Choosing the Right Tools for Concrete Demolition

When it comes to finding the right tools for concrete demolition, you can rely on the experts to provide sound guidance. Your site may be at the next step in the construction process, or you may be a homeowner looking to revamp your outdoor space. Some jobs may demand the work of a contractor, but most times, you can rely on your own expertise to make headway.

At Construction Fasteners and Tools, we can guide you through the process of deciding which demolition tools match your requirements. Not only is it essential to assess your tasks and understand what to do before splitting the concrete, but it’s also crucial to determine which tools can deliver the best break-through power.

Assess Your Concrete Demolition Project

Instead of grinding away at a piece of concrete right away, it’s better to devise a plan and have a preliminary idea of what it entails. For example, ask yourself a few questions before beginning, such as:

  • Do you have an appropriate vehicle and means of transporting the rubble?
  • Does accuracy matter?
  • Does the removal require heavy machinery, or will you eliminate it by hand?
  • How accessible is the site?
  • How big is the job?
  • What is the cost of disposal?
  • What type of concrete are you working with?

Many factors affect concrete removal, such as the scale of your project. You can base the size of your concrete demo plan on the square footage you’re working with. The more concrete, the bigger the job and the more it may cost. Pricing can also vary depending on dumping fees, as well as whether you’re sourcing help from a contractor or need to pour new concrete. When you prepare with a solid plan and know what you're working with, you can save both time and effort.

While your first thought may be to rely on a third party, concrete demo can be possible to tackle on your own when you refer to the proper concrete demolition methods. Working on your own can also exclude the high costs of a contractor.

If you determine that a DIY project is doable or that you can rely on the expertise of an onsite worker, you need to decide if you require a full crew for extra help. It often pays to have more than one person on the job since concrete demolition involves heavy lifting and power tool operations.

Gather a few of your buddies to help with your DIY project and look for neighbors who may have the right tools for the job. On a construction site, plan what group of workers can handle a single demolition job. Depending on the size of the project, two workers to break up the concrete and two to haul the rubble can serve you well.

Prepare yourself and your workers to move and handle a significant amount of material. If the area is small and more manageable, you may be able to perform solo.

Another consideration is whether you'll be renting a dump truck or using your own heavy-duty vehicle. You also need to determine if your demo project requires accurate cracking in smaller spaces. Will you need a skid steer loader to pick up the rubble, or will manual labor be sufficient with a wheelbarrow? If your site is less accessible, do you have the correct means of reaching it to eliminate additional work? Finally, are you working with reinforced concrete or unreinforced concrete?

When you assess your demo project, you should decide on a budget, ask for additional help and learn what level of work is expected.

What You Need to Know Before Getting Started

Before you delve into your demolition project, there are several aspects of the job you need to consider — For example, you'll need to:

1. Create a Safe Area

Designating a controlled environment — whether you’re on a construction site or in your backyard — can prevent concrete from damaging siding, windows and other damage-prone areas. You can avoid flying concrete and shrapnel by installing a sheet of plastic, such as polyethylene, over the concrete.

Designating a Controlled Environment

The plastic cover will capture shrapnel and trap dust to create a safer workspace. Find a way to keep the polyethylene in place while you demolish the material with a jack or sledgehammer. If you’re operating in a controlled area, you can keep you and your workers safe from scattered concrete.

2. Rely on a Two-Person Team

Knowing how to break concrete has a lot to do with the proper tools, but it also relates to creating a two-person system. In most cases, you will need the support of a crew to finish your demo project. The best thing you can do is make a two-person team — one to hammer and one to pry.

As the first person breaks up the concrete with a hand or power tool, the other pries apart the pieces, making for a faster process. This method helps form deep cracks instead of grinding away at the top layer.

Start at the corners and work toward the center of the concrete. Try not to hit the same spot more than once because it will only chip the surface, making it more challenging to break. If one section doesn’t crack, keep moving to a different area until you form a fracture.

Use a pry bar, pickaxe or mattock to loosen and pry apart the broken concrete pieces. Make sure to clear each section as you go because chunks can still lock together, making it tricky to break up any surrounding material.

Work with the pointed end of a mattock or other tool to separate the pieces through their existing cracks. Push the chunks apart, then use the broader end of the blade to move the material out of the way.

