If you have an old concrete driveway, walkway, or foundation for your patio, garage, or anything in between, chances are that at some time or another, you will need to cut and remove that concrete, whether for repairs or full-scale replacement. So, how do you cut concrete?
Obviously, this super tough building material is not easy to cut through, but it is possible, and in more ways than one. Let’s get to it and talk about the four best ways to cut concrete. We will also present you with a step-by-step tutorial for the most common concrete cutting method.
4 Best Ways to Cut Concrete
There are four common and relatively easy ways to cut concrete. We will start off with the most popular and commonly used method, and then work our way down the list.
1. Concrete Saw
The first and best tool that you can use to cut concrete is the concrete saw. A concrete saw is also known as a cut-off saw, a special kind of circular saw designed with a very large and tough blade, usually a diamond or corundum one, combined with a super powerful motor that allows that blade to cut through concrete like a hot knife through butter.
Concrete saws are ideal if you plan on doing a lot of work with concrete, like on a daily basis. The reason for this is because concrete saws are pieces of specialized equipment, and they are not cheap. If you only need to do one job with it, such as ripping up your garage floor, then you can always try renting one instead of buying one.
What is important to note is that concrete saws are ideal for large jobs, because with the right one, with a blade that is four feet in diameter (yes, there are concrete saws/blades that large!), you can cut as deep as 20.75 inches, thus making the concrete saw ideal for most tasks.
Another bonus that you get with a real concrete saw is that it will have an inlet to attach a garden hose to, which allows water to flow over the blade and into the concrete being cut, thus preventing super poisonous concrete dust from becoming airborne. This is perhaps one of the most important features that you need when working with concrete, because you do not want to inhale that concrete dust.
2. Circular Saw
If you do not want to buy or rent a concrete saw, or you already have a normal circular saw laying around, this is another tool that you can use to cut concrete, as long as you have a diamond blade that is designed for cutting concrete.
A circular saw fitted with a concrete cutting blade is ideal for relatively small jobs. Just keep in mind that a standard circular saw won’t be able to penetrate deeper than 2.5 inches at most, so it’s not ideal for very thick concrete slabs. That said, it is a good choice for small jobs, and moreover, it does allow for a decent amount of precision. For instance, if you only want to remove a 1 x 1 foot square of concrete, a small circular saw would be ideal for this.
Just remember that with a circular saw, you don’t get any water pump, which means that you will definitely want to wear a respirator to prevent the inhalation of concrete dust. Moreover, a circular saw does not have as much power as a concrete saw, so the job will take longer, and the circular saw is likely to overheat with overuse.
3. Angle Grinder
The next tool that you can use to cut concrete, albeit only for very small jobs, is the angle grinder. Now, in order to cut through concrete with an angle grinder, you will need a very special blade, a silicon-carbide blade (or something similar). A normal cutting wheel that you might use for wood is not going to work for concrete.
An angle grinder is of course a very small handheld power tool, so you can probably imagine that it is not the number one choice for large jobs. An angle grinder is best used if you only need to remove very small sections of concrete that are neither wide nor deep.
Realistically speaking, an angle grinder is not the first thing you would use to cut away large concrete slabs, but it does work well for small applications that require precision, for areas where larger saws won’t fit, and for smoothing and grinding concrete.
If what you are doing is tearing up a huge concrete slab, such as a whole foundation or driveway, then the tool that you may want to consider using is a jackhammer. A jackhammer or demolition hammer can make very quick work out of the largest and thickest of concrete slabs.
Heck, for massive demolition projects, some demolition agencies may even use massive man-sized jackhammers fitted onto excavators. This tool is best used for large jobs where precision is not an issue. Achieving long and straight lines with a jackhammer is not really possible due to the nature of this tool. All those massive impacts can make jackhammers hard to control.
How to Cut Concrete with a Concrete Saw: A Step-by-Step Guide
Now that you know what the best tools to cut concrete are, let’s do a quick step-by-step tutorial on how to cut concrete using a concrete saw, which is the most widely used method.
Step 1: Choose a Wet or Dry Concrete Saw
First off, beware that there are concrete saws and masonry blades that are designed for wet use with a water pump, and those designed for dry use. Now, if you go the dry cutting method, make sure that there is nobody around that is going to be impacted by massive concrete dust clouds, plus wear a respirator.
For this reason, we very strongly recommend using a wet cutting concrete saw and blade. This way, you can hook up a hose to the saw, which will supply it with water, thus preventing those massive dust clouds from forming.
On a side note, make sure that the saw is large enough to penetrate to the desired depth.
Step 2: Make Measurements and Set the Right Cutting Depth
The next thing that you need to do is to measure and mark the area being cut. To make sure that everything is level and even before you make the cut, using a laser level could come in very handy.
Moreover, now is also the time to determine how deep you need to cut. Once you determine the depth of the cut that needs to be made, you can then set the depth of the saw blade as needed.
Remember that for most cases where the concrete slab is not overly thick, you will cut down no further than one or two inches at most, and then use a sledgehammer or even a jackhammer to do the rest. That said, if you want, you can cut deeper with a concrete saw. But, you may run into issues if you try to go too deep.
Step 3: Make the Cut
OK, so now you have chosen the specific saw and blade, you have the hose connected and ready to go, you are wearing a respirator, you have made the measurements and markings, and set the saw’s cutting depth. Now it is time to make the cut.
All you have to do here is to hold the concrete saw firmly using the two provided handles, turn it on and get it up to speed, and angle the front of the saw with the blade down into the concrete.
There are a couple of tips for you to follow to make this process easier:
- Although not 100% necessary, you may want to score the line first, about 0.25 to 0.5 inch deep, and then complete the cut on the second pass.
- The concrete saw is going to do most of the work for you. You really don’t need to apply much pressure to it from the top, and you don’t need to pull it much either. A good concrete saw will more or less pull itself along. All you need to do is guide it.
Step 4: Hammer Out the Rest
A concrete saw can only cut from the top down, but it won’t be able to sever the concrete horizontally. Therefore, to totally remove the concrete, you will need to use a sledgehammer to loosen the chunks that have been cut.
Yes, you may use a jackhammer for this, although at this point, that would qualify as overkill.
There you have it, the four best ways to cut and remove concrete, with the number one choice being a high-quality concrete saw. Remember people, these are powerful and dangerous tools, so the utmost in safety is called for.