How to Lift up a Floor Board

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…

Topics:

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.

How to Lift up Your Floor Boards
How to Lift up Your Floor Boards

– Safety Tip –

Cables and pipes are often run under floorboards. Cutting a live cable could kill you, so choose the tools you plan to use carefully.


Tools to Use?

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.


How was the floorboard fitted?

The first thing is to work out, is how the floorboard:

  • Is fixed?
  • Where are the floor joists?
  • Do I need to cut the floorboard?
  • If so… Where the best place to cut the floorboard?
  • Are there any pipes or cables underneath 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.

How to Lift up Your Floor Boards - Finding the Fixings (Nails)
How to Lift up Your Floor Boards – Finding the Fixings (Nails)

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…

How to Lift up Your Floor Boards - Locating the Floor Joists by Looking for the Fixings
How to Lift up Your Floor Boards – Locating the Floor Joists by Looking for the Fixings

What’s under the floor?

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).

How to Lift up Your Floor Boards - What's Under the Floor
How to Lift up Your Floor Boards – What’s Under the Floor

Do I need to cut the floorboard?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where do I need to lift the floorboard?
  • Is there any existing joins or cuts in the floorboard I can use?

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 do I cut 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.

How to Lift up Your Floor Boards - The Saw Cut Just Missing the Nails (Above the Floor Joist)
How to Lift up Your Floor Boards – The Saw Cut Just Missing the Nails (Above the Floor Joist)

Setting up the saw…

  • If you can, use a floor board to set the saws maximum cutting depth.
  • Or if you are unsure of the cutting depth. Start with a shallow cut, slowly increasing the depth with progressive cuts.
How to Lift up Your Floor Board - Cutting the Floorboard
How to Lift up Your Floor Board – Cutting the Floorboard

– For safety –

When adjusting tools, unplug them from the mains electricity.

Cutting the floor board…

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.

– Safety Tip –

Should you put any floorboard back that have already been lifted (until you need access to the area)?

Finishing the saw cut…

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.

How to Lift up Your Floor Boards - Finishing the Saw Cut
How to Lift up Your Floor Boards – Finishing the Saw Cut

The tongue & groove joint…

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?

How to Lift up Your Floor Boards - Cutting the Tongue and Groove
How to Lift up Your Floor Boards – Cutting the Tongue and Groove

Note:

Adjacent floor boards can be lifted without cutting the tongue & groove…  Once the first floor board is lifted.


Is the floorboard going to be properly supported when I put it back?

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).

Two examples…

Nailed to the side of a floor joist

or, screwed to the underside of the floor boards

How to Lift up Your Floor Boards - Replacement (Additional Support)
How to Lift up Your Floor Boards – Replacement (Additional Support)

Lifting the Floor Board

How to Lift up Your Floor Boards - Lifting & Nail Removal Tools
How to Lift up Your Floor Boards – Lifting & Nail Removal Tools

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…

How to Lift up Your Floor Boards - Prising the Floorboard Up
How to Lift up Your Floor Boards – Prising the Floorboard Up

Removing Nails…

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).

How to Lift up Your Floor Boards - Removing the Nails
How to Lift up Your Floor Boards – Removing the Nails

Video on how to lift up a floor board:
What is the best way to lift a floor board?