Drywall: How to Remove Existing Drywall


After the moldings are out of the way, the next step is to remove the drywall or plaster from the wall. Before you start smashing the wall with a hammer, find out if there are any pipes, ducts, or wiring inside the walls.

This is a messy job, so work carefully to avoid creating excessive debris and dust. Remove drywall in large pieces. Start near the top of the wall and work down, prying the drywall free of its fasteners as you go. Drywall is inexpensive, so don't try to save it for reuse. Construction adhesive residue on studs can be a problem, but a heavy-duty paint scraper and chisel may remove enough of it to allow you to hang drywall. Construction adhesive remover should soften troublesome residue spots. Provide plenty of ventilation and give the remover the recommended time to do its job. Be sure to wear a dust mask rated for fine dust, not just nuisance dust. A fine-dust mask has two straps and is thicker than a nuisance-dust mask.

Prestart Checklist

About 1 to 2 hours per sheet (32 square feet) of drywall from start to final cleanup

Hammer, flat bar, end nips, utility knife, power drill/driver (for removing drywall screws), reciprocating saw (for removing parts of walls), handsaw

Prying, pulling nails, removing screws, cutting with a reciprocating saw

Isolate the work site to contain the mess; determine what utilities may be contained in the wall

Step 1

Shut off power at the service panel and remove coverplates from the wall boxes. If you're ending drywall removal at a wall or ceiling corner, slice through the joint compound and tape with a utility knife. A saw cut along a stud forms the boundary of a partial removal job.

Step 2

Punch a line of hammer holes high along the stud bays to create handholds for removal. Work carefully to ensure you don't damage concealed plumbing lines, heat ducts, or wiring.

Step 3

Grip the drywall and pull down, ripping the material in manageable chunks. To avoid excessive handling, drop the pieces directly into a disposal container instead of onto the floor.

Step 4

Clean up the studs by yanking nails or backing out screws. To make sure you find every fastener, slide a putty knife or the edge of your hammerhead along the stud. Even if you're completely removing the wall, fastener removal makes the studs safer to handle.

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