How to Cut Asphalt With Tools You Already Have

If you’re faced with deteriorating asphalt that needs repair, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the project. Fortunately, the question of how to cut asphalt is one with a fairly easy answer.

Today, we’re going to cover how you can tackle this job without the help of a professional using little more than a worm drive or circular saw.


What You’ll Need

Most major power tool manufacturers have plenty of different saws and tools designed specifically for cutting asphalt. But, unless you do asphalt work for a living, it’s probably not the type of saw you need in your arsenal.

Thankfully, a worm drive or circular saw with a diamond blade will do the trick so you can get the job done. Here’s what you’ll need:

Step I: Clean the Area

Before you get started, be sure to clean the area surrounding where you’ll be cutting as best you can. Remove any rocks, dirt, and debris that may be in the area, especially if it’s in the path of where you’ll be cutting.

Step II: Mapping the Cut

Next, you’re going to snap a chalk line, so you can ensure a clean, uniform cut. If you’re creating a channel to run cable, you’ll only need to snap one line for the cable to travel through. But, if you’re repairing a hole, or defining an area to cut for decorative trim, you’ll want to snap a lines for the entirety of the work space.

If you’re filling a hole, give yourself several inches of clearance from the hole on every side. That way, you can ensure that you’ve removed all of the cracked or missing asphalt for your repair. Trust me; nothing is worse than patching asphalt only to find out a month later that you didn’t cut a wide enough section and it’s already beginning to crack again.

Stick with a square or rectangular shape to cut out. Precise edges will make it easier for the new asphalt to bond to the old asphalt compared to if you filled in a round or oddly shaped hole.

Step III: Preparing to Cut

Before I get the saw going, I like to define the area I’ll be cutting as much as possible. This creates a sort of starting point for the saw and helps to prevent the blade from skipping during your first few passes.

Follow along your line with a hammer and chisel or screwdriver to define your line. Now, you’re ready to learn how to cut asphalt.

Step IV: Making the Cut

Now we’re (finally) ready to learn how to cut asphalt.

Make sure that your saw is equipped with a diamond blade. Diamond blades have a coarse grit on the blade edge, which helps the blade to cut more efficiently. As you cut, the old grit is removed, revealing a new coarsely gritted surface.

If possible, you’ll want to use a worm drive saw for this project. Cutting asphalt puts a great deal of stress on the motor of a saw, and a worm drive saw can better handle that additional stress than a standard circular saw. That said, a circular saw will also do the job just fine.

Start by setting the blade depth of the saw to the thickness of the asphalt. This will help prevent you from sawing below the asphalt, which can cause the blade to crack or skip if it comes in contact with rocks or concrete underneath the asphalt.

Before you begin cutting, make sure you’re wearing safety gear and comfortable with the saw you’re using.

Now that you’re ready to begin, pull the trigger on your saw. If you’re using a circular saw, you’ll want to pull the blade guard back before pulling the trigger. Allow the saw to reach full RPM before you begin cutting.

Next, plunge the blade into the asphalt slowly and deliberately. Let the saw do the work, and don’t apply too much pressure. Once you’ve reached the proper depth, you can slowly move the saw forward along your chalk line.

When you’re finished, allow the saw to stop completely before removing it from the asphalt. A wet saw can be very helpful for making a single pass, but if you’re using a dry saw, you may need to make multiple passes to complete the cut to prevent overheating.

Step V: Removing the Asphalt

Now that you’re finished cutting, all you’ll need to do is remove the broken asphalt from your hole, and ensure that you have a nice, level surface to work with, so you can fill the hole.

If you were cutting a channel to run cable, it's helpful to take a broom to the channel quickly to remove any asphalt dust or debris.

Final Word

When it comes to how to cut asphalt, it’s a much less harrowing task than it may seem to be at first. Using tools you probably already have, you can quickly cut asphalt to run cable or repair holes or cracks. Be sure you’re always being careful and working safely whenever you’re working with any power tools.

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