Removing subfloor staples...trying to save hardwood....HELP!!!

sarahandbrayAugust 4, 2006

Just when I thought we were cruising along nicely in our complete kitchen gut...we came across a HUGE problem. Whole house is hardwood (1890's)--kitchen is too...under rolled linoleum, subfloor, school tile and another subfloor. I surprised DH by taking up the rolled linoleum in about two hours the other day...stood back, and realized what was underneath. This plywood "subfloor," I guess you call it, is STAPLED down in every direction in about 3/4 inch increments....across the ENTIRE KITCHEN...which didn't look too huge until I saw all of these ridiculous staples.

Does anyone have any experience with this? Are we crazy to try to take out each and every one...only to find the original hardwood floors too beat up to use? And if we decide to lose the original floors and just "take it all up" as DH is suggesting right this minute, how the heck would we do that?



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My floor refinishing guy had a really great tool that was like a giant paint scraper. I am sure it has a name. I put it under the edge of the plywood that was stapled down and pried it up. If you use a "snow shovel" movement it is amazing how well it does. A big guy can do it in no time...I am pretty strong but small so it was hard for me. My husband and son and the workers had no trouble. The original floor was untouched by the staples as they weren't that deep. The floor looks like yours under all that plywood we removed. I hope you will try to get it off. Call a local floor refinisher and find out what the tool is and where you get one. Good Luck Caroline

    Bookmark   August 4, 2006 at 10:04PM
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Oh...we've been working on it for hours now. Unfortunately, the staples are so long (about an inch long) that they did pierce the my husband is prying off the first layer of plywood and I'm going behind with this incredibly old-fashioned but AMAZING nail/staple remover...this thing rocks if you get a rhythm up. I wish I could express to you how MANY staples there are...just countless. Tomorrow, I'm going to count how many there are in a square foot and see how many that comes up to be for the whole room. Just nuts, I tell you!!

But we are going to get them refinished, come hell or highwater!! After all this work, even if they look a little worse for wear, it makes a great story...but my back and hands are going to be sore tomorrow!


    Bookmark   August 4, 2006 at 11:11PM
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Want to see how infuriating this is??

see every staple? and how long they are? (look halfway down the nail remover to the left...)

what's being torn up...floor underneath...

Is it going to be worth it??


    Bookmark   August 5, 2006 at 9:12AM
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Holy crap, why on EARTH would anyone put that many staples in that plywood! I bet that is frustrating, back-breaking work.

With that said, I do think it is worth it. I love wood floors and truly, I love those that look a little roughshod much better than glossy, shiny hardwood floors. With a good refinishing, I bet you'll be shocked at how gorgeous the floor is.

I was watching This Old House Classics the other day and they were redoing some shingles on a house. Norm said you only put two nails in a shingle, regardless of size, so that they can be found for repairs later on, and you never staple shingles because they are so hard to remove later on. If only more people were thinking of down the road instead of doing a job faster and easier! Keep us posted.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2006 at 11:24AM
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My DH seems to think that the person who put in this subfloor was trying to keep the old hardwood from being creaky...hence the number of staples...but I can't even imagine how necessary that would be, even in that situation!!!! I'm constantly cursing the person who did this under my breath the whole time! And my old-crappy-painting-and-project college stereo chose today to die, so I have to go dig something else out to keep me company on this tedious and back-breaking project. If only I had 10 of those awesome old-fashioned nail removers (shown above), a good stereo, 10 friends over, pizza and a keg, I'd be done in no time and be having fun too!!


(but just sympathy from you guys and the fabulous group on the kitchen boards is helping too--my new mantra for everything is "This too shall pass...")

    Bookmark   August 5, 2006 at 12:17PM
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Oh Sarah!
I sure wish I could help you!! What a horrible job that must be!!! That must have beeen done by someone who didn't know what they were doing!! Just keep telling yourself how lovely it will be when it is finished!!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2006 at 11:46PM
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sarahandbray 3...about 1/3 of the way through this disaster. Loving the floors though...but I think it's just because we're working so darn hard to get them "free" from years of crappy decorating!! They look like they run right into the dining room, which would be nice, because I like the way those floors look...not perfect, but they fit well in this old house!

Once you get up a rhythm with that AWESOME turn-of-the-century nail remover (what a godsend that thing is!), it starts sounding like a rapid-fire machine gun.

Strangely fun, in a zen, cathartic kind of way!


    Bookmark   August 6, 2006 at 7:39PM
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May your personal diety (if you have one) bless your patience. [Just being PC here and not trying to offend anyone].

That many staples is truly a labor of love.

Best of luck with your old house.


    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 12:03AM
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Sarah, do you know what kind of finish you have on those dining room floors? We're having our floors redone this week, and I can't decide on a finish. I like yours! It seems shiny. Does it scratch easily?

(And wow, what a lot of hard work ya'll did! But so worth it.)

