10 Essential Tools for DIY Demo Day

June 17, 2024
Circular saw

It’s demo day! *cue theme music*

Depending on your renovation personality, you may find demo day exciting or exhausting. For my sister Brittany, it’s her favorite reno task, and she’s great at it. For me, demo stresses me out and I’m only excited to get it over with so that I can start rebuilding—my favorite reno task.

However you approach demo day, it’s a good idea to keep some tools on hand that will make your life easier. In addition to the standard drill and driver, here are the 10 tools I’d recommend you consider to make your next DIY demo day go much more smoothly.

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1. Reciprocating saw

If you need to cut through anything thick like studs or shower inserts that a circular saw wouldn’t be able to cut through in one pass, a reciprocating saw will be your friend.

The cabinets in my kitchen were put together with about 1,000 nails and no screws, so my sister and I had to dismantle them piece by piece. This saw made that a lot simpler. Keep in mind that this tool can feel very shaky if you don’t brace the butt of the saw against the piece you’re cutting. Always use two hands, and fortunately you can safely use gloves with this saw since it has an oscillating blade.

2. Utility knife

If you’re removing carpet, a utility knife will be key to cut the carpet and underlayment pad into manageable strips so that you can roll them up and remove them easily. Otherwise, the carpet and padding would be too heavy to carry as a singular piece. A utility knife will also come in handy if you’re removing baseboards or cabinets that have been caulked to the wall. Just run your utility knife down the bead of caulk to release its grip on the wall so that you can remove the trim or door more easily.

3. Circular saw

A circular saw is great for making long, precise cuts through materials like walls, cabinets, or flooring. Unlike the reciprocating saw, the circular saw can make these cuts cleanly. This is especially helpful if you’re cutting a hole in the wall for a door frame or window, or any other kind of opening that you need to look nice and straight rather than a jagged mess.

This saw is also great because you can set the depth of the blade to make sure you’re only cutting through the width of your material and not deeper, where you may accidentally hit wiring, plumbing, or other materials you want to preserve.

4. Sledgehammer

If you’re breaking through walls, especially if they’re made of drywall, the sledgehammer will help you accomplish this quickly and easily. You can also use it to break up concrete, tile, or other hard materials. We didn’t have this on hand for the kitchen demo because its walls are solid wood shiplap, but a sledgehammer would make quick work of a more modern drywall and studs wall.

5. Wrecking bar/demolition fork or crow bar

A wrecking bar, aka a demolition fork, is one of the most recommended tools I’ve seen for demo. Unfortunately, we didn’t have one for the kitchen demo, but it would have helped speed things along quite a bit, especially for the base cabinets.

This tool is great at loosening up materials on the ground, like flooring, stair treads, and deck boards.

Instead, we used a crow bar because I already had it on hand. It worked well but required a lot more force and effort than a bigger, heavier demolition bar would have.

6. Aviation snips

If you run across any sheet metal or thick cords that you can’t remove easily while demoing, aviation snips are a great tool to have on hand. When my sister and I pulled out the dishwasher, there was only a tiny space for me to squeeze in and unhook everything. But the wiring was so old and dusty that I could get the right angle to properly disconnect it. So I used these snips to cut through the cord (of course, always be sure that your electricity is off) so that we could pull out the dishwasher and I could properly remove the remaining wires. We ended up repeating this process for the old stove because it worked so well.

7. Magnetic sweeper

Especially on demo day, you’re going to have a lot of old metal fasteners flying around, from nails and screws to staples and tacks.

Rather than bending down and trying to pick up every single one of these individually, you can use a magnetic sweeper. It’s essentially just a long magnet stuck to the end of the pole, and they’re pretty inexpensive.

You can also DIY your own like I have here by just tying a magnet to a string or taping it to the end of a stick and waving it over your floors to pick up loose metal objects.

8. Nail puller

If you plan to reuse any of your trim, it’s always a good idea to have a nail puller on hand. This tool is especially helpful for removing brad nails from trim because you can pull the brad through the back of the trim to preserve the look of the front. You can also use this tool for removing larger nails like in drywall, but it may take some more wiggling and finagling to remove them, especially if they’re old or deeply embedded in wood.

9. Set of small pry bars

If you plan to remove any trim or if you just want to opt for delicate demo, having a small set of pry bars on hand will be so helpful.

Unlike crow bars and demolition bars that are thick and can easily gouge drywall, a small pry bar can help you pull away trim without damaging the wall.

I also found that they’re easier to work with when doing demo on a ladder than a heavier tool like a crow bar, especially if you’re holding them above your head for extended periods of time.

10. Round point shovel

A round point shovel is great to have on hand to gather up debris and load it into your contractor bags to take to the dumpster. But it’s also a great tool to have around if you’re removing carpet. Once you’ve cut the carpet, rolled it up, and removed it, the worst part still remains: removing the carpet tack strips. My sister did this for all of the carpet in my upstairs rooms when I first moved in and discovered mold, and swore by this shovel for prying up the tack strips. A demolition fork would also be great for prying up tack strips, but this way you can just use what you already have in your garage rather than buying a new tool.

Ready to learn more? Head to 10 Tips for an Easier Demo Day. If you want to learn how to use power tools or tackle more home projects, check out my course DIY Renovation for Beginners.

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