How to Break Concrete With Hand Tools? (Guide & Checklist)

Last Updated on January 22, 2022 by Barry Gray

Renovating a property is not always easy, especially if one does not have access to all the needed tools, equipment, or materials. Breaking up concrete is one task that requires some know-how if done without a pneumatic Jackhammer. So how would one break concrete with handtools?

Concrete is renowned for its strength, making it a popular material for use in the construction industry. Most building contractors prefer to use pneumatic Jackhammers to break concrete, even though it is possible to break it with hand tools like a cold chisel and a sledgehammer. 

Hand tools have been used to break concrete since people started to build with cement.

Although it is convenient and much faster to use specialized tools, the old method of breaking concrete with hand tools is still used frequently. This post will explore the topic of breaking concrete with hand tools.

How To Break Concrete With Hand Tools

Are Hand Tools Suitable For Breaking Concrete?

Hand tools are suitable for breaking concrete as long as only small sections of concrete need to be broken up. The following section highlights the most suitable hand tools for breaking concrete.

Sledge Hammer

Sledgehammers come in different weight ratings ranging from 4 pounds to over 15 pounds, and choosing the most suitable weighted hammer with the correct handle length is very important. A sledgehammer is often the only hand tool needed for breaking up thin sections of concrete.

Cold Chisel For Concrete

A cold chisel is another hand tool essential for breaking up concrete. A cold chisel is effective in places where it becomes difficult to swing a sledgehammer or for areas where more precision is needed in the task of breaking concrete.

As with most hand tools, cold chisels are available in different sizes and lengths.

Pickaxe

Pickaxe On Rubble

A Pickaxe is needed to create leverage under the concrete that needs to be broken up. It helps create weak spots that cause the concrete to break up easier.

In cases where a pickaxe can not be used because of space restrictions, a prybar can also be used to wedge the concrete. It also helps to insert rocks or steel to wedge the concrete for maximum effect with the hammer.

Shovel

A shovel will be needed to dig up the soil under the concrete so that the concrete can be broken up easier. It is essential to dig up the ground to give the concrete stability. The effect of the sledgehammer increases when the concrete loses stability.

Electrical Hand Tools

Drilling In Concrete

Drilling holes with a drilling machine and scoring lines between the holes with a grinder and masonry blade also helps break down the concrete’s structural integrity.

Electrical hand tools should not be used by people who do not have experience breaking concrete this way. Electrical hand tools pose unique dangers that need to be considered.

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment is needed to make the task of breaking concrete with hand tools as safely as possible, and the requirements go hand in hand with the controls of a risk assessment. Injuries caused by hand tools need to be prevented at all costs.

 Tips For Breaking Concrete With Hand Tools

Breaking concrete with hand tools can be a backbreaker when it is not done following a planned approach; here is a few valuable tips:

  • Always do planning in conjunction with a risk assessment. It makes sense in any workplace, so why not at home. Doing it this way eliminates a lot of unwanted frustrations. Remember to look out for utilities.
  • Pick the correct equipment and tools for the task at hand, do proper pre-use inspections to ensure that everything is safe to do the work. Having appropriate tools will get the job done more effectively.
  • Start by digging out a portion of soil under the concrete to evaluate the strength of the concrete. Giving the concrete a few precise pounds with the sledgehammer will indicate how strong the concrete is.
  • In cases where the blows from the sledgehammer are not effective in breaking the concrete, it requires some wedging under the concrete using a Pickaxe. That is what the flat side of the Pickaxe is used for.
  • The sharp point of the Pickaxe can also be used to strike the concrete and is sometimes more effective. The striking and wedge combination should do the trick to break the concrete.
  • If the concrete is solid, there is one last thing that you can try. It is time-consuming and a lot of work, but it gets the job done. Drill multiple holes in the concrete; a long drill bit helps with this.
  •  Score the concrete with a grinder and masonry disc between the drilled holes. Then use a cold chisel and hammer; it works wonders after doing this.
  • If the concrete is still holding up after doing all of this, it is time to rather call in the experts, as they have experience and know-how to deal with stubborn concrete.

Experts’ research and advice go a long way in planning for certain jobs, but sometimes the experts have some extra tricks up their sleeves. They call those the secrets of the trade, and they hardly share those. 

When Not To Use Hand Tools To Break Concrete

Fist Breaking Concrete Wall

Breaking concrete with hand tools can be frustrating if the conditions are not suitable for a task like that. There are a few times where breaking concrete with hand tools should not be attempted by yourself, and they are:

  • In the presence of utilities like gas lines, power lines, and water lines, it might be wise to call in experts to deal with that. 
  • When the concrete is thicker than 4 feet, the strength of the concrete will be too much to handle with hand tools, and the efforts put into the task may cause unwanted injuries.
  • When the concrete is heavily reinforced with rebar, for instance, it is unsuitable for breaking it up with hand tools, especially if significant sections need to be broken up.

Proper evaluation and planning need to be done before attempting to break up concrete with hand tools; this will save a lot of time and prevent frustrating moments while completing the task.

Conclusion

Breaking concrete with hand tools requires some basic skills and some muscle but can be done by following the tips in guides like this. Always plan tasks properly and take advice from experts. Good luck in taking on the task of breaking concrete with hand tools.

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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