Carpet installers use strong mastic that doesn't deteriorate when they glue down carpets, and they often use more than is really needed, both of which spell bad news for you when you want to remove the carpet. Pulling up the carpet and scraping underneath with a paint scraper to beak the glue bond is tedious work, and wetting the carpet to loosen the adhesive may cause it to break into pieces. To do the job more quickly and efficiently, rent a power carpet puller.
The Low-Tech Approach
If your local rental outlet doesn't have a power carpet puller, it probably has a carpet pulling claw, which latches onto the carpet with vise grips and provides an easy-to-grasp handle for leverage. You may also find a carpet peeler useful -- it has a long spike that pokes through the carpet and a long handle attached to a semicircular base. Pushing down on the handle levers the spike -- and the carpet -- into the air.
Pry off the baseboards to expose the edges of the carpet, using a hammer and pry bar. De-nail the baseboards before stacking them; if you plan to reuse them, don't forget to number each one with a felt-tip marker.
Cut the carpet into 2-foot strips, using a carpet knife or utility knife. This greatly reduces the amount of force you have to exert to get the carpet up, and it makes the carpet easier to transport.
Pull one corner of the carpet off the floor. If you can't do this by hand, use a carpet claw or a pair of pliers to grip and pull the carpet. Once you've lifted the strip closest to the wall enough to get underneath it, have a helper cut through the adhesive with a floor scraper while you continue pulling, using either the carpet claw or a carpet peeler.
Pull off all the strips in the same way, and bag them for disposal. Check with your local waste authority for the proper disposal method.
The Turbo Method
If you're removing a large amount of glued-down carpeting, it's worth the extra money to rent a power puller. This machine plugs into a wall outlet and does all the hard work at a much faster pace than you can do by hand. It works best if you cut the carpet into 2-foot strips.
Using a Power Puller
Remove the baseboards and pull up a corner of the carpet, using a claw puller or pliers. You need to loosen about a foot of carpeting to attach to the machine.
Set the puller on the floor at the opposite end of the room; plug it in and pull out the cable far enough to extend to the corner in which you freed the carpet.
Cut a slit in the carpet with a knife, and put the bottom half of the pulley plate underneath it with the hook extending through the slit. Connect the top part of the plate to the hook and screw on the nut to secure the carpet between the plates.
Start the machine, and a winch will pull the plate toward the opposite end of the room, separating the carpet from the floor in the process. When the winch is fully retracted, change the position of the machine. Connect the plate to the opposite end of the carpet, and pull off the rest of the strip.
Pull off all the strips in the same way.
Once the carpet has been removed, you'll still have to remove the adhesive from the subfloor. Some adhesives are water soluble -- drenching the floor with water often makes them easy to scrape off with a floor scraper. Chemical paint strippers also do the job; wear a respirator, gloves, goggles and protective clothing if you choose this option. A third alternative is to scrape off the adhesive with a power scraper that has a reciprocating scraping blade or a floor buffer fitted with a rotary scraping blade.