Removing Old Stair Carpet (And 600 Staples)

We’ve never been more all over the place than we have been lately (Clara’s room, the master bath, the kitchen, the sunroom veranda) and we can’t believe it has been around a month and a half since we last mentioned our staircase. Several of you have been eager to hear about the new runner that we ordered, and we’ve been eager to tell you all about it (it was back-ordered and arrived a little behind schedule, but it’s finally here). But the last vestiges of the old carpet in this house were standing in our new runner’s way…

When we finally removed the carpet from our master bath, the stairs became the sole remaining carpet location – even though we had ripped it off the top step in order to install the hardwoods back in May. But between avoiding the tedium of the task and worrying about a small dog and a small human navigating those slick uncarpeted steps, we’ve just been living with this lovely situation for the last five months.

But with our new runner just glaring at us from within its packaging for the last several weeks, we decided to start chipping away at the eyesore once again. You know, for the sake of the puppies.

The task really wasn’t that hard. It was just boring and meticulous. Here were our weapons of choice, basically all serving the purpose of prying things up (carpet, tack strips, staples) at varying levels of detail and care (crowbar for yanking up carpet, pliers for delicately twisting stuck staples out).

Once the crowbar helped me loosen a corner or two of the carpet, it was fairly easy to just yank it up by hand. Well, by gloved hand since the carpet was rife with staples and other sharp objects determined to pincushion me to death.

It’s what lurked beneath the carpet that was the true joy (italics = heavy sarcasm) of this project. Sure, the blue foam padding was quick to tear up… but the staples. OH THE STAPLES.

You can’t even really tell in these pictures just how many staples there were. So I decided to mark them (along with the nails holding down the tack strip) with yellow dots. I’ll save you from counting. There are 49. Multiply that by 12 steps and it’s nearly 600 things that Sherry and I had the pleasure of prying up.

Most of them weren’t that hard. We could just stick a flathead screwdriver under and pop them up. Usually only one side came lose from the wood, so we’d have to go back and pluck it out completely with the pliers. But some got stuck. Some broke. And at least one or two made us mutter some not-Clara-approved words under our breath as we went.

Slowly and steadily, we stripped each step clean of its metal and moved on to the next one.

We worked on it over the course of three days on and off, so Sherry would steal a few hours here and there and then tag team me and I’d go back in. All told it was probably around seven hours in total. And if we were to play you a montage of the process, it would basically just be a bunch of Burger cameos. I’m not sure if working on the stairs just made us notice all the times he goes and up down on a normal day, or if he increased his usual number of trips just to satisfy his curiosity about what the heck we were doing. Yes, that’s him doing some stretching in the middle of the staircase.

I’m mostly convinced he just wanted to be near us (there was one point where Sherry was leaning forward, full of concentration, and got some Burger tongue to the nose). I also had a particularly hilarious run-in with him when he was sitting on the carpet that I was about to rip up.

Here we are, at the end of our montage, with a completely carpet-less staircase and (more importantly) and completely carpet-less house. So one of Sherry’s before-I-have-this-baby goals has officially been met. And she’s pretty jazzed about it. Just don’t mention staple removal to her. There will be grumbling.

The wood left behind is in good, but not flawless condition. It’s not very scratched up, which is a relief considering all of the pointy tools we had near it, but there are some little more-noticeable staple holes in a few spots (these two steps on the bottom of the photo above are the worst, so we wonder if they used a different tool or re-stapled them here for some reason).

We still plan to paint the stair risers white – but not the treads (like this) – so that should help to hide most of the tiny holes (we can putty them before we paint). For the tread holes, the new runner should cover most of them and we’re hoping to do the same thing we did to fix up our downstairs floors before installing the runner, which should fill/hide some other slight imperfections. Note: we’re not planning to change the color of the stair treads since they flow into the upstairs flooring, which we chose to be a very close match.

One other step that we had to tackle before runner-time was painting the walls and the ceiling leading up the stairs, since we didn’t want to do that after installing the runner and risk dripping paint on it. But we’re glad to report that we knocked that out too! We thought it would be fast and easy (it’s not too much actual ground to cover) but the fact that it involved balancing on a ladder with a giant roller pole did add a few levels of difficulty (it was about 16 feet high in some points) – which is why this terrible picture is the only one we managed to capture of the process.


