How to lift floorboards

It can seem a rather onerous task and one certain to disfigure your floor. Of course it doesn’t have to be that bad… but usually is… especially if you’re planning to do the job in a rush!

First of all you need to determine what type of flooring you have. Just lift the carpets and look, chances are you’re either looking at lengths of parallel board all lying neatly next to one another (well ok… kind of neatly lying next to one another) or you may just find a large expanse of chipboard.

The lengths of parallel board are called tongue and groove, it’s not the name of some bizarre dance but a description of how the boarding works. One side has a tongue sticking out which slots neatly into the other side of the next board which has a groove running down the side of the board for it’s whole length. The whole thing slots neatly together to make a nice strong floor.

Lifting tongue and groove is easier than lifting chipboard in my own experience. There are a few ways to go about this task:

1. Work out which length of board you need to lift, identify where it’s fixed down to a joist by looking for the nail heads, mark a diagonal line across the board such that a part of both cut ends will remain supported by the joist, cut thru using a small tenon saw. Once the ends are cut you need to cut thru the tongue holding the board in place, you can either do this the nice way by cutting along the whole length of the board on both sides with the tenon saw… or you can do it the rough way using a flat, wide bolster chisel to smash through the tongue down both sides of the board. Once this is done you can pry the board up using a small crowbar.

2. You can make a much better and faster job of the above using a small cordless circular saw instead of the tenon saw. If the saw allows it then be sure to set the depth of cut to the width of the boards you’re cutting.

Did I mention that you REALLY need to be aware of any pipes or cables running under the board you’re cutting? Well if I didn’t then please do take care, you REALLY need to be aware of pipes and cables under the board your cutting. A mistake here can result in an expensive an annoying flood or even a terminal electric shock!!

If you’re not so lucky then you’ve lifted the carpets and discovered a vast expanse of chipboard… Bother!!

Personally I prefer to use a small circular saw for cutting chipboard. I use the lines of nails to identify the position of any joists and cut the board in line with the joists, leaving enough of an edge to be able to fix the board back down afterwards. I also avoid cutting the board into narrow strips because this weakens it badly, I prefer to cut a larger square section if I have to cut the stuff at all.

Using a circular saw in an enclosed space can get really noisy, dusty and dangerous so treat the job with respect and make sure you’re protecting your hands, eyes, ears and lungs… gloves, goggles, ear defenders and a facemask. Simple isn’t it?

3 Responses to “How to lift floorboards”

  1. A square mouth shovel works great once you have a corner lifeted up.

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  3. I have a question about putting floor down, how long does it usually take to install a new wood floor on an 1000 ft house?

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