Cutting concrete can be a labour intensive process, depending on the kind of tools that you use. If you are used to cutting cement using a chisel then working with any form of concrete will be a rude awakening, and cutting large amounts of concrete will definitely surprise you.
Cutting concrete by hand is very, very hard work. Most people prefer to use a power splitter or a power saw instead to save time and energy.
Using the Right Tool for the Job
There are a few different tools that you can use to cut concrete blocks, and the tool you choose will depend on the material you are working with.
If you are working with pressed concrete flags you will probably want to use a power saw for fast, neat cuts.
If you are using wet cast flags then you should definitely stay away from hand tools because the characteristics of the material mean that you will end up struggling to cut through it and may find that the finish is ugly. Again, power saws are a good choice but you might need to hand trim the finished cut for neatness.
Cutting massive concrete blocks is best done with a splitter. Big blocks will need a hydraulic splitter. Concrete tends to kick up a lot of dust when it is cut, so you should make an effort to suppress the dust, and to wear protective clothing as well.
Working with Power Saws
There are a few different kinds of power saw. The hand-held cut-off saw is good for working with concrete slabs. Thicker, heavier concrete is best cut using a diamond tipped blade. These blades are usually used as part of a wet cutting process, where the blade is cooled with a constant stream of water and the slurry of dust and water is then collected by a vacuum cleaner.
There are, however, some diamond blades that can be used as part of a dry cutting process. However, if you do use a dry cut blade make sure that you wear a respirator and goggles so that you don’t get dust in your eyes, or inhale dust which could cause respiratory problems.
Blocks and Splitters
Blocks and splitters are the best thing to use to cut massive concrete blocks. They are relatively easy to use, and generate less dust than a power saw. In addition, they have very few moving parts so they are easy to maintain and less likely to cause injury to an inexperienced operator.
Splitters come in a range of sizes, and can be used to cut concrete blocks from as small as 25mm all the way up to massive blocks that are far too large to use a power saw on.
There are three different kinds of splitters:
- Manually operated splitters,which are designed to be used to cut small paving slabs;
- More advanced manually operated splitters with individual toothed blades that are good for cutting slabs with irregular surfaces; and
- Hydraulic splitters,which are best for cutting massive concrete blocks
All of the varieties of splitters work by squeezing the block between two blades, putting pressure on the slabs until the slab snaps – hopefully cleanly, along the line of the blades.
Sometimes splitters can go wrong causing the block to shatter, but this usually only happens if you are working with low quality blocks or blocks that have a lot of air bubbles in them.
There are chain-saw style concrete cutting blades, and these can be used to cut into concrete to make square corners with no overcut. These are a good choice if you need to make a cut that is more precise than the kind that you can achieve with a block splitter.
Depending on the work you are doing you will need a few different kinds of concrete cutting tools. In addition to the tools you will need to invest in high quality safety equipment.
You should try to cover as much of your skin as possible, because repeated exposure to dust can cause dermatitis. In addition, you should wear eye protection and a good mask. Do not skimp on protective gear, because it takes just one mistake to cause serious injury.