I also used our tape-the-paint-brush-to-the-pole method (detailed here) to get into those upper corners. All told, that was about another 3 hours of work, but it’s really nice to have it done. As planned, we used the same Edgecomb Gray color that we used in our foyer (we chose that knowing we’d use it up the stairs and in the upstairs hallway too). You can see where we stopped painting by the arrows along those two edges. We just wanted to do enough so we wouldn’t worry about dripping on the new stair runner, but tackling the entire hall means buying another gallon.

Hopefully early week will be the full runner reveal, assuming we can get those risers painted and dry in time! But the good news is that in the meantime both Clara and Burger have had no trouble on the carpet-less stairs. They’re not really slick at all (maybe from years of being lightly worn under a carpet?) so we’ve mostly put that worry to bed. But we’re still excited to add the new runner, just to be safe and to soften the blow if ever do lose our footing.

Is anyone else removing old carpeting and plucking every last staple out by hand? Does it make you rue the day that staples were invented? Yeah, me too.


  1. Tracey Bradshaw says

    Huge transformation already – must feel great to get rid of the old carpet – it looks so fresh and clean – can’t wait to see the finished project.

  2. Madhu says

    We ripped out the carpet on the stairs few years ago and very pleased with how easy it is to keep them clean now.

  3. Addie says

    Looks like LOADS of fun… not so much. But it looks a lot better! Can’t wait to see the finished product! Great work, guys :)

  4. Rachel G. says

    Did you paint the ceiling the same color as the walls? Is that what you did in the foyer? (I don’t think so, just trying to remember. The transformations are amazing. What a difference paint truly makes. I give you guys credit for not fearing that process. Painting a room is so daunting to me and I know it shouldn’t be, but I just don’t have that gene. :) Keep it up Petersiks!!

    • says

      Yes, same color as the foyer walls downstairs (we did the ceiling too since it all flows together and it’s a nice light color, so we think it chops the stairway up less that way.


  5. Jenn says

    Looks great! I am just about to start our second stairway revamp. Our first required pulling up carpet and staples, ripping out old particle board treads, and fabricating white oak ones with a custom stain to match our floors. TONS of work, but totally worth it! This time (in our stairway going down to our basement) I am doing painted stairs with a wide runner. Good timing on this project…I feel your staple pulling pain! :)

  6. says

    Oh if only ours were done! I have been working on removing all the staples for WEEKS. I’m finally at the point where I am having trouble getting the ones that are tucked under our risers or at the far, far back of the treads. Nothing I have fits in the tight space I have to work in, so I’m still trying to figure out what to do.

    I have plans to paint the risers and redo the treads since ours are in such bad shape, and I’m still on the hunt for the perfect runner.

    The only thing I have gotten done is updating our railing which I LOVE. Seriously I could stare at it all day!

    Here’s where we’re at:

    • says

      Oh Kelly, I feel your pain! It felt like a never-ending task! It’s amazing how looking at something so “undone” (like plain wood stairs) can take so many hours of undoing when there are tack strips and staples involved! And your railing is BEAUTIFUL!


    • says

      It’s seriously driving me nuts, but I know we’ll get there eventually. Can’t wait to see how your runner turns out. :)

      Thanks! It’s one of those things that I thought about ripping out in the future, but you guys inspired me to try a makeover and I’m glad I did!

    • Lisa says

      You might try a mini pry-bar. It is like the crowbar shown in the photos but much smaller. I’ve found it very usefull to remove carpet staples. Good luck

  7. Anne Phillips says

    Hurrah! I’ve been eagerly awaiting more work on the staircase. I’m doing the same… hoping to sand and stain the railings this weekend and paint the spindles next. Looks great!

  8. cappy says

    Wow! Already looks great! I was wondering…if you did not have oak floors underneath, would you have installed them? Or just paint the sub-floor and then add a carpet?

    • says

      Hmm, that’s a good question. I think since this is our forever house (or at least for a loooong time house) we’d install them. The grain is really nice I think in a classic colonial like ours. But in a ranch or something that could be more modern, just painting them black or dark brown with white risers and a runner would look awesome I think!


  9. says

    Looks great! Even without the runner installed it’s a huge improvement. You’ve also given me ammunition in my let’s-NOT-carpet-the-hall debate here at home. =)

  10. Raquel says

    Oh, my gosh, yes! We have carpeting–I hate carpeting!–throughout most of the house and on the stairs. Especially disgusting was the carpet on the stairs to the basement. I couldn’t deal with it one more minute and a couple of weeks went through and pulled it all. No nice hardwood underneath, so it was roughly 2493 staples and nails to pull. I still have to go back and pull some more, sand it all down and paint the darn things. Not looking forward to it, but at least I’m breathing easier. Carpet has no place in a home with animals. Your stairs look wonderful!

