Demolition Attachments

By Uwe Kausch, Stanley LaBounty; Kevin Loomis, Atlas Copco Construction Tools; and Mark Ramun, Genesis Attachments | September 28, 2010

When thinking about demolition tools and processes, a wrecking ball likely comes to mind. This piece of equipment produces a spectacular display of force and power when it meets its intended target. However, its use creates obstacles contractors must face. Excessive noise from the wrecking ball's impact disrupts homes and businesses near the job site. Dust from the demolition can be a health hazard to workers on the site, not to mention the safety concerns raised from steel, concrete and other materials falling from the condemned structure.

Demolition equipment manufacturers realize the challenges contractors face and have responded with a series of attachments that are capable of reducing jobsite worries while performing multiple functions on a demolition job. While traditional tools like wrecking balls could perform only one function on the job site, today's more efficient and versatile demolition attachments allow contractors to maximize results, and profits, by taking on numerous demolition tasks.

Attachment 101

Contractors today can choose from three categories of hydraulic demolition attachments — shears, pulverizers and universal processors — to meet the requirements of a demolition job.

Shears are primarily used for cutting, sizing and removing the steel framing structures and supports associated with the skeleton of a building. Shears are an appropriate choice when a contractor takes advantage of material recycling opportunities by readying the steel removed from a structure for a scrap yard or mill. A contractor can use shears to cut the steel into "unprepared" lengths, typically about 20 feet; the lengths can then be easily transferred to a truck or rail car for delivery to a scrap yard for further processing.

Contractors can also use shears to complete "final processing" directly on the job site. This involves cutting the steel into a length specified by the scrap processor, thereby increasing the value of the material.

Like shears, pulverizers can also be used for both demolition and recycling applications that involve crushing concrete and separating out the rebar, mesh or cable. In a demolition setting, this tool reduces large pieces of concrete to smaller, more manageable pieces that can be removed from the site more easily. This kind of equipment can also be used to break off small pieces of concrete and crush them into fill material for reuse in foundations or other construction jobs. To aid in separating materials for recycling, some pulverizers include cutter blades that cut rebar and smaller pieces of steel away from concrete to produce recyclable products.

Universal processors, often called the "Swiss army knife of tools," offer the combined functionality of shears and pulverizers. This equipment features interchangeable jaws that can both cut steel and crush concrete, speeding up the entire process of demolishing concrete structures. For example, if a structure was demolished with dynamite, a contractor would be faced with a large pile of debris to sort through and remove. However, demolition conducted with a universal processor reduces each piece of debris, whether concrete or steel, to the size the contractor wants. This material can be loaded immediately into a vehicle for quick removal to shorten the cleanup process.

New Tools, New Techniques

With the advent of demolition attachments, a variety of demolition techniques are available to meet the needs of specific applications. One technique growing in popularity is dismantling.

Dismantling involves using demolition attachments to take down a structure piece by piece in a controlled and precise manner. This process is perhaps the complete opposite of conducting demolition with a wrecking ball. A wrecking ball's impact causes debris to scatter over a wide area and fall to the ground randomly, whereas concrete and steel removed with demolition attachments are brought to the ground smoothly and relatively predictably.

The process of dismantling can open new doors for demolition contractors. Contractors who practice dismantling with demolition attachments can take on jobs that aren't suited for wrecking balls. For example, demolition attachments work well for dismantling structures in urban areas. The attachments can fit into tight spaces, like in between buildings, where a wrecking ball cannot access. Additionally, environmental impact is kept to a minimum with the use of attachments. Less dust and wreckage is spread around the site, which keeps neighbors happy, reduces safety hazards for a crew and quickens site cleanup tasks.