Concrete breakers essentially do what they say on the tin – break concrete. However, these high-power tools can also be used for breaking up slabs, tarmac and pathways. At one time, concrete breakers would have been reserved for the professionals, and any task involving one would have meant hiring someone to complete the job! However, thanks to smaller, more reasonably priced models being introduced, it is now feasible for anyone to own their own concrete breaker.
Do not get confused – concrete breakers do come under different names as well, such as pneumatic drills, hammer drills, hammer breakers and demolition breakers. But, for the sake of this article, we will always refer to them as concrete breakers!
Whether a professional looking for a new tool to help you complete your job or someone looking to undergo their next DIY project, this buyer’s guide will give you all the information needed to select a concrete breaker that is right for you!
Only Got 5 Minutes?
Everyone loves a new tool or device to try out – that feeling of buying something and then getting to use it for the first time! This section of the article is aimed at getting you to that point as soon as possible! We have collated the most important information that we think you need to help you purchase a concrete breaker that will be up to the task!
How to Power Your Concrete Breaker
There are three main types of concrete breakers, that are all powered in different ways. These are; electric, petrol and pneumatic
- Electric concrete breakers are powered using a motor to pump the head of the tool. Due to this simplistic design, they are usually cheaper and easier to use than more heavy-duty models, although this does also mean that they are more suitable for smaller jobs. Some more heavy-duty electric models will require a step-down transformer if they are to be plugged into the mains due to their voltage.
Safety Tip: Ensure the cable is always behind you when the concrete breaker is in operation. Failure to do so could result in the wire becoming damaged by the bit of the concrete breaker.
- Petrol concrete breakers have the added benefit of being able to be used in areas where there is no electricity – this is of great importance when purchasing a concrete breaker, as chances are all of the work will be conducted outside. However, these models are not perfect, they will be more expensive to run – due to them needing fuel – and will also require more maintenance.
- Pneumatic concrete breakers are probably the most heavy-duty models on the market. Working using air pressure (from a separate air-compressor) that causing the bit to move up and down out of the ground. These are the best models to purchase if you have a large job to complete and are not close to mains electricity, however, they can be expensive and require purchasing a separate air-compressor as well.
How Does That Power Affect Performance
There are two main things to look for when purchasing a concrete breaker – percussion rate and impact energy. Percussion rate is measured in the number of blows per minute. The higher the blows per minute, the more heavy-duty the model. Most concrete models range between 1000 and 3000 blows per minute.
Impact energy is usually measured in joules. This is the amount of energy or force, that is put into each blow. The more force, the quicker the concrete will break up.
Therefore, as a general rule, if you are wanting a tool that is going to complete the job efficiently and effectively, it is important to choose the model with the best percussion rate and impact energy for your money.
Mounted or Handheld
Handheld concrete breakers essentially look like power drills (just with a slightly different bit). These are perfect for if you have a small job around the house or an outdoor job where the concrete isn’t too thick. Despite being smaller than their mounted counterparts, they will usually have sufficient power to break down most jobs to a high standard. However, it is important to consider that if you are trying to break up a path, for example, a smaller handheld model is going to be more difficult to use as it will not be at the right height for you to use standing up.
Mounted models are therefore more suited for this type of job, as you will be able to stand up properly to hold the tool in place. This helps to ensure both accuracies and also stops you from becoming too fatigued when completing the job. Although there are downsides to the mounted models. For example, if you are attempting to break down a wall instead of a horizontal surface, such as a path, you will be unable to do so, due to the weight of the tool.
Concrete breakers vary greatly in price, from small handheld models that cost around £100 up to heavy-duty, mounted models that cost upwards of £1000! The most important thing is to consider exactly what you are going to be using your concrete breaker for. Buying a heavy, complicated, expensive tool, if you are wanting to break down a small, single-brick wall, is not only ineffective in terms of cost, but also can prove dangerous as the tool would be unsuitable for the job.
Equally, just like budget, the weight of these tools vary massively, from small, handheld models that weigh as little as 6kg, to bigger models weighing in the region of 15kg – if not more for commercial models.
It is very important to consider exactly what types of DIY jobs you have done before, and what tools you have used before. If you are used to handling heavy machinery then you will probably be able to cope with a heavier model, however, if you are new to completing jobs like this then a lighter model would be more suitable. This is due to the rate at which the bit moves at the end of the device – it is very easy to lose control of the concrete breaker if it is too heavy for the user.
Bits and Pieces!
