Be careful not to cut into baseboards, the subfloor, the walls and – most importantly – your hands. Consider wearing cut-resistant gloves for safety.
  3. Continue this process until you reach a transition where the carpet meets the entryway to another room or type of flooring. 

When removing the old carpet from the room, consider wearing long sleeves to protect your forearms. After you’ve removed all the carpet strips from the space, it’s time to get rid of the carpet padding.

4. Remove Worn Carpet Padding

The process of removing carpet padding is very similar to pulling up the carpet itself, except it’s typically much lighter. Start at one wall and roll the carpet padding away from your subfloor. Every few feet, use your utility knife to cut the padding into strips. Again, these smaller strips will be much easier for you to remove from the room. After you yank it all out, you’ll reveal your subfloor. You’re also likely to see a ton of staples, nails and tack strips all around the room. Once the padding is out, it’s time to grab the pry bar again.

5. Remove Carpet Tack Strips and Staples 

If you don’t already have gloves on, now’s the time to gear up. 

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How to Remove Carpet Tack Strips

  1. To remove tack strips installed over subfloor, start in a corner and shove your pry bar directly under one tack strip at a time, prying it up from under the nail heads.
  2. To remove tack strips from hardwood floors, insert a wide putty knife between the tack strip and the floor next to the nail head before inserting the pry bar. This helps to protect your hardwood flooring from damage.
  3. Hit the opposite end of the pry bar carefully with a hammer to pop the nail out of the floor.
  4. To remove tack strips from concrete, more strength may be required to hammer the pry bar. Be sure to wear safety glasses in case nails pop out forcefully.
  5. Ideally, you’ll be able to pop each tack strip up in one piece. But sometimes, especially with older installs, the tack strips can splinter. Use caution when removing the wood and nails.
  6. Dispose of the old tack strips in a heavy-duty trash bag.
  7. Repeat the process until all remaining tack strips in the room are detached.

NWFA Logo“Tack strip is sometimes glued in place, but is most-often nailed. This makes it dangerous to remove because it can cut your hands, arms, etc.  Wearing heavy work gloves and a long-sleeved shirt and pants during removal will help minimize this risk.  It can also help to place the removed tack strips on the torn-out carpet pad, which makes carrying the sharp, jagged tack strips less of an injury risk.”

Brett Miller | VP of Education and Certification, National Wood Flooring Association

Once you’ve removed all of the tack strips, it’s time to pull up the staples. Removing the staples from your subfloor is important for your new flooring to lay evenly. This can be a very time-consuming task. For best results, run a heavy duty long-handled floor scraper over the entire area. Use a broom to sweep the loose staples into the center of the room, then a shop-vac to quickly suck them all up. Pay careful attention to make sure all loose dust, staples, wood and nails are all completely vacuumed. 

6. Dispose of Your Old Carpet

Now that your subfloor is clean and clear, your next step is disposal. 

  • Can I Donate Carpet? Charities typically only accept new or unused carpet due to health concerns. Also, keep in mind that in order to donate you would need to keep the carpet intact, increasing the difficulty of removal. If you have sizable carpet remnants that could go to good use, contact a local charity that specializes in building or home restoration, like Habitat for Humanity.
  • Can I Recycle Carpet? Nearly all types of carpet are recyclable. Depending on the fiber and chemical makeup, carpet can be broken down into fibers or plastic pellets, which can be reused to make new carpet and various construction products. To find a carpet recycling service near you, use Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE)’s carpet reclamation map.
  • Can I Toss Carpet Curbside? Since it’s generally tossed in large quantities, carpet is usually not accepted on regular garbage pickup days. Depending on your local regulations, you can wait for bulk trash pickup day. But when working with limited space, many homeowners prefer to rent a renovation dumpster. This way, you can quickly toss the old carpet, padding and tack strips all at once, saving you from taking multiple trips to the dump. Call 1-833-499-7510 to have a dumpster delivered directly to your driveway.

Before new flooring is installed, Miller recommends consulting a professional “to determine if the subfloor is adequate for the new flooring material.” For example, the weight of new tile can be much heavier than the weight of your old carpet. In some instances, you may need to install a concrete backerboard to support the weight. Other important factors include the flooring grade and moisture levels of the space.

Time to Install Your New Flooring

Congratulations – you removed your carpet! Whether you’re installing tile or fresh hardwood floors, we hope you love your new space. For more DIY tips, visit the For the Home section of our blog.

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