Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Day 178 - Concrete Demolition


I have never done concrete demolition. Now, when I say that I don’t mean breaking a few bricks with hand tools, I mean real, heavy duty, jackhammer-to-pavement concrete demolition. Although this isn’t something I would readily want to experience in my day-to-day life, an aging, cracked concrete stoop on the front of my house gave me the opportunity to get hands on with concrete demolition for the first time in my life. Thankfully, a welcoming local concrete demolition and building outfit I hired to take on the task of rebuilding the critical area of my home was more than happy to let me lend a hand when they came to my house this morning to begin the process of annihilating my massive, crumbling front stoop this morning.

Out with the old...
Realizing the scope of the work on my house would likely occupy the bulk of my day, I decided I would do what I could to work the various tools the crew had brought with them for my project. Now, some might see the idea of getting involved in the demolition of my stoop as a “gimme” in my “I have never...” year, but after today’s experience I’m confident anyone that has done heavy duty concrete demolition would tell you the experience is something everyone should gain at least once in their life. From the application of the largest steel-headed maul I have ever seen to the blasting force of the Bobcat mounted jackhammer, today’s experience was something new and powerful. By the end of the day, I would find myself sore and stress free from a day of helping out where I could, and my house would be left with a framed outline of a new set of stairs.

Our day began somewhat later than expected as a result of some poor weather this morning. As a result, I sat in anticipation of the day’s events until the demolition crew arrived a little after 10:00 am. Equally eager to get the project underway, the crew promptly set up their equipment, which included a series of unfamiliar metal tools, heavy demolition devices, and a massive hydraulic jackhammer mounted to the front of a Skid-Steer utility vehicle. Once everything was in place to begin the day’s work, the owner of the concrete company, Aaron, asked the crew to stop briefly. “We’re giving Caleb the first crack!” he exclaimed as he handed me the largest maul I have ever seen. In response, I grinned and cautiously grabbed the maul from his arm. As I took my position before the front of the deteriorating steps, Aaron gave one last enthusiastic remark. “Have at it!”

After a few cracks with the maul... it's time for the big guns.
With those words, I lined my hands up on the maul and threw the tool skyward is a sweeping arch. Less than a second later, the head of the maul came down on the top step of the stoop with a thud that shook through the ground beneath us. The force of the blow sent pieces of brick and concrete flying in every direction in a sort of pulverized debris left from what was a solid structure moments earlier. At the sight of the maul’s force I chuckled a bit and wound up for a second hit. With the same unbelievable force the second strike sent a crack through the base of the structure and sent the central part of the top step tumbling toward the ground. The effort immediately demonstrated the hard work that goes into concrete demolition, but the maul’s weight and specialized structure made the work appear easy... and we had only just begun the demolition.

After a few more plugs at the surface of the concrete, Aaron called me back to make way for the jackhammer sitting at the ready. After moving into position, the massive piece of hydraulic equipment sat ominously over the battered surface of the steps. Without hesitation, a member of the crew drove the tip of the bulky machine into the concrete. In what looked like a needle effortlessly piercing the surface of fabric, the jackhammer piled through the stoop until it met solid ground and proceeded to rip the face off of the old stairway. I stood in awe of the machine’s capabilities, which prompted Aaron to say, “Amazing, huh? That little thing has enough force to lift 2,500 pounds... easy.”


Over the next hour, I stood by as the crew made progress on the demolition, helping out and gaining experience with new tools where I could. Thanks to the accommodating nature of the team, I was able to have several new experiences with a variety of different demolition tools that made short work of the remaining portions of the stoop. To my surprise, in little more than one hour we had brought the stoop down to nothing more than a small pile of bricks and concrete pebbles spread across the ground where a stairway used to stand.

With the bulk of the demolition work done, I took a step back and watched as the crew cleaned out the debris and left barren ground upon which the new staircase would be built. As the last bits of the old stoop were hauled away, I thought about the history contained within the old structure, which Aaron later told me contained three independent stoops piled on top of one another. With no doubt that meant the old stoop contained the original 87 year old stoop that was built with the house, which made me briefly feel as if I was taking something away from the house. Although that perspective was difficult to shake, I eventually settled on the idea that I was making the house better by fixing and enhancing an issue with its exterior and moving a main feature of the house forward into a new phase of its life.

The new home for my time capsule

With that, I worked my way inside the house and grabbed the time capsule I had made the week prior and brought it out to the team as they worked on getting the frame for the new stairs ready. After explaining my intent to encapsulate the time capsule in the concrete of the new staircase, the team excitedly helped me dig a space in the concrete fill beneath what would be the top step of the new stoop. After a few minutes of preparation, I carefully placed the time capsule in a plastic bag and lowered it into the newly dug hole. After taking one last look at the box, I shoved some gravel over the top of it and took a few steps back. In response, the team replaced the rest of the gravel as they moved back into their work.


Knowing the time capsule was in its resting place for the next several decades was an odd moment for me, but it provided a finite event to cap off today’s “I have never...” experience. After helping the team on and off throughout the day, I can say that concrete demolition is real work. Sure, it is a lot of fun crushing concrete with any number of heavy tools, but what these guys do every day is something to be respected. If there was ever a way to gain experience working with my hands, today was it, and I’m fully aware I only contributed a sliver of the work that had to be done to make my project a reality. Based on how I feel now, there is no doubt I will be a little sore tomorrow. At least I know I will sleep well tonight.

12 comments:

  1. To aid in breaking up the concrete, use a "spud bar" in conjunction with the jackhammer. Jam the flat end of the spud bar into the cracks formed by the jackhammer, firmly grip the handle with both hands and use leverage to pry chunks of concrete from the pad for removal.
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  2. You are very brave to undertake this project! We had similar issues with our back patio. I think it came with the house back in the 60's and had several cracks and unevenness. We hired a crew to come out and remove the concrete and lay a new stamped patio for us. That would be quite the project doing it yourself! - Chris Chaparral Concrete Equipment

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. This non-explosive demolition agent is easy to use, cost effective and a safer option for silently breaking up hard materials like rock or concrete. Simply drill, mix and pour. Thanks for sharing post.

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  5. Expando is the ideal alternative to noisy, risky concrete and rock breaking solutions like explosive blasting, jack hammering, concrete saws and stone cutters - particularly on sites with noise restrictions, vibration issues, safety risks, confined spaces or environmental pollution concerns.Thanks for sharing..
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  6. Nice post! It's a nice technique which you used for injection work. This non-explosive demolition agent is easy to use, cost effective and a safer option for silently breaking up hard materials like rock or concrete. Thanks for sharing information.Rock & Concret Breaking

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  7. I can just imagine how fun it would be to destroy concrete! Demolitions probably relieve so much stress. I was thinking about how good I feel when I break things the other day. Have you, as demolition professionals ever felt this way?
    http://www.coretechindustries.ca/en/concrete_demolition.html

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. Nice post! It's a nice technique which you used for injection work. This non-explosive demolition agent is easy to use, cost effective and a safer option for silently breaking up hard materials like rock or concrete. Thanks for sharing information. Rock & Concret Breaking

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  10. Thanks for sharing the good info....Expando is an environmentally friendly, safe solution that allows you to reduce labour and equipment breakage risks and costs
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  11. Nice work..EXPANDO is an expansive mortar chemical that cracks rocks and concrete. It is a concrete cutting, granite breaking and general demolition solution.Rock & Concret Breaking

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  12. So nice article. I liked it a lot.I would like to throw light on Concrete breaking. Thank you!
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