How to Break Up Concrete Slab – Ultimate Guide 2020

Do you have a concrete slab that may not look good and you want to demolish? You can actually hire a professional contractor to do the job for you. But, if you are on a budget you can do the breaking of concrete yourself. You just have to know the basic way on how to break up concrete slab.

Here in this post, we will share to you the step-by-step process on breaking a concrete. Moreover, also covered here are some helpful tips to speed up your demolition process. Also, we have here the demolition tools that you may need to use. Check them out below.

Tips on how to break up concrete slab easily

So, breaking up concrete slab primarily demands the work of contractors. However,  you can also be the one to do the process on how to break up concrete slab and the following tips below may help you save both of your time and energy. Aside from that, it can also save you more bucks.


Yes, concrete demolition is actually a brainless job. However, there is more behind sledgehammer swinging. If you are knowledgeable even with just a little information about this, you can generally save more of your time. 

The steps on how to break up concrete slab all by yourself can eventually save you more bucks at the same time. Actually, the cost of demolishing a patio with a measurement of 12 x 14-ft has a cost of at least $1,400 and above when you hire a contractor. However, if you do the process on how to break up concrete slab, it will only cost around $400 with the inclusion of rental and disposal. 

This will generally give you savings of at least $1,000 over the total cost of breaking up and removing the concrete slab. Meanwhile, once you hire a contractor in pouring out new concrete, making a demo can give you more cost when you pay the disposal fees. It is essential to compare the contractor’s removal fee versus the costs that will incur when you break up the concrete slab yourself.


Generally, breaking up a concrete slab can be done all by yourself. Moreover, doing an easy and painless concrete slab breaking is through properly selecting the right demolition equipment.

Actually, there is demolition equipment available to help you with doing this job successfully. Primarily, there is a sledgehammer that is effective in doing the ways on how to break up concrete slab until 4 inches thick. It is a good choice to try it before attempting to use heavier demolition tools.

Moreover, one best way to choose what equipment you are going to use is to make an experiment for at least a few days prior to the actual process on how to break up concrete slab. Simply take some whacks on the slab using a 12 lb sledgehammer. Usually, with only about 10 minutes, you can already determine if the concrete demolition is good with a sledge or a jackhammer. Here are the differences of each tool for coming up with which one to use when you do the steps on how to break up concrete slab.

1. Sledgehammer

Initially, renting a pneumatic jackhammer would be the first thing in mind when it comes to breaking up concrete slab. However, a metal sledgehammer with the help of some elbow grease will also do the job. Concrete with a measurement of 3 inches or less, the best tool to use is the sledgehammer. 

In using this, start by digging at the slab’s base so that you can able to locate the bottom. Yet, bear in mind that you need to hammer the slab in case the bottom and top distance are around or less than 3 inches.   

How to break up concrete slab

Helpful tips in using a sledgehammer:

  • Generally, it would be helpful to hire someone to assist you in lifting a corner using a pry bar. Moreover, it is better to begin slamming over the corners and do the work gearing the center.
  • Once the chunks break apart, pry and pull out the broken pieces.
  • Hitting the same area twice is not advisable. Just keep on going and continue lifting using the pry bar.
2. Jackhammer

In case you have a large or thicker than 3 inches concrete slab, it is advisable to rent a pneumatic jackhammer. This type of jackhammer contains more power compared to an electric jackhammer. Perhaps, these two types of jackhammer have the ability to break up concrete slab through high-power and quick moving chisel that actually has pointed tips.

However, both types are heavy and hard to maneuver. That’s why it is important that you ensure that you are strong enough to move the jackhammer. Yet, remember not to automatically go after renting this demolition equipment as your initial option as it may overkill you.

3. Chipping Hammer

One of your agenda on how to break up concrete slab is removing concrete that is not just a simple flat slab. Likewise, you might want to put more control compared with a sledgehammer and jackhammer. Due to this, you may opt for either renting or buying a chipping hammer. Basically, chipping hammers provide the most control over strange corners, near windows, and tight spaces because they are handheld and light in weight.


Concrete is actually not applicable to be placed over the trash can. That’s why it is important to go on and check the disposal methods at least one week in advance. Good thing is that there are concrete recyclers that offer recycling services for free or charge at least a small amount per load of concrete. In case a concrete has some steel mesh or rebar, they actually incorporate extra charge.

However, you cannot able to determine if the concrete you have contains metals unless you break it up. It is generally better to identify the total price depending on the higher rate. Moreover, it is a must-know that a standard patio of about 12 x 14 ft has a weight of 5,000 lbs. This simply means that the cost you will be going to pay covers three loads for three trips. 

How to break up concrete slab

Additionally, the other choice included in your process on how to break up concrete slab is renting up a trash container under waste disposal services. Initially, call the waste facility within your locality. Ask them generally regarding their concrete disposal policies.

It is actually better to inform the waste haulers about the dimensions and thickness of the patio. With this, they will be the one who will do the job in identifying for the right size of the trash container for you. Just ensure to rent a trash container containing walk-in gate for the purpose of easier loading method. 


Generally, the process on how to break up concrete slab is a complete work that requires heavy lifting. Because of this, it demands extra hands to support and assist you in the job. It is actually better to make a plan and grab strong commitments from your close friends and relatives. 

