How to Remove Stubborn Screws from Deck Boards

If your home has a wooden deck, you likely will need to replace the deck boards as the wood cracks and rots with age. Replacing deck boards is often a simple project, but stripped deck screws can be difficult to remove without the proper techniques. In this article, we will be going over the various ways to remove a stubborn screw from a deck board. 

To remove a stripped or stubborn screw, use a pair of locking pliers if the head of the screw is above the deck board. For screws that are flush to the surface, using a 1/4″ drill bit to remove the head of the screw can help you remove the old deck boards quickly and efficiently. 

There are various ways to remove stubborn screws from deck boards. If you want to learn more about how you can eliminate a stripped screw from your deck boards, keep reading for a detailed breakdown. 

How Do You Get a Stubborn Screw Out? 

To remove a stubborn screw, you should drill a small hole in the center of the screw head to allow a screwdriver to reach deeper.

You can also add more friction to the surface by putting steel wool or a rubber band over the screw. Once you have more resistance, press the drill into the screw and back it out. 

If you want to remove a stubborn screw using materials you have at home, your main task is eliminating all things that reduce friction. Start by removing any paint or wood stain that is coating the Screw.

Use the correct sized screwdriver and apply sufficient downward force into the screw for a secure grip. Some of the most common materials that improve friction are: 

  1. Steel wool
  2. Rubber bands
  3. Duct tape 
  4. Electrical tape

Tip: If you have a large group of stubborn screws that you can not back out using the method above, purchase a screw extractor kit

Use a screw extractor kit for several stubborn screws. To use a screw extractor kit, begin by drilling a pilot hole into the center of the screw head.

Insert the extractor drill bit into the screw and apply pressure to ensure the extractor’s threads grip the screw. 

Now, you can pull out the screw and remove it for good. Screw extractor kits are the most reliable option for removing stubborn screws, but they aren’t the most cost-effective.

Use the first methods of removing stubborn screws, and then opt for a specialized screw extraction kit as a backup plan. 

How Do I Fix Stripped Screw Holes in Deck Boards? 

To get the screw to thread in the screw hole again, you need to close the gap in the opening and give the screw something new to catch its wire on.

If you have stripped screw holes in deck boards, you can try the following three methods to secure the Screw properly: 

  1. Use a longer or wider screw
  2. Purchase wood anchors 
  3. Place toothpicks in the screw hole

Stripped screw holes are caused by using too much speed when operating a drill, using a screw not designed for wood, or wood that has lost its moisture.

Fortunately, fixing stripped screw holes in wood is an easy process that can be done in a matter of seconds using different techniques. 

These three methods will provide you with the best chance of succeeding. They are easy to follow, and you will be able to repair even the most stripped screw holes you will encounter during your home improvement project. Now, let’s go into detail on how you can do each of these three methods. 

1. Using a Longer or Wider Screw

In some cases, if you are screwing into a deck board—you will have some additional length that a longer screw can secure into tightly.

The general rule of thumb used by carpenters and other merchants is to have the screw reach at least halfway through the bottom material. However, you can use a longer screw that secures the wood without exiting the base material. 

Moving up two sizes is typically enough for the screw to catch the original screw hole and thread itself into the wood.

A significantly bigger screw can begin to impact the appearance of your work. If you are worried about the size difference affecting the appearance of your work, we have other methods you can use.

If you cannot use a longer screw, the next option is to use a broader screw that will bore new threads into the wood. Use a screw that is slightly wider in diameter than the original for an easy replacement. If the original screw size is 8-gauge, you can use a 10-gauge screw to fasten tightly in the screw hole. 

2. Using Hardwood Screw Anchors 

When we think of screw anchors, we often think of them exclusively for drywall applications. However, there are screw anchors that work with wood and help thread a screw into a stripped hole. These are plastic anchors set in the drill hole before putting the original Screw back into it. 

The screw anchor will be unnoticeable and offer a seamless solution to having stripped screw holes in your deck boards. If you want to ensure that your screw anchor is the correct size for your deck screws, here is a table that displays the standard sizing for plastic screw anchors and their corresponding drill and screw sizes. 

Anchor SizeDrill SizeScrew Size
6-8 x 3/4″3/16″6-8
8-10 x 7/8″3/16″8-10
10-12 x 1″1/4″10-12
14-16 x 1-3/8″5/16″14-16

3. Fixing Screw Holes with Toothpicks

If there are only a few stripped screw holes, you may not feel the need to buy boxes of new screws or screw anchors. Luckily, an old trick helps fix stripped screw holes that many carpenters and merchants have used throughout the years. All you need is a few toothpicks and wood glue for this method. 

You will start by measuring the depth of the screw hole by placing a toothpick into it and seeing how far it sticks out of the top.

Put a good amount of wood glue on the end of two toothpicks and place them in the screw hole. You can break it off any excess length sticking out of our screw hole with a hammer. 

The toothpicks will act as an additional material that the screws can grab onto when you screw them into the hole. Depending on the size of the screws and the opening, you can place only one toothpick or several in the hole.

After the wood glue has dried and it’s secure, you will notice that the screw will guide smoothly and latch on. 

What is the Easiest Way to Remove Deck Boards?

Removing old deck boards is the first part of any wooden deck renovation. If you want to remove deck boards easily, there are a few tools that you can use to make the process go quickly. We will start with the most basic method and move on to more difficult deck boards. 

The easiest way to remove deck boards is by using a drill to back out the screws and remove the deck board without any damage.

Backing out the Screw is the easiest and most preferred option, but it is not always viable. If the screw is stripped or rusted, you will need a more physical approach, such as a pry bar. 

