How to use a jackhammer without dying

Concrete is some tough stuff.

You start with a bag of gray looking sandy gravel mix, add some 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 it needs to be broken down, 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 kids 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 of the slender or petite type this tool may be beyond your ability. I'm just under 6' and weight in at 180 or so, 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 can 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... your are getting close. Extracting this tip is tough ...very tough. Lesson 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 or 10 and 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.

Kevin Stevens writes for Networx. Get home & garden advice like this on Networx.

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