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How to Remove Carpet Without Ruining Your Hardwood Floor

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I removed my own carpets, and here, I share with you the step-by-step instructions for how you can, too.

Learn how to remove carpet without causing damage to the hardwood floor below.

Learn how to remove carpet without causing damage to the hardwood floor below.

Removing Carpet From Hardwood Floors

I wrote this article to show the reader just how simple it is to remove carpet properly. I've seen people spend way too much money on special knives, contracting services, and the like, for what is actually a very easy job.

No special skills are required and it can most certainly be a "do-it-yourself" project. There's an added bonus too—once you've gotten rid of the carpet, you've removed one of the dirtiest areas in your home. The amount of dirt that has to be removed is a good indication of just how dirty a carpet is no matter how well you clean or vacuum.

Is There Wood Flooring Under That Carpet?

If you are living in an older home, one built before 1960 say, you may very well have a hardwood floor under your carpeting.

Don't know? Try this—go to a hallway or other less visible area of your home. With a pair of pliers, grab the nap of your carpet nearest the corner and pull straight up. The carpet should come up revealing carpet strips and padding. Gently pull the padding up to see what's underneath. You might want a flashlight or other bright light source to see what lies beneath.

Why choose a corner? Corners tend to lay flat without the carpet being stretched. In fact, it's very hard for carpet installers to stretch carpet in two directions (though it can be done). Once you've examined what you have under the carpet it's relatively easy to put it back down as if nothing had happened.

Why Remove the Carpet?

If you see wood and it's finished, you may very well want to pull up that smelly, dirty carpet and get rid of it once and for all. Hardwood floors are not only easier to keep clean, but they look good and will help reduce the number of allergens and germs in your home.

Be Prepared for the Mess

Once you've established that you really want to remove the carpet, prepare for one of the dirtiest, smelliest jobs you've ever done in your life. As you remove the carpet, you'll quickly see why. Even after meticulous vacuuming, it's the dirtiest part of your home.

Tools and Preparation

I suggest wearing your worst work clothes- including a long-sleeved shirt. You'll also want eye protection (any glasses will do), a dust mask, and work gloves.

For tools, you'll need the simplest. Get pliers and a box cutting knife. Make sure the box cutter has a fresh sharp blade in it. The second picture above shows how to get to the blade. Most blades are designed to be used twice; you just flip it over.

You'll also want some strong packing tape or heavy twine to tie up the rolled-up carpet.

Heavy Trash Pickup?

You'll want to make sure that once the carpet is removed, you can have it hauled away. I don't know about your area, but in mine, the city-run trash collection service has a heavy trash pickup day. Call your locality and see if they have a similar program. Mine requires no additional charges, which is great considering how many bulky items end up on the curb.

Be sure to also ask how to prepare the carpet for haul-off. My service didn't give me details the first time I called and I had to wait two weeks, haul the carpet to the curb, back to the garage, and then back to the curb again.

Where I live the carpet must be in rolls no larger than three feet wide, must weigh thirty (30) pounds or less, and have to be bound by light rope or tape.

I rolled the carpet pad into the center of the carpet and followed their directions. It was all gone by the end of the day for heavy trash pick-up... well, the second time around at least.

Where to Start Without Damaging the Floor

Of course, any time we take a knife to an area with wood nearby, we are taking a risk. Minimize this risk of cutting into the floor by choosing the best area.

All carpet is held down with carpet strips. These are narrow wooden strips nailed to the floor with nail points that stick out of the side facing up. These nail-points typically point away (slightly) from the open floor or, to put this another way, in toward the wall.

How to Remove the Old Carpet

  1. It's safest to make your initial cut right where the carpet strips have to be. This is typically one inch including up to the wall and out. Sometimes carpet strips are two inches wide, but don't take a chance; cut closest to the wall.
  2. Now that you've made your initial cut, with your left hand (right if left-handed) use the pliers to pull up one side of the cut carpet; typically the side nearest you. This should pull the carpet up enough that any further cutting will end in the airspace between the carpet and floor.
  3. Now place the blade of your box-cutter in the cut, avoid your gloved hand by all means, and make a straight cut out away from the wall. With any luck, you'll make a fairly straight cut at least five feet along the carpet.
  4. You can now put your gloved hand in the cut and by continuing to raise the cut area (and carpet) away from the floor make your next cut. Of course, you are doing all of this on your knees.
  5. As you work along you should be able to cut the carpet all the way to the opposite wall. Now that you've got it cut, use the cut edge to lift the carpet away from the floor. Wiggling it a bit as you do this should free it from the carpet strips or you can use the pliers as well.
  6. Now that you have the strip of carpet pulled up, set it to one side and pull up the padding using the same cut, lift, and pull method. Lay the padding on top of the carpet strip and roll them both up into a "jelly roll." Once there stand the roll on end and tape or tie it in such a way that it won't unroll.


Once you've removed all of the carpet, you are going to see a lot of dirt. You should feel good about this; you can finally get rid of it. How satisfying! Use a vacuum or broom to remove the dirt.

Use the methods in "How to Refinish a Hardwood Floor" for carpet strip removal and floor cleaning.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.