how to remove a concrete driveway
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Have you noticed your concrete driveway is starting to look like it belongs to a set of ancient ruins? If it has a number of cracks, loose chunks, or looks like the concrete is settling, it’s probably time to remove that concrete driveway and maybe even replace it.

Removing a concrete driveway requires planning ahead, having the right tools, putting in the physical labour of breaking up and moving the concrete, and properly disposing of the concrete. People sometimes hire professionals to take out their driveway. However, if you have time and are willing to put in the effort, you can get rid of it yourself.

How do you remove concrete from a driveway?

Before you start on the tools, it is important to make sure that you have all the information you need. The last thing you want to do is start on a DIY removal project that ends up costing thousands and thousands because you have impacted utility lines. Even though your concrete driveway is part of your property, you probably need a permit to get rid of it, especially if it connects to a public road. Contact your local authority in your area and get a permit before you start the work.

It’s also important to determine where your utility lines are before breaking up your concrete driveway. You don’t want to accidentally break a water or electricity line while working. Call Dial Before You Dig to make sure you have all the information you need. Using electromagnetic locating or ground-penetrating radar, they can tell you if there are any utility lines under your driveway and how deep in the ground they are.

What tools are needed to break up concrete?

Having the right tools makes getting rid of that concrete driveway so much easier. Here are some tools you don’t want to be without.

  • Plastic Sheet
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Sledge hammer
  • Crow bar/pry bar
  • Jackhammer (if the concrete is really thick)
  • Mattock (similar to a pickaxe)
  • Angle grinder (if the concrete has metal bars inside)
  • Bolt cutter (if the concrete has metal mesh inside)

Getting the tools best for removing the your specific concrete driveway ahead of time will make the removal process a lot more efficient and less stressful.

Prep Your Concrete Driveway

Start your prep by making it a safe workspace, by clearing and cleaning the area. Another good idea is to make sure nothing can get hit by flying debris. If your car is parked nearby, now is probably a good time to move it elsewhere! Next get a shovel and start digging around the edge of the driveway. Dig down about 2 inches (5 centimeters) right next to the concrete and up to 4-6 inches (about 10-15 centimeters) away from the concrete. Then use a pry bar to loosen around the edge if you can. This will create a void so that when you strike the concrete with a sledge hammer or jackhammer the force won’t be absorbed as much by the ground underneath. That way your strikes will be more effective at breaking the concrete.

If your concrete driveway is more than 4 inches (about 10 centimeters thick), it’ll be a lot easier to use a jackhammer than a sledge hammer to remove the driveway.

After this, cover the driveway with a plastic sheet to prevent flying concrete as you work. Now you’re ready to gather the rest of your tools and get down to the main job.

Use the Sledge Hammer or Jackhammer

Now that the driveway has been prepped and you have the correct tools, you can start breaking up the concrete. Find a corner and strike with the sledge hammer or jackhammer within 6 inches (about 15 centimeters) of an edge. This should create cracks in the concrete. But, if it doesn’t, try another spot close by and don’t strike in the exact same place again .

When using a sledge hammer, use gravity to your advantage and allow the hammer to fall as you bring it down instead of swinging it. This helps prevents injury and will keep you from getting tired as fast.

Be Methodical in How You Crack the Concrete

Continue using the sledge hammer or jackhammer and move across the concrete driveway in a grid pattern. As you work, check that your hammer strikes aren’t too close together. You want the concrete to be in decent-sized chunks for easier pick up and not small like gravel.

You can do a better job at breaking and separating the concrete if you have a two-person team, especially if you’re using the sledge hammer. Have one person use the hammer to create breaks and the other person push a pry bar between and under the new cracks to better separate the concrete pieces. If you find metal rebar or mesh in your concrete, cut it with the angle grinder or bolt cutters along the way.

Use this method to break up all the concrete in 3 feet (about 1 meter) sections.

Pick up the Concrete Chunks

Either between each section or after going across the entire driveway with the hammer, take time to loosen the pieces of concrete that are still locked together. The mattock works great for this. Swinging the pointed end of the mattock into the concrete crack and pulling up makes space between the pieces. Then use the mattock’s flat end to separate the pieces further so that they’re easy to grab.

Once all concrete chunks are sufficiently separated, use a shovel or your hands to pick them up and place them in a large wheelbarrow and then move them out of the way. At this point, it’s good to know how you’re going to get rid of the concrete.

Have a “Concrete” Disposal Plan

You can’t place concrete in with your regular garbage, so you’ll need to find a way to get it to a landfill or recycling center. Try renting a skip or dump truck if you don’t have access to a vehicle you can haul the concrete in. As you’re clearing away the broken concrete, transfer it to the skip or truck with the wheelbarrow.

Now that you’ve removed all the concrete, go back and tidy up the area again. You’re finished!

Make Sure You’re Comfortable Removing Concrete

Before you get stuck in the middle of a concrete-removing project, make sure you’re comfortable with the work and capable of completing it. It does require using tools, bending, and lifting decent-sized pieces of concrete. Also, the bigger the driveway, the more time it takes to remove it. Evaluate if you’re physically healthy enough for the job and are comfortable using the necessary tools first.

Other Considerations before Removing Your Concrete

You work with a lot of tools, maybe even power tools when removing concrete. Invest in some safety equipment so you won’t get hurt during the process. The following are useful to have.

No More Concrete Driveway

Follow these steps and you’ll effectively get rid of that concrete driveway like you’ve been wanting to. Plus, you’ll have saved money by doing it yourself and not hiring someone else. With that driveway out of the way, you can move on to what you have planned next for that area.

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