Recycling or upcycling furniture? Here are some tips for removing stripped screws, headless nails, and busted fasteners

David Agrell
by David Agrell
The Hometalk community is full of creative folks turning ugly, worn out furniture into stylish, attractive pieces. Others are pulling old lumber from dumpsters and reusing it in woodworking projects and remodels -- all of which we heartily endorse! Still, these projects often present some of the most annoying moments in DIY: You're taking something apart and the head of the nail snaps off or the screw strips. It's enough to send that stuff back to the trash heap. Before you do, though, check out some our tricks for removing old hardware. You can read more here:
Chop off nails and screws with CoBolt or high-leverage linesman pliers rated for bolt/screw cutting. Cut through nail- and bolt-embedded lumber with a bimetal blade in a recip saw, or a nail-cutting demolition blade in a circular saw.
Extract: Use penetrant to soften rust. Drill a broken fastener with a left-hand drill bit. Fastener should ride up bit; if not, use a screw extractor. To extract, tap an extractor into the hole and twist counterclockwise.
Pry: Pound cat's paw under a nailhead; pry and lift. Grip staples and small nailheads with CoBolt or Channellock 449 high-leverage cutting pliers; pry up and remove. For extra leverage, rock the tool back on a center punch.
Frequently asked questions
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  1 question
  • Teri Sweeney Teri Sweeney on Oct 25, 2019

    I want to remove my kitchen cabinet doors, but the screws are stripped. How do I get them off without damaging the cabinets themselves?

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  • Diana Dray Diana Dray on Jan 26, 2013
    When I disassemble pallets I use a sawzall then take a punch with a hammer and pound out the nails.

  • Kelly S Kelly S on Jan 27, 2013
    For nails I pound them out from the back just enough to get the claw of the hammer under the head and pull it out the front. For molding or trim I pull them through from the back because it causes less damage and leaves a smaller hole. For staples I use my diagnal cutters and pull them out. I don't even mess with broken screws because they are a pain.