How to Remove Hardwood Floors for Reuse – Complete Guide

Removing a hardwood floor for reuse can be a long and tedious process, but if you’re careful you should be able to save a good portion of the floor. 

It’s inevitable that some boards will be damaged beyond repair or reuse, so plan accordingly – you won’t end up with the same amount of wood that you start with.

remove hardwood floor for reuse

Also, if you reuse the wood for another floor, it’s almost inevitable that it will be a bit squeaky. (And before starting, check out if there are any signs of mold under your hardwood floors.)

If you’re still on board and assuming your floor isn’t too damaged, isn’t glued down, and hasn’t been infested with termites, you should be good to go to salvage most of your floor! 

Here’s what you’ll learn: 

  • Step-by-step guide to removing hardwood floor for reuse
  • Overview of what you can re-use wood floorboard for
  • Tools need to remove a wood floor
  • Common pitfalls to watch out for 

What tools do you need to remove a wood floor for reuse?

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): heavy-duty gloves, safety goggles, hearing protection, knee pads, dust mask, and work boots
  • A bar to pry up the boards: There are a number of options for this, you could use a pry bar (also known as a flat bar) or a nail claw can also be useful
  • Hammer or mallet
  • Locking pliers or Crescent 11″ Nail Puller Pliers to pull out nails. Or nippers to cut them off.
  • Putty knife or utility knife
  • Circular saw 
  • Tarp or plastic sheeting
  • A space to store the wood before it’s used
  • Flooring scraper (Optional – but it’s good for scraping up any stuff stuck to the floor to ensure you have a smooth subfloor left over after removing the old wood)

Prep your Workspace Thoroughly

  1. Disconnect all of the appliances and fixtures in the room
  2. Turn off power sources that feed into that room
  3. Remove furniture, rugs, and any other stuff you have in the room. If you can’t remove anything like a large piece of furniture out of the room, cover it with a tarp to protect it while you work

Removing baseboards and trim

The goal here is to carefully pry out the baseboards and trim from the wall without doing other damage. Grab your pry bar or trim puller and a putty knife or utility knife for this.

A key first step is to avoid as much as possible damaging or unnecessary tearing away of wallpaper or paint. To do this you have to score the top of the trim using the putty knife or utility knife all along the top edge of the trim/baseboard right where it meets the wall. 

After that’s done, wedge either your pry/flat bar or your trim puller right where you scored the trim. Now gradually move all along the trim and very slightly pull the trim away from the wall just a bit at a time – less than ½ an inch.

Move down the length of the trim pulling it out a bit and after that go back and remove it fully using the pry/flat bar or trim puller.  

If there’s any leftover caulk or sealant, cut it away with the utility knife. And if there are any left-over nails pull them with Crescent 11″ Nail Puller Pliers.

If baseboards are coped (cut so that the baseboards meet in the corner seamlessly) remove the coped side first or you might damage the other board

Label the trim so you know how and where to re-install each piece. I like to label them and take a picture of where the labeled parts are before taking them off completely.

Store them flat so they don’t warp.

Watch this video for a demonstration of removing baseboards and trim:

Start Removing The First Few Floorboards

Determine the direction the floorboards were installed by locating a vent hole or making a small cutout in an inconspicuous area near the wall. Examine the cutout to see which way the tongue and groove are oriented.

VERY IMPORTANT: Start removing boards from the side where the tongue is facing you, as this will minimize damage. Make relief cuts around all edges at the depth of the flooring using a circular saw.

Along the starting wall, make a cut 2-3 inches from the baseboard to allow room for a pry bar to lift the boards. If it’s a floating floor, the boards can now be pried up and removed easily. Take care when pulling up the first few rows to avoid splintering the tongue edges.

Removing remaining hardwood floorboards with Pry Bar/Flat Bar and Hammer

Okay, now you get the main show. Removing the floorboards will require repeatedly performing the following steps until the job is done!

  • Insert a pry bar or flat bar into the seam where the board was removed, as close to the nail as possible.
  • Gradually lift the board just a little at a time, working the pry bar and hammer/mallet carefully to “wake up” the wood. Some popping is expected, but listen for cracking sounds.
  • Lift the board by pushing UP on the free end rather than pushing the pry bar DOWN to avoid splintering the tongue and groove.
  • Note the angle and direction of the nails while lifting so they can be pulled out the way they were installed.
  • As a general rule, at least 3/4 of the tongue and groove needs to remain intact along a board to reuse it.

It’s inevitable that some damage and loss of wood will occur during the removal process, even when working carefully. Proceed slowly and methodically.

Here are a couple of demonstrations using a hammer and flat bar and pry bar: 

Alternative Method of Removing Wood Floorboards: Wood Wedges

An alternative to prying up the floorboards is to use wood wedges.

Cut some 2×4 lumber at an angle to create wedge-shaped pieces about 3 feet long.

