DIY Concrete Removal Guide

DIY Concrete Removal Guide

Concrete removal can seem like an overwhelming home improvement project. But will a little know-how and planning, you can complete your next DIY concrete removal project. We’ve got a complete guide to concrete removal that can set you up for success. It’s going to take hard work and time, but you can do it.

How Much Does DIY Concrete Removal Cost?

This largely depends on your location. The average cost in the US for removing concrete is between $500 - $5,000. Factors that affect the cost include:

  • Square footage of the concrete
  • The thickness of the concrete slab
  • Reinforcement of the concrete
  • Hiring professional labor
  • Tool and Dumpster Rental

Straight Forward Steps for DIY Concrete Removal

man using a jackhammer

Notice: We didn’t say easy. Removing concrete will be tedious and challenging, but you can do it with the right tools and know-how. We recommend following these steps for your DIY concrete removal project:

1. Follow Safety Precautions and Contact Your Dig Safe Authority

Before you dig into your concrete, you need to assess the scope of the project and follow some safety precautions:

  • Assess the thickness of the concrete and any type of reinforcement. You will need power tools if the concrete is thicker than four inches or has rebar or wire mesh reinforcement.
  • Assess if the concrete connects to your home’s foundation. If it is connected, you’ll need to separate the concrete from the foundation before demolishing the concrete to protect the foundation from cracking or damage.
  • Contact your Dig Safe authority or local utility company to ensure it is safe to dig where your concrete is located. This may require submitting a site plan to your utility or Dig Safe authority for approval. To contact Dig Safe, dial 811 on your phone.
  • Remember to wear safety gear. Concrete removal can be dangerous because of the thickness of the concrete and the types of tools you will be wielding.
  • Schedule a roll-off dumpster for your removal day. Contact your city or waste management company about dumpster rentals and reservations.

Are you thinking about demoing your concrete? Learn more about how we can help your construction permitting of minor improvements, planning, zoning, parking analysis, HOAs, and lots more

Related Link: What is the Best Way to Get Rid of an Inground Pool?

2. Get the Right Tools for Removing Concrete

Before starting, you’ll need to rent, borrow, or buy the necessary tools and safety gear to handle the job safely. Several factors will affect what tools you’ll need based on the thickness, type of reinforcement, and location of the concrete.

What Safety Gear do I Need to Remove Concrete?

We recommend using this safety gear for removing concrete on your own:

  • Safety goggles
  • Heavy-duty gloves
  • Thick work boots
  • Dust mask
  • Ear plugs or other hearing protection
  • Plastic sheeting

What Tools do I Need to Break Up Concrete?

You may need to have the following tools for your DIY concrete removal project:

  • Sledgehammer
  • Jackhammer
  • Pickaxe
  • Pry bar
  • Bolt cutters
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Roll-off Dumpster

You may not need a jackhammer if the concrete is thinner or bolt cutters if there isn’t reinforcement. But you’ll want to assess which tools you need before starting the project.

Need help planning your concrete demolition? Contact us for your site plan needs.

Related Link: Everything You Need to Know About House Foundations

3. Create Space Underneath the Concrete

Another prepping step that will make the job easier is to undermine the concrete before trying to break it up. This means clearing space underneath the concrete slab to remove any reinforcement that can withstand the tools. To undermine concrete, you’ll need to:

  1. Shovel underneath the concrete from the side.
  2. Pry the concrete off and dig underneath to loosen the foundation for the slab.

4. Break Up the Concrete Using Your Tools

sledgehammer breaking up concrete

Once you undermined an area, you’re ready for the heavy-duty tools. If you have plastic sheeting, you can lay it over the concrete to contain concrete fragments that might fly away.

Using a sledgehammer or jackhammer:

  1. Hit the concrete near the edge of the slab.
  2. Then hit other areas of the slab surface to create cracks.

How do you break up thick concrete?

If you work with thicker concrete, you’ll want to use the chisel point on a jackhammer. Always point heavy power tools away from your body. You should hammer at the concrete with a slight angle to reduce the risk of the jackhammer getting jammed in the concrete.

5. Pry Apart Broken Sections

Once the concrete has deep enough cracks, you can use your pry bar to break the slab into pieces. The larger the crack, the easier it will be to break it into smaller pieces of concrete.

If the concrete has a rebar or wire mesh reinforcement, you will need the bolt cutters to break it up. Some rebar will require strong power tools to cut it, such as an angle grinder or reciprocating saw. Commiserations if you need to cut reinforcement. This is a tedious part of concrete removal.

6. Dispose of the Rubble Responsibly

When the concrete is in manageable pieces that you can easily lift, you’ll want to roll out your wheelbarrow. Shovel or toss the rubble into the wheelbarrow and haul it to your roll-off dumpster.

Remember that concrete is crazy heavy. So don’t overload your wheelbarrow to save a trip. Your back will thank you. Once you’ve cleared the area of all debris, your project is finished.

DIY Concrete Removal is Manageable With the Right Tools

When you follow safety precautions and get the right tools, you can remove your concrete on your own. The work will be hard, but it is doable. For thick concrete reinforced with rebar, you may want to consider hiring professionals to do the job.

Don’t forget to ensure that your concrete isn’t touching your foundation or utility lines before you dig. Getting a site plan for your property will help you to know where you can safely dig up concrete. My Site Plan is a trusted source for fast site plan turnaround.

Related Link: 6 Things to Consider for New Driveway Plans


FAQ Answer
What permits might be required for DIY concrete removal? Depending on local regulations, you may need a permit for concrete removal, especially if it involves large areas or affects structural components of your property. Contact your local building authority or municipality for specific requirements.
How do I dispose of concrete responsibly if I don't have access to a roll-off dumpster? If a roll-off dumpster isn't an option, consider contacting local recycling centers or construction material disposal companies that accept concrete. Some may offer pick-up services for large quantities.
What should I do if I encounter unexpected utility lines while breaking up concrete? If you find utility lines not previously identified by the Dig Safe authority, stop work immediately and contact the utility company. Continuing without professional assessment could be hazardous.
How can I estimate the amount of time needed for DIY concrete removal? The time required can vary significantly based on the size and thickness of the concrete slab, and whether it has reinforcement like rebar. A small, simple project might take a weekend, while larger, more complex removals could take several days.
Are there environmental concerns associated with breaking up concrete? Yes, concrete removal can generate dust and debris that may be harmful if not properly managed. Use plastic sheeting and water sprays to minimize airborne dust, and ensure debris is disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner.

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  • Ryan Crownholm