Removing carpet staples
1916 Row Home

How to Remove Old Carpet and Flooring Staples

Our 100 year old house came with wall to wall carpeting everywhere except the kitchen and bathroom.

Old blue carpet

Actually there’s evidence there was once carpet in the kitchen too.

Kitchen carpet scrap

I ripped out all the carpet and found all sorts of things, like this very old outlet that had just been carpeted over at some point. I hope they had the common sense to disconnect the outlet first, but who knows. We put all new outlets in so now this thing can be safely removed.

Hidden Outlet

The flooring under the carpet is indeed solid wood, and it’s in OK shape, but it’s really just 100 year old subfloor. At some point it was painted brown. It has been carpeted over many times and the carpet padding was a disintegrating sticky mess. It left behind at least 60 years worth of rotting wood tack strips, rusted nails, and gunked up staples.

Old carpet padding

The tack strips can be removed with a pry bar and some patience, but the carpet staples are trickier. For a while I was using a pair of normal pliers and then the plumber took pity on me and lent me a pair of end cut pliers. It makes the task much easier.

It’s worth mentioning that I have heard this particular tool called a “cross cutter,” “end cutter,” and “side cutter” by various people. End cutter looks the most correct to me, so I’m going to go with that one.

I also have a teeny tiny pry bar that I use for the ones that are really flush to the floor. It came in a 3 pack of adorable pry bars and they’ve been super handy during this whole process.


The first step is to find a nice line of staples to work on. I find it easiest to work in one small area at a time. Keep a handheld brush or broom handy so you can keep the area clean and see what you’re doing.

Old Carpet Staples

Sometimes there’s a ton of padding around the staple, to the point where you can’t even see which way it faces. Use the tiny pry bar to scrape away gunk until you can see your target. Then place the pliers over it and gently grab it. You don’t want to actually cut it, just grab it.

Removing carpet staples

Then rock the pliers to the side in order to pull up the staple.

Removing carpet staples


Removing carpet staples

Some staples need to be coaxed up a bit with the pry bar first, and a few staples were so stuck I actually had to get a pair of vice grips to get them out. But most of them come out pretty easily this way. It’s still not a quick process, but if you get into the swing of it there’s a nice sort of tedium. Keep sweeping up as you go, the little bits of carpet fuzz and staples get everywhere and if you don’t stay on top of it you won’t be able to see what you’re doing.

One thing about this process is that it’s pretty hard on your hands after a while. Take breaks and stretch out your wrists, no one wants to get carpal tunnel from staple removal!

New Construction Townhome

Installing a Modular Rug

We used the Flor modular rug system in our TV room, which is made up of individual carpet squares you assemble yourself.

Each square is 20 by 20 inches. On the underside of each intersection is a small sticker which holds the pieces together. The rubbery backing on the carpet squares keep them from sliding around too much.

Flor Corner In Progress

For the border pieces we cut the squares into thirds. To make the corners line up evenly we needed an extra 2/3 length border piece on the end of the border row.

Flor Corner Done

When it’s done you can’t tell that the pieces are separate, though there are a few “fuzzies” that need to be vacuumed up. My cuts weren’t quite as clean as the factory edges, so I turned the cut edge of each border piece in towards the center of the rug. The pieces with two cut edges were used at the back of the rug (shown above), which will eventually be covered by a couch so no one will see it.

Overall we’re happy with how it came out, and will likely use the Flor squares in a few other places.

PS, notice something different? My blog images are now watermarked, something I’m going to try for a bit. You can read about why I’ve decided to go this route over on the main blog.