21 January, 2008

Ripping Out the Ugly, Toxic Carpet

We tackled our first real project at the Box House yesterday: removing the carpet in all of the Floor 2 bedrooms. (There was no carpeting on floor one, thank goodness.) We narrowed down our search for floor finishing experts and have a team coming out later in the week to completely sand and refinish the floors upstairs and down, with the exception of the kitchens and bathrooms. To save money we decided to tear out the carpet ourselves.

We had visions of the entire project taking only a few hours for the three rooms. I had picked up The Black and Decker Complete Photo Guide to Home Improvement and it looked straightforward enough. Step 1) Rip up carpet and padding, Step 2) Throw said carpet and padding away.

Uh-uh. It was a lot tougher than those photos made it look. Our carpets were glued down in some rooms and in others we had to remove literally hundreds of staples because some previous contractor had gone staple happy.

Here's what we started with. (Click to view larger images.)

Bedroom one is off the living room. The quarter round piece of trim that you see was an unfinished piece just sitting in the gaping crack where settlement had pulled the wall out slightly. We'll have to fill that in later...with something...when we redo that trim.

Bedroom two is off entryway and next to the bathroom.

Bedroom three, the smallest of the bedrooms, is off the kitchen. It's so small that I had to stand in the kitchen to take a picture.

My job was to pull up the carpet, cutting it into thin strips that we could then roll up and stuff into construction garbage bags. I used a carpet cutter for the task. We both wore face masks rated for dust and mold, as there was clouds of nasty stuff coming out of the carpets as we moved them. Underneath each one, there were piles and piles of dirt and grit. Whoever invented wall-to-wall carpeting was evil. I don't think your standard household vacuum cleaner can ever get them clean enough and when people have carpets installed, they tend to stay there for decades. Unless you never use a room, carpets tend to look shabby within a few years, in my opinion. Give me hardwood floors and easy-to-swap-out oriental rugs any day.

While I was doing that, Ted pulled up the tackless strip--a stupid name, considering there are thousands of pin-sharp tacks along its length. I guess it's tackless because you're not supposed to need additional carpet tacks to keep your carpet in place. Each tackless strip was nailed down to the floor about every two inches or so with way more nails than needed to keep it in place. He used a molding pry bar to pull it up, but the wood strips were old and weak and kept splitting, making for a rather grueling task.

As Ted was finishing up with the tackless strips, doubling back to pull out all the nails, I began cutting and rolling the carpet pads. This was the worst part of the entire project. In bedroom one, it looked like it had sort of melted to the floor or was glued on in patches. It did not want to come up, and rather than rolling it up in neat strips, I had to tug it up in patches. It was stapled to the floor along the seams, so when I got to those parts I needed to get a hammer and use the nail puller end to pull out each staple, which was held in place with gummy, semi-decayed padding. Ted helped after he finished with the tackless strip. "This is as close to someone else's old carpeting as I think I ever want to be," he said. I agree. We had to work on our hands and knees, peering at the floor from mere inches away as we searched for rogue staples. Thankfully, we had our masks. And the padding in the other two bedrooms came up pretty easily.

Here are a few more intermediary stage picture:

Bedroom One

Wallpaper sample found behind a radiator.

Ted in bedroom two.

Clean-up took a long time as we bagged trash (nine bags in all) and swept out the rooms. Bedroom one with the glued down padding took the longest. I didn't have a floor scraper, as recommended in the Black and Decker book for removing gummy stuff, so I used a putty knife/paint scraper instead, gently running it along each floorboard to pull up as much gunk as possible.

What we ended up with were floorboards of three different colors. I think the original color of the stain was medium-dark, as seen in the next photo. The floors in bedroom two were sanded and not restained before putting the carpet down. Why would they sand first? I have no idea.

Bedroom one--cleaned of all the goo.

Bedroom three--looking good!

Bedroom two--all ready for a light sanding!

By the time we were through -- six hours later -- we were exhausted and starving. With nothing in the refrigerator and unwilling to cook anyway, we headed out in search of fast food. Thank goodness we're only a few blocks from the border with Chicago and all the late night and late late night restaurants that can be found on Clark Street. Although it was two in the morning, we founds a 24-hour place serving burritos as big as our heads. Really, I know we shouldn't be eating this stuff, but it was soooooooooooooooooo good. Heck, I think we earned it.

I can't wait for the sanding guys to get here this week!

Please don't feed the dust bunnies.
—Author Unkown


Jayne said...

I feel your pain, having gone through the same thing in my entryway & living room. Wish my floors looked half as nice as yours. I couldn't get the "goo" off mine.

Fred said...

I definitely think you earned the dinner... and I completely agree with you about carpet. Unless there is no traffic in a room, its hard to keep the carpet looking any kind of good, whereas good hardwoods last a lifetime and can be refinished every dozen years or so. HW, Tile, or some other hard surface has my vote all the way.

We're getting ready to put ceramic or stone in the basement, and eventually plan to put Hardwoods on the first floor.

One Project Closer

Jennifer said...

WOW! Those floors look awesome uncovered! Definitely worth the (hard) work!

Anonymous said...

It is never as easy as it looks in the books and usually something(not mentioned in the books) always pop up.
I speak from experience, having a house built 65 years ago that we have been renovating for 30 years.
However, there is tremendous pride and satisfaction once finished and all of your hard work (Villa calls it Sweat Equity) results in wonderful results.
OF Course; then you find another project to tackle.

BeccaMarie said...

Your floors look amazing! We are getting ready to do ours this summer. And I agree that carpet sucks...and the tackless strip. Ours was stamped "Premium Tackless" and was a pain to get out! I couldn't get into the garage because my husband had the only opener with him at work so I used a grill scraper and hammer to get under it to pry it up!

Jocelyn said...

It was satisfying removing that carpet I bet. Looks like your place was a rental? Reminds me alot of the condition of ours when we moved in.

Hey, was that an El Famous burrito?
(I live in Rogers Park fyi)

Joanne said...

Jocelyn--It was El Novillo on Clark at Touhy. A great place to stop when you have that 3:00 a.m. craving for Mexican food.

It was an owner-occupied 2-flat. The previous owners had it for roughly forty years or so, and lived in the downstairs unit. (I'm not sure about the previous-previous owner yet.) Neither unit was really updated, so we don't have too much remuddling to deal with--just lots of enamel paint on wood, ancient galvanized steel plumbing, etc. It will be time consuming, but so far everything looks like it will be pretty straightforward, knock on wood.