How to Remove Buried Nails from Wood- With Safety Tips

Knowing how to remove buried nails from wood is crucial for woodworking projects like deck repairs and more…

Nails are an essential aspect of woodworking as they hold structures together.

But sometimes, you make mistakes or would generally want to remove bent and galvanized, sunken, and headless nails from lumber.

So, here’s a step by step guide on how to remove buried nails from wood.

There are multiple methods to use when removing nails from wooden surfaces.

You can use a nail jack, hammer claw, pry bar, nail kicker, pliers, putty knife, and reciprocating saws.

However, it is advisable to ensure the preferred accessory has a firm grip on the nail before straight pulling it.

The idea of this write-up is to help you remove nails without damaging the lumber’s surface.

Thus, it would be best to read it till the end to get maximum benefit. Even better, remember to leave a comment or ask a question at the end.

What Are the Safety Precautions When Removing Buried Nails from Wood?

Image of NoCry, Tinted Over, the Best Safety Glasses For Woodworking Nails are sharp accessories and can cause severe bodily injuries if you mishandle them.

You can even call removing buried nails a somewhat dangerous job. But it is possible to have a successful project.

For instance, having protective gear will keep you from bodily injury during a nail-pulling venture.

Therefore, it is advisable to always have heavy-duty gloves, goggle/glasses, and protective boots during the project.

Heavy-duty gloves protect your hands from accidental pricks and scratches, whereas goggles will cover your eyes from flying nails and wood chips.

Then, protective boots will keep your feet safe from injury caused by falling pins on the floor.

Lastly, it is prudent to keep pets and children from your workstations to avoid unforeseen injuries.

You may think the situation is in control, but pets and kids cannot stay still. So, anything can happen the moment you look away.

Methods of How to Remove Buried Nails from Wood

Fortunately, you do not need to tolerate hanging, bent, or ugly-looking nails.

It is pretty easy to remove them when you consider how deep the accessory is into the wood, the type of nails in question, and the equipment available to you.

The most common tools for this project include a claw hammer, reciprocating saw, nail jack, cat’s paw, diagonal cutter, nail kicker, needle-nosed pliers, safety glasses, protective boots, and heavy-duty gloves.

Please note that you are better off owning more than one handy accessory. This way, you can handle whatever nail-removal project that comes your way.

In addition, you’ll find methods that require more than one tool to deliver a satisfactory result.

That said, let’s get into the real deal now. Below are popular nail removal techniques.

Removing Nails Using Claw Hammer

This method is the most accessible among households as there are hardly any relatives or neighbors without hammers.

In addition, it is among the easiest nail-removal strategies, and no wonder it is the most common. 

Also, using a claw hammer is your go-to option for shallowly hammered nails.

Better still, the method works magic if the pin is big enough to hold and the nail head is visible on the wood.

You start the procedure by preparing the claw hammer ready at hand. Then, locate the nail to be extracted.

Also, it would be better to position the claw adjacent to the nail head and pry it to elevate the pin.

Or better still, pull the nail sideways if it’s big enough to hold with your fingers.

Here is a summary of the procedure to help you work better.

  • Mark the specific nails that you want to remove.
  • Drive the claw hammer into the nail’s head to position it correctly and begin with some small pokes. Also, apply some pressure in the opposite direction until you see the nail’s head on the lumber.
  • Ensure that the woodblock is below the harmer’s handle as you determine where you’re making the transfer. In addition, check whether the block works by pulling on it. This way, you can decide if it’s connected to the nail using the rope.
  • Proceed to grasp the screw and tap it sideways with a rubber mallet for easy loosening. And please use the designed pry to remove the nail.
  • Push the nail straight down and slightly sideways to keep a firm grip on its head.
  • Use uniform pulling pressure to avoid damaging the lumber. In addition, put your trust in the hammer’s lever and motion. This way, you won’t stress the nail.
  • Continue with the above steps till you get the desired outcome.

That said, although nails can stick firmly in wood, it is easy to remove them with claw hammers.

Even better, the technique helps you correct slaty nails, and you do not have to remove them.

But there is a caveat. A hammer may not be the best device for removing sunken nails.

And it is best to consider it when you’ve exhausted all other nail removal methods.

So, please go for other nail removal techniques for deeply rooted nails, or else you’ll cause permanent wood damage.

Removing Buried Nails Using Nail Kicker

Nail kickers are pretty fast and consistent in removing buried nails. Even better, the accessories only require little effort to pound the pins as they do the pushing. So, you have insignificant to zero damage on the surface.

Besides, even though using nail kickers can be a little dangerous, you’ll deliver an excellent outcome after getting the hang of using them. In addition, the time spent in setting up the tool ultimately helps save time and effort during the actual removal process.

Always set the kicker and prepare the lumber before positioning it on the nail’s head. Also, be ready to repeat the procedure as some screws will remain depending on their depth level in the wood.

Check the steps below for more clarity.

