Rob Cox September 18, 2016
We had such a reader response to our article from a year ago How to Replace Pool Cover Anchors, that I took a few pictures of some brass anchor removal methods, to better illustrate the various ways to remove stuck pool cover anchors.
My former local swim club ordered a new safety cover from Poolcenter.com, and I offered to help install the cover this weekend. This is the 3rd replacement safety cover, and the pool deck is full of non-working cover anchors.
STICKERS are those pool cover anchors that won't turn up, and/or won't turn down. The cause can be pressure around the top few threads, when an anchor is pounded into a hole that is just millimeters too small. They can also fail when the hex hole becomes rounded, or stripped on the inside. Another cause is that sandy grit gets stuck in the threads, but who has time to rinse them out and lubricate every year? For stuck pool cover anchor removal however, a little lubrication helps a lot.
Lubricate the anchor with WD-40, or you can also use a multi-purpose lube like 3-in-1 oil, or any other light, penetrating oil. To be precise with your oil placement, you are trying to lubricate inside of the anchor body, or between the threaded insert and the housing or anchor body. If you can raise the anchor just slightly to create a gap between the insert and body, you can get more lubricant where it needs to go - inside the anchor. Initial lubrication is important, but it can be helpful to re-lube again, once you can raise the anchor insert slightly.
Tap the Hex Key with a hammer while you are pulling the key in a counter-clockwise direction. Tapping with a hammer helps the hex key to seat fully into the hole, and also generates some heat, which can help bite into hex holes that are rounded slightly. In the picture above, I'm gently pulling on the hex key at the same time that the hammer hits the hex key, on the 90° bend, and releasing the pull a millisecond later. With a rhythm like this, tap-pull, release, tap-pull, release... I was able to bring up 3 stuck cover anchors today.
Tap in a Flathead Screwdriver, sharp and new, of just the right width, slightly larger than the diameter of the hex hole. Pound it into the hex hole using a heavy hammer, so that the edges of the screwdriver cut into the corners of the hex hole. A screwdriver with a wide body or hex stem, under the handle or on top of the handle, work best to allow you to turn the screwdriver with a wrench held perpendicular. You can also use Vice Grips on the screwdriver stem, after firmly hammering it into the hex hole, to turn the screwdriver and the pull up the anchor insert.
Chip around the anchor to remove concrete surrounding the anchor. What? On my beautiful pool deck?! You'll have to decide if some chipping is acceptable for you. At first it will be a lighter color, as shown in the picture after chipping, but some fades to match the color of the surrounding deck. I use a regular flat head screwdriver and a hammer and work around the anchor, beveling the hole outwards, and removing material with air or water. After removing the material to expose the entire top ring of the anchor, which is slightly wider than the anchor body, you can do one of two methods:
>> Pry up the anchor with a large flathead screwdriver. Once you have chipped around the body of the anchor, and exposed the wider top ring of ridges, position the flathead or other small, sharp pry tool, under the top ring edge of the anchor body, and push down on the screwdriver to pry the anchor out of the hole. It doesn't always work, but works best if you hammer the pry tool into the body somewhat. You could also drill a hole in the body with a metal drill bit, and get your pry too inside of the anchor. Another tip is to spray some WD-40® type of lubricant around the anchor body, after you have chipped the concrete from around the anchor, but before you start prying, to help loosen it from the hole.
>> Pull Up on the anchor with Vice Grips ® locking pliers are the best to grab the soft brass anchor. Use all your force to lock onto the anchor as tightly as possible. Straight pliers or Channel Locks ® type pliers won't grip on tightly enough in most cases. If prying the anchor up didn't work, after chipping around the anchor slightly, you create enough room to clamp onto the top of the brass anchor with a pair of Vice Grips. Once you have a good grip on the top of the anchor, push the pliers back and forth to work the anchor out of the hole. As mentioned above, adding a light lubricant around the anchor, after chipping, can be helpful. You can also a large screwdriver under the Vice Grips, while locked onto the anchor, as a pry tool to assist in lifting the anchor. Pro Tip: Wear gloves to save your knuckles from scrapes.
Tap the Hex Hole and Use a Slide Hammer: A slide hammer is a tool often used for pulling dents (and often called a dent puller), but it has other uses as well, mostly automotive. A slide hammer is a rod with a heavy slider that can be used to insert press fit items like bearings or seals, or can be used to pull out things like anchors and fasteners. In this case, you tap the hex hole of the brass anchor with a tap tool that is just slightly larger than the hex hole. Screw the tap into the hex hole to cut threads inside of the hex hole. Then attach the slide hammer adapter that fits the threads that you just cut into the hex hole. Pull up hard on the slide hammer to help pull a stuck deck anchor. Lubricate around the anchor first with a light oil or soapy water.
Tap the Hex Hole and Thread in a Bolt and Washer: A tap is a tool that cuts new threads into other metal items. Brass anchors tap out easily, because the metal is so soft. You will need a 3/16" tap, which you can buy individually if you don't have a Tap & Die kit. They also make taps that attach to a drill, but the brass cuts easily by hand. After tapping new threads into the hex hole on top of the threaded insert, thread in the appropriate size bolt and a large flat washer. A piece of angle iron, or your cover tool, or other implement can be used beneath the washer, or attached to the bolt, and used as a fulcrum to yank the anchor out of the deck.
Jig and a Large Bolt, Nut and Washer: This method comes from a youtube video from Kenneth M, and is useful for removing anchor bodies, when you are able to remove the threaded insert piece. You could also use a large flat prybar tool, or any steel tool with a hole of the right size, with room to allow the anchor to come up at least 1/4 inch. You could probably also use a wood 2x4, with a 1" hole drilled through the wood. Take a brass anchor to your local hardware store and get a bolt that fits the thread pattern on the anchor body, and also a matching nut and large flat washer. Thread the bolt into the anchor, passing through the jig. Tighten the nut, and it will lift the anchor out of the hole.