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How to break up concrete

Date posted: 18 December 2014

If you have a concrete floor, pathway, or any other slab of concrete that you need to break up and remove, it is possible to do this yourself rather than hire expensive professionals. You will, however, need to be armed with a little know-how, some specific power tools, and all the necessary safety gear.

Safety

Concrete is a very durable building material and as a result you will need some powerful tools to get rid of it – these can be noisy and dangerous, so it's vital to protect your health and safety.

Earplugs, a hard hat, protective goggles and a face mask are essential to protect your ears from the noise and your face, eyes and head from any flying chunks of concrete. The face mask will also prevent you from inhaling dangerous substances while you work. Always wear a sturdy pair of boots (e.g. steel capped / safety shoes) and robust clothing with long sleeves and legs to prevent any injuries to your skin.

Check that there are no gas, water, power or phone lines underneath or near the concrete slab you are tackling, and clear the area of any debris such as rocks, sticks and leaves.

Tools

Hire a heavy-duty breaker to break up the concrete if you do not own one or have access to borrow one. Before you hire, check the voltage required by the breaker and make sure you have a power outlet / transformer capable of handling it. It is important to read the breaker manufacturer's instructions thoroughly before you use the tool to ensure you do so safely and effectively.

You may also need to hire a skip to dispose of the concrete after removing it.

Breaking the concrete

Once you are kitted out with the essential safety gear and tools for the job, start work from the furthest edge so that you can work standing on the unbroken concrete for sounder footing.

Holding the breaker firmly and upright, place its point in contact with the concrete and then switch it on. Keep the electric power cord behind you at all times, and well away from the point of the breaker. The tool will vibrate as it repeatedly hammers its point into the concrete at a rate of hundreds per minute. Allow the point to crack and break the surface of the slab, maintaining a firm grip to avoid it moving sideways or losing control. Do not apply too much pressure to the breaker, however, or this may also cause it to shift sideways. Work methodically at a slow rate, letting the breaker do all of the hard work. A good way to work is in a grid pattern, breaking into whatever size you feel able to practically lift and move.

Never try to use the breaker as a lever to prise up concrete, as this could be dangerous and potentially damage the tool.

If the concrete contains existing cracks or breaks you can work the breaker along these weak points to help make the job easier. Stop the machine at intervals to get rid of any concrete debris that could get in your way as you work across the slab. Whenever you switch it off, make sure you keep hold of the breaker until it is completely motionless before you place it down.

Once you have broken up the slab you can use a wrecking bar to break it into smaller pieces if you need to. Finally, scoop up the pieces using a shovel and throw them into a skip.

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