Removing carpet and preparing the subfloor for tile

how to prepare the subfloor for tile


​Wall-to-wall carpeting can be a comfortable, cozy decision for bedrooms, living rooms, family rooms, and more. However, at the end of a carpet’s life, it might be time to replace that old carpeting with a nice fresh tile or even hardwood flooring overlay instead.

It may be hard to believe, but removing an old carpet and prepping the subfloor is a completely doable task even if you’re not a professional – it just takes a bit of elbow grease. Many homeowners opt to take on some of this responsibility in the interest of saving money.

​Here’s how to properly remove your old carpet and prepare the subfloor to have tile installed to avoid expensive or time-consuming problems down the line!


You’ll be happy to know you won’t need many heavy-duty power tools to accomplish this at-home task.

You’ll want good gloves to protect your hands from nails and tacks, as well as sturdy work boots in case you step on anything sharp or dangerous. You will potentially need screws and a drill, viscrips, pry bar and cleaning supplies.

We recommend researching what kind of subfloor you have to learn more about how to take care of them throughout their lifetime and what types of special tools, if any, are required. Working with friends is highly encouraged as it will get the job done quicker and make the whole experience a bit more enjoyable!


Removing the Carpet
PictureStart at one corner of the room and dig your fingers in (or grip with viscrips), testing to see if any part of the carpet can be tugged up with your bare hands.

A carpet nearing the end of its life might be able to come loose easily, but if not, cut a small square in the corner with a good utility knife.

Pull up on the carpet, and the tack strips should begin popping off. Tack strips are located at the edge of the carpet all around the room, and they might go flying if you’re not careful, so be sure not to step on any! The carpet will be heavy, so be prepared.

​To make it easier, fold the carpet over in the center of the room. Once you’ve peeled up the tack strips and removed the whole carpet and it’s folded in the center, take that trusty utility knife and cut along the folds. This will make it much easier to work with. Each of the cut folds can then be rolled up and duct taped around so it stays compact.


Prepping the Subfloor

​Most subfloors are simple plywood or cement, and different materials might require different maintenance. No matter what the material is, you want to start by cleaning it. Start by sweeping or vacuuming to get rid of dust and debris.

Cement floor

Mop thoroughly with degreasing and cleaning solution and even scrubbed with a scrubbing brush. Cleaning the surface of the subfloor is crucial if you want good adhesion between the subfloor and the newly installed tiles.

Make sure to inspect the cement subfloor for any cracks that might need patching, and if large patches of the flooring look worn down or uneven, pour some self-leveling compound on top to even it. Spread evenly with a plastering trowel to prevent lumps and bubbles, but you’ll need to work fast as self-leveling compound likes to set quickly! Ensure that the subflooring is completely dried before laying down the tile.

​Plywood or hardboard subflooring

Plywood and hardwood flooring requires a different approach to prep than cement. Definitely sweep and vacuum. If you notice any rough or uneven spots, be sure to sand.

A good idea is to walk across the floor and listen carefully for squeaking sounds, which would connote a loose board, and pay attention for any spongy or bouncy feelings, which would connote a damaged board. Any cracked or damaged areas will probably warrant replacing entire boards. Any loose boards will need to be drilled down securely. Moisture is bad for plywood, so opting to buff and clean is better than trying to scrub or mop. However, if you feel that the floor is uneven, dragging a level across the floor to test for low spots and the filling in with some of the self-leveling compound won’t hurt the plywood boards.


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