How to Cut Retaining Wall Blocks in 5 Simple Steps
A brick or stone retaining wall is often one of the simplest yet most elegant features you can add to your landscaping. But even in their loosest designs, retaining walls need planning, structure, and at least a little precision to achieve a desirable look and sturdiness. Under most circumstances, you’ll need to cut your retaining wall blocks to pull off a clean aesthetic.
Cutting wall blocks is straightforward, and you can take your pick between using hand tools or power equipment to form your pieces. To ensure you get expert results without wasting any bricks, follow along as we explain how to cut retaining wall blocks in five simple steps.
What You’ll Need
- Masonry chisel
- Tape measure
- Gloves and goggles
The 5 Easy Steps To Cut Retaining Wall Blocks
1. Measure Your Cut
Whether you’re using bricks, pavers, or natural stone, you will likely have to make cuts on the edge and corner pieces to complete an attractive retaining wall. Measure the amount of space your block needs to fill to run flush with the rest of the wall. If you’re using mortar between your blocks, subtract ½” to account for the joint.
2. Mark the Cut on the Block
Measure the cut on your retaining wall block and mark it. Using your square, run a straight line with your marker around all four sides of the block to indicate the cut line.
3. Score the Cut Line with the Chisel
Place the block on a sturdy, solid work surface. Hold your chisel by the stem and position the blade directly over the cut line on your block. Tap the chisel with your hammer to score the line.
Move the chisel down the line and score it again. After scoring the entire line on one side, flip the block and do it again on the line on the next side. Continue doing so until you have marked the cut line on all sides.
4. Split the Block
After scoring the cut line with the chisel, all that’s left is to continue chiseling until the block splits in half. Insert the chisel into the score mark and hammer it into the block until it eventually falls apart in a clean break.
5. Smooth the Edge
The edge of your cut block should be smooth enough to use, but if not, you can clean up any imperfections with your chisel. Gently chisel away any protrusions from the cut side. Keep the flat chisel side flush against the side of the block to prevent yourself from accidentally breaking off more of the stone.
How to Cut Retaining Wall Blocks with a Circular Saw
If you only have to make a few cuts, a hammer-chisel combo is an uncomplicated option for preparing retaining wall blocks. Sometimes, you may have several blocks to cut or need more precision. There are many situations where wall caps, 90° stone corners, and curved walls require smoother, more accurate cuts that you can only accomplish with an electric saw.
To power through stone and concrete for a smooth cut, you’ll need a wet saw, circular saw, or chop saw with a masonry blade. If you aren’t using a wet saw, cutting stone like this can kick up a lot of dust, so you will have to wear gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask for safety.
Once you have all your gear in place, follow these steps to cut a retaining wall block with a saw:
To prevent your saw blade from overheating, let it cool for 30–60 seconds before pulling it out of the block. If you’re making angled joints, such as for a 90° corner, smooth your joining sides out and glue them together with exterior-grade concrete adhesive.
A retaining wall is always a stylish option when you need a suitable backdrop and a substantial upgrade to landscaping. Walls can be simple, ornate, organic, or precise, but in nearly every instance, you’ll have to form some blocks to create a long-lasting and attractive structure. When you’re ready to finish out a fulfilling and functional feature for your flower beds, patio, or garden, follow these simple steps to cut retaining wall blocks to perfection—every time.
Featured Image Credit: TFoxFoto, Shutterstock