How to Remove Stuck Screws From a Door Hinge

Updated on July 20, 2019
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Eugene has a keen interest in DIY and gardening. Over a 30 year period he has also become self taught in garden power tool maintenance.

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Stuck Screws and How to Remove Them

You need to remove a door to replace it or lay flooring. You try to undo the screws from the hinges but nope, they won't budge!

Over time, the slots in screw heads get filled with old paint as multiple coats build up. Screws can also rust up in damp environments. The result? Almost impossible to remove screws. Read on to find out how you can sort out the problem.

Most woodscrews now have Phillips heads, but older screws were slotted.
Most woodscrews now have Phillips heads, but older screws were slotted. | Source

Tools Required

  1. Screwdriver
  2. Light hammer

Optional:

  1. Hacksaw
  2. Drill bits
  3. Countersink bit
  4. Centre punch
  5. Dremel rotary tool
  6. Vice grips (locking pliers)

The paint on the heads of these screws needs to be removed.
The paint on the heads of these screws needs to be removed. | Source

Step 1: Clear the Paint From the Top of the Screw

Use the tip of a flat blade screwdriver to clear all the paint off the top of the screw heads, exposing the slots. Tip: If you're right handed, hold the handle of the screwdriver with your right hand hand and the blade with your left hand. Your left hand acts as a restraint, so the screwdriver is less likely to slip, damaging paintwork.

Paint removed from heads, now the slots need to be cleared.
Paint removed from heads, now the slots need to be cleared. | Source

Step 2: Clean the Slots in the Screw Heads

It's often older type wood screws that get seized in timber. Generally these have a slotted head, unlike a Phillips or posidriv head screw.

  • You can use a hammer and flat blade screwdriver as a chisel to clear paint.
  • The blade should ideally be as wide as the slot to clear all the paint. This then allows you to use a proper sized screwdriver blade to attempt screw removal.
  • Hammer the screwdriver at a 45 degree angle to push paint sideways out of the slots.

Clear the paint from the slots with a hammer and screwdriver.
Clear the paint from the slots with a hammer and screwdriver. | Source
Clear the slots with a screwdriver.
Clear the slots with a screwdriver. | Source

Use the Proper Sized Screwdriver!

Before you attempt to remove screws, it's important that you have the proper sized screwdriver!

Step 3: Try Tightening the Screws First

Before you attempt to remove screws, it's important that you have the proper sized screwdriver. The blade width should be the same diameter as the head of the screw and the blade thickness should be the same width as the slot. If you use a blade that doesn't fit, it's easy to damage the tip of the blade or round the edge of the slot, making removal even more difficult.

Try loosening the screws once you've cleaned the slots. If they are obstinate and refuse to budge, move onto the next step.

Push the Screwdriver Blade Tight Into the Screw Head

If a screwdriver is worn, or a screw head is damaged, pushing as hard as possible while twisting is best.

Step 4: Put Lots of Pressure on the Screwdriver While Unscrewing

The slot in a screw head is rectangular. If you don't use enough pressure behind the screwdriver, pushing into the head, the tip of the blade will likely rise out of the slot and slip, rounding off the edge. This is more likely if the slots were damaged when the screws were removed a couple of times before.

If you're removing the screws from a door hinge, it's a little easier to produce a lot of force on the screwdriver by getting your back against the opposite door jamb. Get down on your hunkers and use your two hands to push as tight as you on the screwdriver, while turning it.

Put your back against the door frame. This enables you to push hard on the screwdriver.
Put your back against the door frame. This enables you to push hard on the screwdriver. | Source

Step 5: If the Screws Still Won't Undo, Try Hammering the Edges

Often the reason screws are difficult to remove is because they've rusted up, roughening the threads and increasing their hold on the timber. If you still have difficulty removing them, sometimes it helps to hit the edge of the slot, near the perimeter, with a screwdriver and hammer. The impact can release their grip on the timber.

Hammer at right angles to the slot, near the perimeter. This may help to un-stick the screw.
Hammer at right angles to the slot, near the perimeter. This may help to un-stick the screw. | Source

Cut a New Slot in the Head

If the screw has a round head, you can deepen the slot or square it up with a hacksaw. If it's a Phillips screw and the head is damaged, try cutting a new slot with a hacksaw or cutting disk on a Dremel type tool.

Use Vice Grips to Grip the Screw Head

As an alternative to using a screwdriver, you can use a vice grips (locking pliers) to undo screws. The advantage of this tool is that it gives a lot of leverage (also called torque or turning force), much greater than a screwdriver can achieve. To use a vice grips, you first need to undo the screw so that it's a little proud of the timber surface. Use a steel file to make parallel flats on opposite edges of the screw head. This makes it less likely for the grips to turn on the head.

If You Can't Remove the Screws, It's Time to Remove the Head

Sometimes it's just plain impossible to remove a screw, so what are the alternatives?

  1. Drill out the head. Use a bit about 1/4 the diameter of the head. If you have a centre punch or even a hard nail, try to make a dent first, which helps to centre the bit. Drill down through the head and eventually you'll reach the shaft of the screw, detaching the head.
  2. Use a countersink bit. Sometimes it's difficult to keep a drill bit centred on a head, especially if it's damaged. You can use a countersink bit as a sort of milling tool to grind away the head. Apply pressure and you may be able to get the point of the bit to penetrate the head, helping to stop it sliding.

How to Remove Phillips Screws

  • Don't try using a worn screwdriver. The four edges on the screwdriver tip should be square. Over time, these edges become rounded, so when twisted, the tip will just slip in a screw head.
  • Newer chipboard type screws may be made from very hard steel, so it can be difficult to cut a slot in the head with a hacksaw. This is where a Dremel tool with a small abrasive cutting disk comes in useful for making new slots.

Posidriv screws, similar to  Phillips head types.
Posidriv screws, similar to Phillips head types. | Source

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2019 Eugene Brennan

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