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The first thing that you can do when planning your project in order to make it as efficient as possible is to plan for as few cuts as possible. This is really only possible for square / rectangular patios where you can lay to a full stone of pavers and finalize the project with a border. You can likely get away with only a few cuts in this style of project. However, with a curved project you are going to have multiple cuts and a lot more waste associated with the project. Alternatively, there are other pavers that you can use to avoid cutting altogether with curved projects.
How to Cut Concrete Pavers
The ideal method to cut pavers is with a table saw that has a water hookup or a dust collection system incorporated into it for straight cuts or with a demo saw with a water hookup for any type of cut, especially with cutting in place. Essentially it is best to start out with a demo saw because of its versatility.
On a budget, you can use a hammer and a chisel to work around the paver along the line that you are cutting until the paver breaks at that line. This is time consuming and reveals a rough edge. This can be sped up by using a block cutter or guillotine that tightens to the paver and a lever is pushed down to break the paver along that cut line. This provides the same results with a little more accuracy and efficiency.
The next step up would be an angle grinder that would allow you to cut more accurately and efficiently along your cut line. The larger the angle grinder you can purchase, the better it will be for not needing to flip over a paver to complete a cut. Most pavers are 2 3/8″ or thicker so you will want to ensure you purchase a grinder that is able to cut that depth in one pass. Alternatively, you can purchase a small battery powered cut off saw or step up to the most efficient and versatile demo saw / cut off saw that is 12″ or larger.
Ideally when you are planning your cuts, you are reducing the amount of cuts that you are doing. Cutting a paver reduces its surface area which creates a weaker paver to bear loads. This will be most evident when you complete your final compaction of the pavement. Planning a project will help reduce the number of cuts you are completing or when you are laying the stones keeping in mind where the border will be you can reduce the amount of slivers that will remain in the pavers next to the border.
Additionally, when you are marking your cuts you will want to consider the thickness of the blade. Typically for a demo saw this is going to be able 1/8″. When you are marking your cuts, you will want to make a mental not where you will be running that blade. Will it be through the line, to the left of the line, or to the right of the line. This should also be communicated if you have one person marking and another person cutting.
How to Cut Pavers for Curves
Cutting curves is easiest when done in place. You can use conduit, tent poles, plastic edge restraint, or simply placing pavers on top of the pavers that are already laid to get your curves perfectly before drawing the line with a marking tool. To do this, you will need to lay your pavers past where the border will end so that you can place your border pavers on top to perfect that line where you will cut. When getting this line just right, you may want to reposition pavers that you have already laid in order to reduce the number of sliver cuts that will be done which may crack upon final compaction. Sometimes this cannot be avoided.
Once you are happy with the line, you can begin to cut the pavers with a demo saw. We first begin without water and scoring the line so that the line does not disappear when we move through it with the water on. On our second pass with the water on, you will put minimal pressure on the saw and let it do most of the work as you move through the scored line.
With curves that are not sharp and concave (curving outward), you can tilt your saw slightly outward (towards the border). This slight tilt allows you to cut the pavers in place and follow that curve line nicely.
With sharper curves or curves that are convex (curving inward), you may not be able to follow that line in place. Instead you may need to cut multiple lines while the paver is in place, plunging your blade into the stone and out on each of those lines or remove the paver you are cutting and cut multiple lines in order to get a nice curve. Remember to score your lines on the curve prior to attempting further cuts so you never lose your line.
If you do not have enough pavers to waste as many as required with cutting pavers in place, you can salvage larger cut off pieces to place along areas that have not yet been cut. It is always important when planning a project with curves that you account for at least 15% waste for these cuts and sometimes upwards of 25% waste. That calculation depends on the size of the field of the project. The larger the field of the project, the less waste percentage there will be.
Cutting Border Pavers into Curves
You can choose border stones that allow you to complete curves naturally as shown in the initial photo. These help to reduce the cuts that need to be completed and improves efficiency for the project. However whenever you are using a rectangular border paver for curved projects, you will need to find the best possible scenario to allow that border stone to curve. This can be accomplished by spacing out the pavers to follow that curve, keeping that paver stone perpendicular to the pavers in the field as much as possible. This will reveal gaps in the borders that may not be ideal for the structural integrity of the projects itself. Ideally the gaps should not be more than 3/8″.
You can then draw a line from that mark to the corner of the paver on the opposite end and those are the lines you would cut in order to fit tightly against your initial border stone. You would cut each paver individually and measure after each cut paver has been placed. The reason why we would do two cuts per paver is to keep a uniform trapezoid shape for each paver while also keep the paver uniform in cutting off the chamfers of each side of the paver.
Cutting Wet vs Dry
Cutting wet creates quite the mess, but it reduces the amount of dust being created. The water mixed with the dust will create a slurry that will harden to the surface of the pavers if not rinsed off. Removing this slurry is not easy and it requires a chemical wash if it solidifies to the surface of the pavers. On hot days, make sure that you are consistently washing the pavers that you have cut thoroughly. It may not seem like there is much slurry on the surface of the pavers after one wash, but once the surface dries it will expose that solidified slurry on the surface especially if someone walks through the slurry and onto the surface of the pavements elsewhere. Be mindful of this as you cut and work on the job site.
Cutting dry is ideal to reduce this slurry, but this requires a vacuum system in order to keep the dust down. Without the vacuum system, dust will settle on surfaces all around the job site and into neighboring yards. This dust will need to be blown off the surface of these areas to avoid causing a further mess. Additionally, cutting dry without a vacuum system is illegal in many areas. Regardless if you are cutting dry with a vacuum system or not or wet cutting, you will want to wear safety glasses and dust masks.
Saw Blade for Cutting Pavers
Having the right blade for your saw is just as important as having the right saw for the job. Your blade should be a diamond blade that is rated for the hardness of the stone that you will be cutting. We use a different blade for cutting natural stone than we do when we cut pavers. This is because there are two different hardness in the materials and we do not want to put any more pressure on working our saw or saw blade any harder than we need to. This will extend the life of our saw and our blades as well.