If you’re installing a hardwood floor in new construction, all you have to worry about is the condition of the subfloor. But if you’re working on a remodel project, you’ll likely have to remove an existing flooring, which might be carpet, linoleum, or vinyl. Removing old floorings is my least favorite part of installing wood flooring.
No matter how many times a carpet is cleaned throughout its life, removing all the animal dander, dirt, and dead bugs is just about impossible. Many carpets are held in place by tack strips installed next to the walls. These narrow wooden strips have small, sharp, angled nails that point up to hold the carpet’s backing. The strips themselves are nailed to the floor. To begin removing old carpet, pull back a corner with pliers. Continue around the outside of the room, releasing the rest of the carpet from the tack strip. Cut the carpet into manageable strips to haul away. If there are existing wood floors under the carpet that you simply plan to refinish, be careful not to damage them while cutting the carpet. Vacuum the subfloor as you remove the carpet strips to limit the amount of dirt that becomes airborne.
Once you’ve removed all the carpet, pull up the tack strips using small pry bars, a claw hammer, and pliers. A drywall-taping knife can be placed between the floor and the pry bar to protect the wood floor from damage. A cat’s paw-type nail puller can also be used to remove nails from a stubborn tack strip. Wear gloves while removing the tack strips. The tack strip has sharp little teeth, and at least one will find its way into your fingers.
To remove carpet from the tack strips, grab a corner with stout pliers and pull. You can cut the carpet into manageable pieces for disposal, just be careful to avoid cutting into the floor below if you’re saving it.
Tack strips hold carpets in place. Use a taping knife below a pry bar to avoid damage to old floors you want to save, and be careful — the tacks are sharp.
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