How to break up really hard concrete? Incredibly, the near permanence of concrete’s simple, 3-ingredient make-up is a challenge if you’re tasked with breaking it up and removing it. To break and remove concrete, you’ll need a healthy appetite for hard work and a few key tools to get you through.
You may need to break up a section of concrete to reach an underground utility in need of repair, or perhaps you’re ready to turn a paved area into a green space. Whether you need to remove a whole slab or a smaller section, with the right tools and some elbow grease, you’ll be able to break up the concrete and clear it out. After that, all you have to do is load up the broken concrete and take it to a suitable landfill
We’ll walk you through the uses of the right tools for the right circumstances.
- Before digging, call 811 or your “Dig Safe” authority. And wear protective gear when using digging equipment.
- Jackhammer to break up concrete that’s thick. If you’re trying to remove concrete 3 inches deep or more, a jackhammer is your go-to tool. Rent-able electric units will likely knock out that run-down sidewalk at the end of the driveway or small patio.
- Concrete weight and removal. Concrete chunks become actual tons quickly. As part of your calculus for breaking it up, include the costs, effort, and equipment required to remove it. A 6×10 utility trailer can carry about a ton safely (check the GVW.
How to Break up really Hard Concrete
Concrete can be found in all kinds of places, like the edges of patios or along a basement foundation; sometimes you might encounter, chunks buried in the ground from a long-ago demolition.
Using a rotary hammer to break up concrete
The solution for successful removal, in most cases like this, is a rotary hammer with a chipping function. A rotary hammer is not a hammer drill; they’re different tools that do similar things—the rotary hammer is basically a handheld jackhammer. While rotary hammers come in many sizes, the in-line D-handle tool is exceptionally capable.
Using a digging bar to break up concrete
A digging bar may also work if you find concrete (also soft stone, impossibly dense clay, roots) in the ground as you install a fence or mailbox. It’s basically a human-powered jackhammer.
It can create a fault line in concrete, blow by blow, and be a key player in your concrete removal toolbox. Word to the wise: As with all digging equipment, wear gloves; digging bars are blister-making tools.
Using a sledgehammer to break up concrete
Sledgehammers should almost never be used indoors. A notable exception is basement slabs in old houses where you might install a sump pit or perimeter drain. Basement slabs are often thin—just an inch of concrete over a substrate like coal cinders.
Here, a jackhammer or rotary hammer instantly pierces the surface, then can get wedged in the dirt. For thin, brittle concrete, blunt force is often best. It’s lots of work, but the shockwave of steel-on-concrete breaks up more in a few whacks than other tools can deliver at the sharp point of a chisel iron.
How to Dispose a hard Concrete
The main vehicles for moving concrete are a wheelbarrow or hand truck. For smaller bits and/or removal from inside a home, two 5-gallon buckets are hard to beat. Ironically, carrying one in each hand is easier than carrying just one bucket.
For larger projects, you may consider a dumpster rental. Some carters don’t like concrete in their boxes so make sure to ask as they might decline the job or insist you only fill the dumpster partially.
Alternatively, a local mason or landscaper may be able to cart the concrete and recycle it— or even possibly use it on a project where fill is required.