How to Remove Carpet Backing from a Hardwood Floor

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Carpet backing is the back of the carpet that contributes to helping the carpet hold its shape and strength. Carpets are typically placed over a foam base, which is often stapled or glued to the underlying floor. At the perimeter of the room, tack strips hold the carpet in a stretched position. Unfortunately, some carpets, carpet backs or foam underlayments are glued directly to the floor or they experience a chemical reaction over time that causes the materials to become tightly stuck to the hardwood floor. Removing this glue or stuck backing can be quite labor intensive.

Things You'll Need

  • Utility knife
  • Wide putty knife
  • Flat pry bar
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Nail extractor or claw
  • Wide floor scraper
  • Heat gun
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Rags
  • Brass wool
  • Mineral spirits
  • Cut and remove strips of carpeting. Prevent damage to your underlying hardwood floors by lifting the carpet at an angle and cutting it in mid-air.

  • Remove all the carpet backing that will come easily off the floor. Use a wide putty knife and a larger floor scraper to pull up as much material as you can.

  • Slide your wide putty knife under the bottom of the tack strips, and use a pry bar against the putty knife to pry them up. Your putty knife acts as a block so that the pry bar will not dent your hardwood floor.

  • Pull all nails or staples using needle-nose pliers and a nail extractor or claw.

  • Starting at the point furthest from the door, heat the stuck backing or glue, using a heat gun. When the glue begins to liquefy, use your floor scraper or wide putty knife to scrape up the mess.

  • Deposit these backing pieces and glue in a bucket for later disposal.

  • Clean the glue residue off your floor using mineral spirits and rags. Sometimes it is necessary to scrub spots. Use brass wool and mineral spirits together in these areas.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the glue liquefies fast and makes a pool when you are using the heat gun, roll up old towels to create a glue barrier that you can move around as you clean other areas.
  • Knee pads are often necessary because this can be a slow process.
  • Keep a small broom and dustpan on hand so that it is easy to clean up small areas without getting up.
  • Always wear protective glasses and gloves when using chemicals, and keep small children and pets away from the work area.
  • When using a heat gun or mineral spirits, open a window and position a fan to blow air across and out of the window.

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