Ideally, two wrecking bars should be used together for this task.
Most wrecking bars are suitable for use when lifting flooring. However, you should not use the mini wrecking bar or aluminium wrecking bar to lift flooring. The aluminium wrecking bar lacks the strength to withstand the force which needs to be applied when lifting flooring.
The mini wrecking bar is simply too small for the task – at slightly shorter than a biro, it is not possible to achieve the leverage required to pry up flooring using a mini wrecking bar.
Which of the bars you choose out of those suitable should depend on whether you wish to keep your floorboards intact, in order to reclaim, replace, or even sell them.
Although it is the largest and heaviest wrecking bar available, the heavy-duty wrecking bar is designed to preserve the integrity of contact surfaces (those surfaces with which it comes into contact during use).
Its design incorporates two wide ends to spread the force input over a wider area, both of which are polished to reduce friction between the bar and contact surface.
The heavy-duty wrecking bar also has the advantage of being available in the largest size of the wrecking bars in this guide, at 120cm (48in). This means that you will be able to achieve much greater leverage while exerting much less force.
However, for controlled use, or if you feel that you are better able to use a lighter tool, this bar is also available in the much smaller ‘junior’ size of 350mm (14in), plus a range of sizes in between.
If you will be lifting flooring at difficult or awkward angles, such as in tight corners or within a crawlspace, it’s worth considering the adjustable wrecking bar, which features a claw adjustable through 180 degrees. However, be aware that this type of bar is very expensive.
What else will you need?
A circular or multipurpose saw – the choice is yours. Use a thin, small blade to avoid damage to the surrounding wood. (see: Saws)You will require a circular or multipurpose saw if you will be removing tongue and groove boards, the tongues of which will need to be sawn through in order to be lifted.
A magnet (optional)
Removing skirting boards
Before removing your flooring, you may need to remove a section of skirting from the base of your walls – otherwise, this could make it difficult to remove any flooring which is nailed beneath the skirting board, or to which the skirting board itself is fixed. For a guide to removing skirting, see: How to remove skirting boards using a moulding bar
Wonkee’s hoof-by-hoof guide
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!
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.
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.If your floorboards do not have a tongue and groove, proceed straight to Step 3.
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.
Before beginning to saw through the tongues, be sure to set the correct depth for the saw blade; this will prevent accidental damage to the joists.The depth set should match the thickness of your floorboards: Floorboard thicknesses of 19-32mm (0.7-1.3in) are the most common.
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
You can now insert the straight claw of your bar into the gap created by sawing across the joist marker.
Feel free to 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!
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.