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Pry Bar vs. Crowbar | Key Differences and Uses of Each

A pry bar and a crowbar often need clarification because they have some of the same uses. Crowbars often work with larger pieces of wood and lumber, and a pry bar is often used when removing small nails or loosening tight joints. Confusion is common, and you shouldn’t be distracted.

The main difference between a pry bar and a crowbar is its size and intended use. Pry bars are typically smaller and thinner, so they can fit into smaller spaces (i.e., between nails and boards), while crowbars are overall larger. Crowbars are also commonly used in construction and demolition.

Knowing whether to use a pry bar or crowbar is a decision that requires experience, and barring that, you need to do some homework to get to the bottom of it. So read on and learn the key differences and uses for a pry bar and crowbar.

A pry bar next to a crowbar

Differences Between a Pry Bar and Crowbar

There are several differences between a pry bar and a crowbar. They have some similarities that often make people confuse the two, but in the end, they are a version of a prying tool. Prying tools are used for several different things and often come in various sizes and materials.

The Pry Bar and What Makes it Special

A red pry bar

Pry bars are the little brother to the crowbar. They are often built smaller and thinner and have been used to remove small nails and attachments from wood or metal. In addition, there are other things about a pry bar that makes it unique and different from a crowbar.

Some differences between a pry bar and a crowbar are as follows:

  • Thickness – Their thickness is the most significant difference between a pry bar and a crowbar. The thickness is critical because smaller, thinner metal can fit between joints and under nails or screws. Once between the wood and implement, it works to pry them apart.
  • Length – The length is another big difference between a crowbar and a pry bar. Pry bars are used to get into tiny areas and create space or remove something holding them together. The length of a pry bar is also short to keep force production lower on the wood on which you are working.
  • Adjustable – Another big thing about a pry bar is that it could have an adjustable handle. These pry bars are used to get adjustable leverage, allowing you to be gentle if you work with brittle wood.
  • Design – The design between crowbars and pry bars is another thing that makes them different. A pry bar is flat and will have a claw-like end or a single flat end. The other ends of the bars allow for different grips and insertions.

Pry bars are going to be smaller than crowbars. In addition, they are thinner, which allows them to get into tiny spaces and pry them open. A pry bar is used for delicate furniture and removing small nails or even paint from your projects.

Crowbars are for Larger Projects and Demolition

A black and red crowbar

Crowbars are large pieces of iron or steel with a sizeable goose-shaped head attachment and a flat end on the opposite side. You might have seen them in the tool section of your hardware store or your favorite Christmas movie. However, you might not know how they differ from their cousin, the pry bar.

A few ways that crowbars are different from pry bars are:

  • Length – One of the most significant differences between a crowbar and a pry bar is their length. Crowbars often tear down walls when renovating or tackling other large demolition jobs. Their extra size allows the user to get more torque or pressure and pry apart large sections of flooring.
  • Thickness – A crowbar is going to be large and has substantial heft. They are often shaped to fit in your fist and control their weight. The thickness allows the bar to create immense pressure on wood or concrete.
  • Design – The design of the crowbar is unmistakable. It has a large rounded neck that looks like a goose. The design differs from the pry bar to generate more pressure when removing nails or pulling down a brick wall.
  • Fixed – Another big difference between pry bars and crowbars is their fixed position. Pry bars can have adjustable handles that are used to increase leverage. Crowbars always have a rounded neck for maximum pressure on the bell end.

Crowbars are much denser and longer than pry bars. This is because they need the extra support for wrenching substantial bits of wood apart, and the extra length is used to create leverage that allows you to pry everything from brick to gummed-up engine parts.

Crowbar and Pry Bar Uses

Now that we know the differences between the two, it is time to discuss how they are used. By understanding the uses for each tool, you can home in on where they fit in your workspace and how you can use them to get the job done.

The Uses of the Pry Bar

A pry bar’s thin frame doesn’t make it look like a muscle machine, but it was made to be powerful and create space where there was none. The teeth on each end have specific jobs that allow them to pull bits of metal or pry open chunks of lumber.

A few uses of a pry bar are as follows:

  • Remove Nails – The biggest job that pry bars undertake is removing nails. It can be used like the claw end of a hammer to help remove nails with smaller or broken heads. However, it is often used as an implement that can be hammered into older wood to rip nails buried deep within.
  • Pull Tile – A pry bar is also used to pull bits of tile stuck to the floor or wall. Tile is often glued to the surface with a strong adhesive that makes pulling them up a pain. Using a pry bar, you can easily wrench them off the wall or wherever they hang.
  • Molding – Molding that runs around the floor and ceiling of your home is best removed with a pry bar. They are often thin pieces of wood that could crack under pressure created by a large crowbar. Using a pry bar allows you to keep the molding and reapply it when ready.

