How to Remove a Single Piece of Hardwood Flooring.

O.K., so you have tongue and groove hardwood floors and you need to remove one piece.  How do you do it?  Like this …

Karen Bertelsen lifting piece of tongue and groove hardwood.

Please enjoy the strained, pretend blog smile I use on the outside when I’m a home renovation mess on the inside.

The reasons for needing to pull up a single piece of tongue and groove flooring are varied. You might want to see what the floor underneath is like.  Your cat may have peed on it and you want to replace a section without wrecking all the floor around it.  Or maybe,  just maybe, you do it for no reason at all, other than your undiagnosed home renovating mental illness known as You Might as Well Trychosis.


Finishing nail showing through crack in hardwood flooring.

I’m not sure if you know this or not but I’m in the midst of a design decision.  Whether to rip up my old floors to go down to the older floors, or whether to just let everything be. This is where Trychosis gets me in trouble every time.

My floor refinisher pulled up a small piece of my hardwood oak flooring while he was here assessing what my flooring options were.  He cut out a small portion of my floor in such a way that if I wanted to put the piece back no one would ever EVER know it had been removed.

I wanted to try.

How to Lift a Floor Board

  1. Pick the board you want to remove.  The shorter the board, the easier it will be to lift.
  2. Slowly run a sharp box cutter along the cracks on either side of the board.
  3. Continue cutting with the box cutter getting progressively deeper into the tongue underneath.
  4. When you feel no resistance you’re through the tongue.
  5. Gently lift the board, using a pry bar if needed.

Countersinking nail in hardwood.

So I did. And now I’ll show you how to do it in case you want to try it.  Due to your Trychosis.

The reason I couldn’t lift up a piece of this hardwood flooring easily is because of how tightly it is laid down.  If the floor has spaces in between the boards you can get a saw in there to cut between the boards.  Not so when it’s so tight.

The first thing I had to do was knock down a couple of finishing nails that were sticking up. If you have any any nail sticking up just using a nail punch and a hammer to hammer it down.  If you do any DIY and you don’t have a nail punch I’m gonna let you know right now your disorder isn’t nearly as bad as  you think.  Also you should buy a nail punch.

Cutting between crack in tongue and groove hardwood with boxcutter.

Your second step to removing a single piece of tongue and groove hardwood is to run a box cutter down the seam between two boards.  Just gently pull it through.  Keep doing that, going deeper and deeper until you can feel you’ve cut through the entire tongue of the hardwood.


Cutting through oak tongue and groove strip flooring crack to remove single piece.

This is not a fast process.  It probably took me 45 minutes to cut through both sides of one 2′ board.  You have to go carefully so you don’t cut yourself or slip and cut the hardwood.

Karen Bertelsen running boxcutter along crack of tongue and groove flooring to remove single piece.

The sharper your boxcutter, the easier this will be.


Don’t pull towards any part of your body. Make sure your hands, legs and feet are out of the way in case you slip.

Gently coaxing piece of oak tongue and groove up with claw hammer.

Once you’ve cut through the tongue there may still be nails holding the strip down. Gently pry it up with a prybar or hammer.

Lifting single piece of cut out flooring to reveal pine underneath.

Once it gives loose pull your board out.

This technique cuts through both tongues on either side of the board you removed.

You can now take a moment to stare at whatever is underneath the floor you removed.  If your lucky it will be money. You’ll be staring down at gobs and gobs of money.  Or a hidden Renaissance painting.  Me? I was staring down at another floor.

Once you’ve satisfied your Trychosis, simply wipe the sawdust and shavings away and place the board back down.  If it’s going down for good, just drizzle the back with some wood glue before you put the wood back in place.

You can’t tell at all that one of those floorboards was removed and put back down.

If your floors are up against built in cabinets or baseboards use a multisaw to cut through the end of the board.

The reason you wouldn’t use this to cut through the sides of the flooring also is because even though the cut it makes is very thin, it’s still thicker than the seams between the boards.  In other words, if you put the flooring back, the cuts wouldn’t be invisible like they are if you use a boxcutter.

Again, if you’re a DIYer and you don’t own one of these tools you really should. Mine is the Dremel Multi-Max, but there are a few different makes of them.

So now that I’ve seen another section of the pine flooring  under my dining room floor am I closer to making a decision about whether to pull the floors up?

Yes.  Yes I am.


→Follow me on Instagram where I often make a fool of myself←


How to Remove a Single Piece of Hardwood Flooring.