How to Restore Hardwood Floors After Carpet

By Cezar

Restoring hardwood floors under carpet requires a little more work than restoring hardwood floors that are not carpeted. Doing so is far from impossible, however. With the right know-how and the right tools, you can restore hardwood floors after removing carpet. Read on to find out how to restore hardwood floors after removing carpet.

Or, if you read this post and decide that it sounds like more work than you’re interested in doing, we’ll suggest some professional alternatives to take the stress out of your lives.

Check Hardwood

The first thing you’ll need to do is to check the hardwood floors under your carpet. You’ll need to see what condition they are in, but you’ll also need to see if they are even true hardwood. If they are engineered hardwood floors, then you’ll have to exercise an extra layer of caution before restoring them. Engineered hardwood floors are made out of high-quality plywood with a veneer of “real” wood over top of them. It’s easy to sand too deep into that relatively thin veneer.

After you determine whether you have true hardwood floors or engineered hardwood floors under your carpet, you’ll want to examine the extent of the wear and damage. Badly damaged hardwood floors may need to have planks replaced.

Tools You’ll Need

Restoring hardwood floors under carpet requires some tools, some of which you may have and some you may not.

  • Hammer: This is for pulling up nails from hardwood floors after removing carpet.
  • Pliers: Pliers are needed to pull up carpet staples. The staples are used to hold carpet pad down and will remain in hardwood floors after removing carpet.
  • Prybar: Carpet tack strips run along the edges of the floor, near the walls, and are hammered solidly into hardwood. You’ll need a prybar to rip the strips from your hardwood floors after removing carpet.
  • Utility knife: Use a utility knife to cut the carpet and carpet padding apart into strips that you can roll up and easily remove.
  • Knee pads: This will protect your knees while you’re down on the floor working.
  • Vacuum, broom, and sponge mop: These are for cleaning all the debris away from your hardwood floor after you’ve pulled the carpet away.
  • Safety gear: Safety goggles or glasses and gloves can prevent you from hurting yourself.
  • Hardwood floor cleaner: After you remove the carpet, you’ll want to thoroughly clean the hardwood floor. There are many cleaners on the market. Choose the one that best suits your needs.

Remove Carpet

The next step to restoring hardwood floors under carpet is removing the carpet itself. To do this, you’ll need to either pull staples and nails or peel off carpet glue. Once done, sweep or vacuum all dust and debris left over from the carpet.

Of course, if your carpet was just lying on top of your hardwood floors, you won’t need to take any of those measures. Simply roll the carpet up and tuck it out of the way.

Sanding Hardwood Floors

To restore your hardwood floors after removing carpet, you’ll now need to sand. This is the most labor-intensive part of restoring hardwood floors after carpet removal.

You can choose either a floor sander or a drum sander to sand your hardwood floors. Drum sanders have more power, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. If you’re unaccustomed to handling a drum sander, the tool can create more harm than good for your hardwood floors. If you decide to go that route, anyway, then consider practicing on a piece of junk wood before using the sander on your hardwood floors. Now:

  • Use safety goggles, ear protection, and a dust mask.
  • Work the drum or belt sander with the wood grain along the length of the boards, then run the machine back and forth in three-to-four-foot sections. Use overlapping strokes on scratched sections.
  • Start with coarser sandpaper and then move to finer sandpaper. Before each sweep over the floor, clean up all the dust and debris.
  • Replace the belt after every approximately 250 square feet sanding.

Sanding gets the minor scratches, dents, and stains out of your hardwood floors. Use wood putty or wood filler to fill deeper scratches and cracks.

Stain Floor

After your floor has been properly sanded and cleaned, it’s ready for the wood stain. This is the pinnacle step in restoring hardwood floors under carpet. Wood stain is essentially a pain that binds with wood fibers. It gives the wood its desirable appearance. To stain your floor:

  • Choose the right color and qualities of wood stain and choose among available products. Read the instructions carefully as some stains have certain restriction specific to them.
  • Decide upon manageable portions of the floor to work on and approach the word methodically. Apply the stain the direction of the wood grain with a foam applicator.
  • Use paper towels or cotton cloth to wipe away excess stain.

Sandless Refinishing

Sandless refinishing is another option for restoring hardwood floors under carpet. This method involves applying a liquid solution to floors with abrasive pads, scuffing the floor lightly so that the chemicals can etch away debris.

This method is not a full restoration and is only suited for restoring hardwood floors under carpet if those floors are lightly damaged. This is also a safe way to remove floor wax and old polish.


Restoring hardwood floors under carpet can be a little trickier than restoring hardwood floors without carpet, but it’s far from impossible. With the right preparation, you can get the job done and maybe even enjoy the process!

Of course, let’s be realistic, most of us are not going to enjoy the process, the mess, or the physical labor. If that’s your case, then check out one of these professional services to have experts handle the hard stuff for you.

There is no “one size fits all” solution here! Each wood floor and its condition are unique. We will provide you with the best and most cost-efficient solution for your floors.

Get a Free In-Home Consultation & Estimation from one of our flooring experts

As a general rule, professionally refinished hardwood floors last 5 times longer vs DIY.