In today’s post, I want to talk about removing carpet from stairs and figuring out how to fix base molding issues that occur where the stair treads and risers meet with the landing. I also have a second follow-up post about refinishing stairs that were carpeted where I address refinishing or painting/staining the hardwood stairs.
Removing the old carpet from the stairs is definitely the easy part of this project besides requiring some elbow grease. Fixing the molding can be a tad bit more difficult to figure out. I was scratching my head a few times for sure.
In the end, it’s all worth it because it’s a million times better than before and hardwood is so much easier to keep clean than the carpet.
How to remove carpet from stairs
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Last spring when I installed the bamboo plank floors upstairs, the stairs started to stick out like a dirty thumb. I had re-carpeted them once already and the older the kids got the dirtier they managed to make the stairs look no matter how many times I cleaned them. They never listened to my rules about not taking food into their rooms and spilling so much stuff on the way. The occasional cat vomit on the stairs didn’t help either.
So one day I just had enough and just ripped the carpet, padding, and staples off.
Supply list for removing carpet from stairs
- pry bar
- flat head screwdriver or staple remover
First step: Rip off all the carpet to expose the carpet padding. If I couldn’t grab and hold on to the carpet corners, I used the pliers to hold on to the carpet fibers and pulled.
Second step: After that remove all the carpet padding which is attached with more staples. Use the flathead screwdriver or stole remover for that.
Third step: The carpet tack strips get removed with the pry bar or flathead screwdriver by placing either one of them under the tack strip and pushing down on the tool’s handle which pries the entire strip up. move along the length of the tack strip until the entire thing is lifted and removed.
There were so many staples. It was ridiculous and took quite some time to remove but my husband was there to help with that.
And voila your wooden stair treads are exposed and you are ready to move on to fixing the molding and patching and sanding the stair treads.
The stair treads and risers were covered in paint globs, glue, staples, nails, and so many holes.
My dear hubby did help a lot with the sanding which was such a mess but we didn’t have to use any chemicals this way. He used a belt sander, sanding pad, and a little electrical corner sander.
I filled in all the holes with the wood filler, let it dry and he sanded some more.
I’m not happy with how many knots are in the pine which really does make it look like cheap wood. I don’t even think we can make them work. They are water-stained as well. But even just in the raw sanded way, the stairs look better than with the dirty carpet.
Fixing Stair Case Molding after removing carpet from stairs
This part is a little hard to explain and it is probably better shown with photos.
The issues were the top of my stairs where we had a different depth in stair treads and were left with a gap at the top after removing the top tread where the bamboo wood flooring was going to go. Gosh, what a long sentence. let me show you:
The new bamboo tread was shorter than the old one and left a big gap. See below:
I had to also find a way to line up the molding the right way. Please see the below photo:
Let me know if you have a different way to fix a gap like this.
How to fix stair tread gaps:
After doing some research I decided to go with Abatron Wood Epoxy that you can use to fill and reshape rotted wood on door and window frames. You have to mix the two components (A and B) together. I used my hands but don’t forget gloves. You end up with a nice doe that you just spread into the holes and gaps with your hands and a spatular. After letting it dry the recommended time, it is sandable, paintable, or stainable just like wood.
See how I mixed the two parts into a dough with my hands below:
It worked out really great and was the perfect solution which I will show you in a bit.
Patching stair tread staple holes
I did patch a lot of the holes with Wunderfil wood filler (HERE). It’s become my favorite. You can thin it with water which makes it so easy to spread and fill tiny staple holes. It also doesn’t shrink like other wood fillers.
Fix the staircase molding
- paintable caulk (HERE)
- fishing nails
- different variety of moldings like quarter round and base molding
- electrical or regular miter saw
- coping saw (HERE)
- angle cutting tool (HERE)
- putty knife
- face mask/dust mask
- different grit sandpaper
- electric sander
- oil bases primer (waterbased primer doesn’t cover the kots in the imperfect cheap wood)
- paint brushes
- safety goggles
- wood filler
Here you can see my photos of how I made the molding line up and how it worked out for me. Determining the right size for the angles is a little hard sometimes but my little handy angle cutting tool certainly helped with that. I should write a post about how to use that for sure.
Tip don’t forget to pre-drill the holes for your finishing nails before attaching the molding to the walls. It’s so important.
I spent many many hours with my iPad and Netflix working on these steps. That’s totally what I like doing. Am I the only one?
Make sure to caulk everything nicely at the end before you start priming.
Look at this result so far! Doesn’t it look a million times better with only the primer?
I do have to end up using oil-based primer (because the water-based primer isn’t covering good enough) and also oil-based paint or stain. That job requires open windows though and I have to wait for warmer weather.
Or I could just use an overlay product like this one HERE on the stairs. The first product is made for rounded stair treads which mine are. It’s expensive though. It would be lovely not having to paint.
Here is what I ended up with so far:
The moral of this post is that you shouldn’t be afraid to rip off that filthy carpet because it will eventually look so much better. And I absolutely love just being able to take a dustpan and brush to clean the stairs. I’m also more relaxed because I don’t have to yell at the family members for carrying around drinks and food. I could care less now.
UPDATE: Since this stair makeover I have written a blog post about how to install a carpet runner on stairs and I love this updated look so much.
Thanks for reading and don’t worry about giving your carpeted stairs a makeover because it will be worth it for sure.