Subfloor Screw Removal

This is an over due post about what has been working for us and what hasn’t.

First of all, I have to admit, I didn’t think ripping up the subfloor would be that hard. I thought the worst part of it would be the unveiling of more dead mice, mice nests and mice poop. I had zero idea of how hard it would be to free the subfloor from the c-channel.

Here are our previous posts about the subfloor, first is Cutting into Alice’s subfloor and then Battling the Cold and the Subfloor. We have been working on this subfloor for 3 months. Granted we started before Christmas and then it was so cold we couldn’t work out in Alice even if we wanted too and then there was the flu from Hell that hit our house…. It has been a long 3 months but I think we have finally found a method that seems to be working.

But first… this is what didn’t work.

Only about 1 in every 10 screws would come out with the drill. When they did come out with just the drill it was a big deal. Like, do a happy dance and then give each other high fives big deal. 

Starred Photos134

If the screw was too rusted to come out nicely, screw removal became infinitely harder. Usually it only took one attempt with the drill before ruining the screw for any chance of removal by hand with a screwdriver. It was like playing a game of screw roulette. Are you going to take the chance to try to get it out easily with a drill or skip straight to the harder methods of removal. Odds are not in favor of easy removal but there are so many rusted screws to remove you just hope and bet that THIS one will come out easy.

Failed Method #1

The first thing I did was Google how to remove stripped screw. That lead me to screw extractor kits and dozens of videos on YouTube of real people using screw extractors and having success with them.

First I bought the Grabit because that is the brand I was able to find at Home Depot. The Grabit didn’t work. It just bore a bigger hole into the screw creating zero chance of a screw driver to work. In fact, most of the heads just popped off the screw which created a whole ‘nother problem.

16 - 63

I then bought the Speedout brand against Tim’s insistence that “if one screw extractor brand doesn’t work, you won’t have any luck with a different brand.” He was right. I was wrong.


513LSqqAbSL._SX300_ grabit-11

I had the same results with the Speedout as I did with the Grabit. This lead me to the conclusion that Tim was right… again. It isn’t that the Grabit and Speedout don’t work it is that these screws are too rusted, the plywood around the screws is too mushy and swollen. No screw extractor will work.

After probably a total of 3 hours over two weekends of trying to get the screw extractors to work I threw up my hands and told Tim that he was going to have to saw them out.

So that is what he did.

Failed Method #2

Tim used our Ryobi Multitool with a carbide tip blade and started cutting. It took about 2-3 minutes to cut through a screw. It was noisy but it did the job.


HOWEVER… with the sawing method I was left with a hacked off screw. In order to remove the screw from the steel frame I had to drill them out because there wasn’t enough screw to use a pliers on. This process took a long time and ate through a lot of bits quickly. Even when he left a bit of screw for me to grab with the pliers, the screws were hard to loosen by hand.

Here is the other problem with this method; we are working on Alice in a cookie-cutter family neighborhood. Sure we only work on weekends and only during daylight but still, I do feel bad about all the noise we are making. Tim says to just let the guilt go, it is a weekend afternoon, we can be as noisy as we want. My theory is that if we don’t want Alice egged or to receive glares or even noise complaints from neighbors we should keep the noise down as much as possible.

Our neighbors are good people, but we are in a neighborhood of working families and weekend’s are cherished. Making their weekend miserable with metal-on-metal sawing and drilling noise makes me feel bad. PLUS, carbide multitool blades and drill bits are expensive and the costs add up quick. We needed a better method that wouldn’t piss off our neighbors and that didn’t cost us a bunch of extra money.

2016-01-04 (1)

Third Times a Charm

Here is the method that is now our go-to and seems to be the most efficient for us. It did require the purchase of yet another tool though.

Tools needed:

  • 7/8 inch hole saw. We bought the Real McCoy brand for $8 at Menards. It works great.
2016-01-04-a 2016-01-04c
  • Safety Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Flat Head Screw Driver
  • Pliers
  • Knee pads/gardening knee mat (even mushy subfloors can be tough on knees!)

First you hole saw around the screw to relieve the pressure of rotted and swollen subfloor on the screw. NOTE: Be careful not to drill through the steel frame.


Second: Clear out the area around the screw as much as possible with a screwdriver.

cleanout with screwdriver

Third: Loosen the screw with pliers.


Fourth: Finish removing screw by hand if the screw is not too stripped from earlier attempt at drilling it out. If it is too stripped then continue with step three until screw is freed.


We are able to get the screws our relatively quickly with this method.

It took us 3 different methods to finally find one that worked for us and this was just the screws that were on the subfloor. This has nothing to do with the screws and bolts that were in the c-channel. Those were infinitely harder. Another post on that soon.

This whole Airstream Renovation thing is not easy but I really do continue to believe that it will be worth it. I just hope that we are still on track to have Alice done by camping season this year.

3 thoughts on “Subfloor Screw Removal

  1. Amber

    Thank you for posting all of this information!! I know that you are saving us days of work with every post we read!!!

  2. Kim&Raul

    Hello my husband and I just purchased a airstream and plan on renovating the bathroom. I was wondering if you would be able to post more photos of your renovation of the bathroom and the re-assembly/ items used for the bathroom.

    1. Meg Post author

      We have not gotten to putting the bathroom back together. Stay tuned for more frequent posts. We have been stalled on Alice renos because of winter in Minnesota.


Leave a Reply

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