How To Pull Up Carpet: A Step-By-Step Guide

By Joe McGuinty
Published on:

Carpet removal can be expensive. Especially considering that something will be replacing the carpet you’re pulling up—be it wood floors, marble, vinyl, or a fresh layer of carpeting. 

If you’re on a budget, doing it yourself will be a life saver. You don’t have to hire someone to remove carpeting for you. Pulling up carpet might sound complicated, but it’s pretty easy. If you’re dedicated, you can do it within a day. The good news is that you don’t need a bunch of fancy tools or expertise to do it. 

What you do need, though, is some guidance, which is why we’re here today. Let’s talk about the basics of carpet removal and walk you through the process step-by-step.

Pulling Up Carpet: The Prep Work 

Here’s everything you need to do to prep the space for carpet removal:

1. Clear the Room

This is the most obvious step but you’re going to start by clearing the room. Remove every piece of furniture and any rugs you might have. Make sure the only thing left in the room is carpeting; this makes your job easier and leaves you with less to clean up. 

2. Remove Inward Swinging Doors

Additionally, if you have doors that swing inwards, you’re going to have to remove them. If this isn’t possible, make sure you have the door closed while you’re pulling up the carpet to get it out of your way. 

3. Gather your Supplies

Lastly, gather your supplies. A streamlined carpet removal process requires you to have everything on hand so you can get it over with as quickly and smoothly as possible. 

Here’s everything you need to pull up the carpet: 

  • Protective gloves
  • Dust mask
  • Pliers 
  • Knee pads
  • Utility knife
  • Floor scraper with a sharp blade
  • Flat pry bar
  • Duct tape

How to Pull Up Carpet: Step-by-Step

Now that you have all the supplies you need and everything is prepped, let’s get into the step-by-step guide on how to pull up the carpet. 

Step 1: Detach the Carpet from the Tack Strips

The first step is picking a corner and detaching the carpet from the tack strips. Tack strips are used to adhere the carpet to the floor and keep it in place. Use pliers to pull the carpet from the tack strips. 

This will take a bit of strength and elbow grease so don’t be afraid to put your back into it. If the pliers are restricting the process, use them as a starting point and begin pulling the carpet up by hand. If the carpet isn’t pulling up easily, start cutting it into small sections with a utility knife. When you’ve cut into the section, pull it up using your hand or a pair of pliers. 

Step 2: Cut the Carpet Into Strips

The next step is cutting the carpet into bigger strips. Once you’ve pulled up a few feet of the carpet (3 to 4 feet), start cutting it into strips. If you cut along the back of the carpet, this will be much easier since it’s a more rigid surface. 

Pull up the strips and use duct tape to secure the rolled-up strips. If you’re working with a space that joins the carpet with another type of flooring, you’ll likely come across a metal transition. Pull the carpet around the transition. Similarly, if you have closets, cut around their exterior. Do this carefully so you don’t damage any furnishing. 

Step 3: Remove the Carpet Pad

Next up is removing the carpet pad. This is an additional step only if you have carpet padding underneath the carpeting. If your carpet was installed by carpet installers who knew what they were doing, you probably have padding. Layering your flooring is important. Padding is much lighter and easier to work with so it shouldn’t take up too much time or effort. Pull the carpet padding up in the same way you pulled up the carpeting. 

If There’s Concrete Underneath

Now, if you’ve got a concrete floor, chances are your carpet padding is glued down. This is tricky because not all of the carpeting will pull up easily, you’ll encounter chunks that have more glue and are tougher to remove. Use a sharp floor scraper to scrape the more stubborn chunks. 

If There’s Plywood or Particleboard Underneath

If you find plywood or particleboard flooring under your carpet, you’ll probably see staples holding the padding in place. Use the floor scraper to remove the carpet pad staples. This becomes even more tricky if you have hardwood flooring (see below).

If There’s Hardwood Underneath

Hardwood flooring isn’t cheap, nor should it be handled carelessly! If you want to preserve the hardwood floors, here’s what you can use to remove carpeting from hardwood flooring. 

  • Vise-grip pliers
  • Flat-blade screwdrivers
  • A 5-in-1 painter’s tool

Do this carefully and with a light hand if possible. In the case of hardwood flooring under your carpet, we advise you to bring in a professional. It’s not that hard, but if you lack confidence, it’s a job best left up to a professional. 

How to Remove Carpeting from Stairs

Removing carpeting from stairs is a bit trickier than a flat floor. If you’re pulling the carpet up from the stairs, here’s what to do. Be sure to wear safety gloves while doing this too, you don’t want any staples to injure you and create another problem. 

Start at the top of the stairs, if there’s no metal nosing, begin with the top riser on the stairs. Cut along the top riser and start pulling up. Just like before, you can use pliers or your hands to pull the carpet, whatever works best for you. If you’re working with smaller sections of carpet that cover the tops and riser, this should be easier. If you’re working with longer pieces, use the cutting/slicing method to make your job easier. Once you’ve pulled up the carpeting, use your scraper to remove the staples. 

For the carpet pad, pull it up the same way you removed the carpet (as listed above). And similarly, for more stubborn chunks, use a sharp scraper. Try to work the scraper at a lower angle to not dig a hole in your stairs, the same goes for the carpet on your flooring. 

Step 4: Save or Remove Tack Strips

Now that you’ve removed all the carpeting, take a good look at the tack strips. If they seem unharmed, you can use them for your next carpet installation. For the tack strips that have some wear and tear, pry them up from the floor using your pry bar. 

You can install new tack strips for the next carpet installation. However, if you don’t plan on replacing the carpeting with a new one, you’ll need to remove all the tack strips. Go around your space and use a ply bar to remove every tack strip in place.

Step 5: Proper Disposal

After you’ve successfully pulled up all the carpeting, you’ll need to clean up and dispose of the carpet properly. Many cities have carpet recycling programs that you can get in touch with. You can also call your local garbage collector and see if they accept carpeting. Clean up your space and voila! It’s ready for a new floor! 

FAQs

Can you pull up the carpet yourself?

The short answer is yes. You can pull up the carpet yourself. It will take some prep work, the right tools, and some elbow grease, but it’s totally possible to DIY a carpet removal project.

How hard is it to pull up carpet?

Pulling up carpet is not that hard. You’ll need some upper body strength, the right tools, and the right know-how, but the process itself is more time-consuming than it is difficult.

What tools do you need to pull carpet?

The tools you’ll need to pull carpet include:

  • Protective gloves
  • Dust mask
  • Pliers 
  • Knee pads
  • Utility knife
  • Floor scraper with a sharp blade
  • Flat pry bar
  • Duct tape

Out With the Old, In With the New

Pulling up carpeting doesn’t have to take a chunk out of your expenses. DIY is all the rage right now so why not take a crack at it? 

We hope this guide helped instruct you on how to pull up the carpet. As always, we love to hear about your projects! Comment below and let us know how your DIY carpet removal went.

Photo of author

AUTHOR

Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

Leave a Comment