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removing sidewalks

Sidewalks only last so long before they start to deteriorate, crack, and wear away. Also the Americans with Disabilities Act have been instrumental in revising sidewalk grade and slope standards to better facilitate access and safety for individuals with disabilities. This has pushed many localities to remove and replace their sidewalks and curb ramps in heavy pedestrian traffic areas.

Removing sidewalks can typically be done productively with a two man crew, one backhoe or excavator, and a dump truck. But this work can also be done less efficiently with a small skidsteer with a bucket or forks. The joints where existing walk will remain and new walks will start will typically require cut prior to removal for a clean edge, unless there already exists an expansion or construction joint there.


Walks can be removed without a dump truck following along, but doing them this way is less productive and messier as the pile has to be put somewhere until the truck comes which often clutters the site, makes it less safe, and is often undesirable for project inspectors and owners. Having a dump truck following along is typically cleaner, more productive, and more efficient than stockpiling and double handling the material later.

Walks must be broken first with the backhoe bucket or hammer and can be lifted up and loaded in one piece, two piece, or otherwise fractured sections.


For smaller areas or areas requiring extra care to avoid damaging existing structures, hydraulic hammer attachments or manual chipping hammers may be used to first break up the walks into small pieces. This approach adds an additional step and is less productive, but sometimes unavoidable.

Positioning of the machine can be tricky depending on the logistics of the site. If the road has a parking lane it can be shut off and the excavator can remove and load the truck in this lane, given it can reach the walks. The machine may also have to operate in the localities right of way either between the road and walk, between the walk and right of way line, or on top of and directly in the line of the sidewalk to be removed.

No matter the piece of equipment used, removing sidewalks can damage grass areas, rut the soil, and can put scrape marks on the roadway. An estimator has to be mindful of the cost of topsoil restoration, seeding, and repairing any other residual damage when estimating this work. This damage occurs more so with tracked machines and less so with rubber tired machines. Tracked machines tend to maneuver better, and can handle the removed pieces more efficiently, but cause more damage to existing conditions. Rubber tires or rubber track machines are also popular options.

After the walks are removed, the subgrade or stone base is often sunken due to settling and the old piece of sidewalk taking aggregate base with it. If new walks will replace old,  they will often require a couple of inches of aggregate stone to be replaced even if the plans do not specifically call for it.

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