Decorative saw cutting, also referred to as scoring, offers contractors and customers a variety of options for giving concrete aesthetic value. Saw cut patterns can be as general as a geometric grid cut into the floor to very detailed, intricate work such as logos and images. But like any artistic challenge, decorative saw cutting requires the right tools, a commitment to excellence and knowledge of the market and cutting processes.
Investing in good saw cutting equipment is essential, says Shellie Rigsby of Decorative Construction Supply in Texas. "By using professional equipment it does make you look more professional and does make you stand out. But the most obvious benefit of professional equipment is that it makes it easier to do a good job," she says.
Dexter Phillips, vice president of Musselman and Hall Contractors, Kansas City, Mo., agrees. Good, dedicated equipment can help remove the human error factor of saw cutting, ensuring you can get the best cut possible, he says.
But how do you choose between all the concrete saws on the market? According to Rigsby, different concrete saws play different roles in decorative saw cutting. And the type of pattern you are cutting also dictates the size tools you will need. For example, more detailed designs require smaller, handheld tools. But even the geometric designs may call for different sized saws.
The largest walk-behind saws are used to cut control joints. Because of control joint requirements, these large concrete saws and blades cut a deeper line than typical scoring cuts. For that reason, Rigsby says these saws are not often used for decorative cuts. "Because these cuts are structural in nature they are not about precision; they are about performance," she explains.
Some smaller walk-behind saws can be equipped with blades that create a decorative, beveled look. Other smaller, walk-behind saws are designed specifically for decorative saw cutting with these types of blades already installed.
One option is the Husqvarna model 150D, says Andrew Nevener, senior territory and national training manager for Husqvarna. "The 150D is strictly used for cutting decorative joints," Nevener says. The 150D's blade cuts a beveled edge into existing saw cuts. "It's a user-friendly saw, too. It's got an outer rim of the blade to guide the saw and two brass bushings with guide wheels as well," he adds.
Phillips uses Husqvarna 150D as well as its model 150 walk-behind saw with Husqvarna's ProEdge beveled blades, which go through existing saw cuts and create a beveled look on the cuts' edges. "The majority of the decorative saw cuts we do are beveled saw cuts for decorative reasons as well as to protect the joints from raveling," he says.
Like Phillips, Concrete Illusion Inc.'s owner Joe Glogowski uses a small, walk-behind saw for decorative cutting - the Super Compact Cobra from Engrave-A-Crete. But Glogowski prefers using this saw for cutting circular patterns rather than straight lines.
The next smaller sized saws contractors can use are circular saws, Rigsby says. When using a circular saw, however, there are no guides to keep the cut straight, so Rigsby says contractors need to use a straight edge to keep the saw moving and cutting in a straight line.
Another handheld saw option is one designed specifically for decorative concrete scoring. There are multiple options available on the market, and Rigsby suggests testing the waters before choosing. "Go to different manufacturer workshops or training facilities where you can try out saws and get a feel for them," she says.
Other features to look for and questions Rigsby suggests asking include: does the saw offer the precision features you need for cutting; is it made of a good, heavy metal so the saw will travel well along the floor; do the wheels move easily; and does the saw have support material if you need help?
Another saw Phillips uses is the Mongoose from Engrave-A-Crete. He uses this saw for both radial and straight line cuts. But the Mongoose is just one option of saws designed specifically for decorative cutting.