Menu Close

can you break concrete with a pickaxe banner

Can You Break Concrete With A Pickaxe?

Concrete is strong, dense and extremely durable, so it takes a powerful tool to break it. The thicker and denser the concrete, the harder it is to break. You need weight and a lot of force to break concrete or a strong tip that can pierce into it. The best tools to break concrete are sledge hammers, jackhammers or large excavators. You can also cut it down with a concrete saw or concrete chainsaw. A pickaxe isn’t the best tool to break concrete when it’s solid but it does have a pointed tip. You can chip at the slab and eventually start to break chunks off but it’ll take you a while. But a pickaxe has it’s place on a demolition site. I generally use larger tools and machine to break up a concrete slab and a pickaxe to break off finer chunks.

If you want to use a pickaxe to break up a concrete slab or set of steps, I recommend something heavier like a jackhammer or sledge hammer first. Once the concrete starts to crack, you can hit the crack with the pickaxe to break it open. Pickaxes have a slimmer tip than a sledgehammer which makes them better for precision strikes.

A pickaxe would be fine for breaking up slim concrete like a 2 inch dust cap or some cinder blocks. But I wouldn’t use it to break a thick slab or concrete wall.

Overall, a sledgehammer or jackhammer is the best tool for breaking concrete. However, if the concrete is old and brittle, already breaking, cracked or soft, a pickaxe may actually be the better tool. A pickaxe can make precise strikes and break the concrete apart a small chunk at a time.

Can A Pickaxe Break Concrete?

A pickaxe can break concrete, but it’s usually not the best tool for the job. A large thick slab will be extremely hard to break with just a pickaxe. especially if the concrete is fresh. However, if the concrete is old, brittle, already cracked, weak or thin, a pickaxe would do well because it makes precision strikes. For most concrete slabs, walls and footings, a sledgehammer or jackhammer is a much better choice.

Pickaxes aren’t designed to be a concrete demolition tool. They’re for digging and breaking up looser material like soil or to pull up weeds.

A pickaxe wouldn’t do well breaking up a thick slab or concrete wall all by itself. However, I do use pickaxes to demo concrete along with other tools.

First I use larger tools like sledgehammers and jackhammers to crack the concrete up. Then I use a pickaxe to make precision strikes and to pull concrete chunks apart. Pickaxes are actually really good at breaking up concrete when used with other tools. They definitely have their place on a concrete demolition site.

Which Pickaxe Is Best For Breaking Concrete?

The pickaxe you use makes a big difference when you’re trying to break concrete. Pickaxes aren’t designed for breaking concrete so you need a really strong one to do the job.

Choose one that’s heavy and has a strong handle. If the head is too light you won’t be able to generate enough force to chip the concrete. And if the handle is weak it could snap when you strike the concrete.

The connection between the handle and pick head matters a lot too. When you hit solid concrete it creates a lot of force so the handle, head and connection point all have to be strong. I’ve seen pick heads fly right off the handle when hitting a concrete slab.

The handle will vibrate when you hit concrete so wear some gloves. Different handle materials feel and vibrate differently when you hit something with them. Experiment and see what you like best.

I prefer an old style wooden handle. I’ve never broken one, the weight and balance feels good in my hands and the vibration isn’t too bad.

To break up concrete I use a pickaxe that’s 5 to 6 pounds and 3 feet long.

The shape of the head matters. Pickaxes don’t break concrete with brute force like a sledgehammer because they don’t generate the same amount of power. Instead, they chip and pierce into the concrete with a slimmer head. They work more like a jackhammer. So buy a pick with a sharper head that can stab and chip into the concrete and its cracks.

What Tools Can Break Concrete?

A pickaxe all by itself usually isn’t the best tool for breaking concrete. So what is?

The best hand tools for breaking concrete are a jackhammer or sledgehammer along with a breaking bar. You can buy these tools at any home goods store or online.

The sledgehammer and breaking bar are pretty cheap. You can buy both for under $50 bucks. But a jackhammer is more expensive. I own a small electric one but for large jobs I rent a heavy duty jackhammer at Home Depot. They’re only around $50 a day and come with a  variety of tips that are great for breaking up different types of concrete.

As you break the concrete with your sledgehammer or jackhammer, use the pickaxe and/or breaking bar to get in between the cracks and push them apart.

A circular saw, concrete chainsaw, Sawzall or concrete saw are all great for cutting concrete if you have the right blade. I always keep a concrete cutting tool around on demolition jobs just in case.

