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Removing Carpet From Stairs

Removing carpet from stairs can be easily tackled in a day or over the weekend, without hiring a professional. Read on to learn easiest method for carpet removal on your staircase.

Photo by Julia Lynn

Carpets get dated and worn over the years, and stairs are some of the most highly trafficked areas in our homes. If you’ve purchased a house with carpeted steps—or simply are updating your existing home—chances are a stair carpeting removal’s in order. Fortunately, with a few tools and some know-how, you’ll be able to wipe the slate clean in just a few hours’ time.

First, Check Under the Carpet

If your carpeted stairs are flanked by pieces of hardwood, chances are that the hardwood flooring does not extend beyond the edges that you can see. Builders commonly recreate the high-end look of more expensive full-length steps by installing pieces on the edges instead of complete hardwood risers. This means you’ll either need to replace the risers entirely or install new carpet and padding back into the sections after you’ve removed the old carpet.

Once you’ve figured out what is beneath the carpeting, you’ll need to break the seam on the edges at some point along the stairs.

Steps for Removing Carpeting from Stairs

  • With gloved hands and using a screwdriver, 5-in-1 tool, or similar implement, pry up a corner until you can gain a grip. The carpet will be stapled extensively, and old staples seem designed to poke fingers or palms, so proceed carefully during this step and throughout the removal process. In addition to staples, a tack strip—essentially, a length of batten with razor hooks sticking out—will sit along each edge of the carpeting, making gloves absolutely essential.
  • Now that you’ve gained a handful of carpet, yank it back in quick motions to continue breaking the seal along the walls or hardwood reveal.
  • The entire section, often one horizontal and one vertical piece of carpet, along the step will pull up, exposing the old carpet padding and tack strips. Depending on the age of the material, you’ll likely want to remove both of these items, as well.
  • If the baseboard along the edges has been painted multiple times, you’ll need to use a putty knife to scrape off stray carpet threads that have become glued to the wall by the paint. This is your best opportunity to have perfectly painted baseboards, so take advantage of it.
  • After pulling up the foam padding, take a pry bar and hammer it beneath the nail heads that hold the strip down while wiggling the bar up and down. (This is messy work as the wood strip will splinter and shatter, so if the tack strip’s in excellent condition, leave it in place.)
  • Once you’ve removed the bulk of the strips and foam padding, take large pliers and methodically pull out each staple or nail, hammering down the ones that break upon removal.

How to Remove a Carpet Runner

Removing carpet runners that have bar rods and floor clamps is much easier, although you might need to remove adhesive as part of the process.

  • Simply unscrew the clamps at the juncture of horizontal and vertical and place the rod assembly in a safe place.
  • Carefully pry up a corner (top or bottom) and yank with intermittent pulls. Stair runners are commonly held down by additional staples or furniture nails and are installed as one continuous piece.
  • Again, when the bulk of the material has been removed, check carefully for stray nails and staples before proceeding.

How to Dispose Old Carpet

Disposal of old stair carpets is best done in heavy-duty trash bags. If needed, cut the carpet into manageable pieces with a razor knife and roll them into tubes before placing them into the trash can. Stray staples and nails will be scattered throughout the material, so continue wearing gloves.

Removing carpet from stairs can be easily tackled in a day or over the weekend, without hiring a professional. Stairs are often located at the entryway to your home, so removing old carpet and adding a fresh style can make a lasting impact and serve as a welcome greeting to all.