First Time DIY: Carpet vs Hardwood

2013-03-19 by . 7 comments

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When my wife & I decided to buy our first house I had never thought about whether I wanted hardwood floors or not. My wife on the other hand, LOVED them. After we had picked out our house, we were doing a walk through to determine what things needed to be fixed by the sellers  (a sampling): maxwell floors 2

  • Repair the moldy bathroom
  • Find and repair the gas leak
  • Clean the carpet

We walked into the now guest bedroom and I saw that there was no molding in the closet and that the carpet was loose. Instead of just marking it down as something for them to fix, I was curious and pulled back the carpet. To our surprise, we found original hardwood floors! My wife flipped.

After pulling back the closet’s carpet completely, we saw that it looked almost as if the floors had been refinished and then someone laid carpet on top of it. What a shame.

Once we found the flooring, the repair list looked more like this:

  • Repair the moldy bathroom
  • Find and repair the gas leak
  • Clean the carpet Whatever you do, do NOT clean the carpet!

But, what the sellers heard was:

  • Don’t worry yourself about the mold in the bathroom, just knock a couple hundred off the price
  • Gas leak? *sniff* What gas le–…. *passes out*
  • Ignore our requests and please clean the carpet and leave it wet Pay ZERO attention to this!

I about lost it. Not only did the two things we wanted fixed not get fixed, but now, instead of rolling up and disposing of dry carpet, I had to work with soggy, smelly carpet. Luckily, my friend, Josh, came over and helped me out.

First we took off the quarter round, then we ripped up the carpet and pad. After we finally got it all out of the house, we went around the room and pulled up the tack strip from the edges of the room Because of delays to our closing date, we now only had a few days to completely refinish the floor before we had to move out of our old apartment, my in-laws came down to help us sand the floors.

I rented an Expandable Drum Floor Sander and a 7″ Floor Edger Sander. I worked the floor sander while my father-in-law worked the edger.

maxwell floors 5

A few things I learned from this experience:

  • Clean the floors first & remove as much of the old carpet/cushion as possible. We were lucky enough to only tack strips along the edges of the carpet. But, some of the cushion tore off and stuck to the floor where the previous tenants spilled something. Any sticky residue will gum up the sanding belts and they’ll be useless.

(Quick Tip: If you find that your belts are beginning to get gummed up, sometimes you can take a soft wire brush to them, scrapping off a bit of the residue and continue sanding.)

  • Crawl on your hands and knees to find nail heads, screws, staples, etc. Again, we were lucky enough to have been told this before hand or else I would probably have totally fouled up my first sanding belt. If you don’t find and pull out (staples) or hammer back down (nails) these pieces of metal, you run the risk of ruining your sanding belt or worse: break the drum itself.
  • Go with the grain. It will look terrible if you do not.
  • KEEP IT MOVING! I don’t have a picture, but if you don’t keep that drum sander moving, you WILL end up with a dip in your floor from where the sander just kept digging in.  Same goes for the edger: if you let it set in one place for too long, you’ll begin to smell burning wood and you’ll come away with a black spot on your floor. I learned both of these lessons the hard way.
  • If you start to see a lot of dust, clean out your bag
Maxwell floors 6

Sorry the picture’s a bit fuzzy, but if you look hard you can see the little bits of carpet pad stuck to the floor. That’s where they stapled the pad down.

Just like with any sanding project, you have to start with rough grit and work your way up to a finer grit.  It took us the better part of a day to get the living room and two bedrooms finished. Afterwards you’re left with a very nice ready to stain floor.

Maxwell Floors 7

Be sure to vacuum well before you apply any stains or sealers.

We spent the next two days in a combination of staining/sealing and moving. We had one extra room in the house were we stored everything we owned. We stacked boxes to the ceiling in that little room. We even slept there, my wife on the couch and me on the floor.

In the end it was all worth it though! I don’t always like the hardwood, but BOY! does it feel good to show it off and say that we did it!

As of this writing, there are now scratches on the floor – but that’s pretty typical wear & tear. It’s about time to do some touch up work. Maybe I’ll write something about that, too!


Finished a project lately that has made you proud? Let us know in the comments!

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  • warren says:

    I’ve known several places that put gymcote [sp] down over their hardwood after sealing/staining.

    The wood was definitely a great find under the carpet!

  • Calgary carpet says:

    That floor is looking great! Well done!

  • Scattermats says:

    A rug is a fabric rug made up of an upper part of “pile” attached to a support. So in that case your post is really helpful to me and also for everyone.

  • Jay Carson @ Certified Priority Restoration says:

    These are some great experiences. Sanding & Refinishing seems to be very difficult for DIY’ers. It doesn’t usually save that much money and there is a huge difference in the quality of work as well as how long it lasts.

  • Kenny Gollard says:

    I always love people who take the carpet out and use the hardwood that is below it. I know one person who bought a house and it was fully carpeted. When they took the carpet out, they found beautiful hardwood floor from 1950s. They re-sanded it and now it looks brand new!

    I also had a floor under our carpet and when we decided we want the wooden floor back, we took the carpet out and found out our planks under it were in very bad condition. Thank God, we live in NYC and there are many hardwood flooring showrooms in our neighborhood. We looked around and found the perfect plank we wanted. It has a rustic look and we love it. This is what we got http://pidfloors.com/?product=dongguan-2. Beautiful oak planks.

    We also have a small apartment, so me and my wife had to sleep on the couch in the kitchen!

  • Dylan Poole says:

    Thanks for your solution .It’s really help us

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