Many people shy away from installing pavers as a do-it-yourself (DIY) project because they fear the cutting process to shape the sides of the pavers or stones will be beyond their capabilities. All you need is a flat surface to work on, measuring tape, and a good pair of work gloves; if you know how to use a hammer, then cutting pavers is no more complicated than any other DIY projects you may have undertaken.
Whether you are interested in installing brick, flagstone or concrete pavers, purchasing expensive power tools is not a necessity. A chisel to establish scored lines is the cheapest and oldest way of cutting pavers, but you can also increase the speed and ease of installation with tools available by the day or half-day from your local rental company. Regardless of the cutting process you choose, be sure to work safely. Wear gloves, goggles, a dust mask, and long sleeves whenever cutting pavers.
How to Cut Brick Pavers with a Cold Chisel
Chiseling as a method of cutting brick and stone predates the ancient Egyptians. What you need is a small chisel with a sharp hardened edge or angle grinder with a diamond masonry blade, brick-set chisel, a good hammer, and a sturdy flat surface to work on. This method is best when used for cutting brick, patio pavers, and clay brick pavers, but can be used on heavier materials.
Simply mark the line to be cut with a pencil, use the small chisel or grinder to score a line about 1/16 of an inch deep along both sides and each end of the brick or stone. Depending on the hardness it could take several passes to establish the cut-off line. Next, take the brick-set chisel, place it in the groove you established and strike it with a good solid blow. The result should be a nice clean cut.
Using paver splitters or guillotines, as they are commonly referred to, is even easier than using a chisel and they are more likely to result in a nice straight edge on the paving stones. For best results, mark a line and cut a 1/16 inch grove on all sides as described above. Then, place the paver in the guillotine with the score line parallel with the blade and press down on the handle. This may require some strength but much less than you may be expecting. There will be a sharp crack when the paver stone splits and should result in stone pavers with near-perfectly straight edges, even on large concrete pavers.
How to Cut Pavers with a Circular Saw or Power Saw
The final option is to use power tools, with the best option being a wet saw due to concerns about breathing in dust. Dry saws produce excessive dust even when you are wearing a dust mask. A wet tile saw or masonry saw, has a diamond saw blade or masonry blade and pumps water from a reservoir to minimize the dust escaping and reduce the heat produced. These are used much like a common table saw, produce a superior cutline, and are ideal for use with interlocking pavers.
Want to learn more?
Want to learn more? Mutual Materials has a “Paver Installation Guide” created for those wanting to build a patio as a DIY project. Check it out to find out how to get it right the first time.
Kendall: So, unfortunately, it looks like not all the pavers fit in exactly the way they were manufactured.
Marty: That’s right we have to cut them no matter what and a lot of times it’s the pattern. Just like there are choices with the pavers, there are choices with patterns, as well. You’ve got the running bond, which is a pretty basic pattern, which means we have to do every other course that is going to have a half paver to start out that run. So, we do have to cut a lot of pavers in half.
So, a couple of different ways of doing that, we’ve got the hammer and chisel that’s the Egyptian method, right, and if you’ve got a few cuts that works. It’s a low investment.
Here we have a guillotine, which is a tool you can rent, if you’ve got a lot of cuts it works out great. You just slide the paver in, line it up on the line, bring the handle down, and snap it. Then we’ll just go ahead and place it right there on the next run. A piece of cake and now we can just keep going with full pavers.
Kendall: So you just showed me two ways. Are there any other ways?
Marty: Yeah, a wet saw, a concrete saw. It’s got a diamond blade, it’s got a tray of water that pumps water over the blade, keeps the dust down. Those are available at your rental yard. They do a great job, again, if you have a lot of cuts, perfect. And then what you can do is get most of your project done, get your pavers cut, because they’re rented by the day or the half-day. Get everything marked and then rent it for a half-day, do all your cuts, clean it up, take it back, and so the investment is low.
Kendall: So what’s the best way to cut pavers? Does it depend on the size of the project?
Marty: Yeah, that really depends on the size of the project, but you know we always recommend the saw. It’s the best way, it’s safe, and it gives you the best result.