When you need to revamp your outdoor space or do some renovation work at your home, breaking up concrete is one of the toughest works that come our way.
Concrete is tough and resilient. It stands strong and is not meant to give in easily.
So, most people opt for hiring a contractor for a mechanized method of concrete removal with the assumption that if we do it by ourselves, it will be back-breaking and time-consuming work.
But when you call a contractor to get rid of the concrete, even for a small job, professional help can quickly eat up a lot of money.
You should be using that money into laying new, beautiful concrete and revamp your space as per your plan without cost-cutting.
If you have the proper tools with you and refer to proper concrete demolition methods, it is possible to tackle on your own if the area is small and more manageable.
But if you think the area is larger, gather a few of your buddies or call some neighbors for your help. The work will definitely become easier with some help.
In this article, we will discuss all the best tools to break up concrete, the procedure you need to follow while choosing your tools, how to break concrete, and many more.
So, don’t skip any point. Keep reading.
Table of Contents
Things To Consider Before Selecting Concrete Removal Tools
Concrete demolition is heavy-duty work, but with the right equipment and understanding of what’s required and which tools are most appropriate for the task, it can be pretty straightforward.
At dailyhandtools, we are going to guide you on how to select your tools. But before selecting your tools, it is very important to access the area of your work, and understand what to do and how to proceed.
You must ensure,
- A safe area to work.
- Type of concrete you want to work with.
- The thickness of concrete.
- Accessibility of the site.
- If there are any utilities under your concrete.
- Size of the job.
- Accuracy of the job.
- Disposing methods.
- Pricing your plan.
Different Types Of Concrete
Many people these days look for ways to renovate their rooms, bathrooms, offices, and lawns. If you want your renovation to look better, sometimes breaking concrete becomes a necessity.
In such a case, concrete demolition tools become a necessity. However, you can’t simply grab a sledgehammer or a demolition hammer and start breaking up concrete.
There are many types of concrete and you have to choose your tool as per the concrete type and the area of work.
1. Ordinary Concrete
Ordinary concrete is a mix of cement, sand, and aggregates in the ratio of 1:2:4. This type of plain or ordinary concrete does not have high tensile strength.
Therefore, can be used to construct pavements, footpaths, and buildings in areas that do not require high tensile strength. These can be easily broken using a chipping hammer.
2. Reinforced Concrete
Reinforced concrete has metal bars or wires embedded inside the concrete to increase its tensile strength. They are used for making slabs and concrete blocks with rebars.
Due to its high strength, you cannot use a chipping hammer. Here, you need to use a sledgehammer for breaking concrete and a rotary hammer along with rebar cutters.
3. Prestressed Concrete
Prestressed concrete is a form of concrete where initial compression is given in the concrete which is deliberately induced using high-strength steel tendons.
Prestressed concrete is used in a variety of construction and civil projects like roof slabs, piles, poles, bridge girders, wall panels, and railroad ties because it allows for longer spans, reduced structural thicknesses, and material savings compared to simple reinforced concrete.
In order to break this type of concrete,You need to have rotary hammer with max or shank bits and cut-off saws.
Best Tools To Break Up Concrete
There are many tools available in the market built for different purposes taking into consideration the type of concrete and its thickness.
Out of those many tools, we have selected the ones which will be the most suitable for every one of you out there.
You don’t have to buy all of these tools. Just make a detailed analysis of the type of concrete you are going to work with and then select your tools accordingly.
A sledgehammer consists of a long handle with a large and flat metalhead. The long handle allows the tool to gather momentum and apply a large amount of force.
The handle of the hammer can vary from 5 centimeters to 1 centimeter long depending upon the mass of the head.
A heavy-duty sledgehammer comes with 10 to 20-pound heads (4.5 to 9.1 kgs).
This tool is more reliable and ideal than a power tool for breaking thin concrete slabs, having a thickness of less than 4 inches.
You can start hammering the concrete from the edge and this manual tool can shatter the concrete easily into several pieces.
2. Pry bar
Pry bars are also known as crowbars. Their angled and flattened end acts as a lever to pull two objects apart by allowing you to apply force between two objects.
Pry bars are used to pry up the concrete as you are breaking it.
