How to Use a Jackhammer Without Dying
Concrete is some tough stuff.
You start with a bag of gray-looking sandy gravel mix, add water, mix it and then pour or shape it to meet your needs. Later, after the chemical reaction has taken place, you have a firm rock-like material that can support decks, walls, and entire houses. If breaking up the concrete later becomes necessary, you'll probably need to use a jackhammer.
I am a Denver-area contractor with plenty of experience, so you can trust my advice on this matter. If you are thinking about using a jackhammer in a project around your place, here are some tips that will prevent calamity.
- PPE. This stands for Personal Protective Equipment. Gloves, study boots, safety glasses, ear muffs, and long pants are a must. This beast will send shrapnel flying and any exposed flesh is vulnerable.
- A jackhammer is not a kid's toy, and will require a bit of brawn to use. The tool weighs about 75 pounds and is a bit challenging to move about. If your body is slender or petite, it may be beyond your ability. I’m just under 6’ and weight in at 180; this tool did not “kick my butt” but it did take me around the block a few times. After a few hours work I was more than glad to be done.
- Select the right tip. The wide blade type tip spreads the load, while the pointed tip concentrates it. This pointy tip can and will bury itself in a thin slab. If you picture a 10-pound nail driven into a slab of wood with a 500-pound hammer…and then having to pull it our with your bare hands, you are getting close. Extracting this tip is tough. Lesson here: work from an edge or make a few shallow holes next to each other first. This will allow you to pull the tool out and up if it starts digging its way to China. Once the hole is about 3-4 times the size of the tip you’re using, your chance of getting stuck goes way down.
- Take a break when needed. While a jackhammer can go all day long, the operator can not. Because this tool is heavy and powerful, control is needed. If your muscles fatigue to a point where your control is comprised, so is your safety. Take 5 to recharge your body. If your project is really big, it may be wise to spread it over a few days. If you are going for a multi-day project, you might want to stock up on some Advil. And if you decide the job is beyond your DIY ability, hire a concrete pro to take care of breaking up that concrete for you.
Updated January 18, 2018.