The Ultimate Guide to Removing Broken Wood Screws

If you’ve ever embarked on a DIY project involving woodwork, chances are you have encountered the dreaded situation of a broken wood screw. Whether it’s a stripped head, a snapped-off shaft, or a completely stripped hole, dealing with a broken wood screw can be a frustrating and time-consuming challenge. However, fear not! In this article, we will explore several effective techniques to remove broken wood screws, allowing you to salvage your project and avoid the need for costly repairs or replacements.

1. Assess the Damage and Gather the Tools

Before diving into the removal process, it’s essential to assess the extent of the damage caused by the broken wood screw. Determine whether the screw is stripped, snapped, or if it has stripped the hole in which it was seated. This initial evaluation will help guide your approach to removing the broken screw.

Additionally, gather the necessary tools for the job. Depending on the technique you choose, you may need a drill, screwdriver, pliers, a hammer, a center punch, or even a dedicated screw extractor set. Having the right tools on hand will ensure a smoother removal process.

2. Apply Lubrication and Allow Penetration

Once you’ve assessed the damage and gathered your tools, applying lubrication to the broken wood screw can significantly ease the extraction process. Lubricants such as penetrating oil or WD-40 work wonders in loosening the grip of rust, debris, or adhesives that may be binding the screw.

Apply the lubricant generously to the broken screw and give it some time to penetrate. This waiting period allows the lubricant to seep into the crevices, loosening any stuck particles and making the extraction smoother.

3. Remove the Broken Screw Using Pliers

One of the simplest methods to remove a broken wood screw involves using a pair of pliers. This technique is effective for screws with at least some portion of the shaft protruding from the wood surface.

Using a pair of quality pliers, grip the exposed portion of the broken screw tightly. Slowly and steadily, rotate the pliers counterclockwise to unscrew the broken piece. However, take care not to apply excessive force, as it may cause the screw to break further or damage the surrounding wood.

4. Drill into the Broken Screw

In cases where the broken screw is flush with the wood surface or recessed, drilling into the screw becomes necessary to create a starting point for removal. This technique requires a power drill and a drill bit slightly smaller in diameter than the screw.

Position the drill bit at the center of the broken screw and apply gentle pressure. Begin drilling slowly, ensuring the bit remains aligned with the screw. The objective is to create a shallow hole that will provide a grip for the extractor or allow the screw to pop loose. Be cautious not to drill too deeply, as this may damage the underlying wood.

5. Extract the Broken Screw

With a shallow hole drilled into the broken screw, it’s time to extract the piece. There are several methods to accomplish this, with the choice depending on the availability of tools and the degree of damage.

One option is to use a dedicated screw extractor. These specialized tools feature a reverse-threaded tip that bites into the screw, allowing you to unscrew it as you would with a normal screwdriver. Select an extractor size suitable for the broken screw, insert it into the drilled hole, and carefully rotate it counterclockwise until the screw begins to turn.

If a screw extractor is not available, another alternative is to use a larger drill bit to create a hole next to the broken screw. Then, insert a narrow punch or chisel into the new hole and tap it gently with a hammer in a counterclockwise direction. This technique aims to create enough torque or purchase to rotate the screw and loosen its grip.

6. Consider Heat and Cold Expansion

Heat and cold can be valuable tools when dealing with stubborn broken wood screws. Thermal expansion and contraction can help break the bond between the screw and the surrounding material, making removal easier.

For heat expansion, use a heat gun or a soldering iron to carefully heat the area around the broken screw. Thermal energy will cause the metal to expand and may break the bond, allowing you to remove the screw with less effort.

Alternatively, cold expansion can be achieved by placing ice or a cold pack on the broken screw. As the metal contracts due to the cold temperature, it may create enough small fractures to loosen the grip and facilitate extraction.

7. Utilize Wood Plug Technique

When dealing with small broken screws deeply embedded in the wood, the wood plug technique can come to the rescue. This method involves drilling a hole adjacent to the screw, inserting a wooden dowel or plug coated with wood glue, and allowing it to dry. Once dry, you can grip the dowel or plug and twist it counterclockwise, taking the embedded screw with it.

8. Preventing Future Broken Wood Screws

While removing broken wood screws is undoubtedly a useful skill to have, taking preventive measures is always the best approach. To avoid future frustration, consider the following tips:

  • Choose the right screw size and type for the job. Using screws that are too short or too thin can increase the risk of breakage.
  • Pre-drill the screw holes to prevent splitting or stripping the wood.
  • Apply a suitable lubricant, such as beeswax or soap, to screws before insertion to reduce friction.
  • Use a screwdriver or power drill with adjustable torque settings to avoid applying excessive force.


In the world of woodworking, broken wood screws are an unfortunate reality. However, armed with the techniques covered in this article, you can confidently tackle any broken screw situation. Remember to assess the damage, gather the right tools, and apply lubrication to ease the removal process. From utilizing pliers and drills to employing heat or cold, there’s a solution for every broken screw challenge. By taking preventive measures and exercising caution, you can minimize the possibility of encountering broken wood screws in your future woodworking endeavors.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *