How To Break Up Concrete

Smash through any concrete challenges using our guide, designed for success with or without power tools.
Written By: David White | Updated:
how to break up concrete
David White/DIY Works

Whether you need to break concrete slabs, fence post bases, paths, internal floors or anything else concrete-based, there are several ways of breaking it. Despite the fact that concrete is easy to lay, the same can’t always be said when it comes to breaking it up. Luckily, there are several tools you can use to break up concrete relatively easily, as we discuss below.

What Tools Should You Use?

Although you could use a sledgehammer to break up concrete manually, the best method is to use an SDS drill. Without even having to put any effort in, you can use the weight and power of the tool to break up concrete easily, as we’ve done in this article.

tools to break concrete

David White/DIY Works

From breaking up thick concrete bases, slabs, walls, or anything else that’s made with concrete, it’s undoubtedly the best tool for the job. If you don’t own an SDS drill, they can be bought for as little as £100 (even Makita machines) or hired out for as little as £30 for the day (i.e. at HSS Hire).

Case Study: The Task In Hand

Breaking up concrete is a common DIY task we carry out, and recently, we needed to break up concrete to level out a floor.

As you can see in the photo, there is raised concrete from a fireplace that we removed whilst renovating this property, and it needed to be removed.

how to break up a concrete base

David White/DIY Works

Therefore, we used an SDS drill to break up the thick concrete, and we were then able to mix up new concrete to pour into the hole that had been made. Once the concrete had dried, we were then able to lay the self-levelling compound across the entire room.

How To Break Up Concrete

Although there are several ways to break concrete, our preferred method is to use an SDS drill with a chisel point. It has proven to be very successful for us on a number of occasions and we highly recommend it. As well as the SDS drill, we also recommend that you get a crowbar to deal with the removal of large/thick pieces of concrete.

Below is our process to break up concrete using an SDS drill:

  1. Set up the SDS drill with a chisel point.
  2. Lightly sprinkle the area with water to minimize dust (or wear a dust mask).
  3. Aim the chisel point at a 45 degree angle and starting chipping away at the concrete.
  4. Pry off large pieces of concrete with a crowbar.
how to break up thick concrete

David White/DIY Works

The above 4 steps is really all there is to it but if you come across concrete with mesh wire, you may need to use bolt cutters to cut the wire as you are breaking the concrete.

If you are unable to use an SDS drill, below we discuss other methods of breaking up concrete.

Disposing of Broken Concrete

After breaking up the concrete, you’ll more than likely want to dispose of it, and depending on how large the area is, it will determine the best route to take. For example, if you are breaking up a small amount of concrete, you may be able to pack the broken pieces into rubble bags and take them to your nearest recycling centre. However, if you are tackling a large area, hiring a skip or having a registered company collect it is probably easier.

Other Ways To Break Concrete


By Hand

Breaking up concrete by hand is more labour-intensive, but it can be just as effective. Depending upon the concrete area to be broken, you can use either a sledgehammer or a hammer and chisel. Similar to the method shown above, you’ll want to strike the concrete (either method) and pry away any large pieces with a crowbar.

Using Chemicals

If you are unable to break up concrete using manual or electric power, you may want to consider using a chemical alternative.

The chemical solution is often referred to as demolition grout, and it’s a liquid formulation that’s able to dissolve modern concrete mixes over a prolonged period of time.

To use a chemical to break up concrete, you’ll need to drill holes into the concrete and then pour the grout in. Over time, the grout will expand, which causes the concrete to break apart. This makes it the perfect method for those who are trying to be quiet or have to tackle difficult-to-break concrete. The only negatives are the fact that it’s highly toxic and expensive.

Conclusion

Breaking up concrete isn’t a difficult DIY task, and whether you use an SDS drill, sledgehammer or even chemicals, each method is very effective. Hopefully, our guide has walked you through everything you need to know, but if you require further information, feel free to get in touch, and we will try to help out where possible.

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