Always have a wheelbarrow on hand to transport the concrete chunks to your pickup , trailer or a dumpster. Renting a Bobcat or small excavator will also be a huge help if you have a rental center nearby. But these heavy machines will cost you around $350 per day. And you usually need a truck to tow them to the job site. If you want site delivery that’s cost around another $150 plus a pickup fee.

I also bring some tarps to protect the house and ground. I lay tarps around the demo site to collect small chunks of concrete as they break off and fly around. It’s a good idea to call for a utility mark out too just in case. And make sure you file all the necessary demo permits.

The Best Tools For Breaking Concrete

The best tools for breaking concrete are a sledgehammer, jackhammer, breaking bar and pickaxe.

  • Sledgehammer: These come in a variety of lengths and weights. They’re powerful hand held blunt force tools designed to smash and crack concrete.
  • Breaking Bar: Long bars made of steel with a pointed tip used to pry and stab at concrete.
  • Jackhammer: A powerful electric or pneumatic tool used for demolition work. It repeatedly slams a metal bit against the concrete to break it up. No other hand held tool has the demolition power of a jackhammer.
  • Pickaxe: A great tool to have when used along side other concrete breaking tools. I use the pickaxe to chip away chunks, pry pieces apart and make precise strikes into an existing crack.

The best tool for breaking concrete is definitely the jackhammer. But for many smaller jobs, it’s overkill and hard to work with. They’re heavy and require electricity or pneumatic pressure.

The best hand tool I use to demo concrete is the sledgehammer. But it really shines when you use it along with a demo bar and a pickaxe. The tools compliment each other and perform different functions. Demolishing concrete isn’t just about hitting it really hard. Prying apart and digging under a slab to create weak points are also important. Working smart with your tools makes demolishing concrete a lot easier.

Click any of the images to see them on Amazon.

How Hard Is It To Break Concrete?

Concrete is extremely heavy, dense, strong and hard to break. Which is why it’s such a great building material. But there are several factors that effect the strength and durability of concrete.

  • Thickness: The thicker concrete gets, the harder it becomes to break. For example, a 12″ thick wall is much harder to demolish than a 4 inch slab.
  • Mixture: Not all concrete is created equally. The ratio and type of ingredients used to make concrete effects it’s attributes. For example, 5000 PSI concrete is harder to break than 2500 PSI. This is because 5000 PSI generally has more and larger stones and some strengthening polymers in the mix.
  • Reinforcement: If the concrete has rebar or wire mesh inside, it’ll be harder to break.
  • Water: The amount of water used to make the concrete effects its strength too. More water weakens concrete.
  • Age: Weather effects concrete a great deal. Especially the freeze thaw cycle. The older concrete gets, the more of a chance there is for natural cracks to form. This makes concrete easier to break.
  • Condition: The condition of the concrete greatly effects how easy it is to break.

When concrete is thick, such as a poured concrete wall or footing, it is very hard to break. However, when it’s thin, like a 4″ thick sidewalk or 2″ dust cap, it’s fairly easy to break.

Heavy objects or tools like sledgehammers and jackhammers can break concrete. But it’s not an easy job. Even when broken into pieces the chunks will still be strong and heavy.

Light tools like a pick can also be used to break concrete if the situation is right. For example, if the concrete is old, weak, thin or already cracked.

How A Pickaxe Works

A pickaxe, a.k.a. a pick,  is a very old hand tool that’s been around for centuries. It’s usually used by miners or farmers to pick at Earth and stone to remove loose chunks or dirt and rock. They’re also great at picking out weeds, digging narrow tranches or loosening hard soil.

I use my pick to loosen the top layer of soil before I dog. it makes shoveling easy. I also use it in demolition work to take chunks out of concrete once I break it with my sledgehammer.

The pickaxe’s long handle and curved blade generate a lot of force when swung. Since the tip is fairly small, a lot of power can be generated in a small area. This is great for picking apart areas of soil or rock.

It’s curved head is really good at prying things apart like chunks of concrete, weeds or roots.

Pickaxes have a lot more uses when compared to a sledgehammer. Sledgehammers and jackhammers are only used for demolition work. But pickaxes have lots of different uses on a job site or farm. They’re more of a utilitarian tool. I use my pickaxe to demo, dig and work around the garden at home.

