Concrete is extremely heavy and dangerous, so take every precaution in avoiding injury.
There are several reasons why old concrete might need to be removed. Among those the most common are simply age, frost heaving, or upheaval caused by nearby tree growth. It is important to consider patching or repair if possible. However, should deep cracks appear in the concrete surface, then removal becomes the only option.
There are a few methods for concrete removal, which depend on the type of task at hand. For instance, repair versus total replacement of the surface. What will happen to the concrete after removal may also direct which method is chosen.
Safety is rule number one when working with concrete, especially demolition. Concrete is extremely heavy and dangerous, so take every precaution in avoiding injury. Concrete also contains silicates, released in dust during demolition, which are proven harmful when inhaled. Dust masks, gloves, and full clothing is recommended whenever working with concrete.
Removal usually starts with a cut. This is accomplished with a concrete wall-saw equipped with a diamond blade. These saws, which typically use a gasoline/oil mix for fuel, have replaced jackhammers as the primary tool in removing concrete because they leave clean edges (great for cutting out doors, windows, and other openings) and can cut through steel reinforcements inside the concrete.
Cutting is essential if the concrete to be removed is part of a larger slab or wall. Once a section is cut out, a jackhammer or sledgehammer is used to break up the unwanted area. Most new concrete saws are designed to utilize water (usually a hose attached to the saw itself—often called a “wet” saw) for lubrication of the blade and to control silica dust.
Pneumatic or hydraulic breakers are often used for removal, with or without cutting. They are essentially jackhammers that pierce the concrete with incredible amounts of force, breaking it up into small pieces. Breakers will vary from 30 to 90 pounds; the heavier the breaker, the deeper the penetration. For instance, a 3-inch slab will require a lighter breaker than a 12-inch slab.
Crushers are also used in concrete removal. They are beneficial in that they pulverize the concrete, making it easier to separate from steel reinforcing bars and easier to haul away for recycling. Crushers are best used when attention to detail is not necessary. They are commonly used by professional concrete contractors in larger-scale situations.
Recycling concrete keeps it out of a landfill. There are plenty of uses for used concrete as well, so a local recycling plant will probably be more than happy to have it. In order to be recycled, the concrete must be separated from the steel used to reinforce it. This is a very laborious task by hand and most recycling operations will take care of this onsite. Get in touch with your local recycling center to find out the details of concrete recycling in your area. Many concrete companies or recyclers will come pick up your concrete waste. Your concrete contractor will likely haul it away for you as well.
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