20 Tips and Tools That Make House Demolition Simple
Demolition shouldn't be a haphazard job, especially for the professionals. These tips and tools will make your residential remodeling and demolition process easier.
Easy Wood Screw Removal
When you’re driving a screw into a board and the head breaks off, try this time-saving trick. Don’t hunt around for your locking pliers to pull it out. Instead, use the tool that’s already in your hand—your drill. Just loosen the chuck and tighten it around the screw shank. Then reverse the drill and out comes the broken screw. Now you can just toss the screw and keep on trucking.
Yank Brads With Dull Nippers
Everybody uses nippers to pull out brad nails. But if you squeeze just a little too hard, they bite off the brad. To prevent that, dull the nippers with a metal file. P.S. This is why you should chalk your metal files.
Show Those Nails Who’s Boss
One of my favorite tools for demolition is the Crescent Code Red Nail Pulling Pliers. It’s a pliers-like nail puller that can pull anything as long as you have at least 1/8 in. sticking out to grab on to. For really tough nails like coated framing nails, you can put a pipe over the handle for additional leverage. This tool will pull large screws that way as well, but it makes a mess of the board. It can also be used to pull concrete screws out of concrete when the head is stripped or rusted. You can buy this tool at some home centers or online.
OK, who hasn’t used a screwdriver as a nail set, chisel or punch? And who hasn’t sent at least a few screwdriver handles to an early grave? If you’re hard on your tools, check out Klein’s Demolition Driver—it welcomes abuse. The metal shaft continues all the way through the handle and forms a protective cap at the top. So go ahead and give this screwdriver a good whack—it can take it. It comes in 4-in. and 7-in. sizes.
Make Big Pieces
Tearing out drywall can be frustrating because it always seems to crumble into little pieces, and it takes a long time to demo a wall one handful at time. Take a little extra time to find the seams between the sheets, and cut them open with a utility knife. Then bust out a couple of holes for your hands to fit through. Instead of pulling super-hard right away, tug and wiggle the drywall away from the studs until the screw heads break through.
Save Those Buckets
Buckets are a remodeler’s best friend. They work great for mixing, hauling heavy debris, storing water, dragging tools in and out, organizing fasteners, setting stuff on, bailing water, sitting on. There’s a reason why home centers sell empty ones. Never, ever throw away a usable bucket!
Let the Demo Begin
Most storm damage repairs start with some kind of demolition. Sure, you can bust stuff up and pull nails with a framing hammer, but you can do it a lot faster with the Pulverizer, a “sledgehammer meets pry bar meets nail puller”.
This tool weighs twice as much as a regular hammer, giving you the power to knock apart even the most stubborn studs. Each end has a built-in pry bar, and the Pulverizer delivers three different methods for pulling nails. Plus, it has a really cool name. You can buy a Razorback Pulverizer online.
Fence Post Removal
This is an easy way to remove 4×4 fence posts sunk in concrete: Screw a piece of scrap 2×4 to the post a couple of inches from the ground, put a landscape timber alongside as a fulcrum, and use a long metal bar as a lever. Just stand on the bar, and the post and concrete footing will usually pop right out of the ground.
Demo While You Sleep
Concrete demolition is usually a noisy, dusty, teeth-rattling proposition. But the next time a potential customer asks you to remove a slab of concrete quietly, cleanly and without a lot of noise, tell them that you can do that in your sleep, literally.
Ecobust is a powder, which when mixed with water, expands with a 20,000-psi force. Just drill several 1-1/2-in. holes about 85 percent through the slab, and fill them with Ecobust. Then go home and sleep well knowing that Ecobust is doing the dirty work for you.
Sure, the drilling is a little noisy and dusty, but the dust from a drill is easy to manage, and a half hour of drilling is not nearly as torturous as a half day of jackhammering. Order an 11- or 44-lb. bucket online. You can rent a rotary hammer drill and bit, if you don’t already have one. Check out the video and product at Ecobust’s website.
SOS! (Save Old Siding)
Salvaging old cedar or redwood siding seems like a good idea, but how the heck do you get the stuff off the wall without breaking the planks or gouging big holes in the wood with a nail puller?
Well…there’s a tool for that: Malco’s Hidden Nail Cutter. This tool has a thin profile, so you can shove it up under a lap of siding and snip off the nails without damaging the wood. After the siding is off the wall, the rest of the nail left in the wood can be popped out easily enough with a nail punch. The Hidden Nail Cutter also comes in handy for siding repair jobs. Order one at an online retailer.
Pull Those Nails
A good rule of thumb: “Never let a chunk of lumber leave your hand until you’ve dealt with the nails.” If you’re going to reuse lumber from a demo job, make sure you pull the nails right away. If you aren’t going to reuse the wood, just bend the nails over. Stepping on a nail is a bad way to remember that it’s been 10 years since your last tetanus shot.
