Concrete is strong and built to last, so it takes a tool with some power to be able to break it down. You might wonder whether a pickaxe is up to the job.
You can use a pickaxe to break concrete, but it might take you a while, depending on how thick and large the cement area is. To break down concrete, you should consider using other tools, like a jackhammer, sledgehammer, or demolition hammer.
Below, I will discuss why pickaxes work but are not ideal for concrete removal. Later in the article, I will talk about what tools you should consider and some warnings about concrete removal on your home.
Can a Pickaxe Break Concrete?
A pickaxe can break concrete, but it’s not the most efficient option for breaking concrete over a large area, and it may struggle to break through a particularly thick slab. It would require more labor and time to do the work that an appropriate tool, like a sledgehammer or jackhammer, would take.
Pickaxes are tools primarily for pulling things up, like roots, and may break under the immense pressure of breaking concrete over a long period.
A pickaxe probably wouldn’t last long against eight-inch thick (20.32 cm) concrete spread out over a half-acre of land. However, it might be helpful for a small project, like breaking up a small slab of sidewalk, or if you need to break some concrete blocks.
Overall, its unlikely to stand up to the pressure of a long-term project, but still has some useful applications.
Note that a pickaxe would require you to exert more force to get something done than you would need to with another tool.
This is especially true when comparing a pickaxe with a power tool like a jackhammer, although even a sledgehammer is more efficient at distributing the force you exert into the concrete.
How Strong Is Concrete?
As you can imagine, concrete is one of the hardest things to break through. Concrete is arguably among the most solid and durable elements known to man. It’s the most widely used building material globally and is used to pave sidewalks and provide a foundation for skyscrapers.
Concrete is made from a combination of cement, water, and a few other elements. Its resilience to weather, chemical, and abrasion are what makes it so durable. While other materials wear down and become brittle over time, concrete shows little wear and remains tough over years of use.
Heavy objects or tools like sledgehammers and jackhammers can break away concrete, but it doesn’t break or crack easily on its own. Depending on your climate, erosion may factor into its strength, but you can generally count on concrete as extremely strong and durable.
How a Pickaxe Works
The pickaxe might be one of the oldest tools ever created. It has ties back to the ancient era, the middle ages, and World War I.
In theory, the pickaxe’s long handle and its curved blade are supposed to help a user quickly get under things and pull upward, breaking the material. This is how pickaxes are used in farms or gardens to help cut through heavy roots and dirt.
The intention for pickaxes is different from more modern tools, like the jackhammer.
The pick part is supposed to help break small portions of rock, hard dirt, and earth. They could also help dislodge rocks or stones in the middle of a path, especially if they had gotten into the dirt pretty well.
Using a pickaxe will definitely break down your concrete if you use an extreme amount of force over a long period, but there are other tools that are more suited to the job.
To Save Time and Labor, Use Something Else
Yes, your pickaxe can help you get through the concrete. But it might take hours and hours of you hammering away using the sharper end of the pickaxe. You’ll find it less labor necessary and time-consuming to use a tool like a jackhammer, sledgehammer, or demolition hammer.
Consider investing in a sledgehammer like the Estwing Big Blue Hammer from Amazon for your next concrete demolition project. Unlike a pickaxe, this tool has a strong, blunt end that can handle the amount of impact necessary to crack a slab of concrete.
With a tool like this, you don’t have to worry about the tool growing dull, bending, or breaking.
A jackhammer like the Xtremepower 2200 Watt Hammer from Amazon is another great choice, especially if you have an especially thick or large slab of concrete to break through.
This electric-powered hammer has strong demolition power while allowing you precise control over the instrument.
What Tools Can Break Concrete?
If you have the time, money, and resources to get to the store and buy something other than a pickaxe, you probably should. A pickaxe isn’t the best tool for the job.
The best tools for breaking concrete are a jackhammer, a sledgehammer, and a demolition hammer. You can buy these tools at any home goods store and add them to your collection. If you are doing a commercial job and need more heavy support, you can get industrial grades of any of these tools.
You could also use a circular saw to cut through concrete if you need to.
Read more: How To Break Up Concrete Steps (4 Best Ways)
Of course, for concrete demolition, little or big, you need to make sure you’re going through all the necessary channels before just going at it with a tool. See if you need any permits and have a professional double-check that you aren’t losing anything intricate to the foundation.
Additionally, you’ll need to lay out plastic, protect siding and windows, and call 811 to make sure you’re not getting into gas or power lines. Making sure you have all the safety tools in place before beginning is also a necessary step in the process, more important than what tool you will use.
If you get all your ducks in a row, call all the necessary people, and are ready to get started, you can weigh out which tool is best for you.
This video from Lowe’s gives an excellent step-by-step of removing small amounts of concrete with your hammer:
They suggest using a sledgehammer for pieces under four inches (10.16 cm) thick and a demolition hammer for larger projects.
These investments are definitely worth the time and money, but many live hands to mouth with our paychecks.
If you don’t plan on using a jackhammer or sledgehammer more than once, you can also rent one from most home stores for a fraction of the cost. This way, you can get some professional advice without spending your entire budget on a new tool.
If you need anything larger than a sledgehammer or jackhammer to get through your cement, you should call a professional in. Industrial grade tools can rarely be rented, but investing in professional support can help take the burden off of you, as concrete removal can be a dangerous job.
Projects, big or small, require prep and care. A pickaxe can break concrete, but you’ll be hard-pressed to do it in a reasonable amount of time and with a reasonable amount of energy if you have a big project on your hands.
It’s worth it to invest in a jackhammer or even a sledgehammer if you will be doing a big project. Additionally, make sure to follow all safety protocols regardless of what tool you choose to use.