Learning to use a jackhammer to get ready to excavate for our retaining wall footings.

last updated: Dec 27, 2023

Before we can begin building the pool, a certain amount of destruction is required. Specifically, we need to:

  • Demolish the red brick paving above the pool area.
  • Remove the sleeper retaining walls currently in the pool area.
  • Transplant all of the vegetation to other areas of the garden.

I’m not a big fan of the red bricks and especially so given that the other side of the house has wooden decking. Wooden deck + travertine paving + red brick is one too many materials.

Existing bricked surface on side of house
Existing bricked surface on side of house
Existing bricked surface above the pool area
Existing bricked surface above the pool area

They are above the pool area and wrap around the side of the house. We’ll replace them with paved travertine to match the pool paving and although we wont be doing that until the pool is completed, the existing brick needs to be removed before we can excavate the footing for the rear retaining wall.

They are mortared in place rather than loose laid and thus a jackhammer is required.

Jackhammer ready for use

Ready for action

Jackhammers are heavy

Having never used a jackhammer, I was surprised at how effortlessly the combination of the hammer action and the weight cracked the mortar, dislodged the bricks, and slid down beneath them. The flip side of this is that it took enormous effort to bring the tip of the hammer back to the surface after each plunge and my arms, back and shoulders were soon aching.

After trying different techniques, I settled on dragging the tip along the mortar surface at a less than vertical angle, dislodging the individual bricks and pushing them parallel to the surface. No doubt this is the completely wrong technique, but it sufficed to get the job done.

Dislodged bricks

Dislodged bricks, ready for removal and reuse

Only the brick area between the water tank and garden area is being excavated and so for the remaining areas, I tried to keep as much of the subsurface (compacted masonry sand) as possible intact for reuse when we’re paving later.

I’ve put off the task of deciding what to do with the bricks and for the time being stacked them nearby. I’d like to see them reused and there’s definitely a market for them (scuffed, used red bricks go for around $0.50/brick on Ebay), but the idea of cleaning of the mortar, moving, packing and palleting them gives me chills. My fingers are already aching from simply moving them aside.

UPDATE: We indeed managed to sell the bricks, and they are now happily living in a garden not far from the site.

Prev in section:
Installing a Mobius ActionCam to…
Next in section: