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…
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 can kill, so choose your tools and how you plan to use them carefully. If in doubt, stop and seek advice.
When choosing tools to lift floorboards, you need to consider whether they might damage cables or pipes under the floor. For instance, you could use:
There are a lot of hand tools than can be of use. It may all depend what you have to hand…
Most tools will cut or damage pipes and cables. So, try and take this into account when choosing which tools to use. Often you will need to use a combination of tools. For instance, you could use a jigsaw (if you’re sure there are no cables and pipes underneath) and a chisel or hand saw to cut the floorboard above a floor joist:
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 perpendicular 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.
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 fully cut the floor board all the way across, you have to make a longer cut.
Or… You can finish the cut off with a chisel or a multi tool for a neater cut.
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, but be prepared to add additional support underneath the floorboard, (to support the floorboard where it was cut on replacement).
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…
If you are lifting lots of floorboards of a similar size, number them on the underside, so you know which order they go and where they go back.
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).
This should be straight forward if the floorboards are undamaged and they are refitted in the same position (number the floorboards as you lift them). You may need to add additional support, if the perpendicular cut wasn’t above a floor joist (see “Is the Floorboard Going to be Properly Supported When I Put it Back?“).
I would advise against using nails to replace a floorboard. You never know when you might want to lift the floorboard again? Nailing floorboards back down using similar sized nails in the original holes could also lead to creaking floorboards and movement.
Screws on the other hand, let you know if they’re not fully tightened. If the screw is loose, you can use a longer or bigger screw. And most importantly… You can easily lift the floorboard again later on if you need to.