Sunday, July 28, 2013

How To Pull A Nail

I know what you're thinking, "Oh come on, this is common sense! I don't need some supposed expert contractor to teach me how to pull a nail out of a piece of wood! I'm missing Rosie O'Donnell's latest puppy picture tweets for this??"

Well, you'd be right. It isn't rocket surgery... or brain science, or ... whichever dyslexic analogy you prefer to use but my point is this:  Most people do it backwards.

Let me explain:
Here is an innocent piece of pine baseboard trim that was removed with the finish nails still attached.

I have to admit, just looking at that picture makes my feet hurt. I'm surprised I was able to capture that image without somehow stepping on it and puncturing through my work boots. One would think I have magnetic soles with my impalement history.
In any case, what most people do when they want to remove these nails is to pull out a hammer and bang the nails back out. Kind of makes sense, they were hammered in so doing the opposite would be the best way to get them back out, right?


This is what happens when you hammer them back out

Focalpoint Renovations

See how the wood around the nail head has exploded outward as the head of the nail pushes back through? This happens because wood is porous. It has an inherent moisture content and when the head of the nail passes into it, the wood itself constricts and closes back around the head of the nail. Adding moisture laden products such wood filler for the nail holes and paint afterwards only makes it worse when you try to remove nails using this method.

Here is the CORRECT way to remove those pesky nails

Place the board face down on a clean surface that won't scar it and get yourself a pair of pliers or nippers. My personal favorites for this application are called Bullnose Dykes (It's okay to laugh, the name would make even Rosie O'Donnell giggle).

Here's what mine look like, all rusty and abused.

Focalpoint Renovations

They have a rounded face and sharp teeth (much like Rosie O'Donnell) perfect for grasping a nail shank.

Now, if any of you have ever seen Clint Eastwood in Two Mules for Sister Sarah or any Rambo-style action movie where someone was impaled with an arrow or similarly shaped instrument of doom, you'll probably remember what inevitably has to happen...


Right...You have to pull it through.

This is exactly what you want to do with a finish nail. Grasp the nail tightly and apply pressure against the surface of the wood where it penetrates. What you want to do is use the rounded face of the dykes to roll and pull the nail through the trim board until it comes out the back side.
I will now attempt to use a series of pictures to demonstrate how that is done. (view very slowly, I need to go get another cup of coffee)

Focalpoint Renovations

If done correctly, when the board is turned over, this is what you'll see...

An old piece of  painted wood with a stain on it! 

Well...yeah but, I mean there are no visible marks from the nail being removed. In fact, you can still see the the dimples from the nail filler and paint as if the nails were still in the board. Pretty nifty, huh?
As always, there are a couple of things I should mention so read the disclaimers carefully.

Disclaimer #1:
This method doesn't work with framing nails or those with large heads (*ahem*....Rosie O'Donnell) but it's your safest bet when removing finish nails from door & window casing, baseboards or any moulding/trim boards that you plan on re-installing.

Disclaimer #2:
Rosie O'Donnell is a wonderful and talented individual. Any references to her were purely to make pulling a nail more interesting than, um.... pulling a nail.
Be sure to catch her cinematic genius in such films as Another Stakeout.

Disclaimer #3:
Before anyone dissects my analogy, if you are ever shot with an arrow? Don't pull it through. Also, don't pull it out. Call 911 immediately and seek emergency medical assistance... unless of course you are Rosie O'Donnell in which case, pull it through with your teeth.

Oh, and always remember...  If you hate it? RENOVATE it!


  1. Great post. But do you happen to have any recommendations for companies that do renovations in Lethbridge? Please let me know, thanks so much.

  2. Great advice, alternatively you can use a claw hammer.

  3. This is great. I never knew this. I've been doing some home renovations at my place in Seattle and this is definitely going to help. I'm just hoping I can fix the hole in my wall from where I fell through it.


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