Demolition is a messy and sometimes dangerous part of any home renovation. Simply taking down that wall to achieve the desirable open floor plan may not be quite as easy as it sounds. While it may be tempting to go at the wall with a sledgehammer, that’s not always the prudent thing to do. Demolition creates a lot of dust, broken drywall and shattered wood and brick. Depending on what you’re demolishing, you may need to use different tools to finish the job. But unlike carpentry, you can typically get most demo jobs done with a few select implements. We’ll take a look at five different tools you’ll likely need if you’re taking on a demolition project at your home.
There aren’t many demolition jobs around that don’t require the use of a crowbar at some point, so it’s a good place to start when collecting demo tools. A well-placed crowbar can safely pry most any kind of nailed wood. It can also be handy for taking up old tile and wood flooring and pulling out stubborn nails. Pry bars come in all sizes, but two carefully selected ones should get you started. Buy one medium sized S-shaped crowbar, something between 18 inches and 2 feet (46 to 61 centimeters). That will be tough enough to pull up most any interior framing wood. Also buy a smaller, flat pry bar. Stanley Tools makes the “Wonder Bar” — a tool that will benefit almost any demo job. It’s lightweight and durable, and because of its flat shape, it can get into tight spaces that a crowbar can’t. You’ll also need a claw hammer to use along with each of these.
If you have a tough demolition job ahead of you, you’re going to need a few different options for hammer time. Start with a standard claw hammer. This classic tool can do small pry jobs when a crowbar isn’t necessary as well as take out buried nails. It’s also good for knocking small holes in drywall when you’re looking for power, water or gas lines. The next step up is the heavy hammer, also called a mini-sledgehammer. It’s about the size of a claw hammer, but has a heavy sledge head for stubborn tasks. This hammer is also great for knocking wood support beams and interior framing. The final piece of the hammer puzzle is the full-sized sledgehammer. When you need the extra weight for brick work, nothing else will do.
San Angelo Bar
It’s kind of like a pry bar, and sort of like a spear. It’s also extremely heavy. You’ve probably seen these in your hardware store and confused it with a medieval weapon. Standing 72 inches (183 centimeters) and weighing in at 17 pounds (7.7 kilograms), this high-carbon hexagonal steel javelin-like bar is definitely a heavy hitter. It’s a pretty basic tool — it has a sharp point on one end and a chisel on the other. You can use the San Angelo’s chisel end to get up stubborn floor tiles, or chip away at stubborn red clay. If you have some concrete that needs busting, drive the point end down with some brute force and watch it break apart before your eyes. The San Angelo isn’t for delicate jobs and because of its weight, you won’t want to use it on anything but the flooring.
All of this messy demolition requires what could be perceived as the most important tools in demolition — safety equipment. This is an absolute must, as demolition can be the most dangerous part of a renovation project. Start with a good pair of work gloves, something with leather palms that will help prevent blisters and protect your hands. You also need to get some safety goggles. Flying debris can easily send you to the hospital if it gets near your eyes. Make sure you get something comfortable so you won’t mind wearing them for hours at a time. It may seem like overkill, but wearing a helmet for demolition work above your head is simply smart. You may not win any fashion contests, but you’ll be glad when that two by four with a nail sticking out of it comes down on your noggin. The final thing you should buy is a good respirator and some cotton masks. Use the thin masks when you have simple dust, kick it up to the respirator when there could harmful airborne chemicals present, like asbestos or lead paint.
Not all demo work requires the heavy hand of a sledgehammer. You can do some serious damage to your gas, water and cable lines if you go in swinging. Buy a few different screwdrivers to help with the more delicate work. Taking apart electrical outlets and switches is always the first part of a wall demo and you can’t do that with a sledgehammer. Screwdrivers are also good for taking up small pieces of wood flooring and tile when you aren’t removing the entire floor. Buy a long flat head, a standard-sized flat head and at least one Phillips head screwdriver. That should cover you in most situations. The chisel ends of the flat head screwdriver can act like a small, lightweight pry bar as well.