Have you ever been afraid of removing the flooring in your old home for fear of what you might find? It was that worry that kept me from removing the old, stained carpet from my children’s rooms. I felt pretty sure that I would find hardwood because the floor in their closets was hardwood. It took me three years to build the gumption to remove the carpet, though, and I wish that I would have done it three years ago. Here’s why you should take a chance on your old floor and how to tell if you have reusable flooring.
When I first told my husband my plans for the kids’ floors, he warned me that the entire floor might not be like the closets. When I pleaded my case for ripping up the carpet even though we didn’t have the extra money to spend on replacement carpet or hardwood, he told me that we had no idea what the previous owners might have done. He even went as far as to tell me a hypothetical scenario involving a broken pipe, water damaged floor, and plywood replacing the hardwood in that area of the room. It was his warning that kept me from taking up the carpet for almost three years.
Finally, I’d had enough. As toddlers and preschoolers, our kids had repeatedly spilled things, peed on, and wiped unknown substances on the carpet in their rooms. I had in turn ritually cleaned them with a steamer once or twice a year until there was no help for it. The carpet was old, worn out, and had spots that couldn’t be covered by rugs.
Now, that they’re both school-aged, they are old enough to take better care of what they have, and I refused to wait any longer. My husband still sang his warning, but it fell on deaf ears. I was adamant that I would remove that carpet. So, one day I bought a pry bar (I usually refer to it as a cat claw because that’s what my dad always called it.) and a razor knife, grabbed my hammer that has my name plainly written on it so that everyone knows that if they use it, they’d better put it back where they got it from or feel my wrath, and began ripping up some carpet.
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(I took this picture on my daughter’s new rug. In case you were wondering about the pink furry beast.)
I first pulled up just a two-foot section in front of the closet. What I found made me want to both smile and cry. The hardwood floors were beautiful—under the layer of overspray that ran around the edge of the room.
Apparently, whoever laid the carpet had painted the baseboards with a paint sprayer beforehand, and they hadn’t bothered to use a drop cloth. Hence, the need to cry because I knew it was going to be a complete pain to remove that paint, but I was confident I could do it. After much internet searching, I found several different suggestions for removing the paint. You can read my post on the best way to remove paint from hardwood here.
After I removed the paint from that section and looked at how beautiful the floor was, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to show my husband when he got home that evening. I even had a plan to remove a small section of carpet at a time, cleaning the hardwood as I went. My husband blew that plan to smithereens.
He again explained that just because the section of floor in front of the closet looked good, it didn’t mean there wasn’t damage done to the other side of the room. He even added that knowing my luck, the last section of carpet I remove will be the one that had had the floor cut out and replaced with plywood or particle board. After seeing how they had nonchalantly sprayed paint on the floor, I couldn’t help but think it possible that there was a damaged section. Why else would they spill paint on such beautiful floors if there wasn’t anything wrong with them?
So, I decided I’d already opened this can of worms. I would see it through. The next day while my kids were at school, I put off everything else I normally would do. Instead, I began removing the carpet. I used the razor knife to cut the carpet into four-foot-wide strips, rolled it up, and disposed of it. (Our neighborhood has a curbside yard/household trash pickup.) To my complete surprise, the floor was intact. In fact, other than the layer of paint, it was beautiful. There wasn’t a single section that was structurally damaged.
Peeling up the carpet wasn’t the hard part. That came when removing the tack strips. They ran around the perimeter of the room holding the edges of the carpet in place. For this task, a pry bar is a necessity. Simply put the claw under the edge of the tack strip and use the hammer to force it under all the way. Then push the handle of the pry bar over, forcing the tack strip to lift.
Once I removed the tack strips, I used pliers to pull up the staples that had held the padding in place. Then it was a matter of cleaning the hardwood and adding quarter-round trim around the edges. The trim wasn’t very expensive, and it is relatively easy to cut and install. I also had to paint the baseboards again, but not because of changing the flooring. They have seen a lot of wear and tear from our kids over the years and needed the update.
The end result is beautiful hardwood floors. Better late than never, I guess. So, if you learn anything from his long-winded story it’s to take a chance. You might be hesitant at first, but you might end up with a hidden treasure.
How to tell if you have reusable flooring
- You have an old house. Our house was built in the 50’s when lumber was abundant and cheap.
- Closets or another area in the room has wood flooring.
- Other rooms in the house have wood.
- The floor is slightly higher in the sections that have carpet or laminate flooring. It might mean that the previous owner laid the flooring on top of what was already there.
- Other houses in the neighborhood have wood flooring. There was an estate sale at a house one street over last weekend that my husband and I went to. As we walked through, we recognized not only the same hardwood flooring but also the same cabinets and wood paneling on the walls (ponderosa pine).
How to check for reusable flooring
You can always check without doing any permanent damage. With carpet, find a discreet corner and using a cat claw (pry bar) pry up the carpet. Be careful not to scratch the baseboard or wall. It might take you a few tries to get the carpet to pull away from the tack strip, but it’ll come. Pull up the padding too and then you can look at what is underneath. Once you get a good look, just push the carpet back down until it’s held by the strip again. It won’t even be noticeable. Use a corner that’s hidden under furniture just to be on the safe side, though. Of course, even if you find hardwood under that section, you still might have a damaged area. Or you could have new damage to the wood, which you would then need to replace.
If there is a missing section or one that needs removing, it’s possible that you could find the matching hardwood. Though, it’s not likely the stain will match exactly. You would need to add the replacement wood and then sand and stain the entire floor to match. That is a lot cheaper than replacing the whole floor with new hardwood, though.
How Much This Project Cost
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All in all, the only money I spent on this project was the cost of my pry bar, which I consider a sound investment for future use, a razor knife, the cleaning supplies to scrub the paint off the floor, and Holloway House Quick Shine to restore the floor to its former glory. You can read my review of Quick Shine here. While I bought my pry bar from Walmart, here is a set of 3 through Amazon for the same price I paid for one. About $30 in total is my estimate. That’s pretty cheap for replacing the floors in two different rooms. Mine and my husband’s room is next, but I’m giving my back a break before I take on that project. Cleaning paint off the floor ain’t no joke.
Have you found a treasure under a dated floor? I love to hear about other’s battle stories. Leave a comment and tell me about it.