How to pull wood strip floors

Don and I pulled the oak strip flooring from one of the bedrooms in Apartment 1 on Saturday.  We did half the other bedroom today.  I thought about his dad some while we did it. The last time we did this together, his dad cut church and helped while his mom kept the Little One for us.  I miss his dad.

Start by sweeping up the room. If you’re the floor puller, you will spend most of your time scooting around, and you don’t want to scoot into splinters.


Then, find the side of the room with the tongues exposed. Because the floor was nailed down through the tongue, it is easiest to pull from the tongue side. Start at the end which is exposed. Don uses two pry bars, and rocks them toward him to help loosen the nails. We like to work left to right, perhaps because the tongue end is on the right, perhaps because we are right-handed.  If there’s room, tap the pry bar with a hammer to encourage the pry bar to slide under the strip. Move the pry bars down the strip until the strip is removable.


When the strip is mostly loose, pause while wiggling the piece loose so your wife can take your picture with her slow-as-molasses camera. Wear protective eye gear and gloves like Norm tells you. The first few pieces are face-nailed, and much harder to de-nail than the later pieces. (So I left them for Don to do.)


After an hour, we had about a quarter of the room done. pulling-floor-4.jpg.

This photo illustrates the tongues on the short ends of the strips. The other ends have grooves.tongue-and-groove-ends.jpg
After a couple of hours, Don’s cell phone rang, so we took a break. You can see that sometimes, the nails stay behind, stuck in the subfloor.

What was I doing? Pulling nails and taking pictures. The still life below illustrates my equipment: a pair of bullnose pliers, a flat place, and a coffee can to receive the nails. (By the way, Don says our local IGA now carries Stewart’s coffee. He had been buying cans of it from Chicago whenever he went home.) I like to align the board with the groove near me since the nails are pointed toward me that way. Then, I pull and pull. Sometimes I use that piece of scrap as a fulcrum, but mostly it doesn’t help. I was able to keep up with Don’s floor pulling until I started a blister. Then, I slowed down. (Managed not to pop it.  The blister.)


Then, we went back and swept up. I pushed all the debris into the bathroom and left it for another day. Don pulled the nails that stayed in the subfloor.


Then Don folded up the tar paper (and helpfully posed for my slow-as-molasses camera).


Isn’t it interesting that the subfloor was laid diagonally? I suppose that decreased the odds that a strip would line up with the joint between the subfloor pieces. We left the room broom clean (another round of sweeping), and all nails pulled. (We even sorted about eighty percent by size and put them on one of Don’s carts.) The job took about five hours.


We got about half done with the other room today.  We have about a dozen ten-foot pieces, and, as the official floor layer-outer, I’m starting to think about the focal point of the floor that this is  destined for.  (Somewhere upstairs.)

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