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I'm removing some old speaker mounts from a wall (I believe the wall is plaster, but I'm not 100% sure. It's definitely not a drywall).

Two of the screws are stuck, and I'm at wits end trying to get them out. The screw doesn't budge in the slightest, no matter what I try. Things I have tried:

  1. Multiple screw bits/screwdrivers
  2. Steel wool/tape under screwdriver for more grip
  3. Applied WD-40 to screwed
  4. Irwin extractor kit. I can't even drill into the screw with metal drill bits
  5. Locking pliers. I can't get a good angle/grip

I'm not sure what to try next. The other screws removed easy enough - there's some rust/corrosion in the threads of the other screws, so I'm assuming these are extra stuck for the same reason, but I can't say for sure.

These are also a pain, because they are high on my wall, so it's hard for me to really lean into them on the ladder and not worry I'm going to slip and fall.

How else can I to remove them?

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  • 1
    The one on the right does not seem too bad yet, that a proper size screwdriver and power/force should not turn it, but if they don't turn an angle grinder will remove the head. Be careful of sparks and hammer the screw in after.
    – crip659
    Mar 11 at 19:17
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    I think you might need better tools. An impact driver with the proper bit would probably take that out easily Mar 11 at 19:29
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    What you want to try is a hand impact driver. It looks like a screwdriver with a large diameter handle. You insert the correct tip then hit the handle with a hammer,
    – mikes
    Mar 11 at 21:50
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    @chrismanderson Yes I think impact driver would work as long as you use the proper bit with it. People are suggesting specialty tools, which is fine, but you'll get more use out of an impact driver Mar 12 at 16:29
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    Do you have (access to) a socket set which has a Phillips bit of the correct size? Or, probably better, a T-handle screwdriver? Also, a second person to hold the ladder would be a good idea. Next time, avoid Phillips head screws! Torx work well; I guess you're the wrong side of the border for Robertson screws to be easily available. Mar 12 at 18:15

12 Answers 12

10

You might be in luck. The heads on those screws are of a suitable shape to grab (very hard) with locking pliers (e.g. Vise-Grips or Mole-Grips.)

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  • I tried a pair of long nose locking piers but couldn't get them to grip. The long nose probably doesn't work well with the screw head so will look for a more rounded shape. Mar 11 at 20:39
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    A long nose plier does not nearly grip the same amount as a locking plier.
    – Martijn
    Mar 13 at 9:40
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Use an angle grinder to grind the screw head down to paper thickness, then pry the bracket off the wall. The last bit of screw head will bend out of the way. (Really, you can just go nuts with the grinder, but if you were trying to salvage the bracket for reuse, then the prior advice applies.) Now you'll have a nice chunk of the screw to grab with pliers. The pliers surfaces are typically roughened for grab at 90 degrees from the screw's length axis, so don't try twisting the pliers in line with the screw's length axis.

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I'd start with a "manual impact driver" They're cheap and often found at junk/garage sales.

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The bits are not common 1/4" instead they're either 3/8" or 1/2" so less likely to break.

Usage - you fit this in the bolt and set the rotation control to "out" and then hit the back-end with a hammer. This forward-impact is transformed into rotational drive, AND the impact from the hammer helps to prevent camming-out.

Downside these are not fast, but they are super-satisfying when the fastener starts to move.

For scale, I've used these to remove brake-drums, both backing out bolts and driving forward on an extraction hole to lever the drum off the hub.

These might only be a once-a-year tool, but without it I'd be resorting to cutting in places where its just not needed.

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I’d try the vise grips first (per the answer from @ecnerwal), but if you really can’t grip them, try the old school impact method. Get a Philips screwdriver you don’t love, and whack the back with a hammer while turning counterclockwise.

And if nothing else works, get better drill bits and drill the head out.

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The screw hasn't cammed out yet, thankfully. What I typically do on cases like that is to use a square/Robertson bit with the longest-handled ratchet I can find. A breaker bar would work even better (your hardware store might even rent one to you). The square bit doesn't have the tendency to jump out of the screw like Phillips does. The ratchet gives you leverage that multiplies your torque, plus allows you to turn the screw by pushing upwards (tends to be less destabilizing when on a ladder vs. forces with a sideways component).