There are many bits and chisels that will be offered either with your concrete breakers or as added extras. It is important that you understand the difference between them so that you know what is right for your job:
- Stake Driver – used to drive concrete from stakes
- Spade – used for concrete or dirt to provide flat finishes
- Flat tip – these allow you to complete a neater finish around the edge of your job by providing control over the direction
- Flex Chisel – These are metal blades that are flexible so can be used for removing tiles
- Point – used for your everyday breaking of paths or slabs
- Scabbler – used to provide a smooth finish
- Brushing tool – used to clean up corners and remove rough spots on concrete
SAFETY TIP: Never use a broken or cracked bit/chisel. This will affect the direction in which the concrete breaker tries to move and also the direction of the debris – adding to the risk of an accident!
How Do Concrete Breakers Work?
The first tool that could be described as similar to a concrete breaker was created in 1892 by Charles King. A valve in the tool forced the air down through a tunnel, which therefore moved a piston down – resulting in the bit hitting the ground. The piston moving down therefore forced the air back up towards the valve, which would then allow the piston to move back up – and so on and so forth. When this happens at high speed, the end of the device will hit the ground at such speeds – and with such force – that the surface underneath with start to crack and break. This is the same way in which pneumatic concrete breakers work now.
Electric or petrol models use the same theory – however, they power a motor which moves the piston. This then creates a small amount of air pressure which will move the bit up and down.
The most important thing before starting your job is to ensure that you are wearing the correct safety gear (see below) and that you have checked the environment around you to ensure that it is safe to complete any work. Make sure that the surface you are wanting to break will be compatible for your concrete breaker and that you will not be damaging any pipework or cabling underneath.
Once you have done this, you are ready to prepare your concrete breaker for work! The type of concrete breaker you have purchased will determine how you do this, whether you purely need to connect it to an electrical source or prepare the fuel-oil combination for a petrol compressor. After you have set up your tool following the manufacturer’s instructions, you will be ready to start your job.
Breaking big concrete slabs into smaller pieces is the best way to remove a large area of concrete. Remember to make sure that the cable is behind you (if you have purchased an electric model) and ensure you stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, on firm ground so that you are in a stable position.
We would recommend starting your job as far away as possible, this way you are working backwards and are always stood on solid ground.
Hold the breaker vertical to the ground to avoid any damage to both the tool and yourself! It is important to always make sure that you have a firm grip when using the concrete breaker, but equally to not push it into the concrete. When you are ready, switch on the concrete breaker and it will immediately start vibrating as the bit moves up and down.
After the slab has been broken up into multiple pieces you can either change the bit to break it into smaller pieces or – if already small enough – remove the pieces to be disposed of.
As mentioned above, it is important to always check your concrete breaker after use for any damage or wear that has occurred. These heavy-duty tools are made for the job, but things can go wrong. Any damage to the bit could cause the concrete to break randomly in future uses – and lead to accidents.
- Vibration control features – these are important if you have a big job to complete as you will be likely to become tired a lot quicker without this feature
- Oil level view – This is important, as running your device without oil will cause damage, which could then not be covered under the warranty
- Consider what your concrete breaker comes with – does it offer all of the bit pieces that you need to complete the job? Does it come with a suitable box/storage?
- What warranty comes with your tool? Most models reviewed offered between 12 months to 3 years warranty, although an extended warranty was often available to be purchased.
It goes without saying that a concrete breaker is an incredibly powerful tool, that can cause serious injuries if not used correctly! Therefore we have created a list of safety tips that we would recommend are followed to ensure maximum comfort and minimum risk when using this heavy-duty piece of equipment.
- Always wear suitable protective clothing (gloves, glasses and ear defenders)
- Consider where the concrete is that you are breaking – if it is a wall then it would also be advisable to wear a hardhat
- Make sure to wear steel toe-capped boots incase the concrete breaker slips or jumps
WE RECOMMEND Vibration-damping gloves! These magic gloves will reduce the vibration that travels up your hands and arms from the device, meaning you can work for longer before the ache sets in from using these tools.
Frequently Asked Questions
What type of oil does my concrete breaker need?
Although it is always worth checking in the manual of your concrete breaker to make sure that you are using the correct oil, we would recommend using a 15w30 motor oil for most concrete breakers.
How noisy are concrete breakers?
Unfortunately, concrete breakers do tend to be noisy tools – hence us recommending wearing ear protectors! Electric models do tend to be quieter than their pneumatic counterparts – so if the noise level is important to you, then these are the models to go for! If you have a heavy-duty job to complete and need a pneumatic concrete breaker, it is worth checking their noise level, and that it doesn’t go against noise regulations.