Removing a Screw With a 'Stripped' Head
Extend the Life of Your Tools
How to Buy Hand Tools
I don't know if you can help. I used my husband's electric drill today to attempt to remove four screws in a hot tub (yes, I am in California) maintenance panel. The maintenance fellow recently repaired the hot tub and apparently put in last screw improperly. He probably used his drill. When I came to the troublesome screw (I had tried earlier to unscrew it with a long screwdriver), the drill just stripped the head, so no way I can get a Phillips screwdriver to fit in properly. Is there any trick to removing a screw with a stripped head? My husband is not the handy type, nor is he patient. I have learned, after 37 years, that it is better if I tackle these jobs myself
There are two methods of screw extraction when the screw heads are hopelessly damaged. The first is to just use an electric drill to remove the head of the screw. Drill directly through the center of the head with a drill bit maybe a third the size of the head, about 1/8" deep. Use progressively larger bits until the head of the screw comes off. Then, remove the maintenance panel. There should be more than enough screw shank (the "body" of the screw) remaining to grip with a pair of pliers... preferable self locking pliers such as Vicegrips. Hold tight and carefully turn the screw out.
If course, if the panel you are removing is very thin, there might not be enough screw shank to grip... so you can use a screw extractor instead. A screw extractor looks something like a blunt-ended screw with very broad threads. These hardened cutting threads are in the opposite direction of a standard right-hand threaded screw. When you turn the extractor, it tightens into the hole giving it a firm grip. To get a correctly sized screw extractor, take one of the screws you successfully removed to the hardware store. The salesman should be able to give you the correct size extractor and the right size drill bit for this job! The hole size is important... it should be no more than about 75% of the diameter of the screw shank. If you attempt to use too large an extractor by drilling too large a hole you may overly weaken the screw shank and the head might just break off! Back to step one!
To remove the screw, drill into the damaged screw head about 1/8-1/4 inch deep. Push the extractor into the hole and rotate it counterclockwise with pliers or a Visegrips to remove the screw.
There is another possible way to get the screw out that is a little less laborious but has a lower success rate, especially if the screw is really jammed into place. Instead of trying to remove the screw with a Phillips screwdriver, try using a squaredrive bit instead. Squaredrive bits are designed to be used with a special type of screw that is used in both construction and cabinetmaking. The head of the screw has a deep square moulded into it. This design gives tremendous gripping power to the bit and is more difficult to strip.
Anyway, sometimes it is possible to tap a squaredrive bit into a damaged Phillips screwhead and get enough grip to extract it! If you don't have a screwdriver with replaceable tips (everyone should have one), you can get one at the hardware store... plus an assortment of square drive bits to go with it!
Have a small home repair question for THE NATURAL HANDYMAN? Just click here naturalhandyman.com/aitikia. For more home repair information, visit NH's growing list of original home repair articles and quality links naturalhandyman.com. If this information has been valuable to you, please consider making a small donation to support NH's free service to the home repair community! For more information, please visit our "Friends" page naturalhandyman.com/friends.
The Natural Handyman Site Directory
- Home Repair Articles naturalhandyman.com/iip
- Home Repair Links Library naturalhandyman.com/linkslibrary
- NH's Bookshop naturalhandyman.com/bookshop
- Find a handyman at naturalhandyman.com/network
- Win unique home repair gifts and prizes at naturalhandyman.com/contest. Please read the important copyright and disclaimer information is located at naturalhandyman.com/copyright
Also in Home
- Cleaning coffee stains on carpeting
- Is it a DIY job? How to tell
- Don't kill your small engine!
- Choosing a new freezer
- Laundry the old-fashioned way
- Applying engineering techniques to pesky household problems
- 25 tips and tricks for an organized move
- Tiling a shower stall
- 5 ways your house can make you go broke
- 5 simple and affordable luxuries for your home
- Does staging really raise a home's price?
- 5 home renovation can raise your insurance rate -- or lead to discounts
- The right way and wrong way to pay down your mortgage
- 6 cheap, effective home security solutions
- 3 ways (and 1 reason) to refinance a HELOC
- 6 home projects that don't pay for themselves
- Should I refinance my home equity line?
- Find the best mortgage rates in your area
- 3 ways to use a mortgage calculator
- Mortgage calculator: Calculate your payment and more
- Home equity calculator: HELOC vs. line of credit
- Mortgage refinance break-even calculator
- How much money can I borrow for a mortgage?