Rehabbing A House

About Removing Tight or Stuck Screws


It's Always that One Stubborn Screw! There are very few things involved with any home improvement project as irritating as a stuck screw. The one that has been there since your grandparent's grandparents put it there. The first step in removing a stuck screw is to spray the screw with rust penetrant and to let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

Screw Extractors
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Righty Tighty. Lefty Loosie.

We all know that a smaller screwdriver can fit into the slots of a screw, but what you might not realize is that you're not getting the torque required to twist the old, rusty screw out of there. The correct amount of torque is key, and you cannot achieve it if the screwdriver is too small, you run the risk of stripping the screw itself, or damaging your tool.

How to Remove a Stuck Screw

  • Spray the screw with rust penetrant like Liquid Wrench or PB Blaster
  • Let the penetrant work for 10-15 minutes
  • Find the biggest screwdriver that snugly fits the screw slot
  • Gently tap the screwdriver into place with a hammer to break any rust seal
  • Apply gentle downward pressure while turning the screwdriver slowly
  • Be patient and repeat these steps 2-3 times(or more) if needed
  • All but the most stubborn or broken screws can be extracted manually
  • A screw extractor kit is a last resort option if all else fails
  • Here are a few other tips and tricks that might help...

Additional Ways to Remove a Stuck Screw

If you've found a decent screwdriver that fits perfectly but you are still having trouble getting enough torque to get it to budge then consider taking a hacksaw or Dremel tool to elongate the split in the screw, allowing you to use a larger screwdriver to get more torque.

Is it loose yet? No? That's okay, like I said, how to loosen screws could be a novel to itself. Lightly tapping the screw with a hammer sometimes works. This serves to shake things up and break up some of the rust that may be holding the screw in place.

Still at a loss of how to remove stuck screws? Try a rubber band. If all of the effort you have put into getting the stubborn little bit out has stripped the screw and made it impossible to get enough of a hold to apply torque, a little DIY hack is to place a piece of rubber band onto the head of the screw and place your screwdriver in place. The little bit of rubber provides extra grip for the tool and can help remove all but the most stubborn screw heads.

Now, if you have done so much damage it's too far gone anymore it might get a little frustrating on how to remove stuck screws. Go into your toolbag and get out a file. It will take some work, but you can always file the edges down on either side, enough to give you enough room to find a grip with your pliers and twist it off a different way.

At this point, if you're still wondering how to loosen a screw after trying all of this, it might be time to apply a little hear. You can try using a soldering gun, or plumber's blowtorch to heat the metal. This will cause the screw to expand due to the heat, creating a larger hole. The metal will then cool and shrink and the extra space might make it easier to loosen the screw. Avoid using heat near flammable surfaces!

Wipe off any oil you used to try and lubricate the screw before applying heat. Penetrants are flammable and you don't want to accidentally start a fire to spite one screw.

If all of this failed, and you're still searching for how to loosen a screw, then it might be time to get yourself a screw extractor. These special drillbits will help you drill into the metal of the screw, and then reverse course to do exactly what is in the name: extract the screw. These are easy to find and purchase, as they are available online and at your local hardware store.

Good luck with all your future home improvements!


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