How to remove carpet and refinish wood floors: PART 1

*Update*: You can see Part 2, Stain, Seal, Reveal here.
Today I’m going to teach ya’ll how to pull up carpet and refinish those gorgeous wood floors that may be hiding under your carpet. This is a project I’ve wanted to tackle for a while and recently got the “go ahead!” from our landlords. Let’s be real, kids are hard on carpet. Carpet is great but there are always areas that just don’t hold up well in those high traffic areas. That was definitely holding true in our living room area and the main hallway of our home. 
Here’s a shot of our living room with the carpet. 
I’m going to take you through how WE did the process and I’ll try to show you a cost breakdown the best I can so you can budget for your remodeling project!
First, the hubby vacuumed the carpet and we started at one end and pulled it up and rolled it in a giant roll. Next, you’ll do the same thing with the carpet pad. The carpet pad was not glued down as it is in some homes, but it was stapled to the wood flooring in various places. So, we removed the carpet tack strips and the million staples that held the pad in place! 
Do you see all that paint on the floor? It looked like the people who renovated the house knew they were going to lay carpet down after they painted the room because there was pretty much just random paint splatters everywhere. Even along the baseboards. Boo!
We will need to get all that paint and old stain and poly off of the old floors. I didn’t want the rest of our house covered in dust so we used clear plastic drop cloths (from the dollar store) to tape off the open hallway to the rest of the house.
Next, comes the crazy part. Sand. Sand. Sand. Sand. Sand. 
You will need to rent a drum sander for this step. Using a drum sander (you can rent these for between $30-50 from Home Depot depending on your store and how long you need it for.) We rented it for 4 hours and it was plenty of time to sand our living room and hallway. It took about 3 hours. You may need to rent for the full day if you have a larger space.
When you use the drum sander, you will want to buy 3 different grits of sand paper; coarse, medium and fine grits. Start with coarse and remove all of the old stuff exposing the bare wood. Then, you’ll run the medium and fine sand paper over the bare wood to smooth it all. You want to get it very smooth and clean looking so that you can apply the new stain and polyurethane and get a pretty finish. To give you an idea, we used 2 coarse, 1 medium and 1 fine grit sand paper sheet for the drum sander. The sand paper sheets each cost about $8 each so don’t forget to add that into your budget for this project. Your floor should look like this now. 
You can see there is a few inches of stain left on the outer perimeter of the flooring. This is where the drum sander could not reach so you will have to use another tool. There is a tool you can rent (for $20-40) called an “Edger” sander and it is designed to do just that. However, I have an orbital sander so I opted to use that to save a few dollars.
This is the one I have and you can get it at Home Depot for $30 so I don’t really recommend renting the edger because this did the job just fine and then you get to keep the sander! However, because I did not use the “Edger” you can rent, I have no frame of reference. I’m not sure if it does a quicker or better job so you may want to experiment. That being said, I used 8 total coarse sand paper discs and 2 fine sand paper disks (which was $15 worth of sandpaper). 

Chances are you aren’t dealing with the paint splatter issues that we were but just in case, using a putty knife to reach the areas you could not reach with the sander is a great way to remove any old paint splatters or gunk from the wood. 

Finally, we have a stripped, sanded, smooth, clean floor ready to stain and seal! YAY! 

WHEW!!!! Part 1 was quite the lengthy post but I hope I could help you tackle your carpet removal and prep work for refinishing wood flooring.

See you tomorrow for Part 2: Stain, Seal, REVEAL! Can’t wait to show you!
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  1. Wow! That’s a big project & I am super impressed you did that for a house you don’t own.. I know your landlord will be thrilled! Great post, but you make it look easy which I cannot imagine it is… 😉 – Susan

  2. your landlords must LOVE YOU. No joke, you’re like an angelic tenant. annnddd These are good things to know! I’m hoping we don’t have to redo our wood floors before moving.. we really need to be kinder to them.

  3. Wow. I am actually thinking of doing this same thing but the room was a carport that was enclosed and has yucky indoor/outdoor carpeting in it. I rent also so we’ll see if he will go for it. Underneath that nasty rug is plain plywood boards that I will probably paint or just seal with urethane. Thanks for sharing your progress.

  4. Wow, what a project! I would do all of this by myself if I had the time, but sadly I don’t. I am looking for a company that does hardwood floor refinishing in mississauga. Do you know of anyone good that I could hire? I would love my floors to turn out as beautiful as yours did. Thanks for the help.

  5. Thanks for your information you put here. I loved it. Having found that I have quality wood boards (old style) under my yuk carpets in the bedrooms. I have always wanted to fix it and even looked for a company to do the work for me. We found it frightfully expensive and were about to re-carpet it as it didn’t occur to us to do this job ourselves. Yet finding the information you put here will allow us go step by step and do it ourselves…we couldn’t be happier. Thank you again! All the very best for you and your family in the new year!

