An Open Letter On Exposed Nails & Screws in Escape Rooms

Dear Escape Room Owners,

Your players should not need a @!#$%^&* tetanus shot to play your escape room.

A screw protruding from a piece of wood.

1 in 5

In twenty percent of the escape rooms I’ve played, I have found an exposed nail or screw in your construction or a loose nail or screw on the ground.

For the past year, I’ve been keeping a tally.

I’m not hunting these things down; I’m simply happening upon them while I’m searching. I find exposed nails inside of all sorts of props and set pieces.

It still shocks me how often I find loose nails and screws laying around.

Exposed Nails & Screws

I understand the exposed nails & screws. You’ve finished building something. It looks great on the outside. Since you already know how your own game works, you don’t have to search like a player, and you don’t notice these protrusions. When you’re constructing something big, you can overlook something small. I get it.

You should search like a player anyway. Run your hands over every surface, inside and out. If you think players might be able to reach into it, check it for hazards.

While you’re at it, hit any splintering wood with some sandpaper, would you please? I’m tired of splinters.

When you find a nail or screw, clip it and sand it. Get rid of any sharp points or edges.

Loose Nails

Are these leftover from construction or are your players actively removing them from things?

Either way, you should check the floor for loose nails. You don’t need anyone stepping on them. You also don’t need players thinking that a loose nail is part of a puzzle.

What I Do

Whenever I find a loose nail, I leave it where the gamemaster will find it (and I usually point it out to them). If I find an exposed nail or screw, I’ll grab the gamemaster or owner and point it out. I encourage all players to do this.

This kind of thing never makes it into a review unless we’re talking a very large volume of exposed nails and screws.

What You Can Do

Spend a few minutes going through each of your games with a good pair of cutting pliers and some sandpaper. or simply get a Dremel with a cutting wheel or an angle grinder (suggested by J Cooper in the comments).

This is a small detail to everyone except the person who cuts himself open in your game. I’ve seen it happen and it’s unnecessary.

Injury Preparedness

Even if you think you’ve eliminated all screws, nails, and hazards, you should still be prepared for injuries. Have a stocked first aid kit available. Make sure that your whole staff knows where it is and how to use it. Ensure that someone is responsible for periodically refilling it.

If someone starts bleeding in your game, you should be able to get them some disinfectant and a bandaid without having to terminate their playthrough.

Shit happens. Make sure you have a plan.

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An Open Letter On Exposed Nails & Screws in Escape Rooms is one component of room design. For more tips, check out our Room Design section.


  1. A Dremmel tool with a cutoff wheel and griding stone does great work on protruding fasteners, leaving them completely flush with the surface with no bur. And if you’re careful it’ll make minimal impact on the surrounding material. My favorite tool for the job. An angle grinder will do it with great haste, too, but with less precision.

    1. This is a great point. I incorporated it back into the original piece.

  2. This is a great topic for all owners as this problem isn’t just reserved for brand new rooms.

    I have seen this problem persist due to a lack of Organizational Commitment to Safety. The Owner needs to make it VERY clear to each employee that these types of things are to be given importance and urgency. Then, supply the employees with a process to make sure it is reported, temporarily mitigated and followed up on so that it is solved without recurrence.

    As the owner, you have to show leadership and respond to these reports in a manner that demonstrates to all employees how important this is and be consistent.

    Too many times it takes several customers to complain about something before it gets to someone who has the ability to solve it, and they take a while to “get around to it”. Sheesh!

    1. I fully agree with you on all of these points. Especially the need for a stronger commitment to safety.

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  4. Hi,

    I’d like to add excessive blacklight to the list of safety concerns. Not only can it be frustrating for other members of the team who aren’t holding the blacklight and maybe are standing around in the dark, but we actually had someone trip in a room because the lights were off. If you are going to use blacklight to search multiple walls (which I don’t recommend by the way), be sure that the hidden clues are visible enough to see them while still having enough light in the room to not have a safety issue on your hands. Sorry, while I’m at it, please limit the whole use of “dimly lit” rooms. It just makes things more difficult and “difficult” should not be confused with “fun challenge” 🙂

    1. Yup. These are design tropes that should die.

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