With an average cost of almost $4,000, replacing a damaged concrete driveway is an expensive but necessary project. Removing the old driveway yourself is often the best way to save on some of those costs if you’re comfortable with the level of physical effort and caution involved. This job is hard work but it’s usually something an experienced DIYer can accomplish if they’re comfortable using equipment like a jackhammer or skidsteer loader. Follow these steps to learn how to tear up your driveway without calling in a pro.

Removing a Concrete Driveway the DIY Way

Does Your Driveway Really Need to Be Removed?

Luckily for your wallet, you might be able to repair the damage to your driveway without totally replacing it. Your driveway will need to be removed if: it has cracked and been repaired in the past, it currently has cracks that are wide or more than 2 inches deep, or it has sunken in places so that it no longer sits level.

If these factors aren’t in play, you can repair the damage without shelling out for a full driveway replacement. If it turns out your driveway really is too far gone to be repaired, use the following steps for removing a concrete driveway.

Step 1: Find Out Where Utility Lines Are Located

Before beginning any work, contact the city to have an inspector mark the location and depth of any utility lines that run under your driveway. This way, you can take extra precaution when tearing up the driveway in those areas. DO NOT skip this step: if you damage any utility lines, you’ll be the one to foot that hefty bill, not the city.

Step 2: Determine the Volume of Your Driveway

Before planning a driveway demolition, know that your regular curbside trash collection won’t take the resulting concrete debris. You’ll have to find another option. To choose the best method, it helps to figure out the volume of debris you’re dealing with. To do this:

  1. Examine the edges of your driveway to get the thickness in inches.
  2. Measure the length and width of your driveway and convert to inches.
  3. Multiply all three numbers together.
  4. Divide the resulting number by 27. This will give you your driveway’s volume in cubic yards.

Step 3: Arrange for Concrete Cleanup

Now that you know how much concrete you’ve got, there are a few different methods you can use for getting rid of the debris:

Rent a Concrete Dumpster: This option is ideal for driveways with 10 cubic yards or more of material. Even if you have less material, this is the best way to get rid of all the debris at once without much extra effort. Just keep in mind that you may need to get a permit to place the dumpster on the street. Also be aware that concrete dumpsters have weight limits, so it’s important to know how much you’d be filling the dumpster to avoid any overage fees.

Haul It in a Pickup Truck: If you don’t mind making several trips to the landfill, this option can work well for driveways with less than 10 cubic yards of material, but might be a hassle for larger driveways. Just be aware that landfills aren’t free—they’ll charge you for the weight of the debris you’re disposing of.

Offer It to DIYers: If you list it for free on Freecycle or Craigslist, people are often willing to take broken-up concrete to use as fill for various DIY projects. This option isn’t recommended if you want to get rid of the debris quickly.

Step 4: Decide on a Plan of Attack

If you’re breaking up the driveway yourself, you can tackle the job in two different ways:

With heavy equipment: Rent a skidsteer loader with a jackhammer attachment and a bucket. If you have a larger driveway, aren’t up for hard labor, or want to get the work done faster, this is your best option. Most people find it pretty simple to familiarize themselves with a skidsteer loader’s controls.

By hand: Rent a jackhammer to break the concrete up into small chunks, then shovel them into your dumpster or pickup truck. This method is best for smaller driveways and for people who are able to handle the physical labor. If you use this method, be aware that it will likely take you several days (or even a few weeks) to complete the job.

Step 5: Get to Work

Time to get to work tearing up your driveway. Before you begin, be sure to note where the inspector marked the location of any utility lines. Remember to use extreme caution when removing those sections of driveway.

If you’re working by hand:

  1. Starting at a corner, break up a small section of the driveway using your jackhammer.
  2. If necessary, use a sledgehammer to break any large chunks of concrete into smaller pieces.
  3. Use a shovel and wheelbarrow to move the debris into your concrete dumpster or pickup truck.
  4. If you’re letting DIYers take the concrete, shovel it into a pile somewhere out of the way.
  5. Repeat this process until you’ve removed the entire driveway.

As you work, be careful not to over-exert yourself. Take breaks as often as you need them and remember to stay hydrated.

Jackhammer Safety Tips

-Wear safety glasses, hearing protection, a face mask and steel-toed boots.

-Hold the jackhammer at a slight angle while in use.

-Do not hammer past the depth of the cutting bit.

-Carry power cords over your shoulder to prevent accidentally cutting them.

If you’re working with heavy equipment:

  1. Starting at a corner, break up a small section of the driveway using your skidsteer loader’s jackhammer attachment.
  2. Use the bucket to scoop up the debris and empty it into your dumpster or pickup truck.
  3. If you plan to let people take the concrete, create a pile out of the way of your work area.
  4. Repeat this process until you’ve removed the entire driveway.

Be sure to thoroughly familiarize yourself with your skidsteer loader’s controls before you start work. While you work, ensure that your family and any pets remain well out of the way.

Skidsteer Loader Safety Tips

-Wear safety glasses, hearing protection and a face mask.

-Ensure at least 10 feet of overhead clearance while in use.

-Allow only the operator to ride in/on the skidsteer loader.

-Do not lift anyone in the bucket.

Crack a Cold One; Take a Nap

Even if you used heavy equipment, removing a concrete driveway on your own is a tough job. But you made it through! Now all that’s left to do is to rest up and find a contractor to handle the rest of your driveway replacement.

Doing a little home improvement? Take a look at our Home Project Guides to learn how to budget for a kitchen remodel, efficiently declutter your home or even frame a wall.

Have a few tips of your own? Share them in the comments below!

Header Image: Rochester Concrete Products (CC By-ND 2.0)