The Phillips head screw was used to hold a floating shelf on bedroom wall. The head of the screw became stripped, so my child decided to try to fix the problem themselves by digging out the drywall around the screw and trying to twist it with vice grip pliers. Didn't work and now we are stuck with a screw that is stuck in what seems to be wood or another hard material behind the drywall- basically they hit something hard and decided to ask for help when there was no more drywall to dig.

We tried to remove the stripped screw by adding a rubber band for friction, that didn't work. And there is absolutely no give or rotation with vice grip pliers- the pliers keep spinning around the edge of the screw head and nothing is working.

And will it be okay to patch up the damage to the drywall with spackle and repaint? the damage is about nickel-quarter sized. enter image description here

  • 2
    I think you need to try a little harder with the vice grips. Tighten the screw on the vice grips to the point where it takes two hands to clamp them on the screw head. You should also try to get the vise grips as close to the wall as possible, in other words they should be parallel to the wall not 90 degrees to the wall. I wouldn't worry about gouging up the drywall a little bit more you have to patch it anyway. Or use Jasen's suggestion of snapping it off, grab it with the vise grips and start bending back and forth til it snaps. Jan 1, 2021 at 14:10
  • 4
    If you haven't smashed two flats into the head of the screw, you haven't got the Vice Grips™ tight enough.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 1, 2021 at 14:17

3 Answers 3

  • Turn the adjusting knob on the locking pliers so that it takes both hands to clamp them shut on the screw head and squashes some small flats into the screw head when shut.
  • Hold your locking pliers flat against the wall
  • Clamp them shut
  • Unscrew

You want the pliers so tight that you can barely get them clamped. That will get you the maximum grip on the screw so you can get it backed out.

You want the pliers flat against the wall (not sticking straight out from the wall) because it gives you maximum leverage to get the screw turned.

Once the screw is out, a little spackle will fix up the hole with no problem.

If the screw head snaps off, run a flat edge across the surface of the drywall to see if the screw is below the surface. If so, pretend it's not there and spackle right over it. If the screw is still sticking out from the surface, a small grinding wheel on a hand-held rotary tool (like a Dremel tool) will quickly grind it down to below the surface after which proceed like it's not there.

  • 1
    Good answer but the main reason you want the pliers against the wall is so their grooves prevent the screw head from slipping. If no grinding tool is available, hammering it flat against the stud is another possible fix, at the cost of slightly more damage to repair.
    – Olivier
    Jan 1, 2021 at 16:29
  • Thanks- we were able to snap off the head of the screw and we spackled over it!
    – Don
    Jan 2, 2021 at 1:29
  • @Don as noted in the tour, please say thanks by clicking the up-vote arrow next to any and all answers that helped you, and click the check-mark next to the one that helped you the most.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 2, 2021 at 19:43

You could try a manual impact driver with the apropriate size of pozidriv (not philips) bit. (looks like PZ2)

enter image description here

Or bend it over with a nail punch and then tap it round in a circle to losen it or bend it back the other way to snap it off, or do the same thing using the locking pliers

That will leave you with the hole, drywall repair is failry easy, trim off all that torn paper and then spackle and repaint.


Yes, you can patch right over that. Obviously the screw is well anchored and should not result in a drywall pop later.

Stainless doesn't grab drywall mud as well as black oxide screws, but since it's recessed into the wall a bit you can skim right over it. Do your best to fill under the screw head before you finish.

Before you begin I'd take a sharp utility knife and gently cut a clean line into the paint layer to remove the flaking edges. Slice very lightly around the whole area and peel away all loose material. You want secure material under your patch. Use a 4" putty knife or larger. When you're done the patch should span from the surface of the paint across the repair.

When it's dry, take a damp cloth and rub away the edges of the repair to blend it with the texture of the paint.

All that said, the screw doesn't look nearly damaged enough that a fresh #2 Phillips driver shouldn't pull it out. (It's a common mistake to use #1 for screws like this--you almost never need a #1.) Keep the driver aligned and push hard.

  • except that's a pozidriv not phillips.
    – Jasen
    Jan 1, 2021 at 20:21
  • Fair enough, but I've never personally owned Pozidriv bits and don't find them necessary. #2 Phillips is compatible.
    – isherwood
    Jan 2, 2021 at 0:27

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