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I pried off some deckboards and the nails stayed in the joists. I want to replace the boards, so I need to remove the nails (yes, I could cut them, but I'm curious how to remove them :) ).

Using the claw of a hammer they wouldn't budge, and some of them I even broke the head right off (it kind of folded up and the "wings" broke off).

So then I got this Crescent 19" Nail Puller and it grabs on super tight even without the heads, but even when I throw my whole weight into them they don't budge.

Are these sometimes just a lost cause that you need to cut off? Or is there some magic trick I'm missing out on to pull them out?

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    Side grinder with metal cutting disk – Kris Jun 10 at 1:04
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    Not an answer (since I can't swear it would work from experience) but I suspect that if you hit them with a hammer hard enough to get them to move (a bit more in - perhaps 1/8 of an inch) they might then be more willing to pull out (since I expect they are corroded-into-the-pressure-treated-wood for "why they are stuck so hard?") If you use a grinder, be sure to not leave the site for a while after you stop using it - grinder sparks have set a lot of things on fire during lunch breaks or after the crew went home for the day. – Ecnerwal Jun 10 at 1:09
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    What you're experiencing just comes with the turf of galvanized nails, pressure treated lumber and outdoor weather. I went though a similar exercise replacing some boards on a dock. Some of the nails pulled right out (though with a 36" pry bar), while others the head just snapped off. If I was lucky, the nail broke at the shank where it entered the joist, and it was then easy to hammer the short stub down to be flush with the joist. – SteveSh Jun 10 at 1:10
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    Put a cheater pipe on it....more leverage the better, easier they will come out. – Limo DRIVER Jun 10 at 1:31
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    @Ecnerwal It worked!! I gave them a good whack with a hammer, then the nail puller pulled them right out! Add an answer and I'll accept it :) – David Doria Jun 10 at 15:17
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Based on your successful trial from my speculative comment:

I suspected that if you hit them with a hammer hard enough to get them to move (a bit more in - perhaps 1/8 of an inch) they might then be more willing to pull out (since I expect they are corroded-into-the-pressure-treated-wood for "why they are stuck so hard?")

You say it worked, so proof in hand, it's not so speculative anymore.

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  • Neat piece of advice, and it makes sense. "Corroded into the PT wood" - that's what appears to have happened with my dock boards. I've got some more to replace, will try your suggestion. – SteveSh Jun 10 at 17:22
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I use a nail Jack or puller just as you have. Most folks that can’t pull the nail are using the puller with the handle down, raise it up bite the nail and pull, this doubles the torque and has never failed me.

You have the shaft of the nail available so the nail Jack is not even needed. A framing hammer will work also. We don’t use the head but the nail itself.

Put the claw on the nail like you are trying to pull it but instead of pulling back go to the side, push until the hammer handle hits, then reset and go the other direction. Each side to side usually pulls up the nail 1/2” or more. Continue resetting and going the opposite way until the nail is removed.

With the 2 methods above I never have to grind, or cut. I usually pull with a nail Jack and extending the handle works with a quality tool like you have, I have sharpened the jaws a few times but have one that is 30+ years old I did break a cheap one in the past with the handle extended but not on a good one they will hold up to pulling 16 penny hot dipped all day long.

Note in both cases with the nail Jack or a framing hammer you are grabbing at the wood surface, I don’t see a bite bark on the nail, I have had the nail Jack bite through some cheap nails.

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  • Have you ever used it on galvanized spiral spikes in landscape ties? I went with vice grips and then using a hammer and smashing on the vice grips to pull some spikes out of partially rotted 6x6 ties - I am just wondering if this nail jack would have had a chance. 16" end nippers didn't do anything. – Fresh Codemonger Jun 10 at 8:33
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    @fresh codemonger I don’t think I have used them for anything larger than 20 penny nails, mostly 16 penny round, square twist and ring shank. I have pulled many thousands of nails having to sharpen the beak several times on my older one. Larger nails I will use a “cats paw” and hammer to get started then switch to a crow bar but this tears the wood up and takes multiple tools. – Ed Beal Jun 10 at 13:08

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