How to Remove Brad Nails without Damaging Wood

hammer removing nail from wood

Brad nails are thin and usually small nails used in wood projects. These nails have narrow heads that protrude on one side and therefore can be easily embedded into the wood using a brad nailer or a simple hammer. There are some varieties of brad nails that are headless and are only 0.5 to 2 inches in length.

Brad nails can be fairly difficult to remove, especially if you want to do so without causing damage to the wood. The head of the nail is narrow, and the nail shank has the tendency to bend or even break if you apply too much pressure with a hammer.

Moreover, if the nail is hidden or countersunk, you will have to find a way to reach it from the other end. Regardless, here's how you can remove a brad nail without causing much damage to the wood.

Using Pliers

The method employed to remove a brad nail depends on the kind of nail that has been used. A set of pliers are the best instrument to use for this, regardless of whether the head of the nail has been countersunk or flush against the surface. The pliers are used to grip the nails, so that they can be pulled out.

Using a Hammer

Once you have a firm grip on the nail, you need to use the claw end of your hammer to pull the nail out. Be gentle when you pull the nail out. You can loosen it by moving it back and forth with the pliers. Position the tools in a manner that the claw is between the pliers and the wood surface.

Using a Lever

The hammer or a pry bar provides the leverage. However, whichever tool you use will apply pressure to the wood surface at a point, which can cause damage. To protect the wood surface you can use a small piece of wood as a buffer.

Be sure to sand the wood properly before removing the nail as rough edges could ruin the finish of wood from which you are prying the nail out.


The brad nail can be grasped by its head using pliers, only if the head is visible and not flush against the surface. If you can grasp the nail head with your pliers, simply pull it out using the abovementioned tools.

If, however, the nail head is countersunk, flush against the surface, bent, or broken, you will not be able to pull it out using the head. For this, you will have to try and grasp the other end of the nail.

For instance, if the nail has been used in moldings, remove the moldings to access the back-end of the nail. Grip the stem of the nail with the pliers and use the claw end of your hammer to pull it out.

Again, keep your hammer between the wood and the pliers. Also, while you are pulling the nail out, it is important not to lose hold of the pliers. This keeps the brad nail straight and ensures that it comes out safely.