A chip off the old concrete block

By JimRental
Our buddy Jack had already pulled apart the stairs, decking, post and beams of a raised deck that was well past its prime -- wooden decks and wet weather don't play well over the years, and it's always just a matter of time.

And now it was time to build a new deck. Just one thing stood in his way . . .

To meet code, he had to extend the stairway to make it less steep. And a three-foot long foundation-step of concrete stood in his way.

Twelve to 18 inches deep and a foot across, this rock of Gibraltar was beyond an assault by sledgehammer (Ever seen the old movie Guns of Navarrone? It was like that.).

We were going to have to bring in the big boys -- a concrete cutoff saw and jack hammer (or breaker hammer, as they call it in the rental yard trade -- because you break things up with it).

Jack had hit the thing a couple of times with the sledge, and after reading Peter's blog about breaking up a slab in preparation of building a paver patio, and was ready to rip with the power equipment.

We'll relieve the suspense -- the power equipment won the day.

A couple of learnings:

1. Take advantage of the concrete saw, for a couple of reasons -- First, the saw cuts four or five inches into the cement on flat surfaces, and further on corners. That saves a lot of jackhammering, and whatever you can do to lessen that is well worth it. Cutting the deep lines across the block gives you a head start, and also sets a line for the concrete to naturally break. Also a great way to control the size of pieces you're breaking the concrete into.

For more on using a concrete saw, here are some tips on How To use a concrete saw.

2. Let the jackhammer do the work -- A natural inclination with a jackhammer is to get over the top of it and bear all of your weight down into the hammering effort. The 60-pound hammer we used has plenty of weight to do the job, and all you're doing by leaning on the top is stressing your arms and shoulders. The hammer works at it's own pace -- hold it like a teacup and let it hammer. If you make the saw cuts, and take your time with the hammer, you'll get the job done faster with a lot less effort.

Here we offer a some How To's on using a breaker hammer.