How to Cut Electrical Conduit

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Any material used to protect and route electrical wires can be referred to as an electrical conduit. No matter what your intended use is, learning how to cut electrical conduit is an essential skill.

Electricians are constantly cutting electrical conduit, but that doesn’t mean you have to call one to cut yourself. Use this article to familiarize yourself with different types of electrical conduit, then follow the step-by-step instructions to cut it to your desired length.

Types of Electrical Conduit

Popular materials for electrical conduit are metal, plastic, and fiber. Depending on the material, diameter, and length, it is possible to use electrical conduit for DIY purposes other than wiring. 

Metal Conduit

Metal is the most common material used for electrical conduit. Types of metal electrical conduit include; electrical metallic tubing (EMT), rigid metal conduit (RMC), immediate metal conduit (IMC) and galvanized rigid conduit (GRC) .

Learn more about cutting flexible metal conduit.

Thin-wall Conduit (EMT)

EMT is a non-threaded product. In order to join two lengths of EMT, or to connect EMT to something else, clamp-like fittings are used. There are also threaded fittings that can be attached with clamps. 

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EMT can be made from coated steel or aluminum. Aluminum conduit is about one-third the weight of steel EMT, and has a correspondingly lower price tag. One drawback of aluminum conduit is that it cannot be embedded in concrete, because of a reaction that occurs between the metal and the alkalis in cement

Thick-wall Conduit (RMC, GRC, and IMC)

RMC, GRC, and IMC are much thicker than EMT. They can be made from stainless steel, coated steel, or aluminum. 

GRC has the thickest tube wall of any of the metal electrical conduit materials. GRC is also galvanized, meaning it has been coated in a protective layer of zinc that helps shield the contents of the conduit from impact damage

Non-Metal Conduit

Conduit can be made from non-metal materials as well, including plastic, fiber, and fired clay. 

PVC

Polyvinyl chloride is a petroleum-based product that is non conducive. It can be used for structural, plumbing, or electrical applications. PVC electrical conduit is rigid and extremely durable. 

PVC is attached via slip-on, solvent wedded connection, eliminating the need for interior threads. It resists moisture and corrosion, and has the lightest weight of all electrical conduit options. 

Fiberglass

The technical name for fiberglass conduit is reinforced thermosetting resin conduit, or RTRC. Fiberglass conduit is nearly as supportive as steel, but is much lighter-weight and lower cost. It is connected to other conduit and fittings via the use of epoxy. 

How to Cut Electrical Conduit

Below are four methods for cutting electrical conduit of any material. Two of the methods (hacksaw and tubing cutter) are manual. The other two methods (angle grinder and reciprocating saw) require power. 

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1. Use a Hacksaw

A hacksaw is a hand-operated saw that takes some effort to operate. 

  1. Draw a cut line. Use a contrasting color marker to clearly delineate where the cut should be. 
  2. Choose a bi-metal blade. A fine-toothed blade will work best for cutting fiberglass. For PVC conduit, use a blade with at least 18 – 24 teeth per inch (TPI). For a smoother edge on metal conduit, use a blade with 24 – 32 TPI.
  3. Make the Cut. Place the blade of the hacksaw on the cut line. Grip the conduit with one hand, and grasp the hacksaw’s handle with the other. Move your arm back and forth, using your shoulder joint to generate movement and gentle downward pressure. 

2. Use a Tubing Cutter

Tubing cutters are shaped like a C. They have a blade inside the curve of the C, and a knob to tighten the cutter around your conduit. Use tubing cutters when you want to make a perfectly square cut with minimal time and effort.

  1. Measure and mark your cut. Use a measuring tape and a permanent marker to identify the spot on the electrical conduit where you want to make your cut. 
  2. Clamp the conduit. Tubing cutters rotate around the conduit, so you’ll need to hold it steady for this method to work. Use a vise or a clamp to firmly attach the conduit to a stable surface. 
  3. Attach the cutter. Place the tubing cutter around the conduit and tighten it until the blade is pressing lightly against the surface of the conduit. 
  4. Spin the cutter. Rotate the cutter around the surface of the conduit until it’s back where it started. 
  5. Tighten the cutter. Use the knob to tighten the grip of the tubing cutter, realigning the blade. Rotate the cutter once more around the conduit. 
  6. Keep spinning. With each rotation, tighten the tubing cutter slightly. As you rotate and tighten, the blade will slowly cut through more of the conduit, eventually shearing it off. 

3. Use an Angle Grinder

Angle grinders have a spinning disc or blade that grinds through the conduit as it rotates. A top angle grinder will make short work of cutting your conduit.

  1. Tape your cut line. Use a permanent marker to mark the desired length of your cut. Then, wrap tape all the way around your electrical conduit to use as a visual guide. Angle grinders are operated freehand, so you want a nice, straight guideline to ensure a square cut. 
  2. Secure the conduit. Use a vise or clamp to keep the electrical conduit from spinning while you grind away the excess. 
  3. Attach a cut-off disc. An aluminum oxide wheel will work well for cutting aluminum or mild steel conduit. For stainless steel conduit, use a diamond-tipped cut off disc. PVC can be cut with a disc labeled for use on wood and plastic. Fiberglas is best cut with a carbide-tipped disc. Make sure you know how to change the blade on the angle grinder.
  4. Test the disc. Check the integrity of the disc by running the angle grinder at full speed for one minute without introducing it to any material. You should not notice any wobbling. 
  5. Protect yourself. Adjust the guard of the angle grinder so that any sparks or shards will be directed away from your face. Wear a face shield or eye goggles. Always operate your angle grinder with both hands on the tool. Angle grinders generate sparks when they cut metal, so operate this tool away from flammable materials. 
  6. Square and deburr. Use a bench grinder to square and flatten your cut end, as well as removing jagged edges. A rasp can be used to remove burrs from the interior of the conduit, creating a smooth surface. 

4. Use a Reciprocating Saw

Reciprocating saws cut through back and forth, push/pull motion. They cut through conduit quickly and leave less of a burr behind than an angle grinder. Pick a reciprocating saw with good reviews that have a lot of power.

  1. Establish a cut line. After using a measuring tape and marker to mark the desired length of your cut line, wrap a piece of tape around the conduit to visually guide the saw’s blade. 
  2. Install an appropriate blade. A bi-metal blade is the best overall choice for cutting different kinds of conduit, as it can be used with PVC, aluminum, or steel. If you’re only cutting PVC, you can get away with using a cheaper blade made from high carbon steel (HCS). Aluminum conduit can be cut with high speed steel (HSS) blades.) For cutting fiberglass, use a carbide-tipped bi-metal blade. 
  3. Start the cut. Place the blade of the saw on the cut line, keeping the conduit close to the saw’s motor housing. Squeeze the trigger to start cutting with the reci saw
  4. Finish the cut. Allow the saw to work it’s way through the material. You should not need to exert any force on the blade, just gentle downward pressure. Control the saw as you cut so the blade doesn’t fall when the conduit separates. 

Conclusion

Electrical conduit can be made from metal, plastic, or fiberglass. To cut electrical conduit, you can use a hacksaw, tubing cutter, angle grinder, or reciprocating saw. Choose an appropriate blade or disc style and material to quickly and easily cut conduit of various materials. 

Ellenkate grew up on job sites run by her family’s construction company. She earned her theater degree from The Hartt School, a prestigious performing arts conservatory in Connecticut. Her design and DIY work from her Chicago loft was featured in the Chicago Reader and on Apartment Therapy.