How you set up your ladder can make a difference too. I use an A-frame ladder, and set it as close to the wall as possible with the rung side facing the wall (the ladder and wall look like a capital 'N'). That puts me in the narrow space between the ladder and the wall, which makes it hard to fall. I can face the wall, brace against the ladder, and really lean into a screw if I need to.

2

Use an angle grinder to cut off two sides of the head to make them flat. Then use locking plyers or an adjustable wrench to turn the screw.

As an alternative, grind the head of the screw off completely and remove the mount. Then grind the what's left of the screw flush with the wall.

1

I go to a left handed drill bit after screwdrivers and pliers fail. (Impact drivers and diagonal cutters are examples of these respectively of course).

If the left handed drill bit fails then it’s time for grinding, although I’d probably use a Dremel with a cutoff wheel since the screw is relatively small and the Dremel is considerably easier to control than an angle grinder.

Harbor Freight Left Handed Drill Bit set

Not the highest quality (doh), but more than adequate for a couple of “one off” jobs. Using a left handed drill in this case is straight forward since there is a centered “hole”, often you have to grind the fastener flat and then use a center punch.

As an idea, drive a similar screw into a piece of scrap wood and try/test the extraction on the ground first, this will help with bit size selection too. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how well the drill bit will bite into the screw and how well the drill will back the screw out. YouTube has several videos demonstrating this technique.

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In the past I have had success (and failure) using a screwdriver with flats on its shank. Put an adjustable wrench on the flats. Push the driver as hard as possible into the screw head with one hand and turn the wrench with the other. Something will give ... I have had screws start turning, screws that sheared off, and screws where the socket became round. My preferred driver for this work has a hex socket at the other end so I can use disposable bits. You can get diamond-coated ones that bite into the screw head for the greatest possible grip.

In that last case you can cut a slot across the head with a multi-tool or hacksaw and try again with a flat-bladed screwdriver bit.

If I couldn't get any joy this way I would drill or grind the head off the screw(s) and remove the bracket. This will leave a bit of screw shank protruding from the wall. You can get a little extra length by scraping away some plaster. Then, put a self-grip wrench on it as tight as you can manage...

If this fails, cut it off below the surface level of the plaster, and make good by plastering/ filling and painting over it.

One other thought. If the screw is into a brick or block wall using plastic plugs, heat may be your friend. Try a soldering iron (large) or fine flame to heat up the screw, and the plastic in the wall may melt or soften making it possible to move the screw. Treat this as last-resort (after removing the screw head and bracket).

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That one looks easy.
Take a metal saw an make an 1-2mm deep cut across the screw. If you can't reach, take the blade out, wrap in cloth and use blade alone.
Use the large old fashion flat screwdriver to get screw out.

0

Try a screw extractor that drills a smaller hole into the screw, trying to get "new grip". But as others said, the screw on the photo still looks good enough for "normal removal".

You can also use an a pair of engineer's pliers if the screw is accessible from the side: Just grab the screw's head firmly (from the side, not from the top)) and turn it. That may damage the screw, but you should replace it anyway.

If that fails you could cut a slot into the screw's head using a hand saw for metal or some motor-driven tool like a "Dremel", and then use a flat-blade screwdriver trying to get it loose.

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If the screw is stuck in the concrete, it might help to loosen it up if you hammer on it - similar to what @Criggie suggests. However, a trick I have found useful sometimes is to get an old fashioned wood braceenter image description here and equip it with a screw bit of the right size and shape (Phillips, I think) - you can apply much more power that way, than with any electric screwdriver I've come across. In fact, I've managed to shatter the screwdriver bits several times.

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Use an electric impact driver. This will provide extra torque that can get the wedged screw out. Start on a low speed, the screw (hopefully) will start to vibrate, kick up some dust, and start to turn.

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  • I used an impact driver to remove the screw - thank you for @joephillips's suggestion. I had it running at low speed for about 30 seconds and I finally saw some small dust getting kicked up behind the screwhead as the driver started to vibrate it loose. A few moments later, the screw finally started to turn. I used lots of screw removal methods but in this case (where the screw was drilled into a plaster/concrete wall) more torque was definitely the solution. Mar 28 at 14:42

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