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  7. I know this is an old post, but please be careful with updating and fixing up a rental. My aunt and uncle did that and after he got the place fixed up, the landlord kicked them out so he could double the price he was charging. They had the okay, in writing, from him to do all this. Thankfully my uncle kept all of the receipts, but they were still homeless for a while and had to fight hard to get a fraction of that money back. 🙁

  8. Job done well, loved the way you took care of this, refinishing the floor is surely a hectic task specially when you are doing it after removing the carpet, thanks for sharing.

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  10. I am in the process of finishing my wood floors right now and I can’t decide if I should rent the edger or buy the orbital sander for the spots that the drum couldn’t reach? My floors look pretty similar to yours. How long did it take with the orbital?

    I tried using an old heavy hand sander yesterday, and it is not only taking forever but it is hard and heavy!

  11. Clear, concise instructions with pics that make anyone feel they can do it. I love the way the internet makes so much info available to everyone to try themselves. Wooden floors can generally be sanded 2 or 3 times throughout their life so they can be very long lasting.

  12. Good thing your Land lord allowed you to do all these stuff (Well, if I you we’d be my tenant, I’m pretty I allow you to do that). Some owners do not allow that and end up sticking on that lousy carpet you have.

    Kalia Floors

    1. Hi Trisha!

      Yes, they are wonderful! My landlord actually reads my blog and loves what we have done with the home! We’ve been here for 3 years and done lots of fun updates! I will be sad to leave this home!

      xoxo – Mallory

      1. Looks like you have good relationship with your landlord. Not very often we can see that in recent days. BTW, enjoyed your post a lot and hoping to read more about your fun updates. 🙂

  13. I am wanting to redo our hardwood floors but I have heard that since we have a dog, large to medium size, that runs in the house and 2 children, that the floors would be hurt and scratched by the dog. Do you have any experience with this. I dont want to redo them and then have scratches everywhere… Thanks!

  14. Do you have any pets in the house? I have a large/medium dog and have heard redoing my hardwood would be a hastle and that the dog would scratch it all up? any help, please and thank you!

  15. Mallory, did you have to sand very deep to remove the markings from the staples and nails used in your carpet? We have a house built in 1910 and we’d like to redo the old floors. They too have paint everywhere and we’re gonna have to replace some of the wood. One of the upstairs bedrooms has a strip down the middle where carpet was joined and the 8″ flooring was painted before carpet. Hope it’s not too big a job to tackle. Thanks.

    1. Hi Sandy!

      No we didn’t sand deep at all. If any were bad, we just used a tiny dab of wood filler. It’s stainable so that was great! Good luck on your refinishing project! It’s SO worth it! xoxo

  16. Beautiful floors! I refinished every floor in my house and did opt for the edger. It was amazing and much faster than our orbital sander. I would definitely recommend it for your next project. Worth the rental fee – plus the sanding pads are less that $1 at HD.

  17. Hi there! Me and my family have recently moved to our new home and we are preparing to start with some renovation works which include removing carpets and fixing the wood floors. After reading this post I feel a bit scared. It definitely is not an easy job. For now I am trying to concentrate on cleaning the whole house so we can feel good! Thanks for sharing! I find the post incredibly helpful!

  18. Excellent tutorial on how to remove carpets. All your efforts was worth it because of the fabulous result. The ambiance of the house looks positive and relaxing. Great team work couples!

  19. Hi. Did you strip the floor to get the old stain and poly off first or did the drum sander take it all off?

  20. I have a few rooms that i need to do this to so thank you so much for the information and the pep talk. I can do this and then i will have gorgeous wood floors throughout my house again. 🙂 Thank you!!

  21. How long did it take to do the room 1 day? And of course 2 people is ideal but is it possible for 1 person to do the job

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  23. So how much time did it take for all the steps approximately? It looks like quite a lenghty effort. My lazy inner self groans at the thought of how much work I would have to put in such a project, though I most certainly like the idea. Not a huge fan of carpets, just like you!

  24. Awesome Flooring. A refinished floor can bring beauty to a room like no other project. To hire a pro to sand, seal, stain, and apply several finish coats of an oil-based poly will cost $4 per square foot, or more.

  25. My husband and I just bought our first house a few months ago. I just discovered that we have hardwood floors under our carpet. I’ve always loved the look and feel of hardwood floors. I like how you pointed out that you’ll have to rent a drum sander and get 3 different types of sandpaper. This seems like a lot of work and effort. I think when it comes to refinishing our own floors, we’ll want to hire an experienced professional. I wouldn’t want to have the stress of trying to do it on my own.

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