Break the concrete with a sledgehammer and pry out the bigger chunks of cement as you go. This will make breaking concrete easier and also lower the chances of debris flying at you.
Concrete removal becomes quicker when you have one person breaking the concrete and another person prying out the concrete chunks.
3. Chipping Hammer
Chipping hammers are lightweight hammers with pointed ends on both sides.
In corners of homes, around a pipe, or in spaces between windows, it is difficult to break the concrete. A chipping hammer will make your work very easy by helping you to reach difficult areas in vertical and overhead positions.
By having good control over your hand, you can precisely chip away the concrete on the specified area.
Hence, knowing how the tool works is very important, or else you will end up damaging your project.
4. Demolition Hammer
Demolition hammers are robust tools specifically designed to break and chip out concrete, bricks, and other stuff.
They are available from different manufacturers in sizes of approximately 10 to 75 pounds which break the concrete by the to and fro movement of the hammer drill.
This tool can be used to break patios, small storage sheds, or small houses with thicknesses of approximately 2 to 4 inches.
If you don’t want to spend buying this tool, then no worries, demolition hammers are also available for rent at most home improvement stores.
This is a powerful tool that requires both strength and fitness to operate. It also poses a risk of injury while using his tool. Therefore the operator must ensure to wear all the required PPE’S.
Another way to break concrete is by using a jackhammer. But these are very dangerous tools and if not used properly, they can cause more damage than any good.
Hence until and unless you are an expert, I would recommend you not to use jackhammers for concrete removal.
5. Bolt and wire cutter
Many concrete slabs have reinforcing steel to help the material resist damage. These wires and steels will be a problem while you break concrete.
So you will need to cut the rebars sticking out of concrete. Use a bolt or wire cutter to cut wires but if you are dealing with rebars, you will need a reciprocating saw.
Sometimes the pieces of concrete get jammed and locked together and very difficult to separate the pieces apart.
Here you will need a mattock to pull apart the jammed pieces.
Other Equipments You Need To Break Concrete
Breaking concrete by yourself is a risky job and can cause injuries. So it is important to keep in hand all the safety equipments before you start any work.
Along with safety measures, you also need to think of dust control and methods along with procedures to dispose off the broken concrete.
- Safety goggles
- Heavy boots
- Thick gloves
- Hearing protection
- Bolt cutter
- polythene plastic
- A heavy-duty wheelbarrow
- Garden hose
How To Break Concrete
Breaking concrete is never an easy project. However, by following these simple steps, you would be able to do your work more efficiently and quickly.
Step 1: Cover concrete with plastic sheets
If you are working in your backyard, the flying concrete and shrapnel can damage your windows.
Also covering it with plastics reduces the dust creating a safer workplace.
Step 2: Make a two-person team
The best thing you can do is to make a two-person team, one to hammer and another tp pry.
This will make your work easier and faster.
Step 3: Dig under the concrete
If it is possible for you, I would suggest you dig under the concrete before hammering by using a shovel or a mattock.
Your concrete will crack very easily when you hammer and will be requiring less force and effort while breaking concrete.
Step 4: Sprinkle water on the concrete
Sprinkling water on the concrete slightly will eliminate all the dust and you would be able to work in a better environment.
Step 5: strike the concrete
Start striking concrete from the edge you dug underneath and then move your way in.
Don’t swing the sledgehammer or lift it above your head. And do not apply a lot of force on your hands, just let the weight of the hammer do its work.
Step 6: Pry off the concrete
Using a pry bar or a crowbar, you can separate the broken chunks of cement.
As you go, make sure you pry away and clear each section because broken chunks can lock together and prevent breaking the surrounding material.
Here, work on a two-person team. One will be hammering and another will be prying making your work faster.
Step 7: Deal with any wire mesh or reinforcing bars
While working you may come across wires and reinforcing steel. In such a case you will have to cut down the wires to free the cement chunks from each other.
If you are dealing with wires, use a wire or bolt cutter, and use a reciprocating saw when you deal with rebars.
Step 8: Pull apart jammed concrete
Sometimes, cracked concrete gets locked together. In that case, a pry bar won’t work for you.
