Easy Ways to Break Up a Concrete Slab With a Hammer

Updated February 21, 2017

If you're landscaping a house or doing cosmetic work to its exterior, you may run into one of several different kinds of concrete slabs that you wish to remove. Concrete slabs are commonly used as front walkways, back patios and as part of steps leading up to the front door. Often, these slabs are too big to haul away on your own, requiring you to first break them up with a hammer for easy removal.

Safety First

Before you begin breaking the concrete slab, it's important to wear the proper safety attire. When you hit concrete with a hammer, it can splinter and send sharp chunks of concrete through the air at a high rate of speed. You should wear steel-toed boots, heavy work trousers or jeans, leather work gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and full face protection. Eye protection is better than nothing, but it is wise to wear a clear, Plexiglas full-face shield for this project.

Heavy Sledgehammer

Hitting a piece of concrete with a normal, nail-driving hammer will make the task long and arduous for you. Instead, purchase a sledgehammer for the job. Hardware stores sell sledgehammers in a variety of weights; choose one that you can adequately (and safely) swing. The heavier the hammer is, the easier it will be to break the concrete, but remember not to buy a hammer that is too heavy, as you'll be swinging it repeatedly.


If the concrete slab you're breaking is a patio stone, it's helpful to have a friend assist you with the task. Simply hitting a concrete slab while it lies on the ground is a slow way to crack it. Instead, have a friend lift the edge of the slab with a shovel or pry bar just an inch or two off the ground. Hit the slab with a sledgehammer near the edge, and the concrete should crack in one or two blows. Once a piece falls off, clear it out of the way and continue the same process with your friend's assistance.

Concrete Steps

You can break concrete steps with a sledgehammer, though they take longer to break than plain concrete slabs. Because concrete steps are hollow, swing the sledgehammer into an area at 3 three inches away from any edge, because the edges are reinforced. After a few swings, your sledgehammer should punch a hole in the concrete. From there, continue hitting the concrete around the hole to expand it. Some concrete steps contain rebar or reinforcing rod inside the concrete. When you reach one of these areas, cut the rebar with a hacksaw or snip the reinforcing rod with bolt cutters.

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About the Author

Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.