Dude, removing wall to wall carpeting (and all the layers under it) is no joke. We learned that when we finally tackled that task this weekend – and lived to tell the tale. Let me just tell you, progress smells a lot better than old carpeting. Even when there’s a substantial amount of sweat involved…
When we bought this house we knew that the four bedrooms upstairs (along with the hallway) needed new flooring since the once-cream (now mostly tan) wall to wall carpets were stained, threadbare, and even holey in some areas.
Thankfully a few areas were so loose we could peek under them during our very first walk-through to see what we were working with. Sadly, there was no hardwood to be found under there, and we were greeted with subfloor. But we’re so glad we made that discovery before buying (we definitely factored that expense into our decision). And after we got over the sadness of not having old hardwoods under there to revive, we got excited about picking out new flooring.
We considered a whole range of things for a while (hardwoods, new wall to wall carpeting, bamboo, tile) and after a lot of thought ended right back at oak hardwoods, since it’s what we had in our first house as well as our current one (even in the bedrooms). We like that we can always toss down an area rug to cozy things up (and since those can change over time it feels a little more flexible than committing to a certain type/color of wall to wall carpet for a decade or two). Plus with a kid and a dog we have just found wood flooring to be easy to keep clean/wipe down/etc.
We also already have oak flooring on the stairs that lead to the second level as well as in the future office, dining room, and living room – so we thought finding some in the same finish and grain would be a nice seamless this-has-always-been-here choice. But before we could bring in some delicious new hardwoods to install ourselves (at least that’s the plan!) we were faced with stripping away all of the aforementioned nasty carpeting in all four bedrooms up there and the hallway… which turned out to be quite the job. Here’s how we got ‘er done.
First we used a mini crowbar to pry back the corner…
With some gentle force it popped right up and we could start to pull it out from that corner.
It definitely wasn’t delicate pulling, more like forceful yanking, but with John working on one corner and me in another we were able to free up enough of it to start rolling it towards the other side of the room (we paused to take this photo, but picture me standing next to John rolling along with him). It’s definitely one of those four-hands-are-better-than-two tasks if possible.
Oh and wear gloves! And long sleeves if you’re smart. We wised up after our forearms got raw from carrying rolls of carpeting down to the garage, where we’re storing it all until we can figure out what to do with it (it’s too gross to donate, so we might need to rent a Bagster or something to get rid of it). Update: thanks for all the info on recycling carpets, cutting them down for curbside pickup, and all the other cheaper/greener alternatives than just trashing them. You guys are geniuses!
Room by room we repeated that process (and down the hallway as well). Pry up the corner, yank yank yank, roll roll roll, and drag that baby down to the garage. In some areas there was so much carpeting that we cut it in half with a box cutter before carrying it down to lighten our load. Then we were left with this lovely blue carpet padding underneath. Which was stapled and nailed down in about a thousand places per room (sadly that’s not an exaggeration).
Just like the carpeting, it could be yanked up, but it left a ton of little staples and nails and tack strips all around the room once it was stripped from the space.
These are tack strips. They run around the perimeter of a room and are thin little shim-like pieces of wood with nails poking up through them (they grab the carpet pad and carpet to hold it in place).
Sometimes you can shove a crowbar under them (this takes borderline brute strength, so your palm is red even with gloves on afterwards) and pop them up all as one piece. The hard thing is that if they’re old and brittle (check) sometimes they splinter as they go, which means instead of slamming a prybar against them to try to get each 2′ long strip up in about 30 seconds, if it splinters a ton it can take five minutes to dig out all of the nails and splintered wood that break apart but are still stuck in the floor. You can see me gracefully (and breathlessly) doing this in the video we made for you about five photos down.
I worked on all of the tack strips in the master bedroom while John did the hallway and the nursery and then I tackled the guest room while John worked on Clara’s room. It probably took us about an hour and a half to get that part done, so one person trying to do that all by themselves might be in it for 3+ hours (probably with some blisters even with gloves on).
Once the tack strips were all up we were faced with the harder part…
… these guys.
