Demolition Contractors Turn to Compact Equipment

Sept. 28, 2010

Demolition is not about wrecking, it's about the systematic removal of existing structures with a focus on salvaging materials, safely disposing of contaminated or hazardous materials, and getting the site ready for construction.

Demolition is not about wrecking, it's about the systematic removal of existing structures with a focus on salvaging materials, safely disposing of contaminated or hazardous materials, and getting the site ready for construction.

Some phases of the demolition process can make good use of full-sized machines vibrating with tremendous horsepower, but a majority demands agile, versatile and durable equipment. That's why many demolition contractors turn to compact equipment, such as skid-steer loaders and compact excavators with a variety of attachments. The machines are small enough to access hard-to-reach areas, but strong enough to complete some of the toughest and largest jobs. They've been used on projects as small as ripping out city sidewalks to helping demolish nine-story parking garages.

Skid-Steer Loaders

Because demolition is oftentimes performed inside buildings, between buildings and in other existing areas, contractors need skid-steer loaders that are compact enough to work in the tightest quarters, says Mike Fitzgerald, loader product specialist for Bobcat Company.

There's a big percentage of contractors who use our Bobcat® 400-series loader for interior demolition work due to their compact dimensions of 72 inches high and 36 inches wide. They can fit through a standard doorway, lift weight up to 700 pounds and easily be lifted from one building level to another, Fitzgerald says.

In the demolition market, Fitzgerald says more contractors typically turn to radius lift path loaders because of their reduced pivot points and linkage in demolition applications. However, when needing to transport large amounts of debris and lift it into dump trucks and hoppers, he says vertical lift path loaders are usually the loader of choice.

Once demolition contractors decide on the size and type of skid-steer loader they want, they should consider a couple of basic options such as a special applications kit and single-point or four-point lift kits. Special applications kits are required with certain attachments, while single-point and four-point lift kits are commonly used with Bobcat skid-steer loaders so that the loaders can be lifted to various areas around the demolition site, Fitzgerald says.

Compact Excavators

Many of the same reasons why demolition contractors opt for skid-steer loaders are why they also turn to compact excavators. They like the agility and versatility of these compact machines, but they also like compact excavators' reach and digging capabilities.

Instead of just using compact excavators to dig trenches, demolition contractors find that they can use the machines' reach to break up concrete in hard-to-reach places that only an excavator's arm can access, says Tom Connor, excavator product specialist for Bobcat Company. By attaching a hydraulic breaker to a compact excavator, it's transformed from a digging machine to a concrete demolition machine. After the concrete is broken up, contractors can utilize a clamp attachment to sort and load materials. This handy hydraulic attachment works with the trenching bucket or three-tine grapple to easily move odd-shaped objects such as chunks of broken concrete.

To quickly and easily switch between the hydraulic breaker and the trenching bucket, demolition contractors can choose the optional Hydraulic X-Change® system. The attachment mounting system eliminates operators needing to manually align and drive mounting pins when attaching and removing buckets, hydraulic breakers and other attachments.

"Attachment capabilities make a big impact on your productivity," Connor says. "When attachment changes are simple, operators are more likely to use the proper-sized bucket and the best attachment for the job. That can mean fuel savings, less time spent backfilling and less wear and tear on your machine."

Attachments for Every Job

Another advantage of using compact equipment for demolition work is the versatility that comes with a number of available attachments. Contractors can attach a hydraulic breaker to a skid-steer loader to break up some of the toughest surfaces, or attach a drop hammer for quickly and easily performing concrete flatwork demolition because the attachment provides less wear on the machine and less noise for the operator. When needing to perform partial removal of road material, you can use a planer attachment to quickly mill areas.

"If a contractor's just getting into performing demolition work, a couple of good attachment choices other than a bucket would be an industrial grapple for grabbing and moving debris and a hydraulic breaker if there's a need to break concrete," Fitzgerald says.

Several attachments can be used to sort, haul, load, and clean up all types of materials. In the demolition market, contractors need durable attachments that can withstand the daily stress of working with concrete chunks, rebar, bricks, and more. Use an excavator with a grapple or rotating grapple to sort, separate and load materials. The industrial bucket grapple is a must for any demolition contractor because it can handle the most hard-to-manage objects. And with the industrial fork grapple, dirt falls through the bottom tines to ease sorting of demo waste and reduces weight-dumping fees. To clean up the dirt left behind, simply attach the angle broom to quickly sweep the dirt off driveways, parking lots and roadways.

Let's take a look at some of the more common demolition attachments:

Hydraulic Breakers

Hydraulic breakers are designed to meet the most demanding demolition jobsite requirements. They are intended for concrete and general demolition work and are used to quickly smash through concrete. To maximize breaker efficiencies match the hydraulic capacity of the carrier to the breaker, allowing consistent machine-to-breaker performance.

Angle Broom

Demolition contractors can put their skid-steer loaders to work and clean up almost everything in sight with the hydraulically driven angle broom attachment. Use it to sweep driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, loading docks, warehouses, and more. With the attachment, operators can sweep flush to a curb or wall on the right side and adjust the broom angle with fingertip controls on an optional cab-mounted attachment control kit. Use an angle broom attachment that features a high-torque motor for heavy material. Good broom attachments will have replaceable wafer bristles and storage stands to eliminate bristle distortion when not in use.

Industrial Grapple Attachment

The industrial grapple allows for easy handling of a variety of hard-to-manage materials on a demolition job site. Impressive strength makes this the perfect attachment for those tough demolition applications, recycling facilities or on a construction site. This hydraulically controlled grapple is easy to operate and handles bulky, uneven loads securely.


With a sweeper, demolition contractors can sweep, collect and dump dirt and other debris with just one attachment. The hydraulically driven sweeper is easy to attach and simple to operate going either forward or in reverse. Its reversible cutting edge helps cut through caked-on mud, and its polypropylene bristles deposit dirt and other debris in the bucket, which can be dumped when full. Contractors can also use the sweeper to spread material evenly across a site.

Wheel Saw

The wheel saw attachment enables contractors to cut through a variety of surfaces, including asphalt, concrete, frozen ground, and wire mesh. With trenching depths of 6 inches to 24 inches, these rugged attachments are used for road repair and for laying water, gas, electric, and fiber-optic cables. The trench cleaner, which is raised and lowered hydraulically, assures a clean trench. Wheel saws provide a more precise cut than air or hydraulic hammers and are easier to transport than dedicated machines.

So whether you're just starting out in the demolition market or looking to expand the demolition services you already provide, there's a machine and an attachment to match the task.

Information Provided By: Bobcat Company West Fargo, North Dakota