Removing Drywall Screws from lumber

I've been recycling lumber for all of my life, which is may years. Nails always come out, excepting some of those ring nails (also known as pole barn spikes). But in recent years I'm finding more of the framing lumber put together with drywall screws or deck screws.
You cant yank apart boards with those screws with a pry bar, at least not easily. More often that not, the boards will break before the screw lets loose.
You'd think they would remove easier than nails. Just unscrew them, but it dont always work that way. I just got done fighting with four 8ft. 2x6s that someone sandwiched together to form a post, and held together with 3 inch black drywall screws with phillips heads.
I got out my cordless drill with a phillips bit, only to find the heads were buried deep in the wood, and the wood had swelled around the heads. A few of them came out, but most didn't. Part of getting the head to grasp in the philllips bit is to determine the angle they were put in. Very difficult when the wood is swelled around the head. (The wood was swelled more than usual, because this was sitting outdoors for several months and the rain made it swell worse).
I spent nearly an hour and a lot of sweat getting the first of these four 2x6's apart, and almost every screw the head pulled thru the board, meaning I had to remove the whole screw from the next board with my screw gun, or a vice grips.
By this time I'm thinking that for the cost of an 8ft. 2x6, this is not worth the hassle. Fortunately the screws in the next layer were more visible, since the weather had not swelled the wood as badly around the heads. I was able to unscrew about 4 out of every 5. That's when I got a steel wedge (log splitting wedge) and drove it in right where the remaining screws were. Thus breaking the screws.
This worked much better and quicker. Although this is not something I'd want to do on boards that will be exposed, since the wedge left an indent in the board. But for framing lumber it's fine.
One of the biggest problems is the fact the screws were phillips. If they were the torx (star) head like they are using more now, they would come out much easier. I've always hated phillips for this type of screw. A bit rarely lasts more than 50 screws, and less for removing them. Yet, I've used the same torx bit for 2 years of hard use, and it still works.
The problem I describe above is even worse on decks. Due to constant weather, the screw heads often can not even be located, and if they are, the screws have rusted and the boards swelled, and even a plug in drill can not often remove the screws, or the bit will break.
I posted this to see if anyone has any other (maybe better) methods for removing these screws. Mostlty related to removing them from boards that were screwed together. Not the little ones actually used for drywall. Those little ones can generally be pulled out with a claw hammer, or just broken off.
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For such a situation, I prefer a chain saw and a fireplace. The screws come out effortlessly.
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On 10/27/2015 8:24 AM, snipped-for-privacy@none.com wrote: ...

...
For simply salvaging framing lumber, a) use a small holesaw and simply core the head end or b) if can get a little gap between the two w/ pry bar or having removed a couple, use the sawzall and cut them (same effect as your breaking them)
--


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On 10/27/2015 7:59 AM, dpb wrote:

I'd add that using the impact driver setting may help when trying to back 'em out, if not doing so...
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On 10/27/2015 9:41 AM, dpb wrote:

+1 The impact driver, or undriver in this case, can usually work better as they don't skip as much which further damages the Philips head. After seeing them use impact drivers on TV shows and how easy they seem to work, even in the hands of someone who had never used one, I went out and bought one. I got the little Bosch 12V LI unit to go with the similar 12V LI drill. Both are excellent tools. But, you probably need both. For drilling and short screws, the drill works great. For longer screws, the impact driver is definitely my tool of choice. And for 80% of what I do, these little 12V units pack a real punch. I also have a 14.4V Bosch and an 18V DeWalt for the heavier jobs. But with the little 12V units, you don't have to hold a 3 or 4 pound battery over your head when doing high up jobs.
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On 10/27/2015 10:15 AM, Art Todesco wrote:

I tried an impact driver for turning cement anchor "Tapcons" and found it did wonderful job.
Similar impact driver works nicely for me, to install or remove long screws in decks. Perhaps the impact driver will be some use to the OP, also?
http://www.harborfreight.com/18-volt-14-in-cordless-variable-speed-hex-impact-driver-62421.html
- . Christopher A. Young learn more about Jesus . www.lds.org . .
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I can't say that I find it troublesome to remove drywall screws, especially 3". The small ones will sometimes snap off if they're in tightly, but I've never had trouble getting the bigger ones out. When they're sunk in I find the phillips tip can almost always "find" the slots if I start the drill will just slight pressure. It's a lot less trouble than removing 16d nails.
I never use cordless drills. I don't know whether that might make a difference.
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On 10/27/2015 08:33 AM, Mayayana wrote:

