10 DIY Concrete Removal Tips to Make the Process Easier

Bry'Ana Arvie
Written by Bry'Ana Arvie
Updated December 29, 2021
Three car garage house with large driveway
Photo: bmak / Adobe Stock

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Concrete is a beautiful addition to any home, but when it’s starting to break apart, it can become an eyesore that you’re ready to remove. While you might be prepared to kick your concrete to the curb, concrete demolition is a physically demanding DIY job. To make the process a little easier on you, you’ll need some tried-and-true strategies under your belt. 

This guide will cover some best practices you can implement to make your concrete removal project simple and manageable. 

1. Decide If It’s DIY-able (and Worth It)

Before you start hacking away at your concrete, call 811 to see if any utility pipes are under your concrete slab. If so, you’ll need a concrete removal pro in your area to remove it for you. The cost for concrete demolition is $1,030 on average. 

If you’re doing a DIY project that includes renting a jackhammer, heavy-duty wheelbarrow, construction dumpster, and equipping another set of hands, you can keep some money in your pocket by taking care of it yourself. But you’ll want to be fairly DIY savvy for this project and comfortable handling a sledgehammer or jackhammer to ensure safe removal. 

However, if you’re hiring a local concrete company to pour new concrete, it might make more sense financially and physically to let them remove your concrete for you.

2. Put on Proper Safety Gear

Removing concrete can become messy, with concrete flying everywhere and the potential for mishaps. So, keep yourself protected with safety goggles, a respiratory mask, steel-toe boots, protective clothing, and a hard hat. 

3. Pick the Tool That’s Best for You

Worker removing concrete with a jackhammer
Photo: sima / Adobe Stock

You need to pick a tool that’ll work best for you and your DIY concrete removal project; your options are a sledgehammer or a jackhammer. Typically, a sledgehammer is a go-to choice when the concrete slab is 4 inches thick or less. It’s always worth testing out for yourself during the prep stage.

During your test, you’re trying to see if the sledgehammer is creating some major cracks or if it’s only breaking the top layer into small pieces. If you’re putting in work with nothing to show for it after a few minutes (e.g., small pieces) or if the concrete is thicker than 4 inches, consider renting a powered jackhammer.

4. Plan Your Disposal

Blue construction dumpster in a house driveway
Photo: ALAN / Adobe Stock

After you’ve shown that concrete who’s boss, now you need to dispose of it. And while it might seem like an easy solution, no, you can’t dump the concrete in the trash for your garbage pickup service.  

But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it. Here are a few ways you can dispose of concrete after DIY removal:

  • Construction dumpster rental near you

  • Free curbside pickup

  • Use a concrete recycling service

  • Contact a local junk removal company

  • Haul it to a landfill yourself

  • Repurpose it around your home and yard

5. Phone a Friend

Even if you’re excited to remove your concrete, it’s a physically taxing job and can quickly lead to burnout. That’s why it’s best suited as a two-person (or more) DIY. Get in touch with a few friends or family members who can lend you a hand. Then one of you can focus on breaking apart the concrete while the other pry it up and haul it away. 

6. Control the Dust

Concrete dust contains crystalline silica, and when inhaled, it can get lodged in the lungs and lead to silicosis, a lung disease. So besides protective gear, an extra measure you can take to minimize the dust and flying concrete pieces is to mist water on them. 

You can also place a 6-millimeter plastic polythene sheet over your work area to keep dust and concrete contained until you’re ready to pry it.  

7. Pry the Concrete

While prying might seem like an additional step, it can make the process a little easier and possibly save you time. Prying separates the concrete from its support system—sand or soil—and helps break larger pieces into smaller ones. And when prying, use a little strength to spear the pry bar into the cracked line. It’ll give you some leeway to make separating the pieces less work. 

8. Prepare for Wire Mesh or Rebar

Most concrete slabs are reinforced with wire mesh or rebar, making it time-consuming to break apart. You’ll need to use bolt cutters to cut through the wire mesh as you go, and for rebar, a reciprocating saw should do the trick. You can check if you have wire mesh or rebar by breaking off a piece of the edge and looking underneath.

9. Have Hauling Equipment on Standby

Worker carrying concrete blocks with a wheelbarrow
Photo: rh2010 / Adobe Stock

Hauling away concrete rubble requires a heavy-duty wheelbarrow. If you use a lightweight model, it won’t last more than a couple of loads. Also, we recommend keeping the loads small and taking turns with your work buddy. 

Otherwise, you’ll be too tired to continue shortly into the DIY project, resulting in you hauling yourself away with the wheelbarrow instead of the concrete. 

Depending on the path and amount of rubble you think you’ll have, it might be worth renting a fuel-powered wheelbarrow. This way, you’ll only need to put the concrete in the wheelbarrow instead of lifting the concrete and hauling it away.  

10. Take Breaks

Sledgehammers are physically-demanding to swing, jackhammers are challenging to handle, and concrete is heavy. No part of DIY concrete removal is easy, so take breaks often. Even if you’re in a rush to get the job done, working too fast can cause you to mishandle the tools or concrete, leading to injury. 

When you feel you physically need a break, relax for a few minutes—or hours—and drink some water and start again. The concrete will be right where you left it when you get back.

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