3. Cut Rebar and Wiring

What do you do when rebar or other wiring is present?

Although it's challenging to tell from the surface, many concrete slabs have reinforcing steel to help the material resist damage. If you’re dealing with any reinforcements, cut the wires as you work to break up the concrete. Otherwise, the lines will hold the material together as intended.

Break up the slab into small chunks, cut the wires or rebar and separate the concrete as you work toward the middle. If you’re dealing with wires, use bolt or wire cutters, and if rebar is present, use a reciprocating saw.

4. Think About Your Disposal Strategy

Once you break the concrete, you can’t place it into a regular garbage bin. Instead, you will have to check your local and state recycling regulations to see where you can take the material. Some centers may accept the waste for free, while others may charge a small fee. The charge may increase if you have rebar or steel in the rubble.

If you have the right transportation, such as a truck, you’re in good shape. However, you may need to rent a heavy-duty vehicle or trailer to transport the concrete. It’s also helpful to determine how many trips it may take to deliver the debris to the recycling center. Will the concrete take five loads or 25 loads? Think about the resources you have available and if renting heavy machinery is necessary.

5. Invest in the Necessary Tools

Working with the right concrete demolition tools can be the difference between excessive and strategic work. You will need to consider what type of tool is best for your applications. For example, you can choose between a sledgehammer, jackhammer and chipping hammer.

You will also need a heavy-duty wheelbarrow to haul the rubble. Instead of packing the wheelbarrow to the top, make smaller and more manageable trips to the truck. If you try to overachieve with the most debris in your wheelbarrow, you’ll be exhausted by the third go-around. You should also think about renting a powered wheelbarrow or heavy machinery if you need more support.

Having a clear idea of what’s involved in a demolition project will help create a safe environment and give you the necessary resources to move forward with your plan.

What Tools Do I Need to Break Concrete?

The best concrete-breaking tools depend on your project and what you’re looking to achieve with the material.

Some tools you may need include:

  • Bolt cutters
  • Polyethylene plastic
  • Pry bar
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Safety gear like glasses, gloves and hearing protection
  • Wheelbarrow

Aside from the average list of wire cutters and pry bars, you also have the option between a sledgehammer, jackhammer or a chipping hammer.

What Tools Do I Need to Break Concrete

1. Sledgehammer

Sledgehammers are ideal for concrete slabs that are less thick. Combining a sledgehammer with a bit of elbow grease can get the job done without having to rely on a power tool. If you’re working with concrete that is thicker than four inches, the work becomes more difficult to manage.

You may benefit from practicing with a sledgehammer first before investing in a power tool. Manual demolition on smaller projects allows you to work with what you have, saving you money on heavy-duty tools that may not be necessary.

The idea is to lift the sledgehammer and let it fall. Use one hand to grasp the area closest to the head while the other hand is at the end of the handle. Lift the sledgehammer as high as possible, then let it fall, sliding your hand to the end as the hammer moves downward. Let the hammer do the work for you.

Start by hammering the outside corner of the concrete slab, sidewalk or stairs, then work toward the center. To make the process easier, you will want to dig out the material from under the concrete first, which is often sand. Creating space will allow you to break the concrete more easily because the base material is not interfering. Pry out the broken chunks as you go with a pickaxe.

Sledgehammers are ideal for smaller and more manageable demo tasks that you can probably perform on your own.

2. Jackhammer

If you have a massive slab of concrete that is thicker than a few inches, working with a jackhammer is your best bet. The tool can break up the material by using a high-powered pointed chisel.

You can decide which type of jackhammer suits your application based on its abilities, availability and price. You will also want to make sure you can handle the tool’s power. It takes a lot of control to move with the jackhammer as it is pounding into the surface.

For example, the Milwaukee® MX FUEL™ Breaker Hammer has an anti-vibration handle for an ergonomic design, whether you’re working onsite or conducting upgrades around your home. Its anti-vibration feature helps prevent long-term pain in your hands from continuous oscillations.

The Milwaukee MXF368-1XC FUEL Breaker also has LED lights, unmatched power and advanced technology to provide simple demolition. It is light-weight but powerful and easy to transport from one area to the next. The Milwaukee MXF368-1XC FUEL Breaker produces 50 feet-pounds of impact power with 1,300 blows per minute.

