How to remove painted and stripped screws

4 Jul

One of the most annoying things you’ll have to deal with when doing projects around the house is a screw that just won’t come out. They’re either stripped or painted over and you can’t get a bite with a screwdriver. But before you destroy the thing trying to remove the screw, give these methods a shot.

Removing painted-over screws

  1. Scrape it out with a screwdriver. You have to be careful, though. This often results in scratching the woodwork, gouging fingers, or stripped screw heads, which means you’ll need to look for tips to remove stripped screws.
  2. Trim it out with a sharp utility knife. This requires some patience and is hard on the fingers.
  3. Melt or soften the paint by using a heat gun or apply a couple of drops of paint thinner or stripper and then pick it out with a sharp implement.
  4. Nail and drill it. No, this isn’t what you’re thinking. Grab a four-penny nail and put it in the drill point first to create a mini grinding wheel. You can clear the slot with the edge of the spinning nail head.

Removing stripped screws

  1. The easiest method is to buy busted screw removal bits and keep them handy. You can pick them up at any hardware or home improvement store for about $10.
  2. If you have a rotary tool (Dremel or the equivalent), you can use it to cut a notch in the screw head.
  3. Drill a small hole in the center of the screw head, but not too deep. That might be enough for your screwdriver to get a bite on the screw.
  4. Find a wide rubber band and put it across the screw head. By pushing really hard with your screwdriver, the rubber band will give you enough traction to remove the screw.
  5. Tap the screwdriver with a hammer. This is often just enough to get the screwdriver to seat without damaging whatever you’re working on.
  6. If the screw head is above the surface, you may be able to use needle nose pliers or vise grips to grab the head and unscrew it.
  7. If the screw is only slightly stripped, use a Phillips screw driver that is slightly too big for the hole. Push down hard and tilt the screwdriver at a slight angle and turn.
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