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Concrete Cutting  

A Summary Description of the Various Concrete Cutting Methods and Tools

By Mark J. Donovan


Concrete cutting is often a necessary evil for homeowners finishing a basement. Whether needing to install plumbing pipes underneath the basement slab for a new bathroom or wanting to include a new window or door in the basement foundation wall, the difficult process of concrete cutting is involved. Cutting concrete requires special planning and the use of heavy-duty specialized saws with diamond impregnated blades. Itís also a job not really recommended for the average diy homeowner. In addition to the special tools and skills required to cut concrete, itís also a dangerous job that involves a lot of weight and even structural concerns.


There are three basic ways to cut concrete; slab sawing, wall sawing and core drilling. Summarized below is a brief description of each type of concrete cutting.

Wall Sawing

Wall sawing mostly involves cutting openings in concrete foundation walls normally for installing bulkhead doors or windows. However this method of concrete cutting may also be used for lowering a foundation elevation or cutting out retaining walls.

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Basement concrete walls are typically 10 to 12 inches thick. Consequently cutting out a section of wall that is nearly a foot thick, 8 feet in height, and 4 to 6 feet in width is an extremely challenging task. Itís also an extremely heavy piece of concrete, and thus wall sawing should be left to the experienced concrete cutting professionals. Wall sawing is accomplished by mounting a track onto the section of concrete wall to be cut out and attaching a diamond tipped saw blade to it. The saw blade is extremely large. Itís typically a minimum of 30 inches in diameter and can cut through at least 12 inch thick concrete walls.

Slab Sawing

Slab sawing, or flat sawing, involves cutting concrete floors and flat surfaces. Itís often required if new plumbing drain pipes are required in a basement, or for repairing existing plumbing pipes underneath a slab floor. A tool known as a ďslab sawĒ is used to perform flat sawing. The diamond saw blade is again quite large and is affixed to a walk-behind machine that the user operates. Slab saws are mean, heavy pieces of equipment and again itís not a tool or job for the average diy homeowner. Slab saws can cut up to a depth of 33 inches, however fortunately most basement concrete slabs are 4 to 6 inches in depth.

A slab saw is also the perfect tool for removing an old concrete patio or sidewalk. Cutting concrete slabs is a slow process, so be prepared to spend the better part of a day cutting 20 to 30 linear feet of concrete. A heavy sledge hammer is also commonly required to break up the sections of cut concrete slabs into more manageable pieces to lift and remove. So again, make sure you have the time and physical stamina before attempting to tackle this project on your own.

Core Drilling

Core drilling is about drilling round holes in concrete walls and floors. Cutting holes in concrete walls and floors is often required for enabling sewer or water pipes to enter the home, as well as other utilities such as electricity and furnace and appliance vents. Most required core drilling holes have an average diameter of around 5 inches, however cutting concrete circular holes anywhere from 1 to 12 inches is not uncommon. Again, special equipment and skills are required to perform core drilling, however for the diy homeowner who wants a challenge he or she can often rent the necessary core drilling equipment from a local home improvement center.

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