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Selecting the Best Saw for a Concrete Cutting Job

Let’s look at the basic types of concrete saws and how your choice will help you be more productive.
Cut-Off Saws

Cut-off saws, also called “power cutters” are hand-held tools designed to make quick, shallow cuts through concrete and steel. They are commonly used to cut rebar, pipe, or make openings in walls, floors, and curbs. 

For jobs that require the use of a cut-off saw for a long period of time, you might consider opting for a wheel support that takes the weight off the operator’s arms. Many manufacturers also offer walk-behind carts that contain silica dust suppression equipment. If you need to cut close to a wall, you should opt for cut-off saws with a reversible cutting arm.   

Most cut-off saws are powered by gasoline engines. But for smaller cutting operations, such as hardscaping projects where you are cutting bricks and pavers, you might want to consider some of the new battery-powered tools entering the market. 

To make deep cuts into wall openings, concrete pavements, and curbs, opt for another type of power cutter, a ring saw. These specialized tools use a drive mechanism that spins the outside of the blade (or ring) to add significant cutting depth. A similar style of saw includes a design for step cutting for very deep cuts without overcutting at corners.
Walk-Behind Saws 

Walk-behind saws are wheel-mounted tools that cut downward into a slab or pavement. They are also referred to as floor or flat saws. 

You have many options when selecting walk-behinds. It’s important to match equipment style, size, and weight to both blade diameter needed for the depth of the cut and to the concrete’s strength at the time of cut. Walk-behind saws use their weight to engage the blade into the cut area, resulting in a sharper cut. So, for thicker concrete slabs such as pavements and tarmacs, you want to choose a unit that has more weight and power than a walk-behind that you would use to cut on sidewalks and driveways. 

A self-propelled drive is another great option that allows the operator to move faster on larger jobs. 

Walk-behind saws have become very operator friendly in recent years. These tools feature ergonomic designs that reduce operator fatigue, and effective dust suppression/collection systems that meet all Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) regulations.

Early Entry Saw Cutting Concrete

Early Entry Saws

A second type of floor saw is specifically designed to cut control joints in freshly-placed (green) concrete. These saws use small diameter blades specifically designed for joint cutting and typically use guards to prevent spalling. 

Saw cuts leave thinner contraction joints, and thus, are easier to fill. And saw cuts leave a squarer joint that reduces any elevation levels between the concrete panels. Some early entry saws can also be fitted with decorative blades that can cut beveled or radiused joints. 

The real advantage to these saws is concrete crack control. Ultra Early Entry™ saws allow contractors to cut control joints before stress fractures begin to form in the concrete and direct any cracking to the joint. This process is often specified by architects or engineers, and particularly in critical applications and super-flat floors. These saws can be used as soon as the concrete is hard enough to walk on, which also increases production and eliminates the need to come back the next day.

Concrete Chainsaws

A concrete chainsaw cutting tool enables you to make deeper cuts that other concrete saws that use circular blades. Operators can also cut precise openings in concrete walls that require square corners and no overcuts.   

The tool itself may look like a wood-cutting chainsaw but it is significantly different. First, a concrete chainsaw uses a cutting chain that is made with diamond segments that are laser welded to the chain, rather than cutting teeth that are typical with wood chainsaws. Thus, the cutting action is very different. The diamond segments grind through concrete, brick, or concrete masonry units. This grinding action creates a very safe cutting operation with none of the kickback that is associated with a wood chainsaw.
Masonry Saws

Masonry saws are power tools designed to cut the wide range of common masonry materials used in commercial construction. These materials cover a wide range of dimensional shapes and material hardnesses including granite and marble slabs, bricks, and concrete masonry units.

You should opt for a masonry saw with enough capacity to handle varying shapes. 

For most commercial jobsites, you should select a table-type masonry saw assembly. These assemblies include a sliding table, and a saw mounted on a pull-down arm. Operators place the object on the table, slide the table towards the saw and position it under the saw blade, and engage the rotating saw blade with a downward movement to make the cut.   

Masonry table saws can be equipped with a water suppression system or a shroud with a dust collector to restrict silica dust exposure.
Tile Saws

Tile saws are power tools specifically designed to cut and shape tiles. Since tiles are more consistent in thickness and shape, tile saws have a very limited range in cutting depths. Tile saws provide operators the high degree of accuracy needed for complex shapes and tight fits. With easy adjustments, tile saw operators can cut straight lines, miters, and bevels. 

Tile saws differ from masonry saws in how the operator presents the tile to the blade. During cutting, the operator places the tile on a fixed cutting surface. The operator then brings the saw and blade to the tile to make the cut line.
Wall Saws

Wall saws are cutting assemblies designed for vertical or sloped elements made of reinforced concrete, stone, or concrete masonry units. You opt for wall saws when you want to create windows, doors, or ventilation ducts in existing structures. 

The action wall saws make is commonly referred to as track sawing. The cutting is directed by an operator using a circular saw that is mounted on a frame anchored on the wall to be cut. The assembly includes a mounting frame for the saw, and tracks that serve as guides for the cutting path. The frame is equipped with pulleys or hydraulic positioning controls that direct the saw on a precise cutting path on the wall. One safety advantage to using a wall saw is that operators are positioned further away from the cutting area, so their exposure to kickbacks and flying debris is minimized. 

Wall saws commonly use either hydraulic or electric power—and can make both straight and bevel cuts.
Wire Saws  

Wire saws are cutting tools designed to cut larger sections of concrete and steel. This approach is best used for cutting and removing projects with awkward shapes and sizes. Common examples include cutting through foundation thick concrete walls, piers submerged in water, and large structures situated in tight areas, and submerged locations. 

A wire saw assembly consists of a diamond-infused wire that is pulled through the concrete element with guide wheels and hydraulic drives. The assembly aligns the wire in a loop on the cutting plane and is lubricated with water or oil.

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