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Home » One Room Challenge Week 3 – How To Break Up And Salvage Old Concrete

One Room Challenge Week 3 – How To Break Up And Salvage Old Concrete

Whenever you do home renovations, it helps to find ways to save money. Read on to see ways you can save money when it comes to concrete work.

If you have been following along on our One Room Challenge journey, you know that the second week was the kick off to demolish the concrete patio. The patio is made up of pavers, sections that were seemingly poured, and then the whole thing was covered in a thin concrete slurry. It is not an even surface, there are several layers of peeling paint, and it is smaller than we would like. We used it for the first few summers, but now it must go!

In the photo above you can see the chipped paint, broken concrete pieces, and another layer of concrete underneath.

The long object covered in the black tarp is our outdoor sofa. You can see it just barely fits the width of the patio concrete slab. We plan to create a space out of pavers gravel to better accommodate the sofa and other seating we have. Luckily we can use the broken up concrete in another project in the yard to save on dump fees and prevent more waste from going to a landfill. When we had the retaining wall built along the back of our property (see gray wall in photo above) the contractor used some broken concrete we had from other projects as backfill for the wall. He will be building a second, smaller retaining wall closer to the house and he will use the broken patio pieces as backfill!

To save some more money on this phase of our yard project, we decided to break up the concrete ourselves. Since the patio isn’t terribly thick, we decided we can do the job by hand! Are you thinking “what can I use to break up concrete?” I’ll show you!

Gather materials.

In addition to the sledgehammer, crowbar, and 3lb hammer, you will also need gloves, protective goggles to block any fly away debris, and a mask to prevent inhalation of dust. You can wet the concrete to contain dust as well.

Use sledgehammer to break up concrete.

Fortunately, this slab is less than 4 inches thick, so a sledgehammer works just fine. No jackhammer needed. The 10lb sledgehammer is perfect for me. At one point we had a larger one, but it was too heavy for me to lift, let alone attempt to swing over my head! I definitely get a work out on the days I work on demolishing this concrete! I use a squat motion to protect my back and get in a leg workout ha ha!

Pry pieces apart and loosen from the ground.

Once you break up the concrete to sizes you desire, pry them up from the ground. As I mentioned, we want this concrete for backfill, so we want smallish pieces and the look of them doesn’t matter. This patio sits higher in some spots than the surrounding grass, which makes it easy to pull pieces off the ground. Make sure to follow me over on Instagram where I share videos of our progress and once the trench for the wall is done, I’ll share hw the concrete is used for backfill.

Other ways to use broken concrete pieces.

A family member’s side yard.

I love the look of upcycle concrete pieces as pavers. Mixed with the pea gravel, this is great for drainage and plus the old concrete has very cool patina!

One more photo of the salvage concrete pavers because my pedicure is still looking good ha ha!

A retaining wall at University of Washington

If you have a very large area of concrete to remove, reusing it for a retaining wall would be very cool. Of course you would need different tools to break up concrete this big and in relatively uniform pieces. Apparently, broken concrete that is used in landscaping is called “urbanite”. Our neighbor took some of our broken concrete to make a low wall and it was the first time I heard the term. Always learning!

This is similar to the backfill method we are doing with the retaining wall. When we had our front stairs rebuilt, the contractor used the broken concrete stair chunks to fill in under the new stairs. Savings on dump fees, savings on new concrete pour to fill the stairs and porch, and of course less waste to the landfill!

Other progress.

Ground is broken for the wall! I’m using a random shepherd hook I have to illustrate how high the wall will sit comapred to the ground in front of it.

Here is the to-do list I created during Week 1. I completely forgot to add in “order pavers and buy pea gravel”. Silly me! Finding the pavers that match our existing pavers on the side yard took longer than we expected. My husband went back to the supplier and was told they are sold out and to check at their other location. We trekked down to the other spot only to realize they close on weekends! Luckily I found another location that has what we need plus they will deliver!

To do:

  • Build low retaining wall in east portion of the yard, this is space closest to the back door where there is currently gravel.
  • Order pavers, caps for wall, blocks for wall
  • Order pea gravel
  • Break up current patio slab.
  • Build a border (rocks?) for patio space.
  • Fill patio space with square concrete pavers and pea gravel.
  • Add plants along edges of retaining walls.
  • Repair and stain current patio furniture (or source used/new depending on time and budget)

Thank you!

Thanks so much for reading. What are some ways you reused materials in a project or chose to DIY in order to save money? Drop me a line in comments to let me know! If you enjoyed this article, go ahead and pin the image above to save for future reference. Stay tuned for next week’s updates!

To see what other participants are up to click here: One Room Challenge and make sure to visit their blog posts and Instagram accounts! The official media partner, Better Homes and Gardens also has a ton of great articles about their past faves.

34 thoughts on “One Room Challenge Week 3 – How To Break Up And Salvage Old Concrete”

  1. You guys are making so much progress! It is wonderful that you can use the concrete pieces as backfill and not have to take them to the landfill.

  2. Oh boy, that’s a huge job! We have a concrete patio with one section that needs to be removed. I was going to toss the old chunks, but now maybe we’ll keep some for around the yard! Thanks!!

  3. it’s such a great idea to reuse your broken concrete in the retaining wall. I’m going to remember that as we have both concrete that needs to be removed and a retaining wall to build. Pinned this! I’m sure, you were sore after all that banging and crashing. Great work.

  4. Nice work! I love seeing the progress and I didn’t know you could reuse concrete!? I learn something new everyday. 🙂

    1. Tha is Stacey! Reusing concrete is pretty new to me too! It seems common here in Seattle, at least I’m noticing it more when I take walks ☺️ Have a great weekend +

  5. gardenchillmudra

    You just always amaze me! Always creating these amazing transformations that turn out just incredible. And the projects are just so creative. Great post my friend!

  6. I’ive never thought about using concrete pieces as pavers! This looks so good. I know this been a lot of work but it’s absolutely going to be worth it. Can’t wait to follow along and see how everything comes together. Hugs, CoCo

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