Concrete is a strong, durable, weather-resistant material perfect for paths, driveways, patios, pool surrounds, barbecue areas, firepits, landscape curbing, and more. But what do you do when you need to make changes to your concrete? Instead of breaking up and tearing out an entire concrete fixture, you can make smaller, more efficient cuts if you have the right equipment and know-how to cut concrete.
Why Cut Concrete?
When you first lay concrete, you may believe it will never need changing. Over time, however, your needs and preferences may change, and there are many reasons why you may need to cut your concrete.
- Shrinkage as concrete dries and ages can cause cracking, but cutting control or contraction joints can minimize cracks and keep the concrete in better shape.
- If there were buried pipes or wiring below the concrete and you didn’t know, you may need to cut through the concrete if repairs or adjustments are needed.
- If your preferences change, you may no longer need as wide a driveway, as large a patio, or as many walkways in your garden, and cutting the concrete can adjust the sizes.
- You may choose to make additions around the concrete, such as cutting holes to support a gate, fencing, arbor, trellis, gazebo, pergola, or other structure.
Whatever the reason, it is possible to cut concrete without destroying the rest of the concrete project. This can save time, money, effort, and materials – if you know how to cut concrete properly.
Steps for Safely Cutting Concrete
Cutting concrete can be intimidating, and the equipment can be dangerous if it is improperly used. When you are ready to cut concrete…
- Get the Proper Saw Blade A diamond blade is best for cutting concrete, as other abrasive blades will wear down quickly and may need replacing several times during larger projects. A diamond blade, however, is sturdier and can complete the project more efficiently with smooth, consistent results.
- Use the Proper Saw Smaller, shallower concrete cutting projects can easily be done with a circular saw outfitted with the best blade. Larger, deeper projects, however, may need a walk behind, wet-cutting saw for easier, safer use and more consistent results.
- Wear the Proper Safety Gear Use all necessary protection when cutting concrete, including a filtration mask to keep concrete dust out of your nose, throat, and lungs. Earplugs or other ear protection, kneepads for ground-level projects, and goggles to protect your eyes are also necessary.
- Read All Instructions When you’ve rented the right saw and blades for your project, read all the instructions for safe use. Ask for a demonstration or tutorial if necessary to be sure you understand how to use the equipment without risking injury or damage.
- Protect the Area from Dust Concrete dust can be damaging and difficult to clean up, so it is important to protect nearby areas from dust accumulation. Use tape and plastic sheeting to cover windows, vents, and ducts, and be sure all doors and windows are tightly closed so dust cannot spread.
- Chalk the Cutting Line Drawing the cutting line on the concrete before you cut is critical to be sure you don’t stray from where you want the cut to be made. Use a thick chalk line to mark where you plan to cut, and make sure it is easily visible as you work.
- Wet the Concrete Wetting down the concrete will help minimize dust as well as keep the concrete and cutting blade cooler. An ongoing trickle of water is best, but may not be possible for each project. If necessary, stop cutting periodically to rewet the area as needed.
- Use a Guide Use a sturdy, firm board as a guide along your cutting line. This will allow you to better control the saw and ensure the cut does not stray from where you want it to be. The guide will also be another safety buffer to protect against accidents or injuries.
- Make Short, Shallow Cuts Cutting concrete is best done with a series of short, slow, shallow cuts. Ideally, keep cuts to a half inch in depth or less, and only cut for 30-45 seconds at a time before raising the blade and allowing the saw to cool for a minute and shed accumulated dust.
- Finish with a Sledgehammer If you cannot cut completely through the concrete with a saw – which will depend on the size of the blade and the depth of the concrete – cut as far as is safely possible, then use a sledgehammer or chisel to finish separating the cut piece.
- Clean the Area Once the cut is complete, use the broken pieces as fill or offer them to others who may need fill for different projects. Clean up the dust and any remaining concrete shards, and safely store the saw blade and other equipment so it is ready to use for future work.
When to Call the Professionals
While most concrete cutting projects are easy enough to do on your own with the proper preparation and safe steps, there are still times when it is best to hire a professional. If the concrete you need to cut is deeper than 6-7 inches or the cuts must be very precise or intricate, it may be best to hire a contractor with experience in cutting concrete in different ways. Your tool rental retailer can help you locate a suitable contractor to turn your project dreams into reality, one safe, efficient cut at a time.