Saw Cutting and Coring Best Practices For Construction

A high risk construction activity that requires precision and planning.

All construction projects will require saw cutting and coring. The risk involved with these activities can vary depending on the location, phase in the project and scope of the actual work. This article will walk you through some of the best practices for saw cutting and coring in construction that we’ve picked up.

Saw Cutting and Coring Terms

As a formality let’s first get you up to speed on the different teriminology that we’ll be referencing throughout this article.

Sawcutting – is the act of removing structure or material by way of a mobile saw system.

Coring – the act of drilling out a hole or section of a slab in the structure or building. Holes are typically round in nature.

X-Raying – the use of an X-Ray machine in order to scan underlying or materials within a wall or slab.

Scanning – the act of using a scanner to identify materials inside or underneath of a wall or slab. Sometimes done with GPR.

Preparing For The Coring and Saw Cutting

There are a number of best practices to follow when preparing for the work.

Identify The Work

The first step you need to take is identifying what exactly is the new opening going to be required for. If the opening is for a duct and is large, you will need to saw cut. If the opening is for a smaller penetration such as conduit or piping coring may be the best approach.

Determine The Location

Once you have the scope of work defined you need to determine the location. When reviewing the location make sure to review it on site and on the drawings. Look for some of the following issues or concerns:

  • Access to the space requiring coring and how equipment will be moved into place
  • Surrounding interferences that would prevent proper setup
  • Mechanical and Electrical services running underneath or nearby
  • Other ongoing construction activities nearby
  • Structural Interferences
  • Location of the core on the under / backside and any surrounding issues (ie is it public space)

Engage a Sawcutting and Coring Contractor

Once you’ve identified what the work is, it’s time to get a professional engaged. You’ll be able to find local saw cutting and coring contractors in your yellow pages or online (consider checking out our business directory). At this point we’d recommend bringing someone out to do an initial review of the site conditions and prepare a quotation for your work.

Scanning or X-Raying

Your contractor that you engage will likely have the recommendation to scan or X-Ray. We’d recommend doing one or the other but both are very site specific. In general scanning is the “lighter” option of the two. Often times it won’t be able to pick up everything in a slab or structure.

If X-Raying is required there are a number of precautions you should be aware of. X-Raying requires the use of an x-ray machine and the waves it emits can be detrimental to people’s health. In Ontario best practice is to clear the area from people within a 100’ sphere surrounding the work. As you can guess this can be quite challenging to do if there is alot of work ongoing nearby so planning this work out well in advance is important.

With either option you need to have this completed before the work commences in order to ensure the work is being performed safely.

Completing the Sawcutting and Coring Work

Once you have a proper plan it’s time to commence the actual work, below are a few rules for you to follow on the day of the cutting.

Rule 1 – Have a Pre-Job Orientation and Safety Meeting

A pre job orientation and safety meeting before the sawcutting and coring will force you to look at some of the hazards surrounding your work area. In your reviwe the site team should be included. Make sure to pay attention to anything that has changed since your initial review. Check out our guide for having an emergency response plan and incorporate it into your safety review.

Rule 2 – Make Sure Nothing Has Changed For the Sawcutting and Coring

Has new conduit been installed in the area, furniture, etc. If something has changed from your previous review no matter what chances are that something was added or adjusted. Check above and below your cuts so you don’t end up hitting anything you don’t expect.

Rule 3 – Clear The Construction Work Zone

After checking above and below for interferences rope off the work area and work areas below your cutting and coring. If material falls you don’t want it hitting someone below. You may want to consider having a spotter if it is practical.

Rule 4 – Remove the Sawcutting and Coring Waste

Leaving waste in your work zone will cause you to slow down your work and inhibit progress. Remove construction debris and material as it is created to keep everything running efficiently.

Rule 5 – Enjoy Yourself You’re Making A Change

Whether it’s for new work, or fixing something you’re doing something that wasn’t originally intended and something that may have a meaningful impact on someone’s life. Enjoy your work and don’t be afraid to show off the finished product.

When was your last sawcutting or coring exercies? Were there any vital lessons learned? Share them with us below in the comments!

1 thought on “Saw Cutting and Coring Best Practices For Construction”

  1. I could see how x-raying the structure could be a good idea when cutting concrete. I feel like that would let you know if there are any metal supports or anything in there that need to be avoided. I’ll she t make sure I get someone that could do that if I decide to expand my basement and have a hole cut in the concrete wall.


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