Introduction: Carpet Staple Remover
I recently pulled up a very old and worn carpet in my house, which left an enormous number of staples embedded in the floor where the carpet was fastened down. (Some came out with the carpet, but not all.)
I wanted to remove as many of these staples as possible, to get the floor professionally sanded and finished. The staples must be removed so they don't damage the sanding machine.
I looked online for tools to do this, but mostly found things that would be OK for wide upholstery staples, but near to useless for the very narrow carpet staples.
There were suggestions of using pliers and the like, but the amount of grip strength needed is very high, and sometimes the staples are so closely spaced that pliers won't fit between them and pliers aren't good for inside corners. I have a pair of fencing pliers which can do the job if there is space, but this is not the norm.
After considering the problem, I designed a lifting tool based on an old screwdriver.
A screwdriver is long and gives a mechanical advantage. It is made of steel that resists bending – tough but not brittle.
I have included a short video showing the tool in use.
Bill of Materials:
Flat-Bladed Screwdriver about 300mm long with a blade width of about 10 mm.
Oil for quenching
Butane or MAP gas burner to heat the screwdriver
Grinder (or file)
Marking pen or soap stone to mark the shape out on the screwdriver blade
Step 1: Grinding the Shape:
Clean up the screwdriver so you can work on it. ( I wire brushed the rust off mine)
Place a staple over the blade to see where it naturally rests. (Photo 1 & 2)
Draw an arc from a point 8 – 10 mm in front of where the staple rests, curving down under the staple, and taking out the “lumpy” bit on the other side of the screwdriver blade. (Photo 3)
Grind the shape making sure that you don't allow the metal to overheat. - Quench frequently in water.
As you are grinding, try to keep the grinder as perpendicular to the wider part of the blade as possible, and create a flat edge to help spread the load.
Slightly round off the sharp corners of the side that you have just ground. This creates a softer edge and stops it digging in as much.
Round over the top of the blade by grinding all along where the staple will sit. It is important not to have sharp edges on this side of the tool, because when you put pressure on the staple, the sharp edges will dig in and snap the staple. (erk!) Even so, they may still snap, but hopefully not quite as often....(Photo 4)
Once you are happy with the shape of the curve & where the staple sits on the tool, grind or file the pointy end to create a 2mm wide chisel point, then flatten the first 3 – 5mm of top edge to give the tool the maximum chance of getting in under the staple. Leave the rest of the top edge curved. (Photo 5)
Step 2: Bending a Curve
The curve that you have just ground is a good start, but when the staple rests on the top of the tool, the legs of the staple must clear the surface it came from.
The staples are about 20mm long, so the bend needs to create this clearance from where the staple rests on the tool
Set your vice jaws apart just enough so that it is easy to put the end of the ground tool into the jaws and so you can move it slightly in and out of the jaws to make a few small bends in different (close) places. (Photo 3)
Test the fit of the tool in the vice by pushing it firmly against the vice jaws, and take out any backlash.
Have a small open container of oil nearby to quench the end of the tool. I used waste vegetable oil, but sump oil, or almost any kind of oil will do. (Photo 1)
Light your gas burner and heat up the shaft of the tool just behind where the ground bit finishes. (Photo 2)
When the metal is a dull orange, take it out of the flame, put it in the vice jaws (don't tighten) and bend it to get a smooth curve. (Photo 3)
You may have to do this a few times along the shaft to get enough of a curve.
When you are happy with the shape of the curve, quench the hot metal in the oil.
Step 3: Using the Tool:
Once you pull up the carpet, there may be a lot of carpet tufts still under the staples, which make it harder to get the tool in. Persevere, and if necessary, use pliers and/or a razor knife to pare most of the carpet away so that you can see where the staples are and how they are oriented.
Put a thin piece of plywood or Masonite under the heel of the tool, and slide the tool under the staple. The wood protects the floor from being marked by the tool. Using an up & down wiggling action, keep pushing the tool under the staple until it gets to the point where the tool width stops it moving through the staple any more, and using a downward rocking motion, lever the staple out.
Using smooth movements rather than jerking the tool down means less broken staples and more successful removals.
Some staples will still break. If they are rusty, it's a near certainty. I have had some success using a small cold chisel to bump the staple back and forth to loosen it up before removing it. It's time consuming, but easier than removing a broken staple.
If the staple breaks, as long as there is still about 3mm sticking out above the wood, you can sometimes lever it out with a pair of pliers or a blunt pair of pincers after using the cold chisel technique. A piece of wood under the tool prevents marking the floor.
If the staple has snapped close to the wood the only alternative is to hammer it in.
If this sounds tedious - it is, and it's uncomfortable sitting on the floor for hours at a time.
On the bright side, the tool is easy to use and has plenty of leverage.
If your flooring contractor will pull up the carpet and remove the staples for you, accept – its worth the expense.