9 Steps to Restore Hardwood Floors From Under Old Carpet

Is your house hiding hardwood floors underneath dingy old carpet? Let’s bring those hardwoods back to their original glory.

Removing outdated carpet was the first thing my husband and I did after moving into our 1960s house. I mean on DAY ONE. Eric is allergic to dust…and 50-year-old mustard yellow carpet.

Here are the steps we took to rescue our hardwood floors.

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Quick Guide: How to Remove Carpet and Restore Hardwoods

  1. Remove baseboards with a small pry bar (carefully if you want to keep them, or recklessly if you’re getting rid of them and want to have a little fun).
  2. Pull up the carpet and carpet padding with gusto and toss it all out the door, cutting it into pieces as needed to remove it without scratching the floor.
  3. Pry up the carpet tack strips (the wood strips along the edges that the carpet was nailed to).
  4. Use a staple remover and/or pry bar to remove the staples…so many staples.
  5. Use a plastic putty knife to gently remove any old padding stuck to the floor.
  6. Sweep up the excess mess.
  7. Give the floor a thorough Pine-Sol mopping.
  8. Shine up the floor with Rejuvenate and a microfiber cloth or mop.
  9. Use a nail gun to reattach the baseboards.

You can see details and read more about our experience below.

Goodbye, Carpet…

Our carpet was nearly wall-to-wall on both levels of the house, including some that had found its way into the main bathroom. Why was bathroom carpet ever a thing? Eric and I gleefully pulled it up and piled it in the breezeway.

We knew there were hardwoods buried under carpet in the main three bedrooms and hall, but we didn’t know what condition they would be in. It turns out they were rich oak in near-perfect condition.

When the previous owner’s son and daughter stopped by a few weeks later to bring us some old photos and blueprints of the house, they told us their dad had put the carpets in immediately. After painstakingly cutting, sanding and polishing this wood floor, he then covered it with carpet.

What?! He must have known carpet was the next big thing (even bathroom carpet) with the ’70s around the corner. It worked out for Eric and me because the floor was pristine when we uncovered it nearly 50 years later.

Hardwood floor after removing carpet

And by pristine, of course I mean partially caked in dried out carpet padding and brimming with staples. But other than that, pristine. Just waiting for some love.

Restoring Our Hardwoods

We got to work cleaning up the floor. This involved ripping out staples, prying up carpet tack strips and scraping off the carpet padding where it was stuck to the floor. This was work of the neck- and back-breaking variety. Thankfully we had help from Eric’s brother, Andy.

Removing carpet padding from stairs

We worked inch-by-inch, hunched over to remove what seemed like an unreasonably excessive number of staples. This was our first indication that the original owner and builder of the home was very meticulous—a great sign of his work quality, but not so fun when you’re tasked with removing hundreds of carpet staples. He sure didn’t want the carpet going anywhere.

Once we got the staples out, we swept and mopped, and then we restored the floor with Rejuvenate. If you have big nail holes in your hardwoods, you might need to fill them in with some wood putty, but in our case the Rejuvenate filled in the tiny staple holes just fine.

These hardwoods were hiding under carpet for nearly 50 years. We found a few sneaky staples after the fact, but you get the idea.

Removing staples from hardwood floors
Eric removes sneaky staples.

…And Good Riddance, Stained Glass Light

Along with the carpet, this stained glass light was quickly escorted from the premises. Eric disconnected and removed it before anyone suffered a vertical faceplant.

Brown stained glass light

Nothing against stained glass, but I don’t want to see it in this particular house. Maybe over a round of pancakes and bacon at a diner? Just not here, not today. Sorry, light.

We also took down the valance and drapes you can see behind the light. Technically they were era appropriate, but they were dominating the whole southern wall of windows and blocking the view. With a handy electric drill, they were gone.

Here’s the result of tearing old carpet, drapes and stained glass out of the house. Day one of home ownership complete!

Pile of carpet, padding and drapes

4 thoughts on “9 Steps to Restore Hardwood Floors From Under Old Carpet”

  1. And your floors all look beautiful/awesome!! It is just unbelievable all the things you guys have done to make this a wonderful “back to mid-century” looking home! Reading this really brought back lots of memories of jobs completed since you moved in..Great job guys!!

  2. our floors have white paint sprayed randomly. Obviously over spray from wall paint. Alot of caked dirt under rotten carpet padding and loads of staples. No finsh at all…
    Tung & Grove subfloor ?
    Help got any ideas ?

    • Hi Pam, it sounds like you might need to do a more elaborate restoration by sanding the floor to remove the paint and then sealing the hardwoods with lacquer if there is no finish. Our floors had a finish so we were able to remove all the staples, give it a good scrubbing and bring it back to life with the Rejuvenate floor restorer. A plastic putty knife can also help for removing difficult dirt and carpet padding.


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