How To Break Up Concrete With Chemicals

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

If there’s one thing that concrete has become famous for, it’s durability. Even back in the days of Rome, poured concrete was a staple among building materials. These days, concrete is still highly durable and can last for decades if done right. However, sometimes, its durability can be a pain. That’s why construction crews came up with ways to break up concrete with chemicals.

Though we usually think of breaking concrete with a jackhammer or a sledgehammer, there’s another way to get rid of your old concrete. The best way to do so is to use a liquid agent that’s designed to dissolve modern concrete formulas, such as Dexpan demolition grout.

Deciding to go “the chemical route” when you’re removing concrete is somewhat unusual, but it can be a smart way to get rid of a concrete floor without having to toil away at smashing things. Before you grab a hammer, you should learn about this new technique involved in concrete removal.

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What Is Dexpan?

Dexpan is a chemical filler known as demolition grout, and it’s used to break up concrete without the constant use of jackhammers. This grout, when placed into holes drilled into concrete, will expand. The expansion causes cement to weaken and eventually break apart. Since the process is quieter than most other ways of breaking concrete, it’s a good solution for people worried about noise complaints.

Is Demolition Grout Safe?

We’d love to say this stuff is not dangerous, but that’s not necessarily the truth. Dexpan can cause skin and eye burns due to the high alkalinity content it has, but there are worse things that can happen with this stuff. More specifically, you have to worry about explosions relating to grout expansions.

Blowouts, as they’re called, are known for happening when you have demolition grout that isn’t properly mixed or handled. If you want to avoid getting hurt (or dealing with damage) from these issues, make sure to follow the tips below:

  • Do not pour Dexpan into a hot hole. Heat increases the chances of blowouts dramatically. If you’re pouring on a very sunny day, it’s best to use icewater.
  • Wear eye protection and a respirator when you’re mixing it. This is not the powder you want to inhale or have near your eyes. Speaking of…
  • Never look directly in a hole that’s been filled with Dexpan. Because Dexpan can occasionally have explosive (literally) results, you should never take a peek in the hole until 24 hours has passed by.
  • Don’t pour the grout in a wet hole. Use a plastic liner to help prevent any damage to its expansion abilities.
  • Choose the right demolition grout for the temperature around you. There are different types of Dexpan. When shopping for your grout, make sure to read the label to see whether or not the Dexpan you have in your hands is a good choice. Each grout type has a temperature reading associated with it to help you choose.

With all this said and done, the actual grout itself, when dried, is considered to be nontoxic. If you’re worried about any other safety issues, it’s a good idea to take a look at their safety specs sheets.

Should You Use Demolition Grout?

If you are looking for a way to demolish concrete with minimal hammering, then demolition grout can be a smart way to cut down on time. This is also a good choice if you just want a quick and easy demolition job. With that said, it still can be tricky to use if you are not trained in demolition. So, it’s up to you to choose.

How Much Does Dexpan Cost?

If you want to use this stuff, you’re in good hands. A single 11-pound bucket of demolition grout will run you about $35. This is enough for 9 linear feet of holes with a 1.5 inch diameter. In other words, you should be able to demolish a small concrete platform with a single bucket.

How To Use Demolition Grout

If you need to get rid of a large scale concrete floor, but don’t want to hammer away at things, you should pick up some grout. Using it is fairly simple, though there will still be some drilling. Here’s how you can use it to break apart your concrete:

  • Using a large 1.5-inch drill bit, start drilling holes in your concrete. The holes should be spaced one feet apart. Drill to approximately 80 percent of the concrete’s depth. The drilling should create a grid of holes on your surface. You may need to drill a few extra holes to give the demolition grout a place to expand to.
  • Mix your solution. You will need to mix one and a half liters of cold water with an 11-pound bag of Dexpan. Once it’s mixed, stir your Dexpan with a drill and paddle. There should be no lumps in your mixture once it’s done.
  • After 10 to 15 minutes of time, start pouring the demolition grout into your holes. This should be done quickly. Any excess grout that you have should be properly disposed of. If you keep it in the bucket, a blowout may occur. Keep the holes away from direct light, snow, or rain.
  • Wait. With most projects, you should expect to see some cracks appear within 2 to 8 hours. That doesn’t mean that the process is done, though! The manufacturers suggest giving your demolition project a full 24 hours for the grout to dry and expand.
  • Once the grout has dried, brush away all the debris. Everything should be pretty much cracked and broken through after a single session of demolition grout. So, just pick up the debris and get started on whatever the next step of your project may be.

Is Using Dexpan Worth It?

If you are concerned about noise complaints, then this is a godsend. Lots of people also maintain that using chemicals to break apart concrete has helped them do more work in less time, for less money. Overall, it seems to be a smart way to do a quick demolition job without all the extra work. It’s worth a shot if you are in a climate that allows for it.

Other Methods for Breaking Up Concrete

Though going the chemical route to break up and remove concrete may be effective and quick, these chemicals are generally highly toxic. If you are looking for an alternative to chemicals, here are some other ways that you can break up concrete:

Though going the chemical route to break up and remove concrete may be effective and quick, these chemicals are generally highly toxic. If you are looking for an alternative to chemicals, here are some other ways that you can break up concrete:

  • Rent a jackhammer. If you don’t own a jackhammer, you can rent one easily from an equipment company. They are very beneficial for breaking up concrete into smaller pieces, making them easier to transport and remove.
  • Use a rotary hammer. A rotary hammer is essentially a handheld jackhammer. It, along with a chipping function, is often considered one of the most successful methods for the removal of concrete. Their bits, referred to as “irons,” are incredibly effective at breaking up small amounts of concrete, while larger attachments are great for demolishing concrete walls.
  • Swing a pick axe. With concrete that has been laid thickly, you can use a pick axe to create cracks. Then, widen the width of these cracks with a crowbar or screwdriver.
  • Try a crowbar. If you need to remove whole slabs of concrete, you find a crowbar to be especially useful. Since hardened concrete is no longer malleable, by using a crowbar to pry up the edge it will either lift out or break in the process. Crowbars are the best option for use on paving stones that have gaps where the crowbar can fit into.
  • Use a sledgehammer. Just like the jackhammer, you can use a sledgehammer to break the concrete into smaller pieces for easy removal. This method is most effective on thin slabs of paving. Before you attempt to use a sledgehammer, make sure that you protect yourself from flying debris by wearing the necessary safety gear.

While the above methods may be more labor and time intensive, they are effective for breaking up concrete.

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Our Final Take

More demolition crews than ever before are starting to choose chemical methods to help with their jobs, and that means that Dexpan is starting to gain a larger following. It’s easy to see why. It works silently, has a proven track record, and also cuts down on all the noise complaints people typically make due to demolition projects.

Though this can offer a fast way to demolish concrete, you shouldn’t assume it’s entirely power tool-free. You still need to drill holes into the concrete and use tools to mix the grout before you can see results. Moreover, you also have to check to ensure that you’re pouring the grout correctly and disposing of remnants the right way. Otherwise, you could have a blowout on your hands.

Overall, it’s safe to say that using demolition grout is a good way to break down most concrete structures. However, it’s not for everyone. If you get skittish about rapidly expanding chemicals or are worried about its application, doing things the old fashioned way is better.

Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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