how to remove drywall

How To Remove Drywall

If you’ve ever watched a home improvement show on TV, you’re probably ready to grab a sledgehammer and go to town on your drywall.

And while you can remove drywall by knocking it out with a hammer, there’s a much easier way that won’t leave you with a gigantic mess to clean up.

Here’s how to remove drywall in two different ways – the mess-free method and the sledgehammer method.

Supply List for Removing Drywall (Mess-Free)

If you’re ready to get your project started, here’s what you’ll need.

For removing drywall:

For easy cleanup:

It’s also good to have a respirator mask and protective eye goggles.

How to Remove Drywall: Step by Step and Mess-Free

Prepare the Room

While preparation is easy and quick, it can save you a ton of time during clean-up – so don’t skip it.

Start by turning off the circuit breaker for the room you’re working on. Then take note of all utilities in the space so you can avoid them.

Look for electrical outlets, HVAC vents, and plumbing.

If you’re going to remodel an empty room, lay plastic sheeting down to collect dust and sheetrock particles. If you’re working in a packed room, move out as much stuff as possible and then lay down plastic sheets.

If you have large pieces of furniture that you can’t move out of the room, cover them for protection.

Remove Molding, Baseboards, Outlet Covers, Etc.

Now you need to remove all items from the wall that prevent you from cleanly taking down the drywall.

Remove obstructive baseboards, crown molding, electrical outlet covers, HVAC vent covers, and switch plates. 

You can carefully remove baseboards and molding with a pry bar. Be sure also to remove any nails left behind in the wall.

Score the Tape in the Corners and Ceiling

Now take your utility knife and score the drywall tape in the corner of the room and where the wall connects to the ceiling.

(An extra-long utility knife makes this job much more manageable but keep safety in mind. Since these knives aren’t as compact, they’re easy to cut yourself with.)

Locate and Remove the Screws

Run your magnetic stud finder over the wall until you land on a screw. Then, take your cordless drill with a sharp Phillips bit, dig into the drywall where you located the screw, and remove it.

Repeat until all screws and nails are out of the wall.

Pull the Panels from the Wall

Now that all of the screws are gone, pull the panels off the wall. 

Since removing an entire panel at once can be challenging, you can vertically cut them into four-foot sections of drywall using your saw. Be very careful when making the cuts, so you don’t accidentally damage any wiring.

After you cut a piece, gently pull it away from the studs. You can use a pry bar to grip difficult pieces.

You can also cut through tape horizontally to make smaller sections if you’d like.

Clean Up

After pulling the panels from the wall, look over the studs for any remaining screws or nails. If you find some, remove them.

Then fold your plastic sheeting up and take it out. Finally, use your ShopVac to clean up any remaining dust or debris.

(If you could remove your panels in large sections, you’ll be left with very little to clean up after.)

How to Remove Drywall Using a Sledge Hammer

how to remove drywall using a sledge hammer

While it may seem like surgically removing drywall takes far more time than the traditional sledgehammer method, that’s not true. When you factor in cleanup, using a sledgehammer may actually take longer.

Still, this method works if you want to let off some steam or don’t have all the tools for systematic removal.

(Tip: If you’re working in an older home and suspect asbestos or lead paint, don’t use this method.)

Prepare the Room

Start by flipping off the circuit breaker for the room you’ll be working in. Then, move everything out of the space.

If there are large pieces of furniture, you need to leave in the room, cover them in plastic sheeting. You’ll also want to lay down a plastic sheet on the floor for quicker cleanup. 

Remove baseboards, crown molding, outlet covers, and switch plates from the wall. Block off any other rooms so they don’t become covered in drywall dust.

After the room is prepared, put on safety glasses and a dust mask. Wearing protective gloves is also a good idea.

Tear Into the Drywall

Now use your sledgehammer to bang holes in the drywall. (Be VERY cautious about where you’re swinging; you don’t want to damage plumbing or electrical work accidentally.)

After making a hole in the wall, use your hands to rip the drywall off. It will likely come down in several small pieces.

Repeat until you’ve removed all drywall.

Remove Screws and Nails

Once you have all the drywall panels off the wall, you’ll be left with drywall screws and drywall nails to remove. Go around the room, and take them all out of the studs.

Clean Up

If you laid down a plastic sheet, your cleanup will be much quicker. You can begin to clean up by folding the sheeting up and removing it from the house. 

If you didn’t use plastic sheeting, you can use shovels to remove the chunks of drywall from the floor. 

Follow up by thoroughly vacuuming the room.

Final Thoughts

Removing drywall isn’t difficult, but it can be time-consuming. If you’re removing a small amount of drywall or working in a room with furniture, using the methodical DIY mess-free method is the way to go.

After taking down the old sheets, you’ll be ready for new drywall and joint compound.

The only time it makes sense to go with the more messy sledgehammer approach is if you’re removing drywall in an empty house.