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How to lift flooring using a pry bar

Shop for Pry Bars

Which design is best?

silhouette of pry bar, Ideally, two pry bars should be used together for this task.
construction pry bar, pry bar, construction bar, Of  the pry bars available, construction and precision pry bars are most suitable to lift flooring. If you want to reclaim your floorboards after lifting, though, make sure the bar you choose features a polished claw, minimising the risk of damage to the edges of the floorboards you will be inserting the end of the bar between.

The construction pry bar is highly polished and features low profile (very thin) claws at both ends.

What else will you need?

marker pen, mark joist location, how to mark joist location, marker, black marker, felt tip pen, permanent marker A marker
multipurpose saw, saw multipurpose, saw, woodsaw, sawing tongue and groove A circular or multipurpose saw – the choice is yours. Use a thin, small blade to avoid damage to the surrounding wood. (see: Saws)

For boards which are fitted with both ends under skirting, you will need to saw across the ends of the boards, close to the skirting, to be able to lift them. The same applies to tongue and groove boards, the tongues of which will need to be sawn through in order to be lifted.

WONKEE DONKEE says: Tongue and groove boards are slotted securely together using a tongue on one edge, and a groove on the other.

magnet, finding hidden nails, red magnet, horseshoe magnet, red horseshoe magnet, horse shoe magnet A magnet (optional) 

Wonkee’s hoof-by-hoof guide

previously lifted floorboard, floorboard filler, screwed down floor, wooden board, floorboard The easiest way to begin this job is to identify a floorboard that has already been lifted once before. These can be unscrewed and levered up with little trouble.

If this isn’t possible, don’t worry – the process for lifting a floorboard which hasn’t been removed before is not complicated!

marked joist, how to mark joist for cutting floorboard, how to mark joist, mark joist to cut floorboard, joist, floorboard, lifting floorboards

Step 1 – Mark joist

Locate the joist. You can identify its location by looking for the nails fixing the board to it.

Mark the edge of the joist with a line two to four inches to the side of the nails (shown here in yellow). Joists support your flooring, and should not be damaged; give yourself some leeway and cut further from the edge, rather than closer. You can always refine your cut later on.

wonkee donkee says: if the nails fixing your floorboards to the joists below have been hidden, you can use a magnet to find them!

 If your floorboards do not have a tongue and groove, proceed straight to Step 3.
cutting tongue and groove floorboards, cutting tongues from floorboards, separating tongue and groove floorboards, tongue and groove floorboards, floorboards, lifting flooring

Step 2 – Cut tongues

If working on tongue and groove boards, use your circular or multipurpose saw to cut down the length of the gap between the boards, separating tongue from groove on both sides.

The more slowly and carefully you cut, the less chance of damage to the surrounding wood.

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Step 3 – Cut horizontally

Now cut across the line you marked earlier.

Be mindful of the location of the joist during cutting, and of the locations of any cables or wires running beneath the floorboards.

Step 4 – Insert bar between boards

You can now insert the straight claw of your bar into the gap created by sawing across the joist marker.

You can tap the heel of your bar lightly with a hammer to help wedge the claw into place.

Step 5 – Apply force

Apply downward force to the opposite end of the bar.

Step 6 – Insert second bar beneath board

When the board is lifted slightly, insert the straight claw of your second bar between the edge of this board and the one adjacent.

Step 7 – Apply force

Apply force to the opposite end of the bar.

Step 8 – Continue to lift

When the board begins to lift on this side, move to the other, repeating the process. You may hear some cracking and tearing noises as the board is raised and nails are pulled up from the joists below – don’t be alarmed, this is quite normal!

lifting board free by hand, person lifting floorboard, how to lift floorboard, free floorboard, floor board, floorboard, flooring

Step 9 – Remove board

Eventually you will hear the last remaining nails come free with a ‘popping’ sound. You can now lift the board free by hand. If one end of the board is fitted under skirting, simply slide it out.

nail protruding from floorboard, nail circled in red, protruding nail, nail, floorboard, floor board Be sure to remove any protruding nails from the underside of a lifted floorboard immediately.

(See: How to use a utility bar to pull nails.)