Removing carpet tack strips is ‘prying’ ordeal

Q: Underneath the carpet in my bedroom is beautiful wood flooring that I want to revive. I have pulled up the carpet to expose the padding and tack strip. I need to remove the tack strip so that the floor can be refinished. How do I remove it without damaging the wood floor planks?

A: You have a lot of work in front of you, the least of which is removing the tack strip. Your carpet pad is secured using adhesive, and the floor will undoubtedly be tired looking, so you will have to refinish the floor once you remove everything from it.

The carpet tack strip is made from thin strips of plywood. The strips have angled pins that point toward the walls so that when the carpet is stretched, the pins hold it in place. The tack strip is nailed to the floor around the perimeter of the room with a small gap between the strip and the wall so that the carpet can be tucked down into the gap. The strip pins are sharp and stiff, so wear thick gloves or expect to get stuck.

The nails that hold the strip to the floor are virtually unbreakable and are spaced about a foot apart. The trick is to remove the strip and the nails without further damaging the floor. After you remove the tack strips, there will be holes in the wood planks from the nails. So you will either have to put wood putty in the holes (not recommended, as you will see the dots along the perimeter of the room) or replace the planks that have holes (for information on this and refinishing, visit my website at

You can use a mini-pry bar or a cat’s claw to remove the tack strip. The claw will dig into the wood strip around the nail that holds it to the floor. You can place the tip of the cat’s claw into the side of the strip and it will split. The goal here is to split the wood strip leaving only the nail sticking up out of the floor.

If using wood shims, hit them under the ends of the strips to try to lift both the strip and the nail out of the floor. This will usually result in the strip lifting up, but leaving the nail embedded in the floor. Once you have only the nail left, you can use the mini-pry bar and, placing a sacrificial piece of wood under it, lift the nail out by pivoting the pry bar against the wood piece.

Of course, if you plan to replace the damaged planks, you can forgo all the niceties and rip out the tack strips.

When removing the tack strip, you will leave remnants of small nails scattered all around. Make sure that you sweep and vacuum up all the tiny splinters and nails before you enter the room barefoot. Trust me, you will miss a few.

Michael D. Klimek is a licensed contractor and president of Pro Handyman Corp. Questions may be sent by e-mail to: Or, mail to: P.O. Box 96761, Las Vegas, NV 89193. His Web address is:


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