5 Types of Pry Bars and Their Uses

Types of Pry Bars and Their Uses

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Whether you’re a professional contractor or a DIYer, pulling nails is rarely ever a fun job. It takes a fair bit of effort and could take a while, especially if a nail or two gives you a hard time. In most situations, you’ve likely made ample use of the claw end of your hammer to complete this task.

But what are you supposed to use when your target nails are imbedded beneath the wood’s surface?

This is where a pry bar can be exceptionally handy. Though these long metal tools go by many other names, their general functions are approximately the same. A pry bar can provide you with enhanced leverage, especially when it comes to removing a deep-seated nail or forcing apart two objects.

There are numerous types of pry bar available to professionals and DIYers alike today. This guide will take you through each type and explain the several situations where that type of pry bar can really come in handy.

5 Types of Pry Bars

Here are five of the main pry bar types you’ll find at your local hardware store.

It is worth noting, however, that all of these pry bar types may also be identified by the tool’s many colloquial names. These include the following: crowbar, pinch bar, prize bar, jimmy bar, gooseneck, and pig’s foot.

Wrecking Bar

Wrecking Bar As its name would suggest, this long metal tool with two curved ends was not made for intricate tasks. Instead, a wrecking bar was designed to make efficient work of nail-pulling and wedging jobs.

To that end, a wrecking bar user can accomplish the former using the U-curved end of this tool, while the tapered end can be used to accomplish the latter.

Wrecking bars also tend to be large and made from hexagonal stock to provide plenty of grip and leverage when removing nails.

Ripping Chisel

Ripping Chisel First and foremost, a ripping chisel in this context is not the same as the upholstery tool of the same name. Instead, this type of ripping chisel is most closely related to the wrecking bar. However, these ripping chisels feature a few slight modifications that make quick work of prying and nail-pulling jobs in tight spaces and at odd angles.

To be specific, a ripping chisel features one U-curved side like its wrecking bar cousin. However, a ripping chisel’s tapered wedge end has been rotated 90 degrees and flattened further.

This allows it to slot into more tight spaces. Not only that, but this end also features a teardrop-shaped cutout. This is used to grip onto and gain leverage over a stuck nail through a twisting-pulling motion.

Flat Bar

Flat Bar Based upon its name, you can likely already guess what a flat bar looks like.

To a degree, a flat bar looks like a small wrecking bar that has been squished into a flat form factor. This makes the flat bar easy to handle one-handed when attempting to pry apart pieces of flat building material. In fact, many contractors consider this the best tool available for removing plywood and clapboard siding efficiently.

As you’d expect, the flat bar is also a descent nail puller. To that end, both ends of this tool feature a V-shaped divot that can be used to secure a nail prior to applying upward pressure to it.

At the same time, the flat bar typically features a teardrop-shaped cutout somewhere across its central body. This, too, can be used for gaining leverage over a nail head that is positioned just above the wood’s surface.

Claw Bar

Claw Bar The claw bar is less of a common sight on most job sites. But even so, this tool excels exclusively when it comes to prizing out nails that are wedged beneath the surface of a piece of wood.

This tool features one curved, beveled end with a U-shaped opening that is designed to dig into a wood piece’s surface to reach the target nail’s head. Usually, the second end of this tool features a similar head, though it is usually offset by 90 degrees to allow for added torque when necessary.

As noted, the claw bar is one of the few pry bar types that are not really made for prying. As such, this handheld tool should not be used for that purpose lest the user risk injuring themselves or those working around them.

Molding Bar

Molding Bar When it comes to working with molding or trim, you sometimes need a more delicate tool to prevent the wood pieces in question from cracking.

A molding bar steps up to that protective task, especially in situations where a standard flat bar would be too wide. To accomplish this primary function, a molding bar provides a thin, flat end with a divot that is sized for trim nails.

This allows it to pull those nails free without harming the attached trim or molding.

Meanwhile, this tool’s opposite end provides a cat’s claw that can be used to grasp onto slightly larger nails. Though it is not an intended function of the tool, some contractors also use this end as a striking surface in a pinch.

However, an appropriately-sized hammer is still the better option to accomplish that kind of work without risking personal injury or damage to your tools.

Pry Bar vs. Crowbar: (How) Are They Different?

After looking at all of these pry bar types, you might be wondering how or if they differ from crowbars at all. The answer is, as with many things, that it depends on the context in which either is being used.

A “pry bar” could refer to any of the tools listed above, depending on which are available on your jobsite. Meanwhile, a “crowbar” most often refers to a wrecking bar specifically. However, a “crowbar” is also a generalized term that can be used interchangeably with other colloquial names for this tool.

So, in terms of function, these two names for nail-pulling and prying tools are very similar. However, you may get different results when requesting either while on a jobsite.


Despite their fairly simple function, there are numerous types of pry bars available today. Each of these sub-types excels when it comes to performing a certain function or operating in a certain space that a standard wrecking bar can’t handle.

As such, be sure to carefully consider which of the pry bar types described above meets your needs while assembling your toolbox before your next project.