Pulling old carpet out and refinishing floors DIY?

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My husband and I want to take the carpet out of the entire house. We are not able to hire anyone so it must be a DIY job. That being said this carpet has been here for probably 30 years and the under padding is really stuck to the floor. Color powder blue can't take it anymore. We just started with a few stairs and they were tough but we are determined to get the job done. This carpet is in every room of the house please help. In the living room we had to put a carpet on top just to cover it for now. Thanking you in advance.

PS This home was built in 1937 so under the carpet is the wide wood slat flooring.

q pulling old carpet out and refinishing floors diy

Stairs we just started

q pulling old carpet out and refinishing floors diy

Living Room where we layered the carpet for now as not to look at the powder blue 30 old year rug.

  14 answers
  • Lori Lori on Sep 11, 2018

    We had that same problem. We cut the carper in strips for easier removal and basically used an ice scraper on a long handle and scraped up the hard packed underpad which turned into powder. We didn't have to be careful, we had tile underneath but it worked well. Good luck. :)

  • Maura Maura on Sep 11, 2018

    what about carpet tiles after some sanding? they have come a long way...maybe you could put them over what is there and it will be less back breaking...good luck

  • Joanne lueke Joanne lueke on Sep 11, 2018

    A whole house can be overwhelming, so start small (like the stairs) and get those all done and decide where to go next. Each room may have a different type of floor underneath and it might be in great shape or it might need a new surface and flooring put down. And wear a mask and safety glasses, gloves and knee pads. Your knees will thank you. Best wishes.

  • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Sep 11, 2018

    A floor scraper will be good to help get up the rest of the stuck on padding. Definitely wear masks.


    Once done, have someone look at refinishing the floor and get a quote. That will let you know if it can be refinished or if it must be covered. You can't refinish unlimited times because it will eventually weaken the integrity of the floor. If it can be refinished, then you can research and DIY that. It's rather inexpensive although labor intensive.

  • Tina_Norris Tina_Norris on Sep 12, 2018

    Did this last spring to a full basement with 70's tall green shag. One room at a time will make you feel like your getting somewhere. Each room will give you more confidence and help you learn what works. Razor knife to cut the large pieces into manageable chunks and a shop vac to keep the mess at bay. Good luck!

  • Jlnatty Jlnatty on Sep 12, 2018

    I did a two story staircase and two bedrooms. I yanked and tugged a LOT and used what muscles I had, but I was able to do it myself (I'm in my 60s). I started from a bottom step where I could easily find and edge of the carpeting and yanked up and out, but people also start at a top step and pull down and out. While it took a lot of yanking, tugging, huffing and puffing, that was easy and relatively fast. I had the carpet removed in about 30 minutes. Cleaning up the staircase after the carpeting and padding was gone was the hardest because there were tacks throughout the stair treads that had to be pulled out with pliers or pried out with a screwdriver, yuck! That took hours.


    Removing the carpeting in the bedrooms wasn't so bad. The field of the wall to wall carpet wasn't stapled or tacked down at all (thank goodness). I cut it with a box knife into strips about 15 to 24 inches wide and rolled the carpet into manageable rolls and then wrapped each roll with masking tape. Some of the padding came with it, some didn't. Once I removed all of the carpeting, I removed what I could of the padding with a broom and stuffed into a large plastic trash bag. Then I removed the tack strips around the perimeter of the floor with a cat's claw (a sort of small crow bar) and hammer, being careful not to dent the hardwood floor or the baseboards. That took me awhile because I'm not too strong. I called in one of my brothers and a nephew for muscle help and they got both rooms done quickly and managed not to wreck the floor as I was there constantly "supervising" while I worked much more slowly and carefully :) Then I tackled removing remaining bits of padding that hadn't come up readily while removing the carpeting. I would dampen the stubborn parts with a wet cloth and scrape with my plastic scraper, then dry the wood with a rag. WD40 helped remove sticky residue in a few places, be careful to wipe with a water/vinegar dampened rag and dry the floor with a rag otherwise that part of the floor will be slippery!


    You can then assess whether you can refresh the hardwoods themselves, or have them professionally refinished, or cover with a new type of floor covering. Good luck!

  • LuAnn Roberts LuAnn Roberts on Sep 12, 2018

    You can do it. You have to have lots of patience, muscles and time. I did mine and they turned out great!

  • Twyla J Boyer Twyla J Boyer on Sep 12, 2018

    Tackle one room at a time. Wear gloves, dust mask, eye protection.


