Some bars are bred for wrecking, scraping, demolishing, stripping, razing, and smashing (my favorite part of construction), which some now call "deconstruction." Others are born with a gentler side, excelling at salvaging, de-nailing, pulling, lifting, and dismantling. While you may lump all these tasks into an all-encompassing "Demolition" line item on a budget, in reality there are many very specific tasks to tackle when tearing into a building. And when you start talking about the tools best suited for the mission, the list looks endless: wrecking bars, pry bars, crowbars, pinch bars, ripping bars, flat bars, demolition bars. Some are aggressive, while others are gentle; some are crude, others are precise. Grabbing the right tool can mean the difference between frustration and success, extraction or destruction.
The reversible head on the Duckbill Deck Wrecker adjusts the angle of attack to pop deck boards with ease.
Credit: Photo: David Sharpe
So we set out to examine bar choices, and their function and suitability for each task at hand. Along the way we discovered a wide range of designs and more tools than we could possibly review in one article. So we chose a broad sample of the category, 18 bars that offer a mix of time-proven designs, task-specific tools, and some new cutting-edge devices.
The Big Bars
When the primary goal is to bust it down, tear it off, or rip it out, you need to get a handle on leverage. There's enough backbreaking work in construction, so when it comes to demolition, let the tool do as much of the work as possible. Just remember, the force developed by the length of the bar gives you plenty of mechanical advantage, so make sure you can control the tool if what you're pulling on lets go.
Standard gooseneck wrecking bars like Great Neck's WR30 30-inch J-style bar are fine for tearing apart framing and pulling out nails. The offset pry end wedges and separates wall plates, double studs, and joists.
Fulton's 36-inch The Wrecker T-style bar has two pry/pull ends mounted to a bent shaft. The offset gives you two angles of attack, both with plenty of leverage to dismantle framing or extract spikes. The opposite tapered head is ground to a sharp edge that scrapes and wedges. This bar, also available in three other sizes, is great for yanking down ceilings either by swinging the T into the surface or just letting the bar's mass drop through your hand. These cost-effective prying machines will never go out of style.
The Big Bars: Great Neck WR30 Wrecking Bar / Fulton 36" The Wrecker / Demo Dawg Big Dawg /
Credit: Photo: David Sharpe
The original Gutster Demo-Bar won't pull nails or treat anything gently. It's made for ramming beneath and behind to tear things apart. Two 1-1/4-inch-wide steel plates spaced 2 inches apart are sharpened to slide behind siding, roofing, flooring, subflooring, drywall, and anything else you want to pry off. The tubular steel shaft/handle is offset for comfortable hand position at a variety of postures. The 9-pound mass is plenty to drive the head deep under materials, and the padded hand grip cushions the shock (and minimizes blistering). I found the dual-blade arrangement great to straddle floor joists when popping up subflooring, studs, and ceiling joists when ripping off plaster, and deck joists when tearing off decking.
Forrester's Duckbill Deck Wrecker does just that –removes deck boards. The reversible head has two prying flanges spaced 3-1/4 inches apart to straddle single and double joists. The handle is set for upright operation (read: no backbreaking bending necessary). With a pop of the pin, the head can be repositioned for forward or backward decking removal so you can stand on the deck instead of the bare joists. The Deck Wrecker is more than a one-trick bar: I used it to pull furring, lath, and plaster off ceiling joists. This is a task I often smash at with wrecking bars, but the long rubber-grip handle and upright orientation of the Deck Wrecker made it easy to pry down ceilings without breaking a sweat or climbing a ladder. It also worked well at removing plywood and old plank subflooring and wall sheathing.
The 30-inch Demo Dawg Big Dawg is a lightweight yet capable tool that combines a sledgehammer on one end of the head with a ripping blade on the other. It has a D-handle grip that spins so you won't raise any blisters generating an inertial swipe to knock studs and plates apart. You also can pulverize plaster and drywall with plunging jabs of the Dawg's wide base. And the generous radius of the curved head gives you inches of leveraged lifting force for pulling nails, stripping lap siding, or yanking wood flooring without bending over. The 90-degree orientation of the ripping blade doesn't lend itself to stripping roof shingles effectively, but it works great as a grub hoe for chopping tree roots and picking out a trench through hardpan.