How to remove floor boards

Updated July 18, 2017

In order to preserve the integrity of the joists or subfloor below the floor boards, it is best to use a chisel and hammer to remove old boards. Most flooring can easily be removed with simple hand tools. The exception is tongue-and-groove flooring, which requires a more sophisticated method of removal. If you are unsure whether you have tongue-and-groove floor boards, attempt to insert a chisel between two pieces of flooring. If you hit an obstruction after only slightly inserting the chisel, it is likely your flooring is tongue and groove.

Remove any baseboards and door thresholds using a wide bolster chisel to pry them away from the wall. Number the back of each piece of moulding so it can be easily replaced if needed.

Insert the end of the wide bolster chisel between two floor boards. Use a club hammer to force the chisel into the crack. Lift up the chisel to loosen the nails that are securing the floor board to the nearest joist or the sub floor.

Continue to use the chisel and hammer to pry up the floor board. For best results, try prying close to the nails you are trying to loosen. Work from one side to the other until the floor board is free. Discard the flooring, being careful to bend any nails sticking out of the board with a hammer to prevent injury.

Use a set of pliers to remove any nails that are still attached to the exposed subfloor or joists. If you will be working with joists, find a piece of plywood you can use to kneel on while working. This will prevent you from falling between the joists as more of them become exposed.

Remove the next board using the same method used on the first board. To pry the remaining flooring away from a joist, insert the chisel between the joist and the floor board with the help of a hammer. Continue until all of the floor boards are removed.

Using a wide bolster chisel pry any baseboards and door thresholds away from the floor. If you intend to replace the baseboards after you have removed the floor boards, number the back of each piece to make them easier to install.

Set the depth of a circular saw to the depth of the floor boards. To find out the depth of the flooring, check the area near the door threshold for clues. If you can't find a partially exposed floor board, pry up a board using the chisel and a club hammer to check the depth.

Use the circular saw to cut between two floor boards. Use the long, horizontal seam between the two pieces of wood as a cutting guide. Make a cut on each horizontal seam of the board you wish to remove.

With the chisel and hammer, pry up the floor board located between the cuts. Focus on the area where the floor boards are fastened to the joist or sub floor for best results. If your flooring was covering joists, use a piece of plywood to kneel on the exposed structural members while working.

Remove any nails that are still attached to the joist or sub floor with a pier of pliers. Carefully discard the flooring you removed, using a hammer to bend any nails that could cause injury.

Continue cutting between the floor boards with the circular saw and prying them up with the chisel until all boards are removed. If the floor boards are particularly long you can also make shorter cuts to break each board into pieces that are easily removed.


Be careful when disposing of used floor boards. Some cities require that all nails be completely removed before discarding used boards or a hazardous waste fee might be charged.

Things You'll Need

  • Wide bolster chisel
  • Club hammer
  • Pliers
  • Circular saw
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About the Author

Amy A. Whittle is a freelance writer who specializes in home improvement, green living and pet care issues. Her work has been published by Woman's, the Huffington Post and other online and print publications.