6 Tips for Removing Hardwood Flooring for Reuse

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated October 28, 2021
Father and daughter put together a puzzle on hardwood floors
Fancy/Veer/Corbis / Corbis / Getty Images Plus via Getty Ima

One room’s wood trash is another room’s wood treasure

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If you’re doing general renovations or replacing the flooring in your home, you may find yourself pulling out hardwood flooring that may be as old as the home itself. Give this wise and beautiful wood the spotlight it deserves and consider repurposing it elsewhere in your home, whether as flooring or for a crafty project, like building a chair for your porch. Here’s some expert insight about removing hardwood flooring for reuse.

The Benefits of Reusing Hardwood Flooring

There are many advantages to reusing hardwood flooring:

  • It’s eco-friendly: Recycling wood reduces the amount of wood that ends up in a landfill and cuts back on general pollution caused by production and manufacturing. 40% of U.S. trash is composed of construction and demolition debris.

  • It gives you that worn wood look immediately: Many people prefer the look of worn wood, with its rich patina, as it lends a rustic, classic look to any home. By reusing wood that’s already aged, you’ll get that look much faster (and less expensive!) than if you bought new.

  • It saves you money: The cost to install hardwood flooring is $6 to $25 per square foot and installation runs $3 to $6 per square foot. Save on the cost of materials by using what you already have.

Once you’re ready to embark on the project, keep these tips in mind.

1. Expect (and Embrace) Imperfections

Hardwood flooring that was in a sunny spot will likely have color variations. But since nothing in life is perfect, why not accept and embrace these slight imperfections? The rustic look of salvaged wood can add a unique look to any project. If the color variations are extreme, you can sand and bleach the floor.

2. Look for Damage

Fluctuating temperatures or high humidity may have warped your wood. There might also be chips, cracks, water damage, or—yikes—mold, so make sure to inspect every plank before reusing it.

3. Check the Size

Wide plank hardwoods in dining room
Woning Media / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Sometimes bigger is better. When repurposing wood, it's helpful to work with planks six feet or longer because they're easy to pull up. Also, keep in mind that many older buildings have sanded-down wood that's hard to repurpose because it's so thin (you want the tops of the grooves to be more than one-eighth of an inch thick).

4. Remove the Baseboards First—And Save Them

Gently use a pry bar to remove the baseboards before the floor, and if they are undamaged, reuse them, too! Make sure to cut away any caulk or sealant with a utility knife, then ​​check the inside corners to see if they are mitered or coped. If your baseboards are coped (the corners overlap each other, using beveled cuts), you should remove the coped side first to avoid damaging the other board.

5. Remove the Old Boards Carefully

To pull up the old hardwood, you’ll need a pry bar, mallet, locking pliers, and nail claw. You should pry up boards with an exposed tongue by sliding the pry bar underneath and near a nail and lifting gently up, one-quarter of an inch at a time. Repeat this process with all the nails. You may need to go around the board a few times before it completely lifts. If reading these tips makes you uneasy, you may want to outsource the job by hiring a local flooring professional to pull out the old hardwood without damaging it.

6. Get Excited About the Endless Reuse Possibilities

You can do so much more than use the old hardwood for flooring.  Maybe you want to reface your kitchen cabinets or clad a focus wall. You could even hire a local craftsperson to design a unique chair or other pieces of furniture.  If you’re feeling generous, donation is an option.  Many salvage stores would also be happy to take that beautiful worn wood off your hands.

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