Nothing says “oh my aching back” like tearing out old carpeting. Taking up carpet from a floor is labor intensive and can prove to be a pain in more than just the back. Cutting, ripping, and pulling until muscles ache you didn’t know you had, comes with the territory.

Nevertheless, there are a few tricks of the trade one can incorporate to make the job a little less arduous.

Naturally you’re going to need a few tools:

Gloves are essential. The cheap working type glove with some manner of rubber on the palms and fingers is a plus as some carpet can feel slick. In addition, when you have a lot of carpet to pull up your fingers and hands get weaker the longer you work so a good-grip-glove really helps to compensate for that loss of squeezing power.

Pliers are an absolute must. It is much easier to grab a piece of carpet from the corner and pull it up with a pair of pliers (I use needle-nose pliers) than digging it out with your fingers. Remember too, there is tack stripping (skinny yardsticks with lots of tiny nails in them…point up!) lurking beneath the edge of the carpet just waiting to bite you. You’ll also need pliers (preferably needle-nose) to pull up the staples used to hold the carpet pad down.

2 Flathead Screwdrivers, a large and small. Or if you prefer, a small pry bar or chisel in lieu of the large screwdriver, to get under that tack stripping to pry it up. You will need a small flathead to pry the staples up enough to get a grip on them with the needle-nose. Pull straight up.

A Razor Knife or Sharp Blade will be necessary to cut the carpet into manageable-size pieces.

A Small Hammer to tap the screwdriver or chisel under the tack stripping in order to pry it up.

A Bit of Cloth to place under your prying tools.

A Friend to Help which is self-explanatory.

Get to Work!

Begin by choosing a corner from which to start. Pull up a corner of the carpet. Once you have enough to grip, start pulling upward. Sometimes, it comes up pretty easily and you can walk large sections backward. Don’t be alarmed when the main carpet comes up and the edges remain attached to the tack stripping.

After you have pulling up a decent sized section, many people like to cut across the carpet and remove that section. The reason is simple. You have to roll it up and carry it so if you can’t lift and carry a giant roll of heavy carpet, you may want to cut it into manageable-sized pieces as it comes up.

After you have all the carpet up and out of your way, it’s time to remove the tack stripping from around the border of the room.

Using a small flathead (or any thin, flat, blade) place the edge between the floor and strip (as level as possible). Now gently tap with a hammer until it gets deep enough under the strip to be pried up. Pry up a little, tap your preferred blade in a little deeper and pry some more and move further down. Repeat until you can pry it all the way up. Pieces will break.


If you have hardwood floors beneath that you don’t want scratched, pry gently.

The same is true for removing the staples. Gently pry them up with the edge of your little flathead (screwdriver). Sometimes the entire staple comes up. Most times, they break. That’s where the needle-nose pliers come in. When you have pried it up high enough, grasp it with the needle nose and pull straight up.

Note: Place a bit of cloth under the tip of the screwdriver as you ‘wiggle and pry loose’ those staples. You don’t want to gouge the floor.

Note: If you have glue-down carpet, the way to remove this is simply to pull up an edge or go to a corner in the room and pry a piece of carpet up until you get enough to grip with your hands then begin pulling up the edge. The more you pull the more carpet you will pull up. With glue-down there is no tack stripping to remove.

Once you have it pulled away from the edge of the wall walk backward while gripping it. Here’s a tip. If it’s glue-down carpet you can probably walk the whole thing backward and just roll it up.