Sweat Equity: Removing Old Carpet Yourself

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We bought a house with some flaws, and one of them was this shag carpet complete with old pet stains. Before we can install our desired hardwood flooring, we had to remove the dirt magnet. After asking around, the price for professional carpet removal is about $0.35 per square foot. For the 1,500 sf of carpet we had, that’s a potential cost of over $500. Armed with the knowledge and help of our father-in-law, we set forth to do it ourselves.

There are a plenty of online tutorials on how to remove your old carpet (one, two, three), but in general it’s pretty straightforward:

  1. Remove all furniture.
  2. Pull up carpet, cut into strips, roll up, remove.
  3. Repeat #2 with the carpet pad underneath.
  4. Pry up tackstrips, and tons of nails
  5. Scrape glue off of subfloor.
  6. Sweep up remaining crap.

In our house, the pad underneath the carpet was glued down to the concrete subfloor. The original installers were generous (or just lazy) with the glue and squirted it everywhere, so scraping the petrified stuff up took forever. The only new tool we bought was a special scraper blade, for about $10. Otherwise you just need a utility knife, some rope/tape, pliers, and a crowbar.

Was it worth saving $500? My aching back says no, but at least now I know how to remove carpet. Also, occasionally it’s nice to perform some manual labor and feel like you accomplished something tangible. Occasionally.

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  1. Good for you for doing it yourself! Paying good money for something that is as easy (though sometimes painful) as pulling up carpet is ridiculous. On the other hand, my husband and I recently pulled up tacky old linoleum to put down hardwoods and THAT was a nightmare. There were nails EVERYWHERE… we’re talking every inch or so. In retrospect, that is something I would DEFINITELY pay someone ELSE to do next time!

    Thanks for the entries –

  2. Seems like it always goes at our house that I want to save money by doing something backbreaking and tedious myself. 1/2 way through the project I wish I had hired someone else to do it, but then 2 weeks after its done I’m glad I saved the money.

  3. There are 2 situations where I don’t normally hesitate to pay for labor:
    1) Where the quality of the work demands a skilled professional
    2) Where my chiropractor/medical bills will rival/exceed the cost of the labor

    Other than that, I like to accomplish physical work as well !

  4. Re Todd: often I find that the quality is higher if I do it myself, at least for the price I’m usually willing to pay.

    When we had the pleasure of replacing carpet last year, I removed the old one for another reason: so I could screw the sub-floor down to remove squeaks! They were driving me crazy, and it was worth the effort, not to mention saving money. But it was a pain.

  5. Let us know how the flooring purchase goes.

  6. It’s possible that your carpet removal would have cost more as well. I expect your “prices” are actually “estimates” and if your job was particularly hard, because of the excessive amount of glue, it could have cost even more.

    There is definitely something to be said for knowing what a job involves, if for no other reason than you know you aren’t being taken advantage of if you hire it out.

  7. Hmmm, we had a previous discussion that how to maximize your opportunity cost. Say if you got a side consulting project and you and your father-in-law used those hours of removing carpets to accomplish that project and you made $2000 on it. Which is better? Saving $500 or making $1500?

  8. I did not realize there was a charge for carpet removal. I removed mine just to speed things up when I hire installers. Now, I can ask for a lower price.


  9. graham lutz says

    I just installed new French doors to create a home office, also, I painted a strip around my kitchen for accent, installed cabinets and shelves in the laundry room and I still have a ceiling fan to install! Good little saturday!

  10. graham lutz says

    Arz, how often do you make $500-$1000/hr. on a “side project”?

    …how about the benefits of spending that time with your father-in-law. No matter how good or bad your relationship is, that would go a long way to strengthen it.

  11. moneyandpf says

    Look forward to more of these type of posts. I’m a few years behind from buying but I like to hear whether tasks such as removing carpet are worth it or not. I’m not a handyman but I’m also very frugal and paying someone $500 might not be worth it if I can do it myself without too much trouble.

  12. Welcome to the joys of home ownership! In general, demolition is not difficult and can be done yourself, although it can be messy, physically taxing work. There is a trade-off there, as my back would agree with your back, and sometimes I go with the saying “if it’s not fun, hire it done.” Still, over the years I’ve done a lot with my old house, learned some new skills, and saved a ton of money in the process.

