I set out to replace the boards on our backyard deck this summer, and initially tried removing the old boards with a three-foot crowbar. The main problem was getting it between the deck board and the joist, so I could start prying. This required a hammer to drive it under the board. Then with a lot of effort, time and hammering I eventually removed one board. Clearly not the way to do the entire deck.
After some searching I discovered the Duckbill Deck Wrecker. This thing is a monster. It sits on the joist and has two legs that straddle the joist and slip under the board you’re removing. With almost 4 1/2 feet of leverage it’s easy to pry up the board, progressing along its length every one or two joists. You stand on the old section of deck and push the handle of the Duckbill up, thus prying up the old board in front of you. As far as other tools go, Mayhew’s Cats Paw functions with a similar design, though without the rotating head. The Cats Paw has a little less leverage and costs a little more.
The first, outermost, board(s) must be removed some other way to expose enough joist so that the Duckbill can fit under a board. As you make your way closer to the house — putting down new boards as you take old ones up — eventually there isn’t room to stand behind the Duckbill. At this point you remove the Duckbill head (it’s pinned to the shaft and can be rotated 180°), turn it around and now you are standing on the new decking and pulling the handle of the Duckbill to remove the last few old boards.
I’m sure I will find some other uses for this thing, but even if it’s only good for decks, it was well worth the money.
Problem: 50 feet of reinforced concrete curb where we wanted to build our community workshop. Plan A: Rented two pneumatic jack hammers. After a long afternoon, we had made progress, but only broken up about 10 feet. Plan B: My co-housing neighbor came across the previously-untried Dexpan. A non-explosive demolition agent, Dexpan is a mortar-like powder you mix with water and apply to rock, concrete and even reinforced concrete in order to break the material apart. As it dries, the powder expands a slight bit, but with a tremendous force. It’s easy to use. We followed the guidelines for the most part. With a 1.5″ carbide bit in a hammer drill, we made a series of strategically-placed holes holes on 12-16″ centers, mixed up the mortar, and poured. It takes 24 hours or longer for maximum effect. As I recall, some holes didn’t crack at first, but did after I added additional water and gave it more time. We did end up using a 20-pound sledge hammer and a 5-foot long solid steel pry bar when necessary to open up cracks so we could use an angle grinder to cut the rebar. The pry bar also was crucial in moving the chunks, which tended to be very heavy. Nevertheless, the Dexpan was responsible for breaking up the concrete into reasonably-sized pieces. The rebar had to be cut and required a lot of prying, but there’s no way we could have broken all this up using a sledge hammer in any reasonable amount of time. There are other non-explosive demolition agents out there, but my recollection is that Dexpan was by far the easiest to buy in small quantities. They say their 44-pound box will cover 34-36 linear feet.You must order one of three mixes depending on the temperature you will use it at. As I recall, it was probably the low 60’s on average when we used it so we got the middle mixture. If we had to do it over again, we’d probably price out having a professional remove the curb — it really was a lot more work than we thought. But if you’re going to do it yourself, this makes it a lot easier than just relying on a jackhammer.
The FuBar is a single cast piece of high carbon steel that looks like a prettied up hammer. One end has a hammer and a tearing, armour-penetrating beak, while the opposite end has a conventional pry bar and nail puller. You can use it to drive nails, but what it really excels in is F’ing things up beyond recognition — hence FuBar. You hit something with the axe-like end until it’s weakened, then hit again, twist to pry, and CRUNCH!
When my girlfriend’s home suffered minor flooding, the damaged furniture needed removing urgently. But the furniture, including a bed and a very sturdy sofa bed, were too big to be removed through a doorway that had been put out of commission. The sofa bed just laughed at our attempts to take it apart using a heavy claw hammer and pry bar. The hammer bounced off the thing’s ultra solid construction, making it more likely that I’d be damaged than the sofa. Hitting with a hammer can be dangerous; even if it has a straight beak instead of a claw, it’s comparatively likely to recoil and bounce; you need many more hits and each one is much riskier. Demolition is a very violent activity and from my experience FuBar can make it safer, as well as much faster. There’s more control, fewer blows are needed, and less contact with the object being destroyed are required – which matters, because said object usually becomes a mass of sharp nails and wood early in the process, and the less you have to risk cuts and tetanus by getting close up, the better. It’s also durable — looks the same now as before I destroyed enough furniture to fill a pickup.
I have the smallest version, a 2.5-pound FuBar 2. The FuBar has just been updated into the “FuBar 3″ model, which comes in 3 sizes (2.5, 4 and 8 pounds) and has a few minor changes to the shape of the hammer/pickaxe and prybar. I think you’d only want a larger FuBar if you were doing some very serious demolition. And even then, you’d probably want the 2.5-pounder as well. I find it can be used one or two-handed (making use from a ladder possible) and it also works well as a nail driving hammer. It’s a little heavy, but superbly balanced. Note: Be sure to buy safety goggles — and I recommend well-ventilated ones with an anti-mist coating. You’ll sweat much more using a FuBar than an electric drill, and misted up goggles can easily result in a badly gashed hand.