What is the best way to lift a floor board?
When you lift a floorboard, you will also need to work out how you are going to put the floorboard back afterwards? You may need to consider…
In this example…
I’m going to lift a short length of floor board close to a wall, this demonstrates most examples of lifting a floor board.
Cables and pipes are often run under floorboards. Cutting a live cable could kill you, so choose the tools you plan to use carefully.
When choosing tools to lift floorboards, you need to consider whether they might damage cables or pipes under the floor. For instance, a circular saw will cut straight through a pipe or cable. To prevent this, place close attention to the depth of the saw blade.
A multi-tool has an oscillating head that tends to cut better when an item is fixed and cannot move (it was originally designed for removing plaster casts). Therefore this can be a more gentle tool if used carefully, plus it makes a smaller cut.
Most tools will cut or damage pipes and cables. So, take care, plan ahead, investigate where cable runs and pipes may be, and go carefully.
The first thing is to work out, is how the floorboard:
Look for the nails fixing the floor board down. If you are very lucky, the floor board will have been fixed in place with screws. But this will be unlikely, unless the floorboard has been lifted before.
The position of the nails will indicate where the floor joists are, (it’s always best to make a saw cut above a floor joist, if you can).
The floor joists will therefore be in the following positions…
We can’t see what’s under the floor. There may be pipes or cables, so we need to try and protect ourselves from accidentally damaging them. Plus there is also a risk of electric shock. How can we reduce the risk?
To try and make sure we miss the pipes and cables, (you can never be completely sure where they are…) we need to set the depth of the saw blade (see “Setting up the saw…” below).
Ask yourself the following questions:
If there are existing joins or cuts in the area of the floorboards you want to lift, it may make things easier and save you from cutting the floorboard.
Where possible, always cut the floorboard, as close to the centre of a floor joist as you can. If there are nails in the way, we want to just miss them, so we don’t blunt the saw blade…
If needed, mark where the cut is to be made with a pencil.
When adjusting tools, unplug them from the mains electricity.
If you’re not sure of the floorboard depth, do more than one cut. Start with a shallow cut increasing the depth a little at a time.
Should you put any floorboard back that have already been lifted (until you need access to the area)?
A circular saw makes a circular cut. Therefore, to cut the floor board all the way across, you have to make a longer cut.
Or… Finish the cut off with a chisel or a multi tool.
Most floor boards are made with a ‘tongue & groove’ join. This can stop you lifting the floor board.
Therefore, the tongue & groove joint has to be cut. You can also use a multi-tool, circular saw, hand saw or jigsaw to cut the tongue and groove…
But don’t cut through any pipes or cables underneath the floor?
Adjacent floor boards can be lifted without cutting the tongue & groove… Once the first floor board is lifted.
What happens if you can’t cut the floor board directly above a floor joist?
Cut the floorboard as normal (above a floor joist), but additional support will be needed underneath the floorboard, (when you put the floorboard back).
Nailed to the side of a floor joist
or, screwed to the underside of the floor boards
The best tool for prising up the floor board is a crowbar (or wrecking bar). A large screwdriver or chisel can be used to make a gap for inserting the crowbar.
Be careful though, as the wood can split as it lifts…
For safety reasons, always remove nails from the floor board, (or those left behind in the floor joist).
It’s very easy to step on, or trip over a nail sticking out…
Best tools for the job, claw hammer, or crowbar (also known as a wrecking bar or jemmy).