  13. Dude most hardwood floor installers remove the carpet. Its already embedded in the price. Unless you are installing the hardwoods yourself, you just padded thier profit.

  14. Notes from the DIY trenches: when/if you embark on remodeling your kitchen, embracing DIY will take a good while longer but can save you some serious money. We highly recommend Ikea kitchen cabinets – they are great looking, very well-made, and very cost-effective. The Ikea website also has a great design tool where you input the dimensions of your kitchen and major appliances and then drag & drop different cabinets into the space so you can plan everything out before you buy anything.

  15. Matt, you can always negotiate and use ready for installation subfloor surface as a leverage. It’s open market.

  16. Actually, I’ve found that you have to negotiate everything. Moving furniture, existing floor removal, prep of flooring if it is not level (a problem for us), subfloor installation (put plywood on concrete), hardwood installation, trim installation, staining. You can do any part yourself, or have them do it.

    But, we are doing everything ourselves.

  17. Don’t forget to donate the used carpet somewhere and tax the write-off.

  18. Sometimes manual labor is good for the soul.
    I spent my friday pulling up my carpet in the basement thanks to a failed sump pump and 1/2″ of water on everything.
    The carpet has been put up in the air, the padding removed, and box fans and a dehumidifier have the carpet 99% dry within 48 hours.
    Now comes the wait and see period – hopefully we avoid a mildew smell.
    Oh, and I plan to buy new padding and lay the carpet myself with help from a couple of friends. Total cost – maybe $300. Better than the $1000 it would cost to replace the carpet.
    Not to mention the pride in doing something for yourself.

  19. Manual labor is great for the soul for most weekend projects.

    I say weekend becuase for huge projects with the time and money involved, it’s worth it to pay a pro to get it done in 1/4 of the time. For example, my wife and I recently finished painting our entire house, literally every room. After buying the tools and paint and putting in roughly 2 weeks of our time (over the span of 3 months), we spent a ton of money in our own labor.

    Here is how I figure it:

    Paint/Supplies – $500
    Labor – 11 rooms x 4 hours (average) per room x $90/hr (I used Nick @ punny.org’s calculation of your own labor rate)
    = $4460

    If I could have found a painter to do it for less, should I have hired him? Not only would the job have been done better, but with the professional sprayers, he would have done it in 1 (maybe 2) weekends.

  20. I guess some of doing it yourself could be fun — my husband insists (much to my dismay) on doing practically everything himself. If you are a quick learner and enjoy it — I’d say it’s good. But all things considered — I would have to say not to do stuff that’s worth so little. $500 is not that much money for other people to do something for you — and you wouldn’t have to get dirty or anything. When it comes to other projects however — like new kitchen cabinets — if you are really good at picking up stuff you could save like $5K, and that’s worth the effort. Or even piecing out an entire kitchen (get a tiler, a cabinet installer, a plumber and someone to lay down the countertop – especially if it’s expensive – corian, granite), you will save thousands instead of getting a contractor. I think that’s worth the effort. But demolition work and carpeting and paint — I really wouldn’t bother if my husband didn’t insist. Not worth the aggravation.

  21. what about the terrible things in the carpet? I hope you had some good masks. Sometimes manual labor can come with some unanticipated externalities beyond achy back. Did you factor in potential future medical bills for cancer into your analysis? I guess thats a bit extreme, worth researching carpet carcinogens at least.

    Carpet can be TOXIC and should definitely not be donated for the deduction. Talk about stabbin’ goodwill in the back.

    googled it and seems like the greatest problem with old carpet is dust. may contain lead and pesticides. “new carpet smell” is “emitting” carcinogens into your home. Your baby is licking it.

    You are wise to install wood.

  22. And pls update how you install your hardwood fl. Thx.

  23. Dave Gardner says

    Thanks for the insight on cost. I am going to be looking into the same and seeing whether it is worth it or not to do ourselves or hire someone else out.

    We will be removing rugs, pads etc., then having to “kilz” prime and paint. Can be good weekend therapy as well, but I’ll agree it takes its toll on the body when you have not been doing it consistently

  24. Nothing like removing it yourself. Carpet installers are going to nothing more than sweep floor after removal. You have no idea what is hiding under old carpet. Pet stains require kiltz. Chunks of plaster when house was built. And yes mold that does not come up by simply sweeping. I prep all my floors before installation and I am a 61 year old female

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