How to Remove Screws With Stripped Heads

Photo: Berka7, Shutterstock
Photo: Berka7, Shutterstock

It’s a novice carpenter’s worst nightmare: you’re trying to tighten or remove a screw and you find the head is stripped. You press the screwdriver or drill bit into the head and try to turn, but there’s no friction. First, try throwing a little back into your screw twists. If that fails, try one (or more) of these stripped screw removal tips.

Our first round of suggestions comes from the DIY experts at Stack Exchange.

Drill Into the Screw

Damaged screws can be extracted by drilling into the screw with a drill bit, then using a special screw extractor bit that is tapered and has threads which turn opposite to those of the screw.

The extraction process should be done slowly and carefully because the extraction process is more fragile than the normal insertion of a screw.

Check out Gilles’ Outlet for a detailed writeup of the process explained above. — Answered by Jeff Ferland

Use a Rubber Band

Use a rubber band. (This method also previously seen at Lifehacker.) — Answered by zzzzBov

Cut a Notch in the Screw Head

Use a dremel or hacksaw to cut a notch in the screw head and then use a slotted screwdriver to remove it. — Answered by Tester101

Try the Grabit Pro

The Grabit Pro extracts stripped and broken screws. All you need is a portable drill. I’ve used it a couple times and it’s worked every time. — Answered by lqlarry

Use Pliers

I’ve found a pair of vise-grip pliers work great, as long as the screw isn’t buried all the way. Just clamp down around the head and start turning.

Keep in mind, this method might damage the wood around the screw as the jaws of the vise grip scrape the surface. — Answered by onaclov2000

If you are looking for yet more methods, consider these from Remove and Replace DIY Home Projects:

Break out the glue

Glue a nut to the top of the screw and remove it with a wrench. This one will depend on your ability to get the nut to adhere to the screw without accidentally glueing it to the wood itself, so proceed with caution.

Use a larger size screwdriver

This is one of those “so simple it just might work” ideas, but if the screw in question isn’t too severely stripped, you may be able to remove it simply by making the attempt with a larger size screwdriver.

Got a secret for extracting a stripped screw? Leave your suggestion in the comments.

This story was originally published in April 2012 and updated with additional methods in September 2020.

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