an image of how to break up asphalt

Mastering Asphalt Removal: Step-by-Step Guide on How to Break Up Asphalt 

Asphalt driveways are popular due to their durability and cost-effectiveness. However, even with proper care, asphalt surfaces will eventually need replacing. Cracks, potholes, and other damages can make the asphalt unsafe and unsightly. If you’re facing the task of asphalt removal, you might be wondering whether to hire a professional or tackle the project yourself. This guide will walk you through the best way on how to break up asphalt, helping you decide the best approach for your needs. 

Why Remove Asphalt?

Asphalt wears down over time, becoming susceptible to damage from the elements, such as rain, snow, and sunlight. Over time, the surface can become uneven and develop deep cracks or potholes, making it unsafe. Signs that your asphalt needs removal include: 

  • Deep Cracks: Cracks that are more than an inch deep. 
  • Uneven Surface: Sunken areas or unevenness that pose tripping hazards. 
  • Potholes: Holes that can damage vehicles and pose safety risks. 

If you notice any of these issues, it’s time to consider removing and replacing your asphalt driveway. 

How to Break Up Asphalt Yourself 

Step 1: Gather the Necessary Equipment 

The first step in asphalt removal can be accomplished by gathering the right tools. Depending on the size of your project, you may need: 

  • Hand Tools: For small areas, tools like pickaxes and sledgehammers can be effective. These are ideal for removing small patches of asphalt. 
  • Circular Saw: Fitted with a masonry blade, a circular saw can cut asphalt into manageable pieces. 
  • Jackhammer: For medium-sized projects, a jackhammer is efficient for breaking through asphalt quickly. 
  • Excavator: For large areas, such as a driveway, renting an excavator can make the job much easier and faster. 

Step 2: Break Up the Asphalt 

Using Hand Tools 

For small projects, use a pickaxe or sledgehammer to break up the asphalt. Strike the asphalt with force to create cracks and then use the pickaxe to pry up the broken pieces. This method is labor-intensive but effective for minor repairs

Using a Circular Saw 

A circular saw with a masonry blade can cut through asphalt, making it easier to lift and remove. Cut the asphalt into small sections, which can then be pried up with a crowbar. 

Using a Jackhammer 

A jackhammer combines the forces of an electric hammer and a chisel, making it perfect for medium-sized projects. The jackhammer will break the asphalt into small pieces, which can then be removed by hand. 

Using an Excavator 

For large projects, an excavator is the most efficient tool. Use the excavator’s bucket teeth to dig into the asphalt and lift it away from the surface. This method is fast and effective, but may require specialized training. 

Step 3: Properly Dispose of the Asphalt 

Once you’ve broken up the asphalt, proper disposal is crucial. Instead of taking the broken asphalt to a landfill, consider recycling it. Many asphalt recycling centers will accept old asphalt and repurpose it for new projects. This not only reduces waste but also supports environmental sustainability. 

Step 4: Cost Considerations 

Average Cost of Asphalt Detachment 

The cost of asphalt deletion can vary widely based on the size of the project and the method used. On average, hiring a professional can cost between $1 and $3 per square foot. For DIY projects, renting equipment will be your primary expense. Here are some factors that can affect the cost: 

  • Project Size: Larger projects will naturally cost more. 
  • Equipment Rental: Renting tools like jackhammers or excavators will add to your costs. 
  • Disposal Fees: If you choose not to recycle, landfill disposal fees can also add up. 

Tips for Efficient Asphalt Removal 

  1. Safety First: Always wear appropriate safety gear, including work boots, gloves, eye protection, and ear protection. 
  1. Start at Weak Points: Begin breaking up the asphalt at areas that are already damaged or compromised. 
  1. Work Methodically: Break up the asphalt in small sections to make removal easier. 
  1. Recycle: Look for local recycling centers that accept asphalt to dispose of the material responsibly. 

What is the Best Way to Soften Asphalt? 

Softening asphalt before removal can make the process easier. The best method to soften asphalt is to use a propane torch to heat the surface. This will make the asphalt more pliable and easier to break up with tools like a pickaxe or jackhammer. 

Asphalt Removal Cost Per Square Foot 

When budgeting for asphalt removal, consider the following cost factors: 

  • Square Footage: Most companies charge by the square foot. The larger the area, the higher the cost. 
  • Ease of Access: Limited workspace can increase costs due to the difficulty of maneuvering equipment. 
  • Removal Difficulty: Projects that are more challenging due to terrain or other factors may incur higher costs. 
  • Local Rates: The cost of living in your area will influence the rates charged by local contractors. 


To remove an asphalt driveway can be a manageable DIY project with the right tools and knowledge. Whether you choose to do it yourself or hire professionals, proper removal and disposal of asphalt are crucial for preparing your site for new pavement. At BOSWELL’S PAVING, we offer expert asphalt removal and paving services. Contact us today at (937) 240-2879 for a free estimate and let us help you achieve a smooth, durable surface.