Use a mattock or a chipping hammer to pry the locked chunks apart by swinging the pointed end of the mattock into the crack. Once the crack is large enough, switch to the flat end of the mattock and pry the pieces apart.
Step 9: Move the concrete chunks using a wheelbarrow
Next, you have to move the pieces of concrete and dispose them off. Concrete is quite heavy and hence you would be needing a wheelbarrow to carry them to the required destination.
You can either dump them in the designated areas or use those pieces of concrete on your lawn itself.
Ideas To Use Broken Concrete
Instead of simply dumping the concrete there are many ways you can use the concrete in your backyard and enhance the look.
1. Making Walkways Or Patios
Using broken concrete as a walkway is a great use for old concrete. This adds charm and character to any space.
Before you lay down the concrete, make sure to excavate the soil up to 2 inches and then place the concrete. In such a way you can level your pathway.
2. Building Raised Planters
Building raised planters is a very good way to plant. It enhances the look of your garden and also gives you better water retention.
You can save investing in wooden planters or sheet metal planters and use broken concrete instead.
Choose concrete pieces of the same size and then stack them evenly to form the walls. You can choose to use mud or cement to bind and stack the pieces together.
3. As a Filler Material
You can use the pieces of broken concrete as a filler material to raise new concrete. This can increase the compressive strength, stability and add bulk to your new concrete.
Reusing old concrete as a fill for new concrete can save you a lot of money. First of all, you will need to crush, clean, and then add your old concrete as aggregate.
4. Building Retaining Walls
Building retaining walls out of broken concrete is a great way to save money on the materials that you will be needing to build a wall.
It gives a new and rustic look into your garden. You can choose to use either cement or soil to build the wall. But I would suggest you to used muddy soil as you can plant climbers on your wall.
With time, the roots of climbers make your wall very strong and beautiful.
5. As Decoratives
You can use concrete pieces in any type of pattern you want which could be used to create a new look in your garden.
There are many DIY’S that are carried out using broken concrete. Concrete pieces when properly shaped and colored give and elegant look to your place.
6. Erosion Control
Erosion is a common problem in our garden. when rainwater flows it washes away the fertile soil of the garden.
Using small concrete pieces in between our gardens can help you fight against erosion.
Also if you have a pond, You can prevent the pond from getting filled with sediments by placing pieces of sediments on the shoreline.
7. Fire Pit
You can easily make a fire pit whenever you want to. Simply stack the pieces in a circle and here you are ready to go.
Using concrete pieces will prevent the fire from spreading.
There are many tools available to break concrete and you can use any of them. However, choosing your tools as per your requirement will help breaking concrete slab more more flexible and easier.
All the tools I have mentioned are great and most suitable to be used in your backyard or garden of concrete thickness up to 4 inches.
For a concrete thickness of greater than 4 inches, I would suggest you hire commercial contractors for the purpose until and unless you are a professional.
Concrete of thickness greater than 4 inches will require mechanized tools like jackhammers, hydraulic hammers, and excavating machines. So, never attempt to do it on your own.
Always remember, safety is first. Never forget to use Personal Protective Equipments while working.
FAQ: Best Tools To Break Up Concrete
There are many tools and materials available and that is why most of them ask a lot of question-related and, and that is why I have answered some of the most commonly asked questions.
Q1. Can Chemicals Be Used To Break Concrete?
Ans: The answer is yes. Dexpan demolition grout is a chemical compound that expands when mixed with water. It is poured into small holes in the concrete. After a short time, the concrete expands enormously and the resulting pressure causes it to fracture and fragment.
Q2. Will a Pick Axe Break Concrete?
Ans: A pick axe is not suitable for breaking concrete. You can break softer materials like sandstone or clay. A pickaxe can be used for pulling apart jammed concrete. If you are finding it difficult to break concrete using a sledgehammer, use a hammer drill first to create holes in the concrete before using a sledgehammer.
Q3. How Do I Check Concrete Thickness Without Breaking It?
Ans: Checking the thickness of concrete without breaking it is easy. Simply measure an exposed area of the concrete and if there is no exposed area, dig underneath the concrete to find out the thickness. You can also drill a hole for a wire probe or get it checked by a consultant.