Some tools pry deck boards from joists easily and without using too much of your energy. The pry bar tools for deck boards typically have an extended handle that gives you more leverage for removing the panels. If you cannot remove the screws on your deck with a screwdriver, this is your next best option. 

Some of the best pry bars used for removing deck boards are: 

Be sure to follow recommended safety measures such as wearing protective glasses and gloves when operating a pry bar.

Pieces of wood can break when prying it from the joist, resulting in potential projectiles. Splinters can also damage your hands as old wood has a higher likelihood of splintering. 

How Do You Remove Old Deck Boards With Stripped Screws? 

If you want to remove old deck boards with stripped screws, you likely want the most accessible and inexpensive option.

For a stripped screw, using a standard drill bit is not a reliable option. Using a pry bar can also be physically demanding and sometimes challenging with screws. 

The easiest way to remove old deck boards with stripped screws is by using a hollow screw extractor set. These open drill bits look like a hole saw but are just big enough to fit around a screw.

You can drill around the stripped screws from the deck boards and toss the old boards in the dumpster within seconds. 

These hollow screw extractors typically come in the following sizes and will remove the following screw sizes:

Extractor SizeMaximum Screw Size it Can Remove
1/4″ Hollow Diameter Screw Extractor8-Gauge Screw
5/16″ Hollow Diameter Screw Extractor 10-Gauge Screw
3/8″ Hollow Diameter Screw Extractor 14-Gauge Screw

However, one detail of this method will be the difference between a success and a failure. The hollow drill bit needs a template or guide to accurately cut into the old deck board. If you do not make a drill guide, the drill bit will struggle to cut the wood and scratch the surface instead of cutting. 

To make a guide, you should use a wood paddle bit to cut into a small piece of plywood the size of the hollow extractor bit you are using.

With this guide, you will keep your drill bit centered, and it will have no room to miss the screw. Once you have the guide made, you can use it as many times as you want to remove old deck boards quickly. 

How Do You Remove Rusted Deck Screws?

Your home’s wooden deck will need to hold up against the weather elements for many years during its lifetime. As a result, the screws in your deck boards can start to become rusted and corroded when you replace them. For screws that have severe rusting, a standard screwdriver won’t grip the rusty screw head. 

If you want to remove a rusted screw from a deck board, you will need a few tools for the job. The tools that you will need are: 

  1. Hammer
  2. WD-40, Liquid Wrench, or other rust penetrant solutions 
  3. Screwdriver 
  4. Optional: Friction screw drops

To remove a rusted deck screw, begin by hitting the head of the screw with a hammer lightly to break up the rust. You will also need to add a rust penetrant spray to the area like WD-40 or Liquid Wrench to dissolve the rust.

In most cases, the screw will break free, and you can remove it after only a few minutes of the rust penetrant working its magic.

However, some tricky screws were severely deformed by corrosion. Using a friction drop solution on the head of the Screw can allow you to get a grip on a stripped screw that has been affected by rust.

The main ingredient of most friction drops is black oxide, a metal solution that improves friction when hardened. 

If you still can’t remove the rusted screw, some options can be using a Dremel wheel to cut a slot into the rusted screw that you can remove with a flathead screwdriver. Some kits work to help remove a rusted or corroded screw.

What Do I Do If The Screw Breaks in a Deck Board?

In an unfortunate situation, an old screw can become brittle, and the screw head can break off if twisted with a drill. Wood decks can last anywhere from 10-15 years, and screws can lose their integrity as time passes. If you are removing boards for an older deck, you need to prepare for a broken screw scenario. 

For this situation, you have a screw in the wood with no screw head to twist with a screwdriver. Seems like a worst-case scenario?

Luckily, there is a solution to this problem that is quick and easy. You likely have all of the tools you need lying around in your house, requiring no trip to the hardware store. 

All you need is a:

  •  Set of pliers
  •  Utility knife
  •  ¼” drill bit 

To remove a screw that does not have a head and is above the wood uses locking pliers to twist the body of the screw out.

If the screw is sitting flush, use a utility knife to cut around the screw until you can grab ahold of it with pliers. Lastly, if the Screw is more profound, you can use a drill bit to remove the wood surrounding the screw. 

While broken screw heads are rare with new screws, this can still happen if you are screwing into your new deck boards.

If the screw broke in the wood and you don’t want to damage the surface, apply wood putty over the broken screw. Use a new screw that is ¼” away from the spot of the original screw. 


Removing stubborn screws from deck boards can be one of the most frustrating parts of renovating your home’s wooden decking.

Stripped screws can lead to countless hours with little progress if you aren’t ready. Before starting on your next big project, take some time to prepare with the necessary tools to remove screws and deck boards. 

If you want consistent and reliable results, have a:

  • Pair of locking pliers 
  • ¼” drill bit
  • Pry bar
  • Screw extractor kit

Contractors have used these tools for a long time to solve the timeless problem of a stripped screw head. You can also remove old deck boards quickly and efficiently with a high-quality pry bar.

With the tips in this article, stripped screws stopping your deck remodeling projects in their tracks will be a thing of the past. 


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Hubert Miles

Hello! My name is Hubert Miles. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. One of my favorite parts of my job is inspecting decks and patios. I also enjoy spending time in our backyard with friends and family. My team and I started this site to share this journey. We hope you enjoy the content.

DISCLAIMER: The content published on is not professional advice. You should consult with a licensed professional and check local permit requirements before starting any project. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to We also participate in other affiliate programs with other affiliate sites. We are compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

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