Carpet removal and disposal is a cost that homeowners often overlook when calculating the total cost of installing new carpet. It is exactly this kind of expense (amongst others) that isn’t included in the typical carpet removal quotes you might find online or special carpet installation prices offered by the Big Box stores.
The price you’ll pay for professionals to remove your old carpet before they install your new carpet is significant. So in this Home Flooring Pros guide we walk you through how to remove and dispose of old carpet yourself, the tools you’ll need and how much you can expect to pay if you leave it to the pros.
Top Tips for Removing Carpet Yourself
You’ve decided to tackle this job yourself, trading some of your time and effort for a lower total cost on your remodeling project or perhaps to put the savings toward a higher grade of flooring.
Either way, the good news is that no special carpet removal tools or skills are needed, and the job goes pretty quickly. We’ll walk you through the entire process, giving you carpet removal tips to simplify the work.
Carpet Removal Tools
Having the right equipment is the key to making quick work of existing carpet. You’ll need:
- Leather gloves: You’ll be using a knife and pulling carpet off of tack strip.
- Dust mask: You might encounter dust, mold spores or disintegrating carpet pad.
- Knee pads: Good pads will help prevent pain and injury.
- Utility knife: You could choose a specialized carpet knife, but a general utility knife will do the job.
- Pry bar (better) or claw hammer (an acceptable alternative): This tool is used to pull up tack strip and to remove baseboard trim.
- Twine: Nylon twine is cheap and strong; jute twine is a natural, green alternative.
- Floor scraper: This tool will remove all the carpet pad staples in the subfloor. An alternative is to pound them all down with a hammer or remove them individually with a screwdriver.
Preparing to Remove Carpet
When the room is empty, carpet removal is easy. Move all furnishings to an adjacent room, preferably onto flooring that won’t be replaced and where it can remain until the new carpet is installed.
Note: If you’re putting heavy furniture on vinyl or linoleum, cut small squares of carpet to place under the feet, so it won’t leave marks.
Next, remove the baseboard molding. While some installers simply butt carpet to existing baseboard, the job will have a more finished, professional look if you take the trim off, install the carpeting and then re-install the trim over it.
As you remove the baseboard, keep these tips in mind:
- If you plan to reuse the baseboard, use your pry bar at every nail used to hold it in place, and go slowly and carefully. This will help to prevent broken baseboard.
- If paint covers the wall and baseboard, use the utility knife to cut through the paint where the two meet. This will prevent tears in the layer of paper covering the drywall.
- Mark each piece of baseboard in sequence as it comes off the wall: A, B, C or 1, 2, 3, etc., if you plan to reuse it.
- Be careful to use your pry bar behind the baseboard, not above it, to avoid damaging the drywall where it will show.
- Any nail that pulls through the baseboard can either be pulled out with a claw hammer (best choice) or hammered into the stud (OK too)
DIY Carpet Removal
Before you begin the job of removing carpet, contact your area’s recycling center to find out if it takes carpet and has roll size restrictions. If you can’t recycle, call your waste management company for the same information.
Here is the easiest process for carpet removal:
Step 1: Use the utility knife to make a cut in the carpet of the width recommended by the recycling center or waste management company. Cut the entire length of the room.
Here’s a tip for keeping your knife sharp longer: Once the cut is a few feet long, lift up the carpet as you cut it, so the blade tip isn’t contacting the subfloor beneath.
Step 2: Cut the long strip you’ve created into shorter strips – typically of six to 12 feet in length. Here’s a rough guide to follow based on the width you’re using, with W x L:
These dimensions will keep the rolls of a size manageable for one person to carry.
Step 3: Once the section is cut, pull it off of the tack strips, and roll it up as tightly as you can. Tie it up with twine. Duct tape can be used as an alternative to twine.
Note: Be careful on stairs! When pulling carpet off of tack strip on stairs, make sure your weight is forward to prevent falling backwards if the carpet comes up easier than expect.
Removing the Tack Strip
Wedge the pry bar beneath the tack strip near each nail that holds it to the subfloor. Lift up, and remove the strip. If any of the nails pull through and remain in the floor, remove them with a claw hammer (best) or drive them into the floor (OK).
Removing Carpet Padding and Staples
The padding is removed with the same basic procedure used for the carpet. The fasteners, usually staples, can be removed with a floor scraper. If you don’t want to buy one, your home improvement store might rent them. A flat shovel can be used as an alternative. Remaining staples can be removed with a pliers or flathead screwdriver.
FAQs about Carpet Disposal and Recycling
While your waste company or local recycling center will have all the specifics, these questions and answers should point you in the right direction about recycling carpet or simply throwing it out.
Q: Can carpet be put at the curb for garbage pickup?
A: While carpet can be thrown out in most areas, you might have to call for a special pickup, wait for a large-item pickup day or take it to a dump site for disposal.
Q: Can carpet be donated?
A: Even if your carpeting is in very good condition, most charitable organizations will refuse it due to potential health risks from mold spores, fleas, pet stains, etc.
Q: Can carpet pad be recycled too?
A: Both carpet and padding can be recycled, though the processes are different. For this reason, roll padding and carpeting separately. Your recycled carpeting might make an appearance at some future date as carpet backing, padding or even carpet fiber.
Q: Will the installer of the new carpet take it to a recycling center?
A:Perhaps, but once they take your carpet away, it’s possible they won’t recycle it as promised.
Choosing Professional Carpet Removal
If you choose to let the carpet installer pull up the old material and dispose of it, you can expect the carpet removal costs to be:
Low: $0.40 per square yard
Average: $0.65 per square yard
High: $0.90 per square yard
For 1,000 square feet of carpet removal and disposal, you’ll likely pay $400 to $900 extra.
Your specific cost of carpet removal will depend on what you do to prepare. If you empty the rooms of furniture and remove floor grates and baseboard, your costs will be somewhere in the middle of the scale.
Doing all of that and taking the material to a recycling center yourself might drop you to the low end. Leave everything to the pros, and you’ll likely get a higher estimate for carpet removal and disposal.
Helpful Carpet Removal Links
We’ve pulled together a list of links that will help you explore DIY carpet removal and recycling more thoroughly.
- www.carpetpriceguides.com – A great guide for all carpet pricing info from buying to installing.
- www.homerepairtutor.com – A good tools list, with costs, and carpet-removal tips can be found on this DIY home repair site.
- carpetrecovery.org – Carpet America Recover Effort can help you find a carpet dealer in your area that recycles carpeting and padding.
- www.earth911.com – Here are additional tips for recycling used carpet.
About the Author:
Rob joined the Home Flooring Pros team in 2014 and is a freelance writer, specializing in flooring, remodeling and HVAC systems.
“I’m the son of an interior designer and picked up an eye for design as a result. I started hanging wallpaper and painting at 14 and learned enough on the job to be the general contractor on two homes we built for our family and did much of the finish plumbing, electrical, painting, and trim work myself.”