How to break concrete with hand tools – Tips and Tricks
- Safety First
Concrete can chip and may fly in your face as you hammer away at it, so be sure to protect your eyes. In addition, concrete is extremely basic and handling it can be tough on your skin, so gloves are a good investment.
- Gather Your Tools
You’ll want a pry bar and a heavy hammer. A sledge hammer is a good investment for this project. Take care not to buy a sledge that’s extremely heavy; gravity is your best helper when busting up concrete. Get a sledge hammer that you can lift comfortably.
The other benefit of a sledge hammer is the long handle. As noted above, concrete can chip. A sledge will reduce your exposure to sharp edges of flying concrete.
- Work Manually
It may be tempting to rent a jackhammer. However, if you’ve never used a jackhammer, it’s easy to make the mistake of chiseling it so deep you can’t move it. In this case, you’ll need to break it out of the concrete with a sledgehammer.
- Getting Started
Consider taking out some soil around one corner of the slab. Compacted soil can serve as a stabilizer for the concrete, so if you take the soil away, you’ll have a better chance of getting the concrete to break when you strike it.
- Work Small
Concrete, though heavy, is quite brittle. Additionally, a standard slab (such as a sidewalk) is only four inches thick, so you can get underneath it once you get a chunk broken out.
Use your sledgehammer as a dead weight. Grip the handle at the end with one hand and close to the head of the sledge with the other hand. Lift the hammer head directly over the spot you want to strike and let it fall; don’t try to swing it. Never, no matter how strong you are, swing a sledge over your head. The weight can be uncontrollable and the head can, on rare occasions, come off.
Once you’ve removed the soil around the slab, strike the slab close to the corner. Your goal is to break the slab up into small, manageable chunks. As it cracks, work the edge of the pry bar under the broken slab. It should be noted that you can also do this with the edge of a shovel, but you may bend or dull the edge of the shovel.
- Using the Pry Bar
Your pry bar can be used from above or below. If you’re working with another person and have a long-handled pry bar, you can have one person lift the slab slightly while the other person strikes the concrete. This will speed things up; just makes sure everyone is wearing eye protection.
Most trash hauling concretes won’t take construction debris, so it’s a good idea to work out your debris strategy before you start breaking up the slab. Avoid using any container with high sides. Even in small chunks, concrete is heavy. You’ll be tired from breaking up the slab, so don’t set yourself up to have to hoist the concrete higher than you have to just to dispose of it.
Removing concrete isn’t easy, but you can do with some elbow grease and basic tools. Remember to work slow and safe. Go low with the sledge and take care to remove the broken chunks to stay out of your own way.