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Home Improvement: How To REMOVE Hardwood Floors

 We recently moved into a new home and have been busy re-vamping, tearing down, and re-constructing this/that in our new home.  It’s been fun……but a complete learning process.  If you’d like to see other Home Improvement Projects that we’ve been figuring out (from the help of friends, family, and the ol’ internet), be sure to check them out.



We decided after moving into our home, that the floors on the main level needed some love.  There was a mixture of hardwood and old carpet (about half and half).  The old carpet really had to go (do you ever imagine who/what has been on old matted carpet?? it’s not a good place for your brain to go…) and the hardwood had us stumped.  We considered keeping it and sanding/re-staining or just adding more wood and staining it a color that closely matched the already existing wood.  But, we ultimately wanted a completely different plank of wood.  So, it seemed crazy to put money into re-staining the old wood or trying to match it……when we didn’t really like it.  So, we decided to tear it out.


Steve and I chatted with 2 of our brother’s……..and gathered some tips and advice. And then learned a few things along the way that we are GLAD we figured out!



Time savers (and muscle savers) are priceless tips. ;)



SO here you go…


***Even if you’re not installing your own hardwood floors, doing the demo will definitely save you some cash.  Just ask your installers what it will save you. (But we installed our own floors and a ‘How-To’ on that will be shared soon.)***



First off all, there are several ways to remove a hardwood floor but we chose the QUICKEST option.  However, if your wood is in good condition, consider selling or donating.  You may have to pick through to salvage the good pieces of wood if some of yours is rotten (like ours was in some places) but there are people who are in the market to purchase old hardwood floor pieces.  Even if it’s cut into pieces like ours was.  (But some may want the full pieces.)  Also, if we would have had more time, we were thinking of posting an ad, stating that we had old hardwood floors that would be free with removal.  Then, the interested person could come and remove it as carefully as they wanted to……and then we wouldn’t have had to do a thing.  But I guess, you also have to be careful who you allow into your home for many days while they remove it.  So, yeah.  Pros and cons to weigh here.


But we chose the quickest route possible.  And have a pile of salvaged wood pieces, ready to be donated.



Okay, so the fastest way to remove old hardwood floors is to cut the boards into smaller sections.  This is helpful because hardwood planks are all different lengths and make it really tough to remove quickly.  So cutting them into smaller pieces of wood, makes it easier to pry up.  So, using a Circular Saw (ours was a worm drive…..and it gave it some ooommph), cut lines into your hardwood, perpendicular to the direction the wood is laying.  And cut each section about 1-2 feet wide.





IMPORTANT:  Be sure your saw blade is set to the thickness of your hardwood floors, so that you’re not cutting through your sub-floor.  Our hardwood was 5/8 inch thick….so that’s how far the blade fell beneath the base of the saw.


Then start sawing away (and get ready for a TON of dust).




Now, it’s time to start prying the wood up.


We used a 2 inch Pry Bar and a Mallet.  We purchased a Dead Blow Mallet, which has sand inside of the head.  Each time you strike something, the sand propels forward in the head, giving you some extra force.  Great tool……and we totally noticed a difference.  (So, a great investment!)




We used both tools and started prying up all that old wood.




And yes, it seems daunting but progress is pretty quick with these tools.  (It’s the clean up that takes more time.)




Now…… are 2 MUST HAVE tools that we used for removing the metal.  And we would NEVER remove hardwood floors without them.   Do you realize how many nails and staples are used to install hardwood floors?  About a trillion. :)




So, for removing staples…….the Nail Claw was faster. And those little suckers popped right up using the claw.  Just insert under the staple and rock back.  The staples will pop right up.





However, if you have a broken staple (that snapped in the middle and no longer has a place to hook the nail claw), we used the Curved Vice Grips.  Just pinch, rock, and they pull right out.  These Vice Grips also work well for nails.  We originally just used these Vice Grips for everything……..but because you have to squeeze to close and then release, they just take a little more time.  You know, like a half second per staple.  But hey…..that adds up.  That’s why we also purchased the Nail Claw (above) and loved that for ripping out all staples.




Now……..after all nails and staples are removed, you’re going to have piles of debris.  Something that we figured out while working, is that a large magnet would save us some grief.




Just glide across the floor, gathering up everything metal……




……and dispose.



And then the rest of the small wood pieces and saw dust can be sucked up with a Shop Vac.  (because most shop vacs won’t suck up metal and you don’t want those pieces to clog or cut up your vacuum anyway.)


Then repeat, repeat, and repeat some more.

. . . . .



In case you need an idea……we tore up about 700 square feet of hardwood and we probably spent about 10-12 hours tearing it all up.  We would tackle it in the evenings after the kids were in bed, and would work for 2 hours or so.  It really wasn’t so bad and was pretty satisfying as we worked.  Demo work is actually pretty fun.  And besides, you’re getting a good work out without even trying. ;)


Oh wait, wait, wait………a few last minute MUST HAVE ITEMS:


**I would NEVER tear up hardwood without the above pictured items.  You’re on your hands and knees for HOURS, so those knee pads were a life saver.  And yes, your hands will get torn up without gloves… don’t even consider working without them.  And there’s all sorts of dust and pieces of wood flying around……so those glasses will save you. :)



And that’s it.


I hope that was helpful.  And a little encouraging.  Because even if you’re not laying your own hardwood floors, doing the demo will definitely save you some cash.


(But if you ARE laying your own hardwood floor, I have a whole post on how we installed ours.  Almost done.)


Best of luck!





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Ashley Johnston

Administrator at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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