How to Pull Nails the Easy Way

Pulling nails out of a piece of 2-by-4 inch lumber is difficult to do with only a hammer -- and can damage the wood.
The back end of a claw hammer can gouge wood when removing nails.
If you plan to reuse the lumber and need construction nails removed, use the proper tools to avoid splintering the wood, which can happen using the back of a claw hammer. The right tools for the job are "cat's paw," a curved bar that bends to a small, flat cleft foot, and a pry bar. .

Step 1

Position the cat's paw in front of the nail head at a slight angle.

Step 2

Hit the back of the cat's paw with the hammer driving its claws into the wood and around the head of the nail. The wood will splinter, but not as badly as if you used the claws of a hammer. Once the nail head is in the claws of the cat's paw, push the cat's paw in the opposite direction, prying the nail out of the wood. If brute strength isn't enough to pull the nail, hit the cat's paw with the hammer to drive it forward.

Step 3

Grab a pry bar once the head of the nail is exposed. The longer handle of a pry bar provides more leverage. Put the head of the nail in the claws of the pry bar and pull toward you until you can pull the nail the nail free.

Things You Will Need

  • Hammer
  • Cat's paw
  • Pry bar


  • Depending on the size of the nail you may need some additional leverage. Place a piece of wood under the pry bar, position the nail in the claws of the pry bar and pull forward.