How To Break Up And Salvage Old Concrete

3 Materials
2 Days

Whenever you do home renovations, it helps to find ways to save money. Read on to see ways you can save money when it comes to concrete work.

Our patio is made up of pavers, sections that were seemingly poured, and then the whole thing was covered in a thin concrete slurry. It is not an even surface, there are several layers of peeling paint, and it is smaller than we would like. We used it for the first few summers, but now it must go!

In the photo above you can see the chipped paint, broken concrete pieces, and another layer of concrete underneath.

The long object covered in the black tarp is our outdoor sofa. You can see it just barely fits the width of the patio concrete slab. We plan to create a space out of pavers gravel to better accommodate the sofa and other seating we have. Luckily we can use the broken up concrete in another project in the yard to save on dump fees and prevent more waste from going to a landfill. When we had the retaining wall built along the back of our property (see gray wall in photo above) the contractor used some broken concrete we had from other projects as backfill for the wall. He will be building a second, smaller retaining wall closer to the house and he will use the broken patio pieces as backfill!

To save some more money on this phase of our yard project, we decided to break up the concrete ourselves. Since the patio isn’t terribly thick, we decided we can do the job by hand! Are you thinking “what can I use to break up concrete?” I’ll show you!

Gather materials.

In addition to the sledgehammer, crowbar, and 3lb hammer, you will also need gloves, protective goggles to block any fly away debris, and a mask to prevent inhalation of dust. You can wet the concrete to contain dust as well.

Use sledgehammer to break up concrete.

Fortunately, this slab is less than 4 inches thick, so a sledgehammer works just fine. No jackhammer needed. The 10lb sledgehammer is perfect for me. At one point we had a larger one, but it was too heavy for me to lift, let alone attempt to swing over my head! I definitely get a work out on the days I work on demolishing this concrete! I use a squat motion to protect my back and get in a leg workout ha ha!

Pry pieces apart and loosen from the ground.

Once you break up the concrete to sizes you desire, pry them up from the ground. As I mentioned, we want this concrete for backfill, so we want smallish pieces and the look of them doesn’t matter. This patio sits higher in some spots than the surrounding grass, which makes it easy to pull pieces off the ground. Make sure to follow me over on Instagram where I share videos of our progress and lots of other projects.

Other ways to use broken concrete pieces.

A family member’s side yard.

I love the look of upcycle concrete pieces as pavers. Mixed with the pea gravel, this is great for drainage and plus the old concrete has very cool patina!

One more photo of the salvage concrete pavers because my pedicure is still looking good ha ha!

A retaining wall at University of Washington

If you have a very large area of concrete to remove, reusing it for a retaining wall would be very cool. Of course you would need different tools to break up concrete this big and in relatively uniform pieces. Apparently, broken concrete that is used in landscaping is called “urbanite”. Our neighbor took some of our broken concrete to make a low wall and it was the first time I heard the term. Always learning!

This is similar to the backfill method we are doing with the retaining wall. When we had our front stairs rebuilt, the contractor used the broken concrete stair chunks to fill in under the new stairs. Savings on dump fees, savings on new concrete pour to fill the stairs and porch, and of course less waste to the landfill.

Thanks so much for reading. What are some ways you reused materials in a project or chose to DIY in order to save money? Drop me a line in comments to let me know!

If you like outdoor projects, you might like this easy and budget friendly project to jazz up a fence or wall.

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  • Doreen Kennedy Doreen Kennedy on May 29, 2021

    I love using old concrete. We did this to an old walkway many years ago. The concrete pavers gave our walkway a whole new look.

    • This Dear Casa This Dear Casa on Jun 02, 2021

      Thanks for reading! Happy to here other people are also using up old concrete!

  • Jamie Tyler Smith Jamie Tyler Smith on Jun 15, 2021

    What a great project! I have a walk that's seen better days. Thank you for sharing!