How do I Remove Difficult Wood Screws?

Written by nat fondell
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How do I Remove Difficult Wood Screws?
Stripped screws are a difficult removal operation. (screw image by Henryk Olszewski from

One of the most common frustrations of working in professional or amateur home repair is removing wood screws that are stripped or otherwise difficult to remove. A screw that has been damaged by a drill or screwdriver to the point that it can no longer be removed due to the drill bit slipping on the screw head and rounding the slots on it is known as a stripped screw and can often occur at the most inopportune moments when working on a home construction project.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • Pliers
  • Chisel
  • Stripped-screw bit
  • Rubber band

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  1. 1

    Place the screwdriver tip against the thread of the screw head. Tap it lightly with the hammer and attempt to rotate the screw counterclockwise. Repeat with increasing force until it becomes apparent that this method will not work.

  2. 2

    Place the tip of a drill bit against the screw head and push down on it as hard as possible while rotating the drill counterclockwise. Use the highest torque setting and squeeze the drill trigger in small bursts.

  3. 3

    Grip the screw head with the pliers and rotate the screw counterclockwise. If it is not possible to get a firm grip on the head of the screw, grip the shaft underneath the screw head.

  4. 4

    Place the chisel 1/4th of an inch away from the screw head and drive the chisel towards the screw by hitting it with the hammer. Remove wood from around the screw without allowing the chisel to strike the metal shaft of the screw, as this can damage the chisel tip and render it less sharp for future cuts.

Tips and warnings

  • Another trick for removing stripped and difficult screws is to place a wide rubber band over the top of the screw head, then lower a drill bit into place on it, press down hard on the drill and slowly try to remove the screw using the highest torque setting. This may be helpful for some screws which are stuck in wood knots as well.
  • Hammer drills may also be a helpful way to remove difficult screws, because they provide more power and removal force.
  • Special drill bits are also available which are designed for the removal of difficult screws, and can be purchased at any hardware store or online.
  • It is possible to break your drill and your screw when attempting to remove screws that are stuck in dense knots in the wood. Always use caution when removing difficult screws and wear eye protection to prevent flying pieces of wood or broken screw from damaging your eyes.

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