Working With Tackless Strips


Dear NH,
I removed one piece of carpet from the last step on the staircase. I wanted to see if the wood underneath was any good. The wood is nice, but I don't want to ruin the floor by improperly removing the tackless strip. My second question is, "Why do they call it a 'tackless strip'?" On one step I must have received four or five pricks from the tacks on the tackless strip.

Dear UP,
It is called tackless strip to give you a false sense of security! Naaa... it's called tackless because in most situations it eliminates the need for using carpet tacks to hold the carpet in place, giving you a "tackless" installation.

Removing tackless strips is a job requiring a certain amount of patience and care if you do not intend on refinishing the floor. The trick is to use a cat's paw prybar, and to remove all the nails holding each tackless strip. Instead of trying to pry out each nail from the top... which is difficult because of the tacks... use a hammer to tap the cat's paw into the thin side of the tackless next to each nail. This protects the floor by keeping the business end of the cat's paw above it, and will pull the nail while splitting the tackless strip in two.

If you must position the cat's paw over the floor, place it on a thin piece of wood, such as a scrap of 1/4" plywood. If you are sure that your floor is made from solid oak, maple, or another hardwood, you may use a piece of flashing or a wide putty knife instead. This is because these hard woods do not dent easily. Use special caution with wood veneers, wood parquet floors, and any man-made material.

I always get "stuck" a number of times when doing this chore. If you wear thin leather work gloves, you will get some degree of protection. Just don't be too aggressive by wantonly grabbing loose strips, or you will be sorry!

Last but not least, look back over your work and please keep your work area clean. Stray tacks can hurt bare feet, and nails left in the floor can also be painful... as well as damaging to throw rugs and furniture. I make it a practice to put loose strips right into a five gallon bucket, and to vacuum up all loose chips and tacks as I go. Use that wide putty knife to check the floor for missed nails as you work. It is amazing how a nail that wasn't there one minute ago suddenly appears from nowhere!

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