Easier way to pull out a few hundred nails than just using a hammer?

Oct 19, 2000
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I'm busting up the front porch and putting down new wood. I've found the easiest way is to use the brute force method for getting the wood up, but since the wood is starting the process of rotting, it's coming up, but leaving the nails sticking up about an inch.

After pulling up about 20 or 30, my hammer couldn't take it anymore and crapped out on me. I'll be headed tomorrow to buy a more sturdy hammer, but while I'm there, is there a better (read: easier) method for pulling up a few hundred screws? Even though they are sticking up about an inch, they are still in the joists pretty good, and takes a good amount of muscle to get one out.
 

lxskllr

No Lifer
Nov 30, 2004
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A wrecking bar would give you much more leverage, and they aren't expensive.
 

arcenite

Lifer
Dec 9, 2001
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you're doing it all wrong. light the porch on fire, that way you won't have to pull the nails out of anything.
 

Fritzo

Lifer
Jan 3, 2001
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On Bugs Bunny, he just got one of those giant red and white horseshoe magnets, and it always pulled the nails out of anything.
 

BoomerD

No Lifer
Feb 26, 2006
62,802
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Hammer is one of the most tedious ways to pull nails...and as you found out, is hard on the hammer.

Get yourself one of these:
http://www.northerntool.com/we...70_200389721_200389721

I have one that's over 20 years old and still works as good as the day I bought it. It's made for just a task such as yours.

I also questioned the nails/screws part of the OP, but this thing will pull either one out of the wood.

What condition are the underlying joists in? If the deck is rotting, odds are, the joists may be rotting as well.
Be careful if they're screws though. Pulling them instead of unscrewing them will damage the wood.
 

DrPizza

Administrator Elite Member Goat Whisperer
Mar 5, 2001
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www.slatebrookfarm.com
wonderbar.

Also, since you're in the market for a new hammer, may I suggest that a $35-$40 hammer is a world apart from a $2 harbor freight hammer. I'd have never thought there was a noticeable difference til I actually listened to the advice of a retired carpenter working part time in a lumberyard. And, a good hammer is not going to "crap out" simply from pulling nails.

When the Cummins tool truck comes to the area & has a sale, I usually purchase 4 or 5 of those cheap hammers. Thankfully, I get to one of those sales about every other year - those cheap hammers don't last very long til I break the handle in half or even break the claws off while pulling a particularly large, stuck nail.
 

IronWing

No Lifer
Jul 20, 2001
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Gravity gun. Serves the dual purpose of being able to shoot the nails across the room.
 
Oct 19, 2000
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Originally posted by: mugs
http://hammernet.com/vaughan/m...erbar%20-%20final1.jpg if it's nails. First you said nails, then you said screws... I assume you meant nails, but if it was screws that would explain why you had such a hard time... ;)

Whoops. There are actually more than a few screws (not sure why the previous owner mixed them up), but mostly nails.

Originally posted by: waffleironhead
Why remove them? Just hammer them home.

I considered that.

Originally posted by: arcenite
you're doing it all wrong. light the porch on fire, that way you won't have to pull the nails out of anything.

I considered this as well after pulling the first few.

Originally posted by: DrPizza
Also, since you're in the market for a new hammer, may I suggest that a $35-$40 hammer is a world apart from a $2 harbor freight hammer. I'd have never thought there was a noticeable difference til I actually listened to the advice of a retired carpenter working part time in a lumberyard. And, a good hammer is not going to "crap out" simply from pulling nails.

The one I had was actually pretty decent, a $15/$20 hammer from Lowes. Guess it couldn't hack it though.

Originally posted by: BoomerD
Get yourself one of these:
http://www.northerntool.com/we...70_200389721_200389721

What condition are the underlying joists in? If the deck is rotting, odds are, the joists may be rotting as well.
Be careful if they're screws though. Pulling them instead of unscrewing them will damage the wood.

The underlying joints are actually pretty good. The deck boards I'm pulling off were pretty tight together, so not too much room for a lot of water to get in there. The porch is covered also. I'm going to inspect the rest of the joists as I pull up the rest of the boards, but from what I've seen so far, they look pretty good. I'll replace them as needed.

As for your link, thank you. Not sure I've ever owned one of those before, but I guess tomorrow is the day. :)

EDIT: Forgot to say that for the screws that are present, I plan on cutting them off with the reciprocating saw. They've been painted over a couple of times, and I'm not going to fool with trying to get the paint out to get my bit in there.
 

x-alki

Golden Member
Jun 2, 2007
1,353
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If the screws are deck screws they should snap off pretty easy with a smack of a hammer.
 

vi edit

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Oct 28, 1999
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Assuming there's some sort of pattern to the nails that you can dodge, take a circular saw and run it across the decking between the joists. Then you just grab a plank and use it's own leverage to pull out the nail.

