How to Cut Asphalt

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Anyone doing a paving project can benefit from knowing how to cut asphalt. Knowing the process makes it much easier to remove the material and make repairs. If you have never done this before, make sure to keep reading. We will be covering everything you need to know about cutting asphalt below.

Required Tools

If you want to tackle this project with tools that you likely already have, you will want to use the following:

  • Concrete or circular saw, worm drive
  • Diamond blade
  • Chalk
  • Hammer
  • Broom
  • Chisel or screwdriver
  • Safety goggles and gloves
  • Shovel
Circular saw

Many saws have options for cutting through asphalt. However, you probably don’t have one of those in your garage. You can also use a worm drive or a diamond blade in a circular saw to get the job done. Some people will even rent special machines to cut through the pavement.

Once you have everything gathered, you are ready to get started. It seems like a huge task at first, but gets easier the second you start cutting.

Learn how to use an angle grinder for making smaller cuts in asphalt.

How to Cut Asphalt

Planning Your Cut

The most important part of cutting asphalt is planning out your cuts. Start by using a broom to remove debris that might get in your way. The easiest way to draw a straight line with chalk is to “snap it”.

You can use a chalk line, which is a string coated in chalk. You place it over the area you want a straight line, then lift it up and let it hit the ground. The string creates a straight line along the ground. Using this tool can save you a ton of time.

However, if you don’t have a chalk line, you can use chalk and any straight edge that you have. It will take longer, but you will still get good results.

Cutting With a Diamond Blade and Circular Saw

This method is one of the most popular ones for cutting asphalt. Many people who enjoy DIY projects already own a circular saw – you may just need to get a new diamond blade. Make sure that it is sharp before you get started.

  1. Clean the space where you will be cutting. Use the broom to remove debris from the area.
  2. Draw where you want to cut with the chalk. If you are patching an area, make sure to give yourself a lot more space than you think you need to fill. Always draw in squares; circles can cause issues.
  3. Go over your chalk line with the chisel or screwdriver. This process gives you a more defined and straight line before you make your first cuts.
  4. Put on your safety gear.
  5. Attach a diamond blade to your circular saw. You will want to use a worm drive or a circular saw.
  6. Set the blade depth to the thickness of your asphalt.
  7. Pull back the blade guard and start your saw. Let it run until it reaches its full RPM before you make the first cut.
  8. Slowly apply the blade to the asphalt and follow your chalk line, using the circular saw’s power to slowly go through the cut.
  9. When done, let the blade stop moving before you lift it up.

Once you have completed making your cuts, you will be able to remove the asphalt. If you are patching, you can then fill in the hole with your new material. Be sure that you use your broom to remove the debris the saw stirred up first.

If you do not own a diamond blade or circular saw, you can read our guide on the best circular saw. If you don’t plan on using it for big projects, there are some high quality mini circular saws that you can pick up. Removing asphalt can feel like an overwhelming DIY project. However, once you start, the work goes by very quickly.

Cutting With a Chipping Hammer

If you have an electric chipping hammer at home already, you can also use that for this project. The process is slightly different.

  1. Use your broom to clean the asphalt. Make sure you remove all loose gravel.
  2. Draw your lines with a piece of chalk.
  3. Next, put a chisel blade on your chipping hammer. A narrow chisel will make precise lines, while a thicker one is best for long lines.
  4. Hold the end of the chisel blade against your chalk line. Keep it steady and turn on the tool. Make sure you are holding it with both hands.
  5. Allow the chisel to go through all the way into the ground below. You should be able to feel the difference.
  6. Cut along the entire chalk line that you drew. Doing so should steadily break apart the pavement.
  7. Use a shovel to remove the chunks you cut up. If some sections are too big, you can use the chipping hammer to break them down further.

For anyone who does not have the proper chisel head for this project, you can use smaller ones to go over your chalk lines. Then, cut out the asphalt with a circular saw blade.

Asphalt marked for cutting

Cutting with an Asphalt Cutter

You may also consider renting an asphalt cutter. These machines are known to make the entire process super easy. They slide along the pavement with a diamond blade- easily passing through the asphalt.

  1. Add water to the tank on the machine.
  2. Then, turn it on, lower the blade to the proper depth, and follow your chalk lines.
  3. Once cut, use a shovel to remove the pieces of pavement.
  4. If you need to break up the asphalt further, make sure to use another tool.

These machines make it easy to cut over a large section of pavement at one time. For instance, if you have a large driveway you are redoing, you probably don’t want to use a circular saw for the entire area.

Still, if you are more comfortable with that tool- then use it! You have many options when it comes to breaking up concrete.

When to Cut Asphalt

There are certain DIY projects that require you to cut asphalt. If you need to repair potholes for instance, you will want to know the steps. This skill is good to know if you have an asphalt driveway at home.

If you notice cracks and splits in the pavement, you should cut out that section. Make sure that you go out much farther than needed, so the cracks do not return. Once you have done that, you can fill in the hole with a new patch of asphalt.

Fixing Cracks

In some cases, you can get away with patching small cracks without making any cuts. There are many products out there that simply need to be poured into the space. However, removing the area around the crack is better for a long term repair. You should consider tubed asphalt patching to be a temporary fix.

Here are some quick steps:

  1. Remove weeds and debris from the crack.
  2. Clean the crack with water.
  3. Use weed killer on the area.
  4. For deeper cracks, fill the hole with sand. There should be about 1/4th inch left empty at the top. Push the sand in firmly.
  5. Apply your patching material and allow it to cure.
  6. Add your sealant material.

Asphalt Overlay

An asphalt overlay consists of a new surface being placed over your existing pavement. This process is only done on deteriorating pavement that still has a strong base. It can not be completed on areas that have a damaged structural integrity.

This option can be better than removing a layer of asphalt in certain circumstances. If you need to enhance the drainage under your current asphalt, then this would not be a good choice. Still, if you don’t want to cut asphalt and can get away with overlay, it might be worth it.

Why Cut Asphalt Yourself

There are several reasons why someone might want to cut asphalt without hiring someone. However, the biggest reason is going to be money. You can save hundreds by tackling this project on your own- especially if you are clearing a small area.

Even if you need to rent a diamond blade and circular saw, doing so will cost way less than hiring a team of professionals to do the work for you.

If you have to clear a very large section of asphalt and feel you can not do the job on your own, then hiring would still be a good choice for you.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.