The Joys of Particle Board

When I saw the underlayment of particle board on my floors, I knew it had to come up. It was in really bad shape thanks to peeing pets. I could blame my pets except when you look at the pattern of “spills,” most of them don’t coordinate to my furniture placement. These are gifts left by previous home owners. It also explains why my animals have been so darn enthusiastic about marking in this house. Gross.

The paint spots aren’t significant. I think they may have just been where paint was spilled. The damaged areas of the particle board are all those “bubbles.”

Pulling up the particle board is a bit trickier than the carpet so I did a little research to see what tips and tricks I could compile before I embarked.

Fortunately, mine wasn’t glued down which sounds like the norm for a lot of floors. Mine was held down with wicked long staples. It sounds like the trick to getting up the underlayment that is glued just comes down to hard work.

Materials needed:

  • Pry bar
  • Big screwdriver or a nail/staple remover
  • Gloves
  • Dumpster
  • Dust mask
  • Safety glasses
  • Broom or shop vac for final cleanup of particle board “crumbs”

The tools for this project are my favorite pry bar and good, leather gloves.

First of all, because particle board is made up of, well, particles, it kicks up a lot of dust and everyone recommends wearing a mask. I’d also recommend good leather gloves to protect your hands. There are a lot of staples and nails as well as the rough nature of particle board when it is broken. I’d wear safety glasses too since I found a lot of bits and pieces would occasionally fly up and towards me.

For prying, I found my short 10″ pry bar worked well but I wasn’t trying to get the whole sheet off at once. I was doing this by myself in the evenings so I found it was easier to pry up a section, break that off and start on the next section. This made clean up easier for me. I just sat on the floor listening to pod casts prying and breaking away.

My pry bar has this nail/staple remover at the end. This one is large enough that it handled the long staples with ease.

Work your pry bar under the particle board as close to the staples or nails as possible. Your best results will be when you get the pry bar right under the staples. Trying to pry up in the center of the board will generally just break up the board.

I pried up the board as far in as my 10″ pry bar would go, then I grabbed the board with both hands, pulled up and back to break it off. I was getting fairly large sections; generally the entire width of the boar and about 10-12″ deep.

If I had more floor I needed to demo and more resources for hauling out sheets of particle board, I’d get a much longer pry bar to take up bigger pieces. They have ones with a curved heads that rock back and forth. That looked like a really good option (but I have not tried this so this isn’t a product review). Some of the pros on a forum were excited about The Gutster which looked interesting but, again, I haven’t heard anything about it except what I saw on this forum. It seems like a pretty specific tool for a specific job. A standard pry bar could at least be used in other project scenarios.

Image courtesy of

This is an easy project, skill-wise, for anyone to tackle. The trick is that it can take time and some sweat. I think this is a great candidate for DIY if you are trying to save money on a large project. For the cost of this, factor in what the tools cost, the dumpster, and replacement materials. I don’t know that I would tackle replacement without a nail/staple gun but the removal is totally doable for a DIY newbie who needs to save a few project dollars.

Resources I used:


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