Pry bars are really helpful and versatile tools that can be substituted for a hammer and used to pull nails. In addition, the force they can produce is excellent for smaller pieces of lumber that could break or crack when working with them.

Pry Bar Tool with New Laminate Flooring
This is a job for a pry bar.

The Crowbar and What it is Used for

You’ve seen crowbars in everything from kids’ cartoons to home design shows on television. However, you might not know that the crowbar has more uses than you realize and comes in several sizes.

A few uses for the crowbar are:

  • Opening – Before the cardboard box, large items were shipped in large wooden crates. These crates were often sealed shut with nails to protect the contents. Crowbars were the standard tool used to open these crates.
  • Demolition – One of the most fun ways a crowbar is used is during demolition. A crowbar is often the tool of choice if studs need to be pulled apart or bricks must be wrenched away from a wall.
  • Removing Nails – Smaller crowbars are used to remove nails from the woodwork. The pry bar is for smaller nails, while a crowbar would be used for larger nails like those in wooden palettes.

The crowbar is helpful because the claw/flat-end construction allows the force you create to be focused on these spots and open anything. What is essential is that the bar is sturdy and the gooseneck can fit in the space in which you are working. You cannot generate the force needed to remove nails or open crates if you have a flimsy crowbar.

Lumberjack using a crowbar to open up a huge sawn beech log
This is a job for a crowbar.

What to Look for When Buying a Pry Bar or Crowbar

Some people think that a tool is just a tool. Others believe a tool is essential and buying the best available tool will give the best chance for success on your project. Remember that cheap tools are often the first to fail, and knowing what to look for in a pry bar or crowbar can save you time and money.

Some things to keep in mind when buying a pry bar or crowbar are as follows:

  • Price – Prices on crowbars and pry bars are reflective of their quality. Just because they seem simple instruments doesn’t mean they should be cheap. When buying, ensure the price is in the middle of the pack and not at the bottom.
  • Purpose – Another thing to keep in mind is what you are going to use the bar for. You will need different bars if you are doing detailed work on an old furniture rehab or pulling down tile from a busted shower.
  • Materials – If you want a crowbar or pry bar that will last, you will need something made from solid materials like steel. In contrast, some composite materials are acceptable but have been known to bend under pressure.
  • Brand – The name brand is safe to bet on when buying a pry bar or crowbar. If you have heard of something like Craftsman, chances are it is a good item you can depend on. In addition, if you buy a brand name, there could be a warranty, and if the bar fails, it is a comfort to know it can be replaced or you can get your money back.

Buying a pry bar or crowbar is simple as long as you remember how much you have to spend and why you need the tool. Next, you must consider what the bar is made of, as weak materials can fail. In addition, going with a name you recognize could save you a headache in the long run.

Related 11 Handy Substitutes for a Screwdriver.

The Top Crowbars and Pry Bars

Now that you know everything there is to know about crowbars and pry bars, you can start shopping for what you need. Remember that you could be limited to the items your local hardware stores carry, so be prepared to have items shipped.

Some of the top Crowbars and Pry bars are:

  • Estwing Wrecking Bar – Estwing is synonymous with hand tools and hammers. They have an exceptional crowbar that is easy on the wallet and hard on nails. In addition, they are made with one piece of iron, which makes the tool more potent and more resilient to force.
  • Olympia Tools Wrecking Bar – Olympia has a good crowbar that is 24 inches long and made from carbon steel. It comes in several sizes up to 48 inches, and the standard diameter is ⅝ inches.
  • Tekton Pry BarTekton has a highly-rated pry bar that is 7 ½ inches long and has a rounded end for more leverage. In addition, it is a thin bar that allows it to get into smaller places or grip smaller nails and molding.
  • Estwing Pro Claw – While it doesn’t look like your typical pry bar, the Pro Claw is an exceptional pry bar that gives you lots of options for use. In addition, Estwing tools come with shock-absorbing handles that allow you to hammer the device with no damage to your hands.

Choosing a crowbar or pry bar is up to you. You might have a specific style you are looking for or need an adjustable. No matter the crowbar’s purpose, make sure it is made from quality materials and produced by a company you can trust.


A pry bar is a thin piece of metal or plastic used to remove small nails from wood or create space between pieces of lumber. They are smaller to protect your project from the excess force that could damage it. If you need more power, you need a crowbar. They are designed for handling jobs that require intense amounts of pressure.

A crowbar is often used in carpentry for demolition. They are large goose-necked pieces of steel that have a claw end and flat end. The main difference between pry bars and crowbars is the gooseneck and thickness of the implement. They are used on different projects but have some of the same uses.

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