Demolition done right | Inman News

Demolition done right

9 tips to match tools to the task

By Paul Bianchina, Friday, March 18, 2011.

Inman News™

Flickr image courtesy of <a href=Flickr image courtesy of geishaboy500.

If your next home improvement project requires a little bit of demolition first, it’s nothing to be concerned about. Proper demolition requires choosing the right tools — most of which you probably already have in your toolbox — and using some simple safety precautions and a good dose of common sense. Here are some suggestions for matching the tools to the task at hand.

Personal protection: First and foremost, match your personal protective gear to the demolition work you’re doing. For any cutting operations, wear an approved pair of safety glasses. If you’re generating dust, wear a dust mask or a respirator. Use gloves for protection against sharp materials, and wear the proper shoes and clothing.

Carpet: Use a utility knife with a new, sharp blade to cut the old carpet into manageable pieces first. This makes it easier to handle, and easier to get up off the tack strip. Roll or fold the carpet to remove it from the room.

Rip the pad up by pulling it off the staples. Remove the staples from the floor with a staple removing tool, small pry bar or pliers, or just hammer them down. Use a flat bar to pop up the lengths of tack strip.

Drywall: To remove an entire wall of drywall, use a utility knife to cut the tape at the corners. Use a hammer to break a line through the drywall between studs, then pull the drywall away from the wall in large chucks. Use a hammer to remove the nails, or a screw gun to remove screws.

To cut out a smaller piece of drywall, use a drywall handsaw or an oscillating tool equipped with a drywall blade; check for obstructions in the wall, and don’t cut too deep.

Trim: To remove trim such as baseboards and casings, first use a sharp utility knife to cut the paint along all the seams and joints. Starting at one end, wedge a thin pry bar behind the trim, and slowly pry the trim away from the wall. If you place a metal drywall taping knife on the wall behind the bar and pry against that, you’ll prevent damage to the wall.

Once the trim is off, don’t hammer the old nails through the front. Instead, use pliers or end cutters with a rolling motion to pull the nails through the trim from the back side.

Doors and door frames: Remove the door from the hinges first. At the bottom of the hinge there’s a hole; tap a long, slender nail into the hole to drive the hinge pin up and out of the hinges, then remove the door. Remove the door casings as described above, which will expose the joint between the door frame and the studs. Use a reciprocating saw with a metal-cutting blade between the frame and the studs to sever the nails holding the frame in place.

Wall studs and plates: Use a reciprocating saw with a metal-cutting blade, and cut between the bottom of the stud and the top of the lower wall plate, which will sever the lower nails. Pull the bottom of the stud out and away from the wall, then pull it down off the upper nails.

Cut the upper nails off with a reciprocating saw. The alternative is to cut through the stud in the middle, then pull both halves off the nails in the plate. Once the studs are out, use a large crow bar to pry the bottom plate up off the floor. If desired, you can pass the reciprocating saw blade between the bottom of the plate and the floor to sever the nails.

Grout: Grout can easily be removed using a special grout blade in your reciprocating saw. Hold the saw at a low angle relative to the floor, and let the blade do the work of sawing out the grout. If you have an oscillating multi-tool — or want to use this project as an excuse to go buy one — you can equip it with a special grout blade and make fast work of cutting out the grout lines.

Debris removal: The end result of all that demolition work is always the same — debris that needs to be removed. Large debris such as lumber and plywood should be cut into manageable sizes as needed. Remove or bend over exposed nails. Smaller material can go into trash bags. Use heavy-duty or "contractor grade" bags to prevent rips and tears, and all the related spillage. To make it easier to load the bag, place it into a garbage can first.

Dust containment and removal: Use plastic sheeting over doorways to contain the dust in the room where you’re working. Use thinner painter’s plastic to keep dust off furniture and counters. If the room you’re working in has an exhaust fan, don’t use it — they’re designed for vapors, not heavy airborne dust and particles. To prevent a lot of the dust from getting airborne, vacuum it up using a shop vacuum instead of sweeping it.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at All product reviews are based on the author’s actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.

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Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

Copyright 2011 Paul Bianchina

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