I started using a prybar when demo'ing a 16x24 deck that I'm replacing. That took me about 20 minutes to get up like 4 boards. Said screw it, grabbed the saw, ran it across the boards and had the rest ripped out in a couple hourse.
 
Oct 19, 2000
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Originally posted by: ekrub
If the screws are deck screws they should snap off pretty easy with a smack of a hammer.

Noted, thanks.

Originally posted by: sdifox
why are you pulling them up instead of hammering them down?

Because I'm putting nails back down in basically the same spots, and I don't want to try and nail into another nail. Might as well do it right instead of taking shortcuts.

Originally posted by: vi edit
Assuming there's some sort of pattern to the nails that you can dodge, take a circular saw and run it across the decking between the joists. Then you just grab a plank and use it's own leverage to pull out the nail.

I started using a prybar when demo'ing a 16x24 deck that I'm replacing. That took me about 20 minutes to get up like 4 boards. Said screw it, grabbed the saw, ran it across the boards and had the rest ripped out in a couple hours.

Your second paragraph exactly described my evening, except it took me longer to come to terms. I pulled up about 4 boards, said fuck that after about an hour and a half, and took the circular saw, and cut out everything between the joists. While the hammer was still in one piece, I was taking a few whacks at the small pieces of board remaining that were nailed into the joists. Once those were gone, I have the aforementioned nails and screws sticking up about an inch.
 

danzigrules

Golden Member
Apr 20, 2000
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any real framing hammer is better than everything said in this thread, of course you also need to know how to use the hammer to pull the nails without exerting to much effort, but I guess that would be knowledge that only carpenters would know.

I can rip more nails out with a hammer than any of the suggestions in this thread.
 
Oct 19, 2000
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Originally posted by: danzigrules
any real framing hammer is better than everything said in this thread, of course you also need to know how to use the hammer to pull the nails without exerting to much effort, but I guess that would be knowledge that only carpenters would know.

I can rip more nails out with a hammer than any of the suggestions in this thread.

I don't believe you. Prove it. Be here at 4pm tomorrow afternoon, if you're not chicken. :evil:
 

vi edit

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Oct 28, 1999
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Your second paragraph exactly described my evening, except it took me longer to come to terms. I pulled up about 4 boards, said fuck that after about an hour and a half, and took the circular saw, and cut out everything between the joists. While the hammer was still in one piece, I was taking a few whacks at the small pieces of board remaining that were nailed into the joists. Once those were gone, I have the aforementioned nails and screws sticking up about an inch.

Ah. Gotcha. Yeh, for the straglers I just used my claw hammer for the ones I could. Some of the nails were so rusted out I could just snap them off by hand. Only things that gave me trouble were these massive 4" galvinized nails they had scattered around here an there. My hammer still took care of them, but it took a decent amount of leverage and a bunch of cussing to break them free.
 

sdifox

No Lifer
Sep 30, 2005
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Originally posted by: peritusONE
Originally posted by: ekrub
If the screws are deck screws they should snap off pretty easy with a smack of a hammer.

Noted, thanks.

Originally posted by: sdifox
why are you pulling them up instead of hammering them down?

Because I'm putting nails back down in basically the same spots, and I don't want to try and nail into another nail. Might as well do it right instead of taking shortcuts.

Originally posted by: vi edit
Assuming there's some sort of pattern to the nails that you can dodge, take a circular saw and run it across the decking between the joists. Then you just grab a plank and use it's own leverage to pull out the nail.

I started using a prybar when demo'ing a 16x24 deck that I'm replacing. That took me about 20 minutes to get up like 4 boards. Said screw it, grabbed the saw, ran it across the boards and had the rest ripped out in a couple hours.

Your second paragraph exactly described my evening, except it took me longer to come to terms. I pulled up about 4 boards, said fuck that after about an hour and a half, and took the circular saw, and cut out everything between the joists. While the hammer was still in one piece, I was taking a few whacks at the small pieces of board remaining that were nailed into the joists. Once those were gone, I have the aforementioned nails and screws sticking up about an inch.

You just need to shift a few mm over and you'll be fine. Go to screw while you are at it.
 

Rubycon

Madame President
Aug 10, 2005
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I've read stories that the Chrysler Air Raid Siren can create vibrations that caused nails to pull right out and boards to fly off fences nearby. The vibrations if right next to the horns could make wood smoulder...

So if you have one handy (they are quite rare even in non running order!) you could or just build on the principal and make a large vibrator. Perhaps a few large aluminum bastards slightly off zero beat running off an Ar tank at 2000 psig. The SPL would be over 150 dB at 50 feet (with the bastards humming) so the neighbors may not like it. Not to mention the windows it would break. But it would sure be funny. ;)