10 Toolbox Essentials for Demolition

I love starting a new project!  Why?  Because of Demolition!  By far, tearing stuff apart is the most fun, and the biggest stress reliever.  Over the years, I’ve done a ton of demo, both at my house, as well as at friends, and I have a go to bag of tools that are perfect for taking any room apart.  From simple stuff to down to the studs.

Since Christmas is right around the corner, I thought a little roundup of the best tools for demolition would be fun, so here they are, my top 10 Demo tools.   Prices range from a few dollars to over a hundred for the reciprocating saw.  Most are under $20.

  1. Sledge Hammer – These come in a bunch of different flavors.  You can get a smaller, shorter 2 pound sledge (great for the ladies), but I’m a bigger guy, and I prefer a 16 inch 6 pound hickory handled version.
  2. Pry Bar – This is different from a wrecker bar or a breaker bar.  A pry bar is about 15 inches long, and 2 inches wide.  Made out of heavy steel, it is shaped like an L.  Each end is filed down to make it easy to get under places and pry them apart.  It’s strong enough you can hit it with the sledge but also can easily be used by hand.
  3. Screwdriver  – This is for taking apart things, not using as a lever or prybar.  I usually have 2 or 3 standard and Phillips style in a few sizes.  Great for taking off door knobs, outlet covers, light fixtures, and window coverings.
  4. Outlet Tester – One thing I never want to mess around with is electricity.  Before I start any project in a room, especially demo, I always make sure to turn off the outlets and lights at the circuit breaker box.  This little outlet tester tells me when I have completely killed the circuit.  Nothing worse than grabbing a live wire to ruin your day!  All you have to do is plug it into an outlet to test.  If it lights up, in any combo, the circuit is still HOT.  My favorite model (linked above), for about $5 also works to test the outlet to make sure it is properly wired.
  5. Work Gloves – My favorite is this 3 pack of leather work gloves for less than $10.  I get enough to loan a pair to a friend, and still have one extra set in case I lose one.  Of course whenever I go to put them on, I always grab 2 lefties first.
  6. Personal Protection Equipment or PPE.  Safety Glasses, Masks, Ear Protection – These are must have items.  I also buy the glasses in 3 packs to share with friends.  They seem to get scratched up pretty quicky, and when they do I just toss them and open a fresh, new pair.  For most work, these basic filter masks do the job of keeping the dust out of my nose and mouth.  They come 50 to a box (under $10) and I make sure that I wear one as needed.  Finally, working in a confined space can get pretty noisy – especially when you start hammering on tile with a metal pry bar.  I love these little foam ear plug style.  Yes, I lose them all the time, but a box of 10 pair is just over $5, so they are always around.
  7. Sawzall – This is my go to power tool for demolition.  A cordless version, is better, because once you have killed power to the room you don’t have to search for a plug.  Plus there is no risk of cutting through the cord- yep, I’ve done that more than once.  A corded version has a bit more power, but with new battery technology, there is more than enough oompf to get the job done with a recent sawzall.  Make sure you have a few different style blades on hand as a sharp blade cuts faster, and is less dangerous than a dull blade.
  8. Knife – My favorite is this $5 stanley box cutter.  They are heavy duty, have a retractable, and replaceable blade, and when it gets dull, there are always a few spares inside the handle.  I tend to buy 4 or 5 of these at a time because they always seem to walk away.
  9. Putty Knife – Sometimes a more gentle touch is needed.  Like when you are working in a 100 year old house and you want to preserve and save the original door trim.  These are also used for spreading spackle – but my demolition one is pretty beat up, and not the best for the final stages of finish work.
  10. Shovel + trash can – After all the drywall has come down, or the backsplash is torn out, or the old linoleum floor is torn up, there is a big pile of garbage in the middle of the room.  That’s when I bring out my flat blade shovel and heavy duty trash can.  The shovel is short handled, has a flat square blade, and a t-handle at the end and makes quick work of making a big pile a small one.  The trash can I prefer is a shorter rubbermaid one – 32 galons – and I usually line it with heavy duty demolition bags.  I learned that if I get the bigger trash cans, they can be too heavy to empty into a dumpster.

I’ve included links to Amazon.com for all of these items.  Of course you can also find these at the local hardware store or big box center.  For bigger items, if needed, I rent them from my local rental house – this includes things like scaffolding, come-alongs, and power tile scrapers.

I keep these tools separate from my regular tools in a special toolbag.  That way, whenever I have a demolition project, I can simply grab this one bag and go – knowing that everything I will need is in one place.

I need a new Handheld Power Drill

I need a new handheld cordless drill.  My last one was a gift I got over 20 years ago – a Chanukkah present from my Dad.  A blue 9v Makita that was part of a kit that included a drill, a flashlight, a saw, a charger, and 2 batteries in a nice carrying case.  Of course I don’t have any photos because it was long before digital cameras, and way before this blog started.

That drill served me well, through our first apartment in Menlo Park, to our move to Austin, and eventually into our first house.  I’ve used it to replace electrical outlets, create furniture from scratch, assemble IKEA bookshelves and cabinets, and so much more.  I reach for that tool more than any other.  It has been reliable, and hard working.  Never letting me down.  Until now.

I’ve been slow to admit it, but – I’ve known that the drill has been dying.  The battery isn’t holding a charge as long as it used to, and the drill itself just doesn’t have the same power as it once used to.  But for sentimental reasons, I haven’t done anything.   Once I thought about just replacing the battery.  That way I’d keep the drill, with all it’s memories.  But , it’s only 9.6v though, and at 20 years old the technology isn’t really cutting edge anymore. Plus, new batteries are going for as much as $72 on Amazon, so for just a bit more I can get a new drill, that should last me another 20 years.

But which one should I get?

It seems like every house blogger has a different favorite:

John and Sherry seem to like a Black and Decker model that’s no longer available.

A Milwaukee drill is featured in in many of Yellow Brick Home’s Photos.

Chris Loves Julia promoted a 20V Dewalt in one of their holiday gift guides.

With so many choices, what is a DIY guy on a budget to choose?  I shop like a man.  I  do minimal research on-line and then just walk into a store (or hit the one-click-order button) and be done.  I want to know that I’m getting not only a hard working handleld drill, but also a good deal.  Something at least as good as the last cordless drill.

After a quick internet search, I’ve narrowed down the choices to the following 6.  I’ve got a short list of features I want.  For this drill I’m not really looking for a system.  Just a hard working tool that won’t crap out on me in 6 months.

  • Good balance
  • Fast Charging
  • Long battery life
  • Keyless chuck
  • Drill & screw mode
  • Rugged and Tough

So I’ve narrowed down my choices to these that all cost around $100 bucks. (links to Amazon products)

Which one should I go with?  Do you have a favorite?  What features do you find most important?  HELP!