    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 9:37AM
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We encountered the same problem last year. When we tore up the ugly asbetos tiling (with a snow shovel), the plywood underlayment was left behind. Half the room was pea green shag and the other half the tile. Both had nice oak floors underneath. What a sea of tacks! We started taking them out with a screwdriver but we were messing up the wood. Then we tried a cats paw (a small pry bar) with a rag under it to not gouge the wood. After a million hours that got tired too. We ended up paying the guy who was refinishing our floors to get the rest out. He had his 16 year old nephew come and spend 8 hours taking them out with what looked like a huge pair of pliers, one by one. I think he paid him $100. It was worth it. Here's what it looks like now. You can still see the little holes, but it adds character (thats what I tell myself).

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 2:23PM
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Thanks, Mike, for your sympathy! Really, if we didn't have that neat nail puller, I think my DH and I would have killed each other by now...but one uses that until our elbows and calluses can't take any more, while the other pulls the next layer of subfloor up. We're 2/3 done as I write (and take a break in the air conditioning!!). \

Jenswrens...this was my DH's grandfather's home for 20 years, but he then sold it and we bought it back three years ago. Somewhere in that time frame the new owner redid the floors, so I have no idea what they did it with. I like them a lot--they may look shiny in the picture, but I had just washed them right before I took the picture...I would say they're actually kind of a semi-gloss, but they look nicely worn through spots, but not like a new gym floor either. We're going to try to get the refinisher to try and match that since the two rooms flow together through two open doorways.

And, ellenj--they look great!! I'm hoping since ours are naturally a very dark wood that the millions of holes will be not too noticable...but even if they are, who cares?? Our house and lifestyle with two kids and three dogs just lends itself to "distressed" anyway--I think I'd freak out having new pristine floors!!

Update pictures forthcoming...stay tuned!!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 3:46PM
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Looking at that picture of the staples every two inches makes the remodeler in me a little sick to my stomach. I've seen it bad, but never quite like that. Looks like somebody just got a new air stapler and just couldn't get over the thrill of another "THUWUMP".

Well, at least they're only an inch long and you certainly have the right tool for it. I perused buying of those goofy-looking contraptions for about a year before I finally bit the fifty dollar bullet, and have never regretted it. They work just as well on embedded nails.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 4:26PM
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I need that staple removal tool!!! How do I get it?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 1:15PM
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That tool was originally designed for fencing work; it pulls fence staples, and can tension rolled wire fence before you drive new staples. It has a movable "hammer" built in to the handle to drive the jaws into the old embedded fence staple to be able to yank it.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 9:43PM
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The floor looks like it will be beautiful. Honestly, if I had to do all that work, it wouldn't matter what the floor looked like underneath, I'd be proud of each imperfection. Good luck and good for you!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2010 at 8:37AM
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"Pecky cypress" is a highly prized wood, because of its imperfections. And, with all the old cypress homes in Louisiana being torn down, the wood used in newer homes are proud to bear the marks of its history.

My brother made a table for me from really thick cypress which came from Miss Effie Long's house in Thibodeaux LA. The house was 90 years old when it was torn down, and he discovered that the wood had been recycled from a previous house. Miss Effie was Huey P. Long's sister. When I got the table, I told him to leave it alone, I loved the arcs of the HUGE saw blades on the boards! I did not want them removed. He gave me the table in 1976, and I still have it unfinished and a beautiful silver.

The one he made for himself, he refinished it after a lot of sanding, yet there are still small holes on the boards he used for the legs. No telling what made them.

Right now you think of them as simply staples, but in the future, they will be HISTORY.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2010 at 8:43PM
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Circus Peanut

I have a modern version of that nail/staple puller that I could never live without. Best $30 I spent in my entire old house remodel:

Here is a link that might be useful: Jefferson Tool Extractor Plier

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 12:17AM
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I have a similar problem. I just bought a house that was built in the sixties and I decide to update the kitchen a little. Needless to say I ended up deciding to gut it. Well it was going pretty well until I got to the floor and realized that on top of the pretty hardwood (that lays throughout the entire house) they have put linoleum then some type of press board (which has about 4,000 SCREWS in it) and then another layer of linoleum. I was wanting to put tile in there but I don't want a step up into the kitchen from my living room. I had thought about trying to keep the hardwood but since there are going to be a ton of screw holes I don't even know if it will be worth saving. Any ideas on how to get all of this up? Any help would be GREATLY appreciated.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 10:52PM
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Cynthia, welcome to GardenWeb.

You might get more responses if you started a new thread and posted a photo of a section of your floor to show some of the screws. Take the photo, post it on a hosting site like or and then copy the link in your post.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 8:45AM
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"That tool was originally designed for fencing work;"

Designed a long time ago as a nail puller, and still available.

Here is a link that might be useful: Crescent 19 in. Forged Alloy Nail Puller

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 12:50PM
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