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How To Lift Paving Slabs Without Breaking Them [Removal Steps]

If you want to know how to lift paving slabs, it’s a delicate process – read our complete guide below before you get started.

There’s plenty of reasons why you might want to move a paving slab or two out of the way. A single wobbly or uneven stone doesn’t mean laying a whole new patio. However, without the right tools and technique, you’re at risk of doing damage to your slabs, the jointing compound, and also hurting yourself.

As expert paving contractors, we know the best ways how to remove paving slabs without causing chaos. However, it’s good practice to understand how to handle a single slab or two yourself – so we’ve put this quick guide together.

Below, we’ll take you through:

  • Why you might want to start removing patio slabs
  • The materials you’ll need
  • The safest, most efficient way to raise and move
  • How to protect your other stones – and yourself

If all else fails and it’s a big job, always consider calling in professional paving contractors. Otherwise, let’s crack on with the DIY approach to removing paving slabs.

Reasons You May Need to Lift a Paving Slab

It’s Rocking About

A rocking, uneven slab probably needs relaying – the old mortar and concrete, and possibly the jointing, is breaking down. Naturally, you’re going to need to get your old flag out so you can redo the cement and joints.

It’s Cracked or Broken

Patio or driveway stones developing cracks in the concrete need swapping out – it’s a matter of safety as well as looks. Cracked paving is likely going to be easier to get out, but it’s still a safety risk if you don’t use the best tools and the proper technique.

It’s Stained

If it’s proving impossible to get deep stains out of your concrete surface, you might decide to swap your flags out for new ones. That might mean taking one or more stones out, and again, it’s essential to know what to do for the safest.

How to Remove Paving Stones Easily – Step by Step Guide

Tools you’ll need for patio repairs

  • A hammer / mallet / sledgehammer
  • A plugging chisel
  • Something with a flat edge to go underneath (a garden spade, crowbar, pick axe, or shovel)
  • Around a foot length of timber
  • A good pair of heavy-duty gloves
  • A pair of safety goggles
  • A wood cylinder (optional), paving cart or wheelbarrow

BEFORE YOU START LIFTING PATIO SLABS

Always check your strength and know your limits. Some paving slabs are seriously heavy, and one slip could mean you end up breaking a hand, a foot, or worse.

Do also keep in mind, too, that cracked and damaged slabs will break easily if you’re not careful. The good news is, the following method should help you keep form.

Step One: Find Some Help

Rule number one for getting any paving up and moving is that you shouldn’t do it alone. You’re going to risk your fingers if you drop a flag and your back if you’re not careful during lifting.

So, always make sure to have at least a couple of people on hand to help. It’s an obvious reason why professionals take on jobs such as these in small teams.

Step Two: Chip Out the Compound

If your flags have been laid properly, then you’ll need to chip away at the jointing compound and any mortar around the paver to be moved. Strap on your goggles, grab your plugging chisel and hammer and keep chipping at the gaps until the slab comes free.

If your paving’s sealed, that’ll be a tougher job – you’ll need to put in a bit more elbow grease, but at the same time, too much enthusiasm can cause damage.

Step Three: Get Underneath the Paving

Once you’ve removed all of the compound from the outer edges, you’ll need something with a flat edge to get underneath. Some tradies swear by shovels or spades, while others opt for tools such as crowbars or pickaxes.

The aim is to gently ease the slab or flag up to help it loosen. Too much force or too much speed, and you could end up causing damage to the site or harm to yourself. Avoid lifting from a corner – easy does it down the sides and underneath.

Step Four: Pick Up and Carry

Pavers and tradies vary in terms of how to transport paving slabs after lifting. Some will use wood cylinders, while others invest in hand-held lifters. The idea is to safely roll away or hoist your slab off the ground with minimal stress.

Otherwise, you will need to bend and lift with your legs carefully. Ideally, position a paving cart built for slab stacking or a wheelbarrow close by. The longer you have to carry the slab, the more dangerous the situation is.

Between at least two of you, it should be fairly easy – if you are careful – to raise and place in a wheelbarrow to move on. Don’t just slide them in, either!

Protecting the surrounding slabs

Generally, if your paving’s packed with jointing sand, you should have a safe gap of around a half-inch to an inch between each slab. That means, providing you’re careful, you shouldn’t expect to do much damage to other flags when lifting.

However, if there’s no compound and they’re compacted together, make sure you apply something thin yet strong to prise apart. Easy does it.

What About the Langfit Paving Slab Lifter?

The Langfit Paving Slab Lifter has a super-long handle, and it can hoist slabs up to 60kg. This tool will prevent you from having to bend when lifting stones. Generally, you’re looking at between £30 to £50 for this tool.

It’s pretty handy if you need to take up slabs a lot or do lots of ground repair work. However, the jury’s out on if they’re the best pick for older flags or if you can easily lift them while laying. For the most part, reviews are pretty positive – it might be worth the money for the extra leverage on that stubborn block.

Safety When Doing a Patio Slab Repair

When working with any paving slab projects, always make sure of the following:

  • Check the sizes of your flags before lifting, and know your limits – as mentioned, dropping concrete could cause you serious harm
  • Always make sure you have at least two or three people with you to help with the lifting
  • Wear safety goggles when using a hammer or chisel to protect against flying debris
  • Use the proper lifting posture – use your legs – when handling slabs
  • Make sure to use adequate lifting equipment (a strong shovel, chisel, spade, axe, etc.)
  • Make sure to have transport for the slab(s) close by

FAQ’s

How do you fix uneven paving slabs?

Wobbling pavers that sink or dip to one side. You’ll need to remove the flags altogether and replace your paving and mortar to be safe. This can happen if your slabs are improperly laid in the first instance.

How do you lift heavy pavers?

You’ll need two or three people to help out, and you’ll need a robust and sturdy tool to get underneath your paving carefully. Boost with your legs if lifting by hand, or use a lifting device if available. Don’t tackle heavy council-style paving slabs on your own.

What do you put under patio slabs?

You’ll need to re-bed your patio slabs with a base of concrete, cement and sand mix. You’ll often need more sand than concrete, but always follow the correct advice on any bags of material you use before grabbing a spade.

Final Thoughts

A paving slab might look simple to haul up, but you can easily create chaos if you don’t follow the correct process. You can leave slab removal to expert pavers to be 100% safe. However, providing you have the right tools such as a chisel, sledge hammer, spade and maybe a crowbar and are careful when bending and lifting, you might find it easier than you think.

Some pavers are heavier than they look, and while broken slabs might feel easier to lift, you’re still going to need to take care.

Whether you’re laying a new patio or just need to get your old pavers up, make a point to follow our guide above.