While cutting concrete may seem difficult at first, the proper tools and techniques can make it a breeze. From concrete board to pavers, blocks to slabs and walls to pavement, here’s how to cut concrete.
Method 1: Hammer and Chisel
Cutting concrete doesn’t always require the use of heavy tools. For cutting small pieces of concrete, like a concrete paver, a hammer and chisel will work just fine.
Since most people already own a hammer and chisel, this is one of the most cost-effective ways to cut concrete. Just be aware this method won’t leave perfectly clean edges.
- Step 1: Measure from the edges where you’d like your cut to be. Mark these points with chalk, then connect them to create a guideline.
- Step 2: Place the chisel on top of the guideline. Using the hammer, gently tap the chisel to create scoring lines in the concrete.
- Step 3: Score all the way across the top of the concrete with the chisel.
- Step 4: After scoring, place the chisel on top of the concrete in the center of the block.
- Step 5: Strongly hit the chisel with the hammer a few times. The concrete should split along the scored lines.
Best for: The hammer and chisel method works best for cutting concrete pavers or smaller pieces of concrete.
Method 2: Scoring Knife
A scoring knife is also a cost-effective choice. It’s usually under $10 and is made to cut cement backer boards.
Scoring knives won’t effectively cut larger or thicker pieces of concrete. So, if your project requires cutting concrete bigger than a concrete backer board, opt for different concrete cutting tools.
Here’s how to cut concrete boards with a scoring knife.
- Step 1: Measure from the edges where you’d like your cut to be. Mark these points with chalk, then connect the marks to create a guideline.
- Step 2: Place a level, ruler or other straight edge beside the guideline. This will help lead the scoring knife in a perfectly straight line along the guide.
- Step 3: Using the straight edge, run the scoring knife along the guideline. Repeat this action about five to ten times.
- Step 4: After scoring the concrete board, push down on one side to snap the board along the scored line. If you are unable to snap the board, run the scoring knife over the guide a few more times.
Best for: Scoring knives work best for cutting concrete board.
Method 3: Circular Saw
Using a circular saw is one of the most popular ways to cut concrete. They can be used on either small or large pieces of concrete, making them highly versatile. This includes projects like concrete blocks, pavers and walls. For concrete slabs, use a circular saw to cut the first inch down, then finish with a sledgehammer.
When cutting concrete with a circular saw, it’s best to use a diamond blade with a wet saw. Diamond blades provide the needed strength to cut through concrete, and wet saws help prevent hazardous cement dust from spreading through the air.
Here’s how to cut concrete with a circular saw.
- Step 1: Prepare the workspace to contain hazardous cement dust within the area. Use plastic sheets or drop cloths to cover doors or air vents. Close any windows.
- Step 2: Use chalk to mark where you’d like to cut the cement.
- Step 3: Take all necessary safety precautions, including wearing hearing protection, gloves and a respirator.
- Step 4: If using a dry saw, use a garden hose to run water over the work area. The water will help prevent hazardous cement dust from spreading.
- Step 5: While the saw is off, set the blade depth. This should be no more than the depth of each diamond tooth, usually between 2 ½ to 6 ½ inches.
- Step 6: Turn the saw on and cut along the chalk guide. If the concrete is thicker than your blade depth, it will take a few passes with the saw to cut completely through.
Best for: Circular saws work best for cutting concrete pavers, boards, blocks and walls. This method is also great for creating a guide cut in a concrete slab.
Method 4: Angle Grinder
While angle grinders traditionally smooth and polish metal, they can also cut through masonry materials like concrete.
The process for using an angle grinder to cut concrete is very similar to using a circular saw. The biggest differences are that circular saws tend to cut faster and create straighter lines. If all you have on hand is an angle grinder, it will certainly do the trick.
Like circular saws, it’s best to use angle grinders with a diamond blade and wet grinder. If you don’t have a wet grinder, you can find conversion kits online.
Here’s how to cut concrete with an angle grinder.