    Vacuum the carpet as well as you can before starting. That way the yucky stuff will end up in the vacuum rather than becoming airborne right in your face.


    Remove carpet - it should basically just pull up from around the edges of the room. Cut it into strips and roll. Use duct tape to secure rolls. Check with local garbage haulers to make sure they will take it.


    Padding is usually stapled down and it is subject to dry rot. Pull up padding as much as possible. This will likely leave staples and bit of padding stuck to the floor. Use an upholstery tack remover (small, looks like a screwdriver with a weird head - smooth on the back) to pry up staples. Soften stubborn bits of rotted padding with water or floor cleaner and scrape with plastic scraper.


    Pull up tack strips around perimeter of room. These are dangerous and vicious beasts, so use caution. A small pry bar with a piece of foam sheet (like is used in children crafts) or felt under the part that makes contact with the floor will work best. Don't try to just push it under, tap it with a hammer. And sort of slide it along, loosening large section rather than ripping through each part. Set a good, sturdy box of something on a moving dolly (the flat kind) with a pillow on top for a rolling seat - it will help save your back and knees.


    Vacuum then wash the floor really well. I would use a scrub brush and a good bit of water with a little glass cleaner in it if the floors underneath have a good finish. If the finish on the floors underneath isn't so good, skip the brush and use rags (one wet, one to dry) in water with a little Murhpy's oil soap. After either version of cleaning, do a decent rinse using clean rags and clean water.


    Assess finish. If it's decent, you needn't do anything more. If the finish is not good, but the floors are in good shape, you could just put a couple new coats of polyurethane on them as is. If they need sanding, hire a professional. (Floor sanding is NOT a good DIY job as most people sand way too much of the floors off and shorten the life of the floors. Most DIYers tend to leave uneven places, too.) It might or might not be worth it to have the professionals just sand and you can apply the two or three coats of new polyurethane after the sanding is done.


    For future cleaning, keep in mind that with a good finish on floors, what you are cleaning is the finish, not the wood. So rather than using Murphy's (which can leave a dull haze), use a bit of glass cleaner in water. Learned that from the guy I paid to refinish floors several years ago. He was quite adamant on the point.

  • Em Em on Sep 12, 2018

    I did mine years ago and don't know any shortcuts. One room at a time. I cut the carpet into 3' strips and rolled as I went along. Took rag strips and tied them up to set out for the trash. Wide blade scraper for the stuck padding. I rented a floor sander. Orbital it the way to go. It is heavy to get in the car but once you have it in the house you don't lift it, so I don't know why people make such a big deal about it. Thing is, they are not cheap to rent so you want to do as much as you can on a Friday, Saturday Sunday kind of thing. Maybe rent it for one weekend if you have a two story and then again for the second floor. The trick is to just kept it moving and do not let it sit in one spot. You have to get everything out of the room and I had the luxury of not having anything in the house at all. I had just purchased it, so short of moving tools it was no big deal. Sand then put down two coats of stain. I like putting it on with a rag and knee pads. You can control the color and spread it evenly when you are close to your work. Two coats of poly and I left stain and poly and good amount of time to cure in between coats (2 days each coat). They always tell you to sand in between coats, a light buffing with superfine paper or steel wool will do the trick.

  • Chris Gignac Chris Gignac on Sep 12, 2018

    Twyla has it right. If the floors underneath are in super great shape, you can do it the old fashion way by scraping with a piece of glass. That's real old school. Very old floors were finished with boiled linseed oil.

  • Kelly-n-Tony Kelly-n-Tony on Sep 13, 2018

    Have you looked under the carpet? There might be some great wood under there!

    Here's what we did- https://www.hometalk.com/38996071/goodbye-old-carpet-hello-wood-floors?r=2

  • L. Creative L. Creative on Sep 17, 2018

    When we did our stairs we used the ‘cheat’ pieces they sell at Lowes for the risers and stairs. Had to stain the wood but the risers came in white which looked nice. We were going to put cutsey stickers on the risers that I found on the Wish website but decided to live with it awhile and it looks great. Anything is better than the gross humid soiled carpet the previous owners left us!

  • Dri31924538 Dri31924538 on Sep 18, 2018

    Thank you to all of you that took the time to answer our question. All your advice is greatly appreciated. We will start one room at a time and let you know how we make out. Salute to all of you.


    Lorenzo and Mary Louise