The hardest building materials and how to cut them

In the UK, we have the hardest concrete in the world. But that's just the start of it. You don't have to look to commercial and prestige developments for challenging materials. Even those we commonly use in our kitchens and bathrooms and throughout our homes are enough to see off conventional blades.

Faced with materials such as granite (increasingly popular for kitchen worktops) and other stone, ceramic (tiles etc), concrete and clay, you need to chose a blade that will happily stand up to the challenge. A diamond tipped blade is the most effective way to cut such materials.

Why are diamond blades the best choice?

Other kinds of blade become blunt as they try to cut hard materials. The problem is, they can't be cut like softer materials. Instead, a blade with diamonds bonded to its edge grinds away at the hard materials. The result is a straight, smooth cut from a blade that remains unaffected by the materials it cuts over a long life.

Typically, blades are available for these kinds of materials groupings:

  • Bricks and slabs, concrete paviors, roof tiles, concrete products - general-purpose diamond blades
  • Concrete products, clay products, granite, engineering bricks and building products - fast-cutting diamond blades
  • Granite, natural stone, clay products, engineering bricks, metal, concrete products, and building materials - fast-cutting diamond blades with cooling holes
  • Hard natural stone, metal, concrete and clay products, engineering bricks, and general building products - fast-cutting diamond blades with cooling holes and reinforced centre
  • Kerbs and slabs, bricks, concrete paviors and blocks, roof tiles and general building materials - segmented high-performance diamond blade
  • Flint and limestone aggregate, and reinforced concrete - specialised diamond floorsaws
  • Mