Monday, November 5, 2012

Do I Have To? Removing Carpet Staples

Welcome to the new feature of the blog, which will be published the first Monday of each month. 

Do I have to? Yes, I do. 

I don't always love home improvement. There are plenty of those tedious little (or big) jobs in a house that's as old as mine and in this level of disrepair. Just five minutes of some of these jobs have me feeling sweaty, angry, and bratty. Like a kid who whines "do I HAVE TO?!" when asked to do a particularly hated chore. 

So consider this the blogger version of the whiny kid's chore chart. I figure if I tackle one a month and know that I'm expected to blog about it, I'll get some of the worst aggravations behind me, and maybe learn some better work habits (not holding my breath on that last one). 


(Don't mind me. I'm just trying to manufacture some enthusiasm around here. Thus the whoot. Only I'm not fooling myself just yet.)

When we first got possession of the house, it was carpeted in a sea of pale beige 1980s-era carpet, with soiled traffic stains throughout. It smelled like feet and small incontinent dogs. I was thrilled to find hardwood floors underneath: 

This was the first corner in the house (living room)we turned back. What you can't hear is archangels singing.
I itch just looking at that photo above, even over a year later. 

Removing carpet also involves removing carpet tack strip. Carpet tack strip is a thing of the devil in most normal carpet installations, but these guys took it one further, using a variety of nails in a variety of lengths, to nail it down approximately every 5/8th inch around the entire perimeter of every room. 


So we spent some pretty annoyed and cursing hours (hey, I'm not proud, but I'm honest) prying off these carpet tack strips, some of which only came up one splintery inch at a time. No, I haven't done a thing about wood filler in the holes and replacing quarter-round shoe molding. I'm still nursing my grudges on that one. 

In addition to this over-nailing offense, the installers also went overboard on the fold-and-tuck maneuver around the fireplace hearth tile. Instead of using just normal carpet staples, they used these little tiny hairpin staples that ran deep, with only a short length of loop, buried deep into the wood fiber. And there were dozens of the little suckers. When I moved in and ripped up carpet, I didn't have a single tool that would get under all those tiny little loops, and I kind of felt defeated and just sort of quit.  It left a line of trapped carpet fibers right at the edge of the hearth. It's like my fireplace had crabgrass that needed weed-whacking. And I left it that way for well over a year. You can see some of the line of fuzz below in this move-in photo below. I'm so ashamed: 

So, in August when I went shopping for my kitchen painting (yeah. don't ask.) I picked up what looked like dental tools at Lowe's. I really had no idea what their real purpose was, and I still don't know, but they seemed like the ideal pointy little objects to get under those hairpin staples. 

Here they are at work, below. Have you ever seen such aggravating little buggers in your life? 

After I got them up lifted up out of the wood grain:

I used a snub nose plier to yank them the rest of the way out of the floor. Yes, the wood looks pretty chewed up, but now finally staple free:

And it looks even better from a distance, with a slight squint:

When I get around to working on the living room, I'll spot fill/sand/restain/finish this area.

What chore have you had waiting around your old house forever? What are your biggest pains?


  1. That chore is high on my "Do I HAVE TO?" list as well. I took carpet out of four rooms and it took me a couple of years to work up the motivation to finally get the tack strip out of there. I found a little wrecker bar (WonderBar) like you use for trim really helped. Those staples you had around the hearth? I had 'em about every 6" or so all over the floor where the carpet pad had been stapled to the floor. Grrrr.

    1. Hi Jayne! I'd be lying if I said those staples around the fireplace were the last of them. They were just the most stubborn. I still have tack strip in the dining room alcove, and in the hallway and....well. Let's just say this post is going to have more sequels than a Star Wars movie franchise. Now I'm trotting over the interwebs to visit your blog....:)

  2. We went through this exact same thing at our last house. There must have been thousands of those staples. I found that a regular old kitchen fork worked better than anything else. Though those picks that you got look even better.

    1. HA! I laugh because I tried a meat fork. Bent the tines off it straight away. Those little suckers were IN THERE.

  3. My peeve is when people change carpet and leave the old staples in and then add more! 3 OR 4 TIMES! Idiots.

    1. We had that here too. And worse. In my room, they didn't even bother tearing out the CARPET. They layered pad and carpet over old, and did that twice. It was the most disgusting thing I'd ever seen.