How to Cut Stucco

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Stucco, like other aggregate construction materials, is strong and long-lasting, but not invincible. If you need to cut through stucco, you can do it using some standard tools such as an angle grinder, tile saw, or hole saw. In this article, learn different methods on how to cut stucco, the quickest way to remove lots of stucco, and how to cut a round hole in stucco.

Make Basic Cuts in Stucco With an Angle Grinder

An angle grinder can be used to cut stucco, provided you install an appropriate disc. 

Cut stucco using a bosch angle grinder
  1. Measure and mark. Use a tape measure and a carpenter’s pencil to mark the lines you intend to cut on the stucco. Angle grinders are operated freehand, making it difficult to cut in a straight line. A piece of masking or painter’s tape applied to the stucco on the waste side of the line can be a helpful visual guide for your cut. 
  2. Put on personal protective equipment. Eye and ear protection are musts when working with an angle grinder. Make sure your tool has a guard installed, and adjust it to deflect debris away from your face. 
  3. Plan for dust collection. Cutting stucco generates lots of dust. Check that the filter on your shopvac is clean, and roll it over to your work area. Take frequent breaks from grinding to vacuum up the dust generated by the stucco. Avoid inhaling stucco dust by wearing a tightly-fitting respirator-type mask throughout the cutting process. 
  4. Attach an appropriate disc. To cut through stucco, use an angle grinder disc rated for masonry. Choose a carbide-tipped blade for the most economical option, or a diamond-tipped blade to cut more quickly and efficiently. 
  5. Grind. Squeeze the trigger to power on the angle grinder. Let the disc achieve its top speed. Orient the spinning disc so that the edge is directly above your cut line. Plunge the disc into the stucco. Move the angle grinder along the cut line to continue cutting the stucco. 
  6. Check your blade. Stucco has a tendency to wear out abrasive grinding discs. Dull blades don’t work as well, and carry a higher risk of breakage or shattering. Check your disc frequently for wear and tear to make sure new abrasive material is still being revealed. If it’s close to worn out, change it for a new one

Cut and Remove Exterior Stucco With a Tile Saw

Tile saws are affordable and powerful tools that make large-scale stucco removal easy. 

  1. Evaluate your stucco. Find a place between the studs. Use a sledgehammer to crash through the exterior stucco. Measure the depth of the stucco to find out how deep your saw blade needs to go. 
  2. Plan for disposal. When you need to remove large amounts of exterior stucco, you’ll have to have a plan for where to dispose of it. Piling stucco in your garbage can will make it very heavy and difficult to lift. Depending on the amount of stucco you have to remove, you may want to rent a dumpster or plan to take a trip to the local refuse center. 
  3. Choose a saw. Wet saws use a stream of water to keep the cutting surface cool and control dust. Wet tile saws are relatively inexpensive and have the power needed to cut through stucco. You’ll also want a diamond-tipped masonry blade of an appropriate size. 
  4. Set the depth of your saw. Adjust the shoe of the tile saw so that the tile saw blade only penetrates the stucco, not the studs behind it.
  5. Put on protective equipment. The dust generated by cutting stucco makes it important that you protect your eyes with goggles. Breathing stucco dust is a bad idea, so make sure to wear a dust mask throughout the entire project, including clean up. Tile saws run between 80 and 100 decibels, so use ear protection to prevent hearing damage. 
  6. Cut the wall into small squares or rectangles. Stucco is heavy. Even if you have a lot of stucco to remove, cut it away in small panels. That way, when you inevitably drop a piece or let it fall to the ground, there’s no danger to your feet. Cutting small pieces also makes disposal more manageable. 
  7. Pull away the stucco. Insert the flat end of a prybar into the line you cut with your saw. Work the prybar back and forth, pulling the cut stucco away from the wall. When the gap is wide enough, you can stick your hand in the crack and pull sharply away. If you’ve fully separated the square of stucco from its surroundings, the square should come away in your hand. If it doesn’t, check your cuts. 
  8. Clean as you go. Keep your shopvac handy during this project, and get in the habit of running it whenever you take breaks from cutting. This will greatly reduce the amount of dust you’re left with at the end of the project, and limit your respiratory exposure. 

Cut Round Holes in Stucco With a Hole Saw

When you want to pass through stucco rather than remove it, a hole saw is the best tool for the job. 

  1. Mark the center of the hole. Make an X on the stucco. This will be the center of your round hole. Insert a small masonry drill bit into your drill (no larger than ⅛ of an inch) and place the tip of the bit against the stucco. 
  2. Drill a pilot hole. Use a bubble level to ensure your drill is perfectly straight and level. The pilot hole will guide the cutting path of the hole saw, so take your time with this step. Place one hand on the back of the drill, and grasp the neck of the drill with the other hand. Squeeze the trigger to spin the drill bit, and use gentle pressure on the back of the drill to send the bit through the stucco
  3. Attach a hole saw. Choose a hole saw specifically designed to cut through masonry. A carbide-tipped hole saw is a good choice. Diamond-tip blades will also work, and tend to last longer. Remove the masonry drill bit from the chuck of your drill, and replace it with the hole saw. 
  4. Align the hole saw. Hole saw attachments for drills generally have a protrusion in the center. Nestle this protrusion into your pilot hole. Ensure even contact between the hole saw and the stucco. 
  5. Slowly start cutting. Use high power and low speed to start the drill on the cut. You’ll feel the drill trying to rotate and pull out of your hands as the saw chews through the stucco. Hold it firmly, bracing with one hand. If necessary, stop the drill and reorient the saw to get better contact between the stucco and the blade. 
  6. Speed up slightly as you go. Once the teeth of the saw have cleared the surface of the stucco, you can use a bit more speed. Avoid running the drill too fast, as the teeth may skip over the stucco rather than cutting through it, dulling your blade. 
  7. Reverse out. Once you’ve cut through the stucco on all sides of the round hole, flip your drill into reverse. Remove the hole saw at the same angle it entered the stucco while the hole saw rotates at a slow speed. 
  8. Remove the waste. Your hole saw should now contain a slug of stucco. Poke a screw or screwdriver into the provided slot to eject the waste from the hole saw. 

Make sure you’re using the right drill – read our corded drill reviews to find the right one for your project.

Conclusion

Use a hole saw to cut round holes through stucco. For removing large sections of exterior stucco, a tile saw works well to cut the stucco into easily removable sections. For general stucco cutting, an angle grinder works well. 

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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.