For such an ingenious tool, the Nail Kicker is based on a very simple concept. What if you could use a nail gun instead of a hammer to pound a nail back through a board? All you would need is a nailer without a magazine, right? That's the idea behind the Nail Kicker.

The V20 model I tested is a brand-new second- generation tool that will be available in May; its added improvements really make a difference in safety and versatility, and in maintaining the condition–and therefore the value–of salvaged material.

Besides having no magazine, the Nail Kicker differs from a nailer in three ways:

  • A longer driver rod overshoots the nose of the tool by as much as 3/4- inch for extra reach.
  • Different-diameter driver rods and nose guides can be exchanged for use with different-size fasteners.
  • There is no safety mechanism, so the tool is always "hot."


The first step in setting up the Nail Kicker is installing the correct-diameter driver and nose guide. This takes a few minutes and should be done in a clean environment to avoid getting debris in the tool's motor cylinder. Each driver has its own attached piston, which you simply slide into the opened head of the tool. (Rub a little oil onto the piston gasket beforehand.) Then you bolt the top back down and secure the nose guide to the fixed nose piece by screwing it into the body of the tool. Be careful not to lose the springs for either assembly.

Once you've configured the tool for the size of the fasteners you're removing, the only other adjustments you need to make are to the pressure of the compressor and the depth of the retractable nose guide. Changing the pressure keeps the ejected nails from flying out with too much force and ricocheting around. Hardened, tapered cut nails in old flooring might need only 80 psi, while thin flooring staples may need the extra velocity and momentum of a 120-psi punch.

Adjusting the nose guide for depth lets you set how far past the nose the driver will overshoot. If needed, a set screw will hold the retractable nose guide up to adjust this depth, but I prefer to leave the nose guide down. Since it's spring-loaded, I can vary the amount of overdrive by pushing in the nose the desired amount before pulling the trigger.

Old cut nails shoot easily out of hardwood flooring because they stay straight and their tapered shape makes them loosen with the slightest backward movement. I had no luck ejecting coated sinkers all the way out of newer 2-by lumber–their adhesive keeps them in–but older common and box nails shoot out of aged wood well. For bent nails, you use the nose guide to straighten them before driving them out.

To protect the wood, you want to minimize the penetration of the driver itself, but stubborn nails might need a second shot with the nose guide pushed in against the wood. Pushing too hard can bury the driver 3/4- inch under the surface and split apart the wood you're trying to salvage. The largest driver is rated for use on huge nails up to 5/16 inch in diameter and 7 inches long, but I never ran into anything that big to try it on.

Removing staples proved to be more of a challenge for the Nail Kicker. It can be done, but with a much lower success rate. Thin, 15-1/2-gauge flooring staples routinely break at the bent corner of the head–which means you have to pull one of the two legs by hand–but fiddling with the air pressure and using a combination of short and full-length hits on the staple legs can result in some pretty good rates of de-stapling. There's really no other way to drive sunken staples out of hardwood flooring. Some pros in the reuse business have given up on pulling flooring staples and instead shear the legs with a cutoff wheel on a small grinder. I semisuccessfully cleared about 600 square feet of oak flooring of staples with the Nail Kicker, but the day and a half it took felt too long.

One tip to keep in mind is to make a safe catch basin for the forcefully ejected fasteners. De-nailing above dirt or gravel may be safe enough, but when you're shooting over a hard surface or into a garbage can or bucket, you should use a pad of cardboard or carpet to slow the projectiles. More than once, staples struck me in the face after ricocheting off the concrete floor or out of a plastic bucket. Of course, safety glasses, long pants, and sturdy shoes are necessary, too.

The only persistent problem I had with the unit is that the fixed part of the nose piece would unscrew itself and thereby change the reference point for judging the driver's depth. And every time I wrapped my fingers around it to screw it back in, I worried that the driver would accidentally shoot into my hand. Next time I'll try Teflon tape, but there should be a set screw to hold the part tight.

The Verdict

The Nail Kicker is invaluable for removing fasteners from salvaged wood that otherwise might not be worth the effort to save. A quick squeeze of the trigger beats pounding, prying, and pulling any day and keeps the material in better shape for reuse or sale. If you have to de-nail a lot of wood, you should have this unique tool–but if you have to de-staple, there are probably better options.

Nail kicker v20
Price: Three-driver kit, $525; one-driver kit, $475