What is a Nail Puller?

Jessica Reed

A nail puller is a handy, time-saving device used to extract nails that are bent, driven in the wrong spot, or need to be pulled out of a piece of wood for other reasons. Once a nail is hammered into a piece of wood, it is impossible to pull out by hand. The nail puller solves this problem. One end is wedged underneath the head of the nail while the user applies pressure to the other end. After enough pressure is applied, the nail is forced out of the wood and a new nail can be hammered in if necessary.

Most types of nails can be removed using a bar nail puller.
Most types of nails can be removed using a bar nail puller.

Various types are available. The simplest type is the bar nail puller. Typically resembling a small crowbar, one end of the bar is shaped like a V and slightly angled to pry the nail out with little damage to the wood. Certain types are designed to cut off the edge of the nail so the remaining piece will be even with the wood instead of pulling the nail completely out.

Roofing nails often have a spiral shank to make pulling them out difficult.
Roofing nails often have a spiral shank to make pulling them out difficult.

The molding bar is a specific type created to work with molding, a delicate material that scratches easily. This bar can pry nails out with little damage to the molding. The wrecking bar, also known as a ripping bar, is a second type of bar nail puller designed for heavier projects requiring more force to remove the nail. Other bar nail pullers are made in varying lengths and for different materials, but the basic concept behind how they work is the same.

Pneumatic nail pullers are the second type available. Less common and more expensive, the pneumatic nail puller uses air pressure to extract the nail. This type means less work for the user, and claims to work faster than the traditional man-powered nail puller. The pneumatic nail puller digs into the wood and clamps around the nail before using air pressure to pull it out of the wood.

When choosing the right nail puller for a project, consider how delicate the material is and what type of nails were used. A construction worker might consider keeping a basic wrecking bar on hand for general use and a selection of bar nail pullers made for certain nail or wood types in her toolbox in case they are needed. She may consider investing in a pneumatic version if the need to pull nails is a common occurrence on the job.

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Discussion Comments


@spotiche5- I hadn't thought about that potential problem. It makes sense, though, because some hammer heads are not very secure.

I have a hammer head that is no longer on the base, and I saved it specifically for removing nails. It's good for small projects and nails that aren't too long.


@heavanet- This is a good tip for small nails and minor home improvement projects, but probably won't work for larger nails that are pounded into thick, heavy materials.

I have used a hammer head nail puller many times, and it usually works just fine. However, I have also had the top of the hammer come off when I was trying to pull nails out of thick boards, or when I had a lot of nails to remove. I think that a bar nail puller made just for this purpose is the best tool to use for most nail pulling projects.


I think that the opposite side of a hammer head is the best type of nail puller. It is readily available if you have a hammer, and economical because it is basically two tools in one.

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