Cut a Water Heater in Half
It’s a lot easier to move a water heater in two pieces—especially if it has 50 lbs. of sediment in the bottom—and it’s surprisingly easy to cut one in half. You could use a recip saw, but a circular saw with a ferrous metal cutting blade is faster. Be sure to wear goggles or a face shield, hearing protection and long sleeves. Many appliances can be cut; just be careful not to cut through refrigerant tubing or glass.
Knock it Off From the Back Side
Who says you have to pull drywall from the wall? If the drywall on one side of a wall has already been removed, pound off the other side from the back with a sledgehammer. You should be able to remove several large chunks at a time if you keep the blows close to studs and don’t pound too hard.
A Better Pry Bar
After a few centuries of evolution, you’d think the standard pry bar design couldn’t get any better. You’d be wrong. Crescent’s Code Red pry bar has adjustable jaws that allow it to do things other pry bars can’t. Those jaws can grab lumber, so you can remove studs with a good, hard twist. Or you can twist a stubborn stud or joist into position (without putting your hands in the path of stray nails).
Adjustable jaws also let you yank out long nails in one pull; no need to pull halfway, then slip a block under the bar and pull some more. The nail-grabbing claw even does the job of a cat’s-paw. Aside from all that, this tool is a sturdy, all-around home wrecker that pries, pounds and rips as well as any bar. It’s available in 16- and 24-in. versions online or at home centers.
Biggest, Baddest Pry Bar in Town
It ain’t cheap, light or pretty, but the Stanley FatMax Extreme FuBar III is a fine demolition tool.
When you need to persuade cabinets off the wall, the FuBar does it with one big “oomph.” When wall studs need removing, the “hammer end” does the job with a single swing. And you can pry up tile without bending over.
At nearly 9 lbs. and 30 in., the FuBar III isn’t something you can swing all day, but it makes demolition way less tedious and way more fun. It’s good for dozens of other uses too. The board-grabbing jaws let you straighten joists and studs as you reconstruct a kitchen or build a deck. Truckers and landscapers love the FuBar for its persuasive power and versatility. Very impressive, both in your hand or just sitting there in the corner.
Pull, Pry, Slash and Chisel
Not many of us enjoy demolition, so if there’s a way to make it easier, we’re all for it. Stanley recently added the 15-in. Demolition Bar 55-134 to its FuBar line of demolition tools. The tool features a chisel/ripper in place of the usual flat end, and it has a rubber grip so your teeth don’t rattle when you’re pounding on it.
This tool was born to rip through drywall and slash through stucco wire mesh. At first, you might miss the extra nail puller on the flat end of the bar, but remember that most of the nail pullers on your old pry bars have been rendered useless by being used as a chisel.
Deck demolition can be messy, backbreaking work, so the faster it gets done, the better. It’s especially frustrating when the boards split apart. The usual reason that happens is most pry bars can’t reach far enough under the boards to pull them up intact.
That’s not a problem for the Deck Demon. This sucker eats deck boards for breakfast. The Deck Demon is able to get farther under the boards and deliver twice the prying power of standard pry bars. And thanks to the long handle, no more crawling around on your hands and knees. But don’t think just decks- you can use this tool for old floorboards and roof sheathing too. Not only is the Deck Demon heavy duty—it’s heavy! So unless you’re an Olympic weightlifter, this may not be the tool for wall demo.
Locking Pliers for Pulling Nails
Vise-Grips locking pliers are a great tool for pulling nails. Here are three examples of when to use this tool. The first, shown here, is when you need to pull a stubborn nail that has lost its head. The second is to pull trim-gun nails, which have such a small head that a hammer can’t grab it. The third is to remove nails that stay in the trim you’re removing. In that case, it’s best to pull them from the back, using locking pliers. The type shown has curved ends on the jaws which make it easy to lever out nails.
Slice Up Drywall With a Multitool
There seems to be no end of odd jobs that can be done with an oscillating tool, and here’s another one: If you have to remove a section of damaged drywall, cut it out with a multitool equipped with a half-moon blade. The tool will cut almost as fast as you can pull it. And because the oscillations on the blade are so short and the teeth are so fine, the tool creates half the dust of a reciprocating or keyhole saw. Plus, the recess you cut will be much straighter and cleaner, making the patching work much easier.
Cut It Up With a Circular Saw
Sledgehammers, pry bars and reciprocating saws aren’t the only demo heroes on the job site—your circular saw can be used for a heck of a lot more than cutting studs and sheets of plywood. Fitted with the right blade, your circular saw can cut up roofing, tin, concrete, rebar, steel doors and fiber cement. With a demo blade, you can cut up nail-embedded debris all day long.