Position these wedges every few feet along the floor, placing them near the nails.

Gradually pound the wedges in to slowly lift the flooring up.

Work your way across the floor, inserting additional wedges as you go to evenly raise the boards.

The wedges distribute the upward force more evenly than a pry bar, helping to prevent cracking and splintering of the wood.

Proceed slowly and carefully, checking for cracking sounds as the floor comes up. Add or reposition wedges as needed to maintain even pressure.

Removing nails or staples

Using a hammer, grinder, snipper, and pliers to remove nails

Option 1: Use pliers to pull the nail through

Option 2: If that doesn’t work you can try grinding the nail off under the board Check out how fast you can get the job done with a cutoff wheel on a grinder: 

Option 3: Nipping the nail and driving it into the board with a nail punch

Option 4: Another option is to hammer them in reverse – that is hit the sharp side of the nail with a hammer to push it out of the board to give you something to pull on with your plier. Be careful though as depending on the wood and the nail this could cause some splintering on the top side of the wood. If this happens try another method.

If you run into flooring cleats, use a grinder to cut off the back as demonstrated in this video: 

Cleaning, repairing, and preparing hardwood floorboards for reuse

Remove adhesive or residue from the underside of floorboards using a utility knife or scraper

Triage your boards

  • Sort the floorboard based on damage (cracks, splits, significant scratches, mold or water damage)
  • The best boards will not be cut on any side and will have at least ¾ of the tongue and groove still in place along the length
  • It’s possible a board might be too sanded down to use – the way you can tell is if the grove side has less than 1/8th of an inch left above the groove
  • Set aside the boards that were cut in the first step, they should be reused with the same cut side butting up against the wall in the new installation
  • Some boards will be just too torn up or warped and should be kept as backup for small pieces you might need.

Here’s a good example of how to triage and organize boards: 

Repair minor damage (sanding, staining, or filling with wood filler)

Store hardwood floorboards in a safe, dry, and flat location until ready for reuse

Put them together in bundles laying flat and tied together to avoid warping.

What can wood removed from floors be used for? 

Reusing floor wood is eco-friendly and can help reduce some of the 12 tons of wood waste that’s landfilled each year in the US (EPA estimates)

Beyond environmental considerations, reusing old wood immediately gets you that amazing aged wood look that adds a ton of personality to any project. You can:

  • Install the wood on another floor (of a smaller size than the original due to damage some of the wood will inevitably suffer)
  • Incorporate the wood into other crafts or furniture. If you’re pulling up old wood, it’ll have a ton of character already built-in 
  • Save money on any project – after all, it’s cheaper to reuse old wood than buy new wood – particularly if you do it yourself. It just costs your sweat and time. 
  • Donate it to re-use centers or Habitat for Humanity Restores. If you don’t have a reuse center nearby, you could also give it away or even try to sell it on eBay, Nextdoor, Offerup, or Craigslist.


How hard is it to remove hardwood flooring? 

Not going to lie – it’s a tough job. It takes a while because of the care you have to take in pulling the wood up with minimal damage. It’s tough work to begin with just pulling up the floor if you’re not going to reuse it.

What tools do you need to remove hardwood floors for reuse? 

Required tools include a bar to pry up the boards such as a pry bar (also known as a flat bar); hammer or mallet; locking pliers or Crescent 11″ Nail Puller Pliers to pull out nails, or nippers to cut them off; putty knife or utility knife; Circular saw.

Can hardwood floors be salvaged?

Yes, hardwood floors can be salvaged, but you will not end up with the same amount of wood as you started with due to inevitable damage to some boards.

Are hardwood floors nailed down? 

Hardwood floors are generally nailed down in some fashion, however, they can also be glued down or floating.

Can you remove glued-down hardwood for reuse?

You can remove glued-down hardwood floors, but you will not be able to remove it for reuse. Removing wood when it is glued down causes too much damage to the boards to make them of any use. 

Can I pull up hardwood floors and reuse them? 

Yes, you can pull up hardwood floors and reuse them for a different floor (of a smaller size due to damage to some of the floor as you pull it up).

Picture of Tom Powell

Tom Powell

Over the last 7 years, I’ve done a bit of everything when it comes to maintaining and repairing my 110-year-old house. Installed vinyl plank and vinyl peel and stick flooring, resurfaced and stained wooden porch, leveled and installed tiling on a concrete floor, resurfaced our kitchen cabinets… It never ends, but it feels great when you finish a project yourself and end up with a beautiful new (or repaired) floor.

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Picture of Tom Powell

Tom Powell

Over the last 7 years, I’ve done a bit of everything when it comes to maintaining and repairing my 110-year-old house. Installed vinyl plank and vinyl peel and stick flooring, resurfaced and stained wooden porch, leveled and installed tiling on a concrete floor, resurfaced our kitchen cabinets… It never ends, but it feels great when you finish a project yourself and end up with a beautiful new (or repaired) floor.

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