I have no problem getting the screws out with my cordless drill...but it's a good quality "Milwaukee" with a lot of torque.
I have another mid-grade cordless that has trouble getting them out.
A good, new bit is also helpful
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The best method will partially depend on what you want to do with the recycled boards.
If you are using it for framing lumber again, grab a reciprocating saw and a metal cutting blade and cut the screws between the boards. This will seperate the boards quickly and easily, but will leave the screw parts in each board. That's usually not a problem if you're just framing something new.
If you want to use the lumber for woodworking purposes, you will obviously want to remove every bit of metal you can. It wouldn't make sense to recycle a $5 board only to ruin a $60 saw blade or planer knife. A metal detector is a wise investment for these situations.
Sometimes the easiest option is to cut the boards below the point where they are screwed together. You'll end up with shorter lumber, but it's a lot less work.
Otherwise, there's no easy way to remove screws that have been in place a while, especially if they've been outdoors. Determining the type of head is often the difficult part, phillips, combi-drive, square, torx, etc. Sometimes it also helps to take an awl or small nail and clean out the recess of the screw so the bit can fit properly.
A big crowbar will usually separate two boards that have been screwed together. Either the screw threads will pull out, or the head of the screw will pull through. Then you can use a pair of vice grips to back out the screw. Of course, old screws often corrode and will break off instead of backing out.
Worst case, if the wood is not pressure treated, I just cut the boards into firewood with a reciprocating saw and collect the leftover nails with a magnet after burning. Pressure treated lumber just goes to the dump.
Anthony Watson www.mountainsoftware.com www.watsondiy.com
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On Tuesday, October 27, 2015 at 5:25:33 AM UTC-7, snipped-for-privacy@none.com wrote:

So that's what those rotten SOB's are called!. A few years back I took down, dug out, broke up lots of old 2-300# chunks o f fence post cement and rebuilt (with cemented in 8 foot long 2 3/8" metal poles instead of PT 4x4's) her entire fence. I drilled and bolted on metal brackets to attach the 2x4'S, used 1 1/4" deck screws so the slats would be removed and replaced if necessary. (more than a few screws snapped in two later as the wood shifted in the hea t) Her gardener did her a "favor" by hammering in those damn impossible-to-rem ove nails to replace the screws. Had to center punch, drill off the heads, pry out the shaft and replace wit h longer thicker screws (none haven't snapped yet)
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On Tue, 27 Oct 2015 07:53:37 -0700 (PDT), Shade Tree Guy

The trick to remove pole barn spikes on framing lumber is to grind the heads off with an angle grinder. Yea, it burns and dents the wood, but it makes the job easier. The lumber is still usable for framing. This trick dont work on screws, because the screw heads are often set too deep in the wood. But spikes are generally nearly flush with the board's surface, so you may gouge 1/16 of an inch into the board, but the board is still good. Of course you have to also grind off the piece of nail in the post too, after the board is removed.
For recycling framing boards, I sometimes just grind off all the nails. Faster than pulling them out, but grinding disks dont last real long. But they're not all that expensive and saves time.
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On Tue, 27 Oct 2015 07:24:26 -0600, snipped-for-privacy@none.com wrote:

As always, just consider the value of your time. There's no efficient method for this. A Sawzall can make it easier, but it's still a PITA. I just throw it out if it's too much trouble.
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snipped-for-privacy@none.com writes:

I have a large PT fence around my property. I put it together with square drive (Robertson) deck screws. The posts are 4x4, the rails 2x4 the fencing deck boards.
When Sandy hit I disassembled the intact wood with an electric drill and square drive. I'd say 90% of the screws came out as expected, but 1 in 10 snapped. Those I had to pry out. Mostly, the head came through the deck board rather than the screw letting loose.
Philips would have been much worse. Square drive is the way to go.
Despite a couple of large trees hitting the fence length-ways, a surprising amount of the lumber survived. I love it when a plan comes together.
--
Dan Espen

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