Concrete Cutting Methods: Slab Sawing, Wall Sawing, and Core Drilling Explained

January 10, 2024

The history of concrete is a long and storied one, with concrete dating back to at least 300 BC, when the Romans used it for building the theater at Pompeii. Although early Roman concrete was unreinforced, some of it still stands to this day. This durability is a testament to concrete’s strength and utility.

However, concrete isn’t without its drawbacks. Its durable nature also makes it difficult to modify. 

The solution: concrete cutting.

Concrete cutting allows for concrete structures to be repaired, removed, or otherwise altered. Understanding the different types of concrete cutting methods can help you make an informed decision on which method is right for your project. If you are wondering how to cut concrete on your project, here are the different methods you should be aware of.

Concrete Cutting Methods

There are several cutting methods that will allow you to cut concrete. Depending on the project, more than one method may be used. Three popular concrete cutting methods are slab sawing, wall sawing, and core drilling. Here’s what each concrete cutting technique means.

What Is Slab Sawing

Slab sawing is a process that cuts and removes the upper portion of concrete. This is used to create a flat, even plane. For this reason, slab sawing is sometimes referred to as flat sawing.

Unlike using a breaker to remove concrete, slab saws allow for clean cuts. This can minimize dust and debris that occurs with breaking up concrete. It also allows for precision cutting.

Concrete slab sawing uses a diamond blade mounted on a walk-behind machine, which is run by a single operator.

Slab sawing may be used for:

  • Trenching for plumbing or electrical installation
  • Removing damaged pavement
  • Cutting reinforced concrete
  • Creating openings for ductwork, elevators, or stairs
  • Highway, roadway, or bridge cutting
  • Leveling damaged pavement

An example of slab saw cutting can be seen in our work on slab removal at Rice University. This project required precision due to a small workspace of approximately 8″ x 4′ x 6′. ATI had to cut the slab into 2 x 3′ sections, then carefully remove each section.  

Additionally, the area below the slab was a smooth-finish floor with no tile or carpet. Our ATI technicians had to safely remove an 11′ x 31′ area without dropping debris and damaging the floor.

Despite a small workspace that required precision concrete cutting, we were able to complete this entire project in only 7 days, allowing classes to resume quickly for Rice University students.

What Is Wall Sawing

Wall sawing is similar to slab sawing, except this technique is used for different cutting needs. Wall sawing can typically cut through concrete as thick as 24 inches. 

Some saws, such as our Pentruder 8-20HF, have a cutting width of 40 inches. This eco-friendly saw runs solely on electricity, not hydraulics, which means there are no fumes or fluids to deal with. This minimizes environmental impact and makes the saw safe to use in indoor spaces. 

Whereas slab sawing is usually performed on horizontal surfaces, wall sawing is performed on standing, vertical surfaces. Like slab sawing, wall cutting can make precision cuts, while minimizing noise and dust pollution.  

Wall sawing may be used for:

  • Vertical or slanted cutting of concrete structures
  • Constructing window and doorway openings
  • Creating openings for HVAC purposes
  • Other precision cuts such as cutting into foundational walls

If you’re looking for an example of wall sawing in action, take a look at our precast wall removal project. We used wall sawing to upgrade a HEB grocery store to a Super HEB store. Our technicians removed 4-5 panels each night. In total, over 250 feet of wall space was disassembled, broken into smaller pieces, and safely hauled away. 

Our knowledge and precision cutting techniques allowed work to be completed overnight. As a result, the store was able to maintain normal business hours while being upgraded to a larger store. This also prevented disruption to local shoppers, who were able to visit the store and make their normal purchases.

What Is Core Drilling

Concrete core drilling uses a drill with a diamond-studded drill bit attached to a hollow tube. When drilling, the extracted concrete section (called a slug) is removed and stored in the tube. The result is a precision cut hole, with no cosmetic damage to the surrounding area. With core drilling, holes can be drilled into either upright concrete features or flat concrete features. 

Core drilling may be used for:

  • Collecting rock samples for analysis
  • Creating space for fiber-optic cables or utilities
  • Sampling poured concrete
  • Creating openings for manholes
  • Other cases where precise circular cuts are required

Core drilling is a key component of our concrete-cutting services. We have used it on many projects, including emergency bridge repair after Hurricane Harvey. We were able to help the project to be rebuilt   the Highway 59-Interstate 69 Bridge, a time-critical project, using our concrete cutting techniques. 

This project involved systematically rebuilding the bridge: drilling shafts; adding caps, beams, and the deck; and placing barrier walls. Our expertise led to this project being completed on time and re-opening to the public, allowing for traffic to safely flow into and out of Houston.  

Talk to the Most Advanced Concrete Cutting Company

Which concrete cutting method is right for your commercial project? The answer is: it depends. The scope and specific needs of your project will determine which methods are best. You may need a mix of slab sawing and wall sawing, or you may need wall sawing and core drilling. There may even be a need for slab sawing, wall sawing, and core drilling.

Ultimately, an expert will be able to determine the proper concrete-cutting methods for your project. That is why you need to contact us for your concrete cutting needs. 
With over 25 years of experience, state-of-the-art equipment, and offices in Houston, Baton Rouge, and Orlando, we are poised to serve the gulf coast region and the entire US, when needed. Our concrete cutting and removal services are a safe, quick, and practical option. We can cut concrete in virtually any environment. Contact Us for a Quote

Contact us when you need a contractor with a record of safety and success for your concrete cutting and hydrodemolition needs.

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