  • Set up the wood for the project.
  • Position the nail kicker on the nail’s head and push it slightly into the lumber’s surface.
  • Consider placing the nail kicker above the nail’s head for bent screws, even though it will automatically push out stubborn nails.
  • Repeat the process if the nail does not come off after the first attempt.

Remember that the above steps will help you pull out deeply buried nails while protecting delicate surfaces.

However, do not limit yourself to this option if it’s too complicated for you. There are other strategies to use.

Removing Buried Nails Using Nail Jack

A nail jack is another handy accessory that helps remove nails from wood.

It is pretty tiny, strong, and easy to use, making it an everyday go-to strategy.

And even better, you can bend it over to remove nails more quickly.

A little pounding with a nail jack will keep it holding the nail head during the process.

Also, ensure that you squeeze onto the tool’s pliers and bend it back to pull the nail firmly. This way, the screws will fall off instantly and effortlessly.

The tips for using a nail jack include;

  • Position the tool on the lumber, close to the nail head.
  • Hammer under the nail head slightly for a good grip.
  • Tighten your grip and bend the nail jack with some pulling power.
  • Repeat the procedure until you remove the nails.

Removing Buried Nail Using a Pry Bar

Pry bars are the actual bosses in dismantling or removing buried nails.

Their fissure makes it easy to handle stuck pins. In addition, the tools are more heavy-duty than claw hammers and apply a more potent force to the process.

Please note that using a pry bar needs more strength for some wood types than wedges and hammers, especially hardwoods.

Moreover, the tool removes bent and galvanized screws more efficiently than its counterparts. And thus, it will yield a better outcome in prying nails.

It is okay to begin the removal process with a hammer for support when needed. Then, position the pry bar in place.

In addition, please keep the hammer within reach as it helps knock out some pounds and buries the bar on the nail head.

Here is a comprehensive procedure for the strategy.

  • Position the wood and push the pry bar into the nail’s hole with a hammer. Also, thanks to the tool’s long and pointy ends, you can conveniently pry the fastener.
  • Grip the nail well and direct your strikes at a different target. Otherwise, careless aiming may lead to injuries.
  • Pull the loose nail and remove it from the wood.

Although you’ll need two tools, only the pry bar will do the job. In addition, it is best to avoid this tool when working with delicate lumber as it can pry and scratch it. 

Removing Bent and Galvanized Nails Using Cat’s Paw

Cat’s paws resemble pry bars, but they are different tools altogether.

The primary difference is that cat’s paw devices are more petite and gentle on the wood’s surface. So, they are perfect when you do not want to damage the lumber.

The nail removal process is as follows;

Identify the wood area with bent nails. 

Angle the cat’s paw at a 45-degree angle above the nail’s head.

Hit the tool’s angled point using a hammer handle until you get a firm grip under the nail’s head.

Secure the grip and pull it back to remove the stuck pins.

Consider hammering the paw backward until the screw comes off. Also, avoid using your arm to pull it back for safety purposes.

Remove Headless Nails Using a Pair of Pliers

Two tools are needed to pull off this technique; Diagonal cutting pliers and needle-nose pliers. Then, follow the steps below to get the best possible outcome.

  • PliersIdentify the headless nail on the surface.
  • Grab the nail’s upper tip with the needle-nose pliers. Fortunately, the pliers can also remove smaller nails from the lumber. You only need to have a firm grasp of the tool.
  • Pull the nail upwards. Then, release and pick it till you can see it on the surface.
  • Use the diagonal cutting pliers and hold the protruding nail. But avoid grabbing the screw too tightly. Otherwise, you may accidentally cut it in the middle.
  • Repeat the above stages for all the other nails on the wood.

Removing Nails Using Reciprocating Saw

You can cut the screws with a reciprocating saw if you do not mind rough work and demolition.

Moreover, it is much better than pulling and helps remove nails from the furthest point on the surface.

Therefore, the result is faster and more efficient.

Even better, the tool is sharp enough to cut through the nail, and its blades get right up to the tip.

This aspect allows you to utilize an all-purpose blade with some added pressure when you do not have the reciprocating saw.

Below is a summary of the technique.

  • Position the reciprocating saw and ensure that it is sawing against the surface.
  • Then, use ten-teeth-inch saw blades to hack through the nails.
  • Rotate the saw before using it on the screw.
  • Finally, always keep the edge pointed at the fastener.

Nonetheless, remember that although the above tool is perfect for removing buried screws, it damages the wood.

Also, avoid using it unless you have some experience to prevent permanent wood damage.

Using a Wooden Block

This technique works when you have a hammer. Reset the tool on another wooden block before pulling the nails from the lumber.

However, elevate the fastener and pivot the block close to it’s head to facilitate a straight pull.

In addition, the above exercise gives the hammer sufficient leverage and helps you protect delicate surfaces.

Even better, it works well when you are a woodworking beginner.

That said, sometimes you’ll handle headless nails from lumber surfaces.

Also, it would be best to do away with non-functional projections on wood planks. Therefore, let me give you pro-tips on how to go about it.

The most practical strategy requires a pair of diagonal cutting pliers and needle-nose pliers.