    • Ellen says

      I painted my basement stairs white. They just go to a drive-under garage and storage/workshop. I did it mostly for safety, but I wondered if I’d regret it. Turns out I really like it. It’s probably been more than 10 years, and I’ve re-touched them only once. It’s probably time to do it again.

    • Raquel says

      I was thinking white too–with maybe some random colors on some risers just to shake things up and have some fun with it. Good to know I can get 10 years out of it–thanks, Ellen!

  11. Allyn says

    Your proposal of a new runner on the stairs intrigued me and I was seriously thinking of pursuing it on my uncarpeted oak stairs. But then, a week ago, I slipped and fell on my sister’s carpeted stairs and broke my ankle. I now think carpeted stairs can be just as slick and dangerous as non-carpeted stairs, so I won’t be putting a runner on my stairs. Ouch! Oh well, that’s money saved that I can spend elsewhere, eh?

    • says

      Oh no! We’ve heard so many differing opinions on it (carpet softens the blow if you slip so it’s safer, carpet makes you fall more so it’s worse, etc) so I think in the end it came down to what we thought would be best for Clara and Burger (all kids/pets are different anyway). Since we’ve lived with the carpet runner for 5 months without falls, that gives us some peace of mind. And Clara and Burger both seem to have better traction on rugs than hardwoods in general (Burger especially slides around when he runs). It also probably depends on the grippiness of the rug (we’ll be replacing the old softer carpeting with something more grippy). We also have a no-socks rule (since we hear the #1 way to fall on carpeting is to have socks on and slip down) – so for the past five months we’ve all just been barefoot or worn grippy slipper sock things. My best friend has two kids under 4 and she just got a runner installed after her little one slipped down and banged himself up the whole way her wood stairs, so her thought is that falls seem to happen either way, which I tend to agree with – but the runner at least softens things if they do occur. We could totally change our tune and be ripping ours up someday though, so we’ll keep you posted!


    • Susan says

      I (along with everyone else in the family) have slipped on my parents’ carpeted stairs on numerous occasions. I have yet to slip on my own uncarpeted stairs, but I know it’ll happen someday. I think your no socks rule should definitely help a ton, and then you just gotta remember that stairs can be slippery no matter what and resist the urge to run up and down them (which is sooo hard when you’re in a hurry).

      We ripped up the carpet on all THREE of our staircases a few months ago. That’s a LOT of staples. I definitely feel your staple-pulling pain. In fact there are still a few stubborn ones I have yet to finish prying out. Once I get the motivation though, our plan is to paint the risers white and sand and re-stain the treads in a nice dark finish.

    • Lorena says

      Hi John & Sherry!
      I wanted to pipe up about something that came to mind when i saw your new house has stairs. We have a little Chihuahua & had stairs like yours in our apt. Well, all the up & down did a number on our poor dog’s vertebraes. He was barely 4 & injured some disks in his back. He healed from that instance but the damage was done. Last year (he was 9) he re-injured himself and had to have pretty serious back surgery. Our neurologist vet told us to carry him down the stairs & to not let him jump off furniture. It’s the landing that is hardest on them. We hadn’t even considered the stairs as an issue, figuring it was good exercise for him! Lesson learned! The runner will help absorb some of the shock so it’s def better for him than bare stairs.
      Btw, your stairs look great & I can’t wait to see how you finish them!

  12. Lisa says

    I love Burger. The pic of him stretching on the stairs just makes me smile.

    Good work getting rid of the carpet and painting. I almost lost my mind painting our stairwell, and to be honest, am less than happy with the results. I just couldn’t manage to get the right finish dealing with a long pole and my brush taped to a stick. Maybe I just needed more practice.

    At any rate, your stairs look much, much better. I can’t wait to see the final results.

    • says

      Oh no, don’t give up on yourself. It was crazy hard! I’d say it was an 8 on the difficulty level of painting – and we paint things all the time! The pole + that ladder = rough!


    • Mandy P. says

      Any chance someone could help me understand how to stabilize a ladder while on the stairs? We would LOVE to paint our stairwell, but we are terrified of the idea of putting a ladder on the stairs, climbing up, and painting with a long pole! How does it work?? Thanks!

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