Great additions to the team are those friends who have heavy-duty wheelbarrows. Make sure that your friends will have two members and will do the breaking up of concrete slab. In addition, there should also be at least two to four members to make the hauling.


Using a sheet of plastic, you can generally prevent the flying of chunks of concrete. Concrete shrapnel can generally cause damage over the siding and may also break the windows. Basically, if this happens, it would be a really hard cleaning up chore.

Roll at least 6-mil polyethylene at the patio or on to your sidewalk. This will help in protecting the windows and sidings instead of putting up plywood. Leave the polyethylene in its position while you do the hammering. Another function of the sheet is to catch the shrapnel and collects the dust. 


Basically, the formation of a team consisting of two-person can do the process on how to break up concrete slab in a quicker way. The concrete slab can easily break up when there is one person who does the prying and the other one strikes up. Once you already cover the slab using plastic, the whaling is very tempting. But don’t ever do that right away as you may end up pulverizing the top layer of the concrete slab.

Again, on this step on how to break up concrete slab, you also need two-hands to do the job. One person will work on the sledgehammer or jackhammer and the other one will do handle the 6-ft long pry bar or the “San Angelo bar”. To successfully do this, begin working over the corners and suddenly go inward. 

In case the concrete slab does not crack out on the initial blow, do the next hit over a few inches away. Bear in mind not to hit the same area twice. Doing so may just result with surface chipping, thus cushion of fine rubles over the slab will be created making it harder to break.


Generally, the chunks still locked on with each other which result in a harder concrete slab. This is even true after the breaking up of the concrete. The best solution for this is to clear out all the rubble immediately after each 2 to 3-ft portion after breaking up. 

Remember that when you pry some sections, do not ever use your hands. The best equipment for doing this is the mattock. By swinging the pointed portion of the mattock into the crack, the chunks will be placed on a separate area and will eventually pry up.

Push away the pieces apart from each other in order for you to alter into the large flat blade. Proceed to move of the mattock to the other side of the chunk on top of the flat surface under the concrete slab in case the chunk didn’t budge. Afterwards, move upwards to unlock the stuck corner.


For the purpose of cracking resistance, most concrete slabs use steel mesh. A good thing about this is to double up of triple the length of time for the tearing of the slab. Generally, the steel mesh will work on and resist the crack the moment you attempt breaking up large pieces of concrete slab. This will basically make your job on how to break up concrete slab a little bit harder.

That’s why it is really essential to crack out smaller portions. Use bolt cutter in cutting out the mesh and monitor sharp wire spikes that stick out of the concrete chunks. Cut the rebar, if the concrete has it, using a reciprocating saw and metal blade. You can also use a combination of the angle grinder and metal cutoff wheel.


One of the best equipment for rubble is actually a heavy-duty wheelbarrow. This applies generally for most jobs. Go for those with 20 half loads so that it will not wear out easily compared to the ten full loads. Make renting power wheelbarrow an option in case the way going to the trash container is uphill. 

Step-by-Step Process on How to Break Up Concrete Slab

This process on how to break up concrete slab is not applicable in using a jackhammer as the process below is suitable on a small area with a thickness less than 4 inches. 

1. Creation of void beneath the concrete

Creation of a void just below the slab section is the best solution to fasten up the removal of the concrete. Simply dig below the slab so that you can create a void. The moment cracks are already developing, lift smaller portions of the slab using a pry bar and then create a void.

As a start, dig around 4 to 6 inches at the back of the slab edge and around 2 inches deep using a shovel. While doing the cracking of the concrete slab, partially lift up the pieces through the pry bar. The method of using the pry bar on how to break up concrete slab is through the following:

  • Just beneath the slab portion, attach the end of the pry bar.
  • Lift the chunk a little using a pry bar by one person and the other one works on the sledgehammer.
  • Create more leverage if needed through the use of cinder block or rock being a fulcrum.
2. Hammering

After the void creation below the edges, it is now time to do the process on how to break up concrete slab. Prior to hammering, do the following:

  • Put a plastic sheet covering over the slab area.
  • Wear safety protective gears such as gloves, safety glasses, boots, and hearing protection.

When all is set and ready, blow a hammer on the edge around 6 inches. Hit again by moving a few inches in a direction you prefer. 

3. Removal of broken concretes

Usually, the mattock is used in separating the pieces of concrete. Here is the guide on how to do it:

  • Initially, insert into the cracks the pick of the mattock
  • Basically, cut the wire mesh, if there is any, using bolt cutters.
  • Afterwards, load the wheelbarrow by the debris produced by lifting with your legs.
  • Through the trash container, load over the concrete.

4. Repeat from step 1 until the concrete is completely broken

Continue digging just beneath the edges as you get along to the middle of the concrete slab. Repeat this process until the concrete is entirely loose. From time to time, give yourself and moving muscles some break.

Final Thoughts

How to break up concrete slab may actually cost you less when you do it yourself. However, you may still need a team of at least two to four members to give you a hand in working on the sledge and do the lifting and prying activity. Aside from that, you may also need to contact your local waste disposal service for proper discarding of the concrete. Knowing this and strictly following the steps provided may let you have a successful concrete demolition.