They were everywhere and the prybar was of no help since it couldn’t really get under them. At first the only way we could get them up was by hand with a needle nosed pliers. One by one. But after John did Clara’s closet that way and it took over an hour (for one closet!!!) we decided we needed to find an alternative. Thankfully a little googling turned up the idea of a nice heavy duty long-handled floor scraper (we got ours for $25 at Lowe’s) and that was a lot faster! It still took some serious strength, and we both had sore backs, but we were able to get all of the staples up in all four bedrooms and the hallway in about two hours (at the by-hand-with-a-pliers-rate we thought it might take us about two days). Warning: if you have hardwoods, you might not want to use a scraper since it could ding them up, but it’s great for subflooring.
The next day we returned to clean up, using a broom to make piles followed by the shop-vac to suck up all the staples and nails.
You can see in this video how each step of the process went (it shows how to get up those tack strips and staples a little better than still photos can):
Now we have smooth, bare subfloors that are ready for hardwood.
We never thought we’d be so glad to see pure unadulterated pressed wood in our lives!
And now our garage looks like this:
That, my friends, is what progress looks like. Turns out progress looks a lot like stinky rolled up carpeting.
But oh happy day, we’re moving in the right direction!
Any other carpet stripping going on? Are the staples your arch nemeses? Those little buggers were infuriating until we discovered The Amazing Wonder-Scraper! Seriously, my “what superhero power would you have?” answer would now be to have a paint roller on one arm and a floor scraper on another. Never know when you’ll need one…
Mission: Finish installing crown molding around the rest of the house (with the nursery done, we still had the guest room, the playroom, and the hallway on our list).
And thanks to the magic of the internet, something that took us about two weeks on and off, will appear to have been done in two seconds. Behold.
Yep, as I mentioned in this post about hanging crown in Clara’s nursery, it ignited a burning desire to install crown in the other main areas of our house that were oddly missing it (our bedroom had it but the other bedrooms didn’t, one hallway had it but the other one that was connected to it didn’t, etc).
So we finally got it done in the guest bedroom (see above), Clara’s big girl room (see below)…
… and even the recently-board-and-battened hallway that connects them all (which was especially helpful since it leads to another hallway that has crown already).
Although it took us about five days of on and off work to install, once we got the hang of it, it wasn’t nearly as mentally strenuous as it was physically (arms over your head holding an eight foot board up for a few days in a row = tired). Our total cost for all four spaces (guest room, Clara’s nursery, playroom, and the hallway) was $218, including the pack of nails for our nail gun, which breaks down to $54 per zone, although some areas like the hallway were cheaper than the bigger rooms.
And while it’s kind of hard to illustrate the difference in pictures, in person it’s easy to see that all the time, arm-fatigue, and loot was worth it. Every room looks noticeably more polished, but in that “I can’t really put my finger on what’s different” sort of way. In fact you saw a lot of the molding installed in our recent house tour video, it just wasn’t painted yet, so we finally got around to that. Which involved a lot more of the whole arms-over-our-heads things, but it looks great now that it’s done (we used Benjamin Moore’s Decorators White in a semi-gloss finish).
Since we already did a photo tutorial of the crown installation process, we decided to use this portion of the project to make a video for you guys (sometimes DIY videos can be less intimidating than trying to digest typed out words and pictures that can’t always show every last angle like a video can). We tried to cover every single step and cram in as many little tips and tricks as possible along the way for you guys. Seriously, you can do this. So from measuring your angles all the way to caulking the gaps, it’s all here:
Does anyone else smell Oscar? No? I’m not talking Best Picture – I mean Best Supporting Actor for the role of “intense bird screaming in the background while filming” during the outdoor sequences. Ah, spring.
We’ve been talking about streamlining (buh-bye scallop) and beefing up the porch (namely those columns) ever since we moved in back in 2010. And it’s finally warming up enough for us to tackle an outdoor project after a long winter – seriously, we were still getting snow a few weeks ago.
Most of the ranches in our neighborhood either have chunky square columns or a more traditional colonial style. We prefer the former, but inherited the latter. Along with a curved scallop header that isn’t exactly our style either.