In addition, since you cannot use the headless nail to hang up pictures, there will be more control over the nail clipper’s noise.

Here are additional instructions:

  • Find Some Pliers

Prying and headless nail splitting devices are very useful in this step as there is no target to grab.

Also, a lesser version will still give you a tight holding power. Thus, it would be better to use a pair of pliers.

Use the diagonal cutting pliers to close on the negative grip side and the needle-nose accessories for the other side.

  • Grab Hold of the Nail

Keep the needle-nose pliers as close to the nail and scoop out the surrounding material using the nose.

Then, place the pliers over the screw and pull it down. On top of that, remember to dig as much as you need to get a suitable hole before creating the gap. 

  • Raise the Nail

You can now extract the headless nail from the surface. The pliers will deliver a better result and pull the nails up straight than a hammer.

Also, move the fastener sideways to assist in releasing it.

  • Use the Diagonal-Cutting Pliers

Hold on to the nail with the diagonal-cutting pliers. Then, grip the nail firmly to help you handle the pin.

However, please be careful when using the tool to avoid injuring or cutting your hand.

Repeat the same motions with the needle-nosed tools. Wiggle the screw to the left and use a little force to bring it out.

But it would be best to moderate the pressure when you need to break the nail.

Frequently Asked Questions


  • Is Removing Nails From Wood Necessary?

Yes, removing nails from wood is necessary as it helps save and recycle lumber.

But it is advisable to assess the circumstance to avoid wasting time, energy, and resources. So, please check whether the wood is reusable after nail removal.

For instance, small or too weak wood pieces will break down as soon as you hit the hammer, while some cases have small nails and do not affect the wood’s state.

Thus, they allow you to continue using the wood board. 

Finally, some strategies cause significant wood damage while others preserve the surface.

Thus, it is prudent to determine the most suitable method for nail removal, depending on your wood and nail type and how deep the screw sinks in the lumber.

  • Why Do Nails Sink Into Wood?

Nails have to sink into the lumber to guarantee stable and firm structures.

Moreover, most wood floors installations need you to nail directly to the engineered wood subfloor or plywood. 

Additionally, nails quickly get into surfaces, mainly when they feature a small head.

Even better, the tools are helpful for visible construction framing and woodworking applications.

Nails are suitable for multiple purposes, including improving the surface’s appearance.

Also, most people prefer to use nail fasteners to maintain wooden objects. This way, they can remove them when necessary. 

On top of that, the accessories are a standard tool in wood carpentry and refurnishing.

In addition, it’s big or too small nails that are not easy to remove if you cannot get a proper grip.

But it is possible to get a satisfactory result with the correct tools and procedures.

Finally, nail fasteners are essential when fastening or joining two or more thin lumber sections.

You can also fix them quickly without applying too much pressure and within a concise duration. No wonder they are popular in wood projects!

  • How Do I Fill Nail Holes In Wood?

Although nail holes are small, they cause considerable damage to the wood. Thus, you need epoxy putty to repair these minor cracks.

Even more, spackle can also give a satisfactory outcome. Just follow the steps below.

  • Use a putty knife to get a small spackle amount. Then, apply it to the nail’s tip and press.
  • Let the joint compound dry for two hours and scrape with a plastic putty spreader or knife.
  • Sand the surface with fine sandpaper.
  • Paint over the retrieved piece to restore it to its original state.
  • How Do I Get My Nails Unstuck?

Ram the hammer’s claw into the nail shank and then rock it sideways.

Ensure that you use the claw edge as your pivot to get a better result. This way, you’ll deliver maximum pulling power with less pressure on the handle.

Also, remember that the nail may not pull out in one shot.

Therefore, please allocate enough time for the process as you may have to repeat the process until the pin pops out the wood’s surface.

  • How Do I Get Nails Out Without Damaging the Wood?

You can remove nails from wood without damaging the surface by positioning a scrap wooden block near the fastener.

It acts as a pivot for either a cat’s paw, nail jack, claw hammer, or nail kicker.

In addition, the pressure lifting the nail from the lumber rests on the wooden block rather than the surface.

Therefore, you remove the pin gently and effortlessly, maintaining the wood’s structure.

  • How Do I Remove Sunken Nails From Wood?

Using a cat’s paw pry bar, you can easily remove sunken nails from lumber.

The tool’s pointed claws dig into the surface and settle around the nail’s head.

This way, it is easy to get a firm grip and pull the cat’s paw or hammer backward to remove the pin.


Nails find their way into wood surfaces during construction and renovation projects as they fasten and hold wood pieces.

However, sometimes you need to remove them rather than pull the whole structure.

Therefore, check out the discussion below to avoid damaging your wood projects.

How to Remove Buried Nails from Wood

You can remove buried nails from lumber using various tools such as nail kickers, cat’s paws, pliers, nail jacks, claw hammers, and reciprocating saws.

But first, ensure that the device provides a firm grip on the nail before pulling.

Remember, there is no best way to remove nails from wood. It would be best to assess the situation and select the most suitable technique.

Image of a woodworker wearing hearing protectors for woodworking

Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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