- Step 1: Prepare the workspace by covering doors or air vents with plastic sheets and closing any windows.
- Step 2: Mark a guideline on the cement using chalk.
- Step 3: Wear gloves, hearing protection and a respirator while taking all necessary safety precautions.
- Step 4: If using a dry grinder, use a garden hose to run water over the work area to help prevent hazardous cement dust from spreading.
- Step 5: Turn the angle grinder on and cut along the guideline. Concrete that’s thicker than your blade depth will require multiple passes to cut completely through the cement.
Best for: Angle grinders work best for cutting concrete pavers, board, blocks and walls if you don’t have a circular saw on hand.
Method 5: Walk-Behind Saw
For larger projects — like cutting concrete slabs — you’ll save time and energy by using a walk-behind saw. A good rule of thumb is using walk-behind saws for projects that require cutting a depth of seven inches or more.
These saws powerfully create straight, deep cuts with little effort. As always, it’s best to use a diamond blade with a wet saw.
- Step 1: Read the equipment’s safety manual. Follow all necessary safety precautions.
- Step 2: Install the blade by sliding it onto the arbor shaft, flush against the arbor backing plate. Replace the arbor cap and tighten the hardware.
- Step 3: Connect a garden hose — if required — to supply the wet saw.
- Step 4: Turn the engine on. For safety, it’s best to keep the blade above (not touching) the concrete while powering the saw up.
- Step 5: Lower the saw onto the concrete. Create an initial cut at a safe, shallow depth.
- Step 6: Use step cutting to create deep cuts. This means making a series of shallow cuts over the same place and going slighter deeper each time. Never cut the walk-behind saw’s maximum depth in one pass.
Best for: Walk-behind saws work best for cutting concrete slabs.
Method 6: Trencher
Trenchers are best for industrial-sized projects like cutting through stretches of concrete pavement.
When choosing a trencher, opt for a wheel trencher over a chain trencher. Wheel trenchers are better suited for cutting through tough terrain, like rocky soil or concrete. You can always rent a trencher if you don’t already own one.
- Step 1: Obtain any necessary construction permits.
- Step 2: Prepare the worksite, including clearly marking where trenching will occur.
- Step 3: Read the manufacturer’s manual and take the necessary safety precautions.
- Step 4: Set the depth and speed controls.
- Step 5: Start the engine, turn on the wheel, disengage the safety and begin cutting.
Best for: Trenchers work best for industrial-sized projects like cutting through concrete pavement.
Safety Precautions When Cutting Concrete
The dust emitted from cutting concrete contains harmful silica particles. Without the proper safety precautions, repeated exposure to this silica dust can lead to lung cancer or other ailments.
That’s why it’s so important to make safety a priority when cutting concrete. This includes:
- Wearing a respirator
- Using hearing protection
- Wearing gloves
- Using a GFI outlet
- Using a wet saw or wetting the site
Worksites where employees are exposed to silica dust must follow all OSHA safety precautions, including wearing respirators with the proper APF factor.
Concrete Cutting FAQ
Have additional questions about cutting concrete? Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
Can You Cut Concrete Yourself?
Yes. You can cut concrete board, pavers, blocks, walls and even slabs yourself. The tools and techniques needed will vary depending on the project. However, a circular saw is usually enough for most projects where the depth is less than seven inches.
Can You Cut Concrete With an Angle Grinder?
Yes, you can cut concrete with an angle grinder. The technique is very similar to that of using a circular saw. Just make sure to use a diamond blade and wet grinder. If you don’t have a wet grinder, you can find conversion kits online.
How Do You Cut Concrete Without Breaking It?
To prevent concrete from breaking, use step cutting. Always move the saw slowly and never turn corners or change directions without stopping and repositioning the saw.
Step cutting uses a series of shallow cuts in the same place to create deeper cuts. Begin with a safe, shallow cut. Slowly move the saw where you’d like to cut. Then, stop the saw, reposition it at the beginning of the cut, and run the saw over the cut again, this time a little deeper. Repeat until you reach the desired depth.