Our first house had an issue with a scalloped header too, which Sherry tackled back in 2008 (one of her most exhausting projects to date – which she recounts here). She ran into some challenges when some metal flashing didn’t want to give up the ghost – and thanks to the fact that she wasn’t quite tall enough to make the task easy (she did this by herself as a surprise for me while I was at work one day). But we loved the more updated, clean-lined look that it gave our first house. So it was finally time to get on it here…
Of course this porch is a whole new beast (no metal flashing, a lot more wood trim and stuff to deal with, and columns that we’ll be altering this time). So before we started hammering away at things, I ran a utility knife across the seams to “encourage” the paint the break in the right spot – not crack, peel or flake off in areas that we didn’t want it to. This is always a good idea before demoing surfaces that have been painted together – especially with lots of thick layers of exterior paint.
I was fully prepared for our demo process to be exhausting, considering the horror stories that Sherry told me about her last attempt at scallops, so I was cautiously optimistic when a few whacks with a rubber mallet easily loosened the scalloped header while Sherry watched with bated breath.
Thankfully, once things were loose, we were able to quickly pry that part of the curved scallop off with a crowbar.
Not too pretty looking yet, but at least the demo wasn’t too bad:
The combo of not having metal flashing to contend with AND my height being available (along with 4 hands, which are always better than 2) helped things work in our favor for sure this time. Soon enough all of the scallops were gone and we were already feeling better about things. Now we just had to put a new straight header (along with those boxed our columns) together.
We started off by nailing and gluing a simple pre-primed piece of 1 x 3″ pine where the scallops had been. Curvy header out. Crisp, straight header in.
That was the easy (slash boring) part. This is where the fun began – boxing out the columns.
Rather than go through the trouble of removing the existing columns, we decided to achieve our more modern, chunky square column look by just “boxing” them in on all sides with some pre-primed pine boards – which is faster and easier (not to mention cheaper). Our columns were a few inches shy of 8 feet tall, so we had to trim each board first (thanks circular saw!).
Here you can see what one column looks like with two sides of the box added. Our columns were exactly as wide as a 1 x 6″ board (we will now pause to thank the home improvement gods for that awesome discovery) so it didn’t require any additional cutting besides trimming the length, as shown above.
We attached them with some heavy duty wood glue followed by a few 2″ nails into the bottom and top (where the new boards rested flat against the square part of the old columns). We also added a few screws to keep them extra secure for the long haul.
Since adding those two 1 x 6″ boards essentially made our columns wider, we had to use 1 x 8″ boards for the other two sides. That sounds confusing, but it made them end up as 8″ x 8″ squares since the sides of the boards overlapped (this very rough Sherry-sketch should hopefully make sense of the overlapping concept that I’m trying to explain).
Well, actually they’re around 7.5″ square since 8″ boards are never really 8″ (they’re more like 7.5″ wide). But you get the idea.
As for physically boxing the columns out, two things really helped: our nail gun, and Sherry’s hands. Obviously the nail gun made things go faster and this whole project is ideally a two person job (although once we had things secured in a few places Sherry could step back and snap some fantastic photos like this one).
The process actually went fairly fast, just not fast enough for us to finish before Clara came home from her afternoon with Grammy & Tom Tom. So our progress got cut short a bit – but you can at least see where we’re headed. Oh but see how the header looks a little thin compared to the newly boxed out columns? We have plans to beef that up under the roofline so it’s nice and balanced. Stay tuned…
So here’s our remaining to-do list:
- get that last column boxed in
- add a chunkier header piece to visually balance the columns
- get all of those seams caulked (don’t want any moisture getting in there)
- paint everything so it’s seamless
So we hope to be back with some true before and afters once we knock those things out. In the meantime, you can also check out this little loot-related craft that Sherry whipped up for Clara (and Will Bower) over on Young House Life.
Anyone else moving on to outdoor projects finally? What’s on your spring DIY agenda? New flower beds? A patio upgrade? Mulch galore? Or are you making fake money? Be careful that it’s not too realistic (don’t wanna end up in trouble…).