Knowing how to break concrete the easy way can save you time, effort, pain, sweat, and sometimes tears…
There are a few basic hand tools you will need for the job, and if you are lucky enough to get access to a jack hammer or digger with a breaker attachment then this will help speed the process up as well.
Over the years I have broken up and removed countless old concrete jobs to ready them for fresh new concrete and through doing this I have learned some simple yet effective techniques to help break concrete out which I will share with you today.
Knowing How & Why Concrete Breaks
There’s an old saying “Concrete is only as good as its base” and in most cases, this is absolutely true.
Concrete breaks or cracks due to a few different reasons but for the purpose of keeping this article about breaking out concrete I will talk about the supporting foundation and how taking this away can give us a huge advantage when breaking out concrete.
Over time concrete can become unsupported from the foundation being washed away, naturally compacting, or the ground or foundation shifting.
Specifically, in driveways, if water gets underneath, the vibrations of vehicles overtop help make voids and weak patches underneath the concrete. Over time, the unsupported concrete will start to crack and give way due to the weight of vehicles and the general movability of the concrete itself.
Knowing this means if we can remove the foundation, or create a void between the concrete and the foundation…It will crack into pieces 10 times easier than supported concrete.
How To Break Concrete By Hand
Breaking up concrete by hand is very physical work, although there are a few simple pointers that will make the job faster and easier on the body too.
To break up concrete by hand you will need some safety gear, and a few simple tools and if you have a friend or buddy that can help, this will be ideal.
Gear To Break Out Concrete
- A Friend Or Buddy
- A Sledge Hammer
- A Steel Crow Bar Or Long Pinch Bar
- A Block of wood, or a brick, a large stone, or something to leverage the steel bar off
- Safety Glasses
- Ear Plugs or Ear muffs
- Leather Gloves
- Steel Cap Boots
If starting on an outside edge, start from a corner as this is the easiest place to start, and this will get you warmed up for the real work!
If all of your edges are enclosed, then you will most likely need to smash a hole anywhere in the concrete using the sledgehammer.
The idea is to access the underside of the concrete so you can slide the tip of your steel bar underneath and leverage the concrete pad up just a fraction. This is what your friend can do while you sledgehammer the concrete. ( You may need to use a brick or block of wood to leverage the bar off )
You will not lift the whole concrete pad but it will slightly raise the area focused around the bar.
Once levered up slightly you can smash this area with the sledgehammer.
The concrete will crack and break up 10 times easier using this process.
NOTE: Do not smack the sledgehammer right next to the bar, Start about 500 – 600mm away from it. Ideally, any concrete that is suspended will crack.
Remove broken pieces of concrete as you go and repeat the process.
How To Break Concrete With Jackhammer Or Kango
If you have access to a Jackhammer or kango, this is going to speed up the process of breaking apart your concrete pad.
Gear Needed To Break Concrete With A Jackhammer Or Kango
- Jackhammer or Kango
- Ear muffs or Ear Plugs
- Safety Glasses
- Steel Cap Boots
Breaking out concrete using a kango or jackhammer requires a lot of physical strength and is rather strenuous on the body if you are not used to using them.
Just like everything else, there are tricks to the trade…
Once again, start with an outside edge and work your way inwards. Corner edges will always break easier than inner pieces of concrete.
In the image above there is someone using a shovel to lever the concrete up, whilst someone jackhammers the concrete.
Breaking Up Large Concrete Slabs
If you have a large area of concrete to break out and take away, you will need a digger and a tailor or truck to remove all the rubble.
Always start at the furthermost away section of the concrete and work your way back.
If you start at the front and try to work your way inwards, you will find the old concrete jamming up your digger tracks, and the concrete will be harder to lift up and break if you are only using the digger bucket to lift and snap the concrete.
You will also have a nice flat concrete surface to work off.
Breaking Concrete With A Digger Bucket
Drive the digger onto the pad and then reach the digger bucket to an outside edge.
Don’t stretch the digger arm out full, you will need lifting power.
Angle and pull the digger bucket so that it is underneath part of the outside edge ( Any part of the bucket, even just the corner ) lift up the digger bucket and chances are the concrete will break.
You will find things will work easier if you start at the top and work your way out breaking as you go, this means you will not have to drive the digger over the concrete you have already broken out.
Breaking Concrete With Mesh
When breaking concrete out that has steel mesh inside it, you may find the sledgehammer and steel bar very tiring work.
If this is the case, you may need to cut the concrete into small squares about 1m by 1m. this helps separate areas into smaller sections and pre-guides a cut in the concrete.
Concrete mesh is crucial in almost all concrete jobs so the mesh is usually in all concrete rip-outs.
Use gloves and safety glasses when doing this as wire mesh is the last thing you want flinging into your eyes.
The mesh, in most cases, will break, or the concrete will crumble around it.
A jackhammer or a digger is ideal for removing concrete with mesh.
Best Tools For Breaking Concrete
There are many tools we can use to help speed up the process of breaking concrete and a jackhammer is one of them.
If you have a digger on hand this would be the ultimate concrete-breaking machine, but for smaller pads, footpaths, patios, etc, you will find a sledgehammer or jackhammer, will work just fine.
Here are some of the best tools for breaking out concrete.
Breaking concrete is not the nicest job, more so if you are doing it by hand.
In almost all situations concrete, if suspended, or held at height and dropped, will break.
Sometimes the concrete will need more than a few wacks with a sledgehammer, but trust me when I say all concrete will break.
Safety gear is important as when working with the sledgehammer, small concrete shards will fling off in all directions, and concrete in the eye is never good.