A jackhammer is an ideal power tool used for concrete demolitions, and four subcategories of jackhammers exist, including rotary, demolition, combination and breaker options. Each specializes in a particular task for various applications. Many workers in the construction industry refer to hammer drills as a general term for any product that digs into the concrete. However, there is a distinction between rotary and hammer options.

A hammer drill is a versatile tool that has high-torque and can drill into a range of materials, but it doesn’t have a chiseling function, meaning it’s better for light drilling projects.

A rotary drill has an electro-pneumatic piston that produces high-impact energy to demolish concrete for any application. It can have a hammer-only mode for cracking concrete and can withstand tough conditions. Many rotary hammer drills have SDS-plus and max bit systems.

You also have the option of a combination hammer that uses hard-hitting electro-pneumatics to deliver impact. The tool has rotary and hammer-only modes to form large holes or to hammer through tough concrete. A combination tool can have SDS-plus or max bit holdings or spline bits.

Demolition hammers are the best bet when you want to demolish concrete. It doesn’t have a rotation bit, so it can’t drill. Instead, it focuses on chipping, breaking and chiseling away at the material. A demo hammer is great for projects of different sizes and applications like breaking up concrete stairs, slabs, patios, sidewalks and more.

Finally, breaker hammers provide the most significant hits when it comes to breaking apart concrete. They can pull apart slabs of concrete but are only ideal for flat surfaces.

3. Chipping Hammer

A chipping hammer, also known as a demolition hammer, is a hand-held light-weight tool that offers more control when you’re working in tighter spaces. For example, if you’re demolishing around the house and are close to doors, windows and other fragile places, a chipping hammer will allow you to reach small areas and tight corners. The demolition tool is also helpful when working on obscure slabs of concrete that aren’t flat. They give you better control when precision is vital.

One of the key things to remember is how you orient the tip of the hammer. Point the tool down at an angle to chip away at the concrete. If you point the tip of the tool straight down, it will hit the same spot, creating a hole instead of breaking apart the material.

Choosing the right tool for the job can be overwhelming, but when you have the right information and trust the experts for advice, you will feel prepared and ready to tackle the job.

Understand Your Operation Modes

Depending on what you're trying to accomplish, different tools deliver different modes of operation.

For example, there are distinct operations when you’re looking to drill versus crack concrete. Rotary hammers are ideal for forming holes, while other power tools help you break up concrete by allowing you to switch between rotation and hammer functions.

If you’re using a jackhammer, a chisel-point bit can concentrate the hammer’s force to crack the material faster. Make sure to move your jackhammer back about a few inches after forming each crack while someone else pries out the rubble.

Different Tools Deliver Different Modes of Operations

Various Types of Bits

There are also various interface systems you can work with on your jackhammer tool. Different types of bits will better serve situations where you want to demolish concrete as opposed to puncturing a hole — for example:

  • Straight shank bits: These types of bits have a smooth shaft, making them ideal for softer materials. However, they don’t perform well when you need a hole larger than a half inch.
  • SDS-plus and SDS-max bits: These are great for heavy-duty applications when you need larger holes and more torque. Rotary hammers can use both of the SDS bits. There are even spline interface bits that can handle intense rotational torque but can't transfer the impact as well as SDS accessories.
  • Hex collar bits: If you’re not looking to drill a hole and need to demolish concrete slabs, stairs, sidewalks or building foundations, hex collar bits are your go-to. They are large and heavy-duty bits used in breaker hammer applications that use chisels, spades, drivers, points and cutters. The bit is held in place by a retaining collar system to break through inches of material.

Solutions for Any Demo Project

Construction Fasteners and Tools has the right concrete demolition equipment and tools for professionals and DIY enthusiasts. We sell power tools and other solutions — and if we don’t list it online, our experts will source the product for you. We take care of our customers by ensuring you receive superior solutions for each project. We offer quality products and services, as well as a 30-day return policy.

Browse our inventory online or reach out to our support team for additional help. We also have a live chat option if you need to receive immediate assistance. Construction Fasteners and Tools strives to form a personal connection with you to support your long-term operations.

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