Removing carpet from a concrete pad is not especially difficult in most cases, but a few tools will certainly help. Typically, a carpet that covers a concrete pad has been securely attached to the floor. This is because floor traffic on a free-floating carpet is often dangerous, and is considered a tripping hazard.
Puckers and slippage can occur unless the carpet is attached to the borders (at a minimum), so many installers apply an abundance of adhesives to prevent additional movement.
We’ll discuss a few tools and methods the pros use to quickly remove carpet from concrete and prepare it for a new floor covering.
What Tools Will I Need to Remove Carpet From Concrete?
Hook blades are designed to fit in most utility knives and serve to ease cutting of thin materials. Originally designed for fiberglass/asphalt shingles, these blades are razor sharp and hooked on both ends.
To remove carpeting, the hook blade is pierced through the carpet until the blade reaches the concrete. The hooked end is then pulled towards the user, cutting the carpet evenly. Ideally, you’ll want to cut the carpet into manageable strips of about 12”-24” wide.
This allows the carpet to be handled in lighter sections and rolled up for easy disposal. This also saves the blade, because a flat blade dragged across the concrete would quickly dull the edge.
Pry Bar or Cutting Tool
Next, the pros will usually remove the carpet tack strips. The tack strips will be located about ½” from the wall around the entire perimeter. Carpet tack strips designed for use with concrete use concrete nails to secure it to the floor. In many instances, the pros will just place the curved end of a pry bar under the tack strip and pry it out.
Fortunately, pulling these concrete nails out tends to be easy, and just take a dimple out of the pad.
In some cases, however, the nails are very long and will not easily pop out with a pry bar. In this event, the easiest thing to do is cut off the nails. This can be done with a small rotary cutting wheel, angle grinder, hack saw, or other cutting tools.
The pros tend to use an angle grinder because if a part of the nail remains above the surface, the grinding wheel can be used to remove it. The important part of this step is to ensure that no part of the old nail can still be felt through the new floor covering.
Often the next step is to remove the remaining adhesive. Despite best efforts, in most situations, there will be dried adhesive stuck to the concrete. If it is not removed, it may be noticeable through the carpet, so the pros often turn to adhesive removers. These products are chemically reactive to adhesives and soften the hard remnants.
It should be noted that safety gear like eye protection, gloves, and a respirator should be used, as these products contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which can cause personal injury. Ideally, proper ventilation in addition to a respirator is strongly recommended.
Once the adhesive remover has dissolved or softened any hard remnants, they can usually be scraped off easily with a floor scraper and a little elbow grease.
Floor Scraper and Sanding
Floor scrapers are like other scraping tools like putty knives and hand scrapers, except they are larger. The idea is that the user can use their leverage and body weight to assist the scraper in removing difficult adhesive.
Some floor scrapers have interchangeable blades so that when one becomes dull, it can be easily replaced or sharpened. Others are for more heavy-duty jobs, like removing shingles from a roof.
In most situations, the scraper most useful for removing carpet from concrete will be a wide version with changeable blades. This is because concrete will dull the blade quickly, and often the backing of the carpet remains attached. Using a replaceable blade on the scraper allows the user to not only remove the remaining adhesive but also cut through any remaining carpet backer that might be stuck to it.
In very severe situations, it may be necessary to abrade the adhesive away. Occasionally, when installing carpet over concrete, the wrong adhesive is used. Wood glues and other adhesives typically dry much harder than carpet glue, so sometimes even adhesive removers fail to remove them.
As a last resort, rotary sanders and belt sanders can often remove both nails, rough areas of concrete, and adhesive residue. This method tends to be messy, so again, a respirator is required to protect the user from any airborne sanding dust.
Pressure Washing (Optional)
If the location allows, many times the final touch after removing carpet from concrete is a good pressure washing. This will remove any additional contaminants, such as dirt, dust, adhesive residue, or other substance that might interfere with the new covering.
Obviously, this is a problem if the project is in a basement, for example, and no floor drain is present. In instances where pressure washing of the pad is not possible, a good mopping with soap and water will usually suffice.
Cleaning is Important
The most important part of this project is to safely deal with any areas that seem suspicious. Even small endulations can be noticeable depending on the floor covering, so the pros will usually correct any dips or humps more than ⅛”.
Most floor coverings like engineered hardwood and laminates typically also require this tolerance, so the pros will often use a long aluminum level, or straightedge to identify any areas of concern. Especially when considering the expense of removing a floor covering to solve a problem, correcting any issues at this stage is time well spent.