concrete, jacked.

Hey ho concrete!

When we bought our house nearly five years ago,  we were “blessed” with a ridiculous amount of concrete. Some of it was original 1910 but most was from what I imagine as a 1960’s concrete-pouring acid trip. (Apparently, concrete is also an excellent way to kill weeds.) We started the arduous process four years ago when we tore out our concrete planting strip. This time around we needed to remove the sidewalk that wrapped around the backside of our house in order to install the new deck. But since we had the rentals for the weekend, we decided to invoke mass destruction throughout our yard. (Bonus – it was also an incredibly gorgeous weekend (we finally broke 70 degrees!) so we didn’t mind being outside.)

First, Kyle rented a masonry saw to cut the sidewalk into clean pieces so we could reuse them later.

The backyard sidewalk was cut into four 5′ long pieces that will eventually become pavers for the front yard. We had been planning on pouring our own large-scale pavers, but figured we’d try recycling what we had if it wasn’t a total headache.

Fortunately, the cuts turned out pretty nice without any cracking.

The only downside was that the saw was incredibly loud and produced a crazy amount of dust. An upside – Kyle’s new gray hair (and Flock of Seagulls swoop) foreshadowed his later years and a growing resemblance to Flaming Lips lead singer Wayne Coyne.

Next, Kyle moved to the front yard to cut out yet another random strip of concrete. This section will eventually become an espalier of fruit trees shared with our neighbors. Can’t wait!

The sidewalk at the back of the house wraps around the sideyard and into the front. Since we’re planning on a little seating area out front we took out this portion of concrete as well.

After four years of remodeling, Kyle’s jack-hammering skills had vastly improved since our 2007 project and he was able to cut a lot of the concrete into decent sized chunks. We’re planning on reusing some of it for pavers and maybe retaining walls and the rest will eventually go on Craigslist.

On the left, the future espalier location, on the right – more random concrete.

Our house originally had a “Hollywood drive”, or two lanes of concrete with grass in the middle. Sometime (probably circa 1964), the strip between was filled in with, yes, more concrete. We really don’t use the portion of driveway that extends to the back yard so our plan is to return that area to its original glory and further reduce the amount of impervious surfaces on our lot. We tried sawcutting out pieces, but eventually had to use the jack hammer to knock them loose. [Disclaimer: I was not operating power tools in flip-flops.]

Even though the 5′ pavers that we salvaged from our back sidewalk will eventually go into the front yard, we had to temporarily relocate them so we could build our deck. Kyle rented a heavy-duty dolly (which we though might be for hauling kegs, but apparently it’s for boulders and big rocks). Our neighbor Blair came over to help with the process of heaving the pavers onto the dolly and then unloading them next to the front driveway.

We did some quick calcs and realized these bad boys were 600 lbs. a piece. That’s 2400 or over ONE TON of concrete. Needless to say, we felt pretty badass when it was said and done.

I even got a victory lap around the back yard! (That is actually a look of terror on my face.)

Post-concrete destruction – our poor little house is just screaming for a back deck, right?

Oh yeah, we also demolished most of the concrete apron that extended to the carport. We are 99% sure that we’ll never park a vehicle in that space and would much rather have the extra yard area. Plus, it just looked dumb. Real dumb.

Bailey was stuck inside all day but was finally let outside to review the carnage. We’re in no rush to actually remove the concrete – it was more about getting everything done so we didn’t have to rent the jackhammer again (remodel tip: find a rental place that’s closed on Sundays. We rented ours on Saturday afternoon and got to keep it till Monday evening for the price of a one-day rental).

So there you go – lots of manual labor and a huge mess. But the joy of knowing we never have to rent a jackhammer again is worth it all.


29 Responses to “concrete, jacked.”

  1. K Templeton says:

    It has been so much fun watching this project. You two are the the little engine that could.

    I have a 1909 bungalow across Greenlake from you and have been doing small projects for 25 years on mine, but nothing like you are doing. I sometimes lust after smooth walls and clean lines, but I’m really over it by now. Keep on going! You guys are a force and I love the look!

    • chezerbey says:

      Thanks! The positive blog comments really do motivate us to keep going! 25 years of projects, now that’s impressive!

  2. Katie says:

    Wow!! You guys accomplished a ton in a single weekend. Put me to shame for sure. Great tip about the rental. I never thought to aim for a company closed on Sundays.

  3. Sammi says:

    Didn’t realise you guys had THAT much concrete… unbelievable! Well done on such a great effort!!! And can’t wait to see the back yard decking when it’s done 🙂

  4. Heather says:

    WOW. Concrete removal is hard work–I’m really impressed with how much you took out. I just removed an enormous patio slab from my yard and I wish now that we had rented a jackhammer. We hired someone to remove it and they drove a bobcat through the yard to do it; it was nervewracking and destructive.

    I can’t wait to see what you do with your outdoor spaces.

  5. J&J says:

    Wow! That’s a lot of concrete to remove. I could never convince my husband to take on a project like that.

  6. Ann Wyse says:

    Holy schmoly, I can’t believe you got all that done in one weekend!

  7. katie says:

    impressive! i also didn’t realize that you had that much concrete. i’m tired just reading this post 🙂

  8. Brooke says:

    Wow. You two will get a kick out of our concrete demo project – our ENTIRE backyard was concrete. Took us nine months to get rid of it all. We start planting our yard next month. Check out the pics:

    • Kyle Z says:

      wow, I thought we had a lot of concrete, did you really use a pick ax for the whole thing? nice work

      • Brooke says:

        We used a pick ax and an 8lb sledge. Thing is, my husband got injured the second day, so I actually did all of the demo myself. We did the hauling together. I couldn’t use a jackhammer ’cause I just couldn’t lift the thing and I like having toes.

    • chezerbey says:

      WOW. That is crazy! Kudos to you guys for persevering!

      • Brooke says:

        We’re from NYC, so concrete jungle isn’t really our thing anymore 🙂 You guys kick ass for getting it done so quickly. That job is no joke.

  9. joe mcmahon says:


    You and Lauren sure know how to enjoy your weekends. I think you should ask Tom for a raise, hire this work out, and go fishing.

    Nice job!


    • Kyle says:

      haha, joe, I hear ya, part of me actually enjoys this though, architecting in an office all week only stimulates the mind and there’s no fresh air or sun or even rain in that. I need to do both

  10. Monica says:

    Wow, that is quite an accomplishment and there I was all proud of myself because I put mulch down in our front yard. Love the idea of the espalier of fruit trees that you will sharing with your neighbor.

  11. CT says:

    I love me some Flaming Lips! The Yoshimi album is great to listen to when you’re deep into CAD. Or maybe while you’re busting up concrete. Good work.

  12. Ryan says:

    You both really are amazing! Huge source of inspiration!

    What sorts of fruit trees are you going to plant? I’ve had my eye on a few espaliered apple trees with different varieties grafted onto a single trunk… now, I may have to talk to our neighbors as well!

    • Kyle Z says:


      not exactly sure yet, we’re teaming up with our neighbors to the north to share the fruits and labors of the esalier, we’ve talked about figs, apples, or possibly some tomatoes as well. it’s probably the best southern exposure we have and it has all the concrete from the driveway in front of it to reflect heat. would be interested to see your apple trees if you go for it

  13. Matt says:

    Er, I gotta ask: How come no breathing protection amidst all that concrete dust?

  14. Cait says:

    Oh. My. God. And I thought we had it bad with our weird concrete in the backyard. I’m tired just reading this!


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