What Is a Burke Bar?

Green burke bar leaning against a pallet.

If you’re starting out a career in demolition, then it won’t take you long to hear people talking about the burke bar and touting its exceptional destructive qualities.

De-construction workers, cement workers, and house builders use burke bars on a regular basis.

What is a burke bar? A burke bar is a type of steel pry bar used in heavy construction. It has a curved, springy end used for prying and a 4-foot handle that is hollow with no cap at the end. Though it’s mainly used for demolition, it can also be used to move panels in construction, and many claim that it can be used for much more.

You’ve probably still got some questions, and there isn’t a lot of information out there on the internet about this tool, but don’t worry, I’ve got answers.

By the time you finish this article, you’ll know what a burke bar is, what you can do with it, and where you can get your hands on one (and I’m pretty sure you’re going to want to get your hands on one).

The Burke Bar Defined

The burke bar is a steel pry bar with a curved end for prying and a long handle that helps gives you leverage.

They are usually between 46 and 56 inches long and weigh about 20 pounds. The blade is between 3 and 5 inches wide and features a nail puller.

Why is it Called a Burke Bar?

The original maker of the burke bar is a company called Meadow Burke, which makes concrete accessories.

Because of its distinct differences from a typical pry bar, people began referring to it as a burke bar.

The name has stuck among most people in construction, but others will simply refer to it as a pry bar or a crowbar.

If you laid a burke bar next to your run-of-the-mill pry bar, you’d see a clear difference in size and utility. 

What Can You Do With a Burke Bar?

The burke bar might technically be a type of pry bar, but it is really so much more. To some extent, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the jobs that a burke bar can handle.

The main purpose of a burke bar is to help during the demolition process, but they are also widely used to adjust panels and maneuver heavy objects.

Here are some of the things that you can do with a burke bar, although this list is certainly not comprehensive:

  • Remove the forms around concrete.
  • Unstick and move panels.
  • Adjust door frames.
  • Remove nails.
  • Smash concrete.
  • If the handle is not capped, you can bend rebar with the hollow handle.
  • Lift heavy objects off the ground and maneuver them into place (like tires from heavy machinery and safes).
  • Use as a scraper.
  • Remove flooring, plaster, studs, and lathe.

Basically, if you think you can use a burke bar for something, chances are that you can.

When Not to Use a Burke Bar

Any time that a smaller pry bar would get the job done just as easily or with more ease, choose the smaller pry bar. 

For example:

  • You wouldn’t use a burke bar to help you pry a damaged piece of wood off of a cabinet. You’d probably end up causing more damage to the furniture than when you started.
  • You also wouldn’t use a pry bar in tight quarters like a small shower stall because you wouldn’t have room to maneuver it, and you’d end up smashing into the walls around you.
  • Additionally, you wouldn’t want to use a burke bar when working very close to other people, as this creates a safety hazard. Wait for the room to clear out and then have at it.

Who Makes Burke Bars and Where Can You Get One?

In the US, there are two main companies that make burke bars, but only one can actually call it a burke bar.

Meadow Burke and Marshalltown both make and sell pry bars, and you can purchase them online from home improvement websites.

Only Marshalltown sells its burke bars on Amazon, making them the easiest to access.

In addition, if you have blacksmithing skills, you may be able to make yourself a burke bar. Here’s a video that covers the basics, from start to finish!

Meadow Burke’s Burke Bars

This concrete accessory company is still making burke bars today. Their bar is painted a signature yellow and comes in three sizes. 

Bar Name Bar Length Bar Weight Blade Width
Precast Bar 56 inches 19 pounds 5 inches
Burke Bar 56 inches 15 pounds 3 inches
Burke Bar Junior 47 inches 7 pounds 3 inches

Beyond size and weight, there isn’t much of a difference between these three bars. The largest is obviously more heavy duty, and the lightest is less so.

Marshalltown’s Burke Bars

Marshalltown uses the term “monster pry bar” instead of calling it a burke bar, but it is essentially the same tool. Marshalltown’s bars come in a variety of blues and grays. 

Bar Name Bar Length Bar Weight Features
Big Bad Monster Pry Bar 56 inches 15 pounds 5/8 inch thick blade, ideal for tough jobs
Big Bad Monster Extra Wide Pry Bar 56 inches 19 pounds Same as above, but with a wider 5-inch blade
Two Headed Monster Pry Bar 46 inches 7 pounds Additional 90-degree head, perfect for smaller jobs
Open-Angle Monster Pry Bar 56 inches 13 pounds A sharper angle in the blade gives more leverage.

The first two burke bars on this list are similar to those made by Meadow Burke, but the last two offer some distinct advantages depending on the kind of job you’re doing.

Burke Bar Tips

There is no set way to hold or work with your burke bar. It depends on the job you are doing at the time, but I’ve have compiled a few tips you should keep in mind when working with a burke bar.

Stay Safe

When using a burke bar, you should be wearing proper protective gear. Steel-toed boots, work gloves, long sleeves, work pants, and safety glasses will help keep you safe. 

Use Two Hands and Good Footing

This is kind of a no brainer, but even if you’re working with a lightweight burke bar, you should be using two hands when working the blade between surfaces or smashing things during a demolition.

You do not want that 7- to 15-pound steel rod to go airborne on the job site.

Make sure you’ve got both feet firmly planted on the ground and no objects are around that could potentially trip you up.

Let the Handle Do the Work

That 56-inch handle isn’t going to do you any good if you’re still just trying to power through the job hunched over and holding the burke bar close to the blade.

Make sure you take advantage of the leverage it offers.

Store Properly

To keep your burke bar in good condition, you should clean it after use, dry it, and store it in dry conditions. 

Is a Burke Bar Worth It?

If you do a lot of construction projects, then a burke bar is definitely worth the cost.

The cost of a burke bar will vary depending on the size and brand you choose, but you can generally expect it to cost somewhere between $80 and $120.

That might sound like a lot, but these things last a LONG time. Your burke bar will last you a lifetime and longer, so a burke bar is absolutely worth it as long as you think you’ll use it regularly.