The pick part is great for breaking small portions of rock, hard dirt, and earth. It can help dislodge rocks, stones or chunks of concrete by prying or delivering a precise strike in just the right spot.

Using a pickaxe to break concrete is best when they’re used along side other tools. First I break the slab up with my sledgehammer or jackhammer and then I use the pick to break chunks off that are already cracking or to pry loose chunks away.

Use A Pickaxe With Other Tools To Break Concrete

A pickaxe can be used to break concrete all by itself if the slab is thin or the concrete is in bad shape. But it really shines when you use it along with other tools. A pick is not a brute force instrument. I use it more as a finesse tool to clean up and finish the demolition job.

If all you had was a pickaxe to demo concrete, it would take hours of hammering away to eventually crack and break chunks off. Unless the slab is really thin of already cracked, it’ll be much faster to break it initially with another tool. And then finish the demo with your pick.

I recommend using a good quality sledgehammer and a breaking bar. Use them first to break the concrete into chunks. Then finish off and pry pieces apart with the pick.

A jackhammer is another great tool for breaking concrete. They’ll chew through even the thickest slabs in no time. 

You’ll also need a wheelbarrow to carry the concrete from the demolition site into a dumpster or pickup truck. Use a metal wheelbarrow that can handle a heavy load instead of plastic. They’re used more for light duty and yard work. And but one with a single wheel. Double wheel designs are harder to turn.

Below I’ll leave some links to tools that can do the job if you have concrete to break. Instead of using just one tool, use several that work together. Using a variety of tools for what they do best makes demolishing concrete much easier.

Pickaxes Are Great For Digging & Prying

One of the things a pickaxe does best is dig. And this can actually be a huge benefit when breaking up concrete.

Concrete has very high compressive strength. Which means it’s extremely strong, dense, tough and hard to break by smashing it. Concrete can hold a lot of weight and take tons of abuse. Brute strength isn’t always the best tactic when demolishing concrete.

But concrete lacks tensile strength. This is the bending or twisting force. Reinforcement like rebar or wire mesh is placed inside a concrete slab to makeup its weakness, but its still there somewhat. And you can take advantage of it with a pickaxe.

There are two ways you can use a pickaxe to help demo a concrete slab using tensile force:

  • Use the pickaxe to dig under a slab creating a void. Concrete is really weak when it has to span long unsupported distances. Use a sledgehammer to hit the slab in the center of the unsupported area. It’ll be much easier to crack than if the concrete is supported by dirt.
  • Use the curved pickaxe head to pry up large chunks of concrete above the ground. This is another way of creating an unsupported area. When concrete isn’t fully supported by dirt, it’s much easier to break.

Learning how to use a pickaxe along with a sledgehammer, jackhammer and/or breaking bar in smart ways can make demolishing concrete much easier.

Summary: Can You Break Concrete With A Pickaxe?

Concrete is strong, dense and extremely durable, so it takes a powerful tool to break it. The thicker and denser the concrete, the harder it is to break. You need weight and a lot of force to break concrete or a strong tip that can pierce into it. The best tools to break concrete are sledge hammers, jackhammers or large excavators. You can also cut it down with a concrete saw or concrete chainsaw. A pickaxe isn’t the best tool to break concrete when it’s solid but it does have a pointed tip. You can chip at the slab and eventually start to break chunks off but it’ll take you a while. But a pickaxe has it’s place on a demolition site. I generally use larger tools and machine to break up a concrete slab and a pickaxe to break off finer chunks.

If you want to use a pickaxe to break up a concrete slab or set of steps, I recommend something heavier like a jackhammer or sledge hammer first. Once the concrete starts to crack, you can hit the crack with the pickaxe to break it open. Pickaxes have a slimmer tip than a sledgehammer which makes them better for precision strikes.

A pickaxe would be fine for breaking up slim concrete like a 2 inch dust cap or some cinder blocks. But I wouldn’t use it to break a thick slab or concrete wall.

Overall, a sledgehammer or jackhammer is the best tool for breaking concrete. However, if the concrete is old and brittle, already breaking, cracked or soft, a pickaxe may actually be the better tool. A pickaxe can make precise strikes and break the concrete apart a small chunk at a time.

If you have any questions or comments about demolishing concrete, email any time.

Related Posts

SUBSCRIBE

Get Notified About New Articles, GREAT DEALS on Home Goods, Videos & Product Reviews.

We Update Weekly & It’s All Completely FREE.