How To Remove Buried Nails from Wood

Removing buried nails without damaging wood
How To Remove Buried Nails from Wood

Learning how to remove buried nails from wood can help you remove sunken nails, bent and galvanized nails, and headless nails.

Nails are an integral part of woodworking. They are usually hammered or pushed into the wood using a nail gun during construction and renovation projects.

They are used to hold the shape of the wood structure together. Since we can’t avoid them in our homes, we might as well learn the nails-removal-skill; it will come in handy sooner or later.

As a passionate woodworker, I have put together everything you need to know in this detailed guide.

The idea is to help you remove nails from your wood and show you how to do it without damaging the wood surface.

 Let’s dive right in.

Safety precautions     

Nails are sharp objects that can cause serious body injury if mishandled. That said, you need to wear leather gloves to protect your hands from scratches and pricks from these nails.

Goggles will protect your eyes from any flying nails. Protective boots will protect your feet from pricks caused by fallen nails on the floor.

Also, keep away children and pets from your workspace to avoid any unforeseen injuries. You know how kids and pets have one thing in common: they can’t stay still.

How to Remove Buried Nails from Wood: The Methods

Before you settle on using any particular tool for removing nails from wood, you need to consider the type of nails on your wood, how deep it’s buried, and the tools available to you.

 Tools and materials

Removing Nails Using Claw Hammer

This is your go-to option if the nail on your wood is shallowly hammered into the wood. Even better if the nail on your wood is a bit large and the nail head is visible on the surface. Use this option if you are not worried about damaging your wood surface.

The Steps

Step 1: Locate the particular nails you want to remove from your wood surface.

Step 2: Place your claw hammer on the head of the nail and catch a tight hold.

Step 3: Begin prying slowly to lift the nail head from the surface. Pry the nail to the left and the right, back and forth.

Step 4: Once the nail is lifted enough from the surface, hold the part close to the wood surface and continue pulling it sideways, back and forth, until it comes off.

Step 5: Repeat this process for all the parts of the wood surface from which you need to remove the nails. Remember to put the removed nails in a container or somewhere safe that won’t cause any injury.

Removing Buried Nails Using Nail Kicker

Using nail kickers can give you excellent results once you get the hang of using them. The time you spend setting it up will eventually save you effort and time during the actual process. 

This method is most suitable for deeply buried nails. It is also your best option if you are hoping to protect delicate surfaces.

The Steps

Step 1: Set up your wood surface in readiness for the nail removal process.

Step 2: Place the nail kicker on the nail’s head, then slightly push it into the wood surface.

Step 3: The nail kicker automatically pushes out the stubborn nails. If you have bent nails, place the nail kickers above the nail head, straighten it then proceed with the same step.

Step 4: Repeat the same process if the entire nail doesn’t come off in the first attempt. Work on the entire wood surface with the nails to be removed.

If this method sounds too complicated for you, we have several other methods in this article that can get the job done. Feel free to choose what works for you.

Read: Deck screws for treated lumber

Removing Buried Nails Using Nail Jack

A nail jack is another tool that can remove buried nails from wood. It is relatively small yet strong and easy to use in the following steps.

The Steps

Step 1: Position the tip of the nail jack on the wood surface close to the nail’s head

Step 2: Hammer it slightly under the nail head for a good grip.

Step 3: Tighten the grip and bend the nail jack backward. The stuck nail will come out of the surface within seconds.

Step 4: Repeat the process to remove all the stuck nails from the wooden surface.

Removing Buried Nail Using Pry Bar           

Pry bars are perfect for heavy-duty nail removal jobs. They also are excellent alternatives for hammers. Here’s how to use pry bars to remove nails in easy steps.

The Steps

Step 1: Identify the nails you want to remove.

Step 2: Position your pry bar slightly below the nail’s head if it’s visible. If the nail is deep in the wood, use a hammer to knock the bar twice or thrice on the side of the nail. This will expose the nail head.

Step 3: Stabilize the pry bar around the nail head and then pull back the pry bar to lift the nail from your wood surface.

Step 4: With that success, repeat the process and remove all the nails that need to be removed from your wood.

Removing Bent and Galvanized Nails from Wood Using Cat’s Paw

A cat’s paw looks a lot like a pry bar. The difference is, it is a bit smaller and gentle on your wood’s surface.

The Steps

Step 1: Identify the part of the wood with the nails that need to be removed.

Step 2: Angle your cat’s paw at about 45- degree angle above the head of the nail.

Step 3: Using a hammer, hit the cat’s paw’s angled point until you get a firm grip under the nail head.

Step 4: Secure the grip on the nail head, then pull it back to remove stubborn nails from the wooden surface.

Instead of using your arm to pull back the paw, hammer it backward until the nail comes off the wood.

Removing Headless Nails Using a Pair of Pliers

You have two tools you can use to pull this off: needle-nose pliers and diagonal cutting pliers.

The Steps

Step 1: Identify the headless nail on your wooden surface.

Step 2: Use the needle-nose pliers to grab the upper tip of the nail. This plier can also remove smaller nails from wood once you get a firm grasp on the nail.

Step 3: Start pulling the nail in an upward motion. Release and pick the nail until it’s on the surface of the wood.

Step 4: Use diagonal-cutter pliers to grab and finally pull the protruding nail from the surface. Avoid grabbing the nail too tightly as the cutter might cut it in the middle.

Step 5: Repeat the process until you are done removing all the nails from your wood.

Removing Buried Nails Using Reciprocating Saw

Reciprocating saw is a fantastic option to cut through buried nails from wood. However, only use this method if you demolish your wooden structures or don’t mind some damages here and there.

Use the 10-teeth-per-inch blade for this particular task if you want the best results. However, if you don’t have it at your disposal, you can use all-purpose blades with some effort to get the job done.

The Steps

Step 1: Identify the nail that has got to go.

Step 2: Push the saw guard firmly against the wood, then cut the nail.


How do you remove sunken nails from wood?

You can remove sunken nails from wood using a cat’s paw pry bar. The pointed claws of this tool dig into the wood and settle around the nail head when you hammer it a little. Once you secure a tight grip on the nail head, pull the cat’s paw backward to remove the nail from the wood.

How do you remove a buried nail?    

You can remove a buried nail using a claw hammer, nail jack, nail kicker, pry bar, cat’s paw, pliers, and reciprocating saw. You can remove a buried nail. First, ensure the tool you choose has a steady grip on the nail, then pull out the nail from the wood.

How do you get nails out without damaging the wood?

You can get nails out without damaging the wood by placing a scrape wooden block close to the nail to act as a pivot point for either a claw hammer, cat’s paw, pry bar, nail jack, or nail kicker. That way, the pressure used to lift the nail from wood rests on the wooden block instead of the actual wood surface in question.


I hope you have learned how to remove buried nails from wood from this article. The methods we have discussed above are pretty simple yet effective once you know how to use them.

If you have larger projects that you need to remove nails from, you can do it yourself if you have the time or outsource professional help.

Remember to use the correct tool determined by the status of the nail on the wood.

Let’s interact further in the comments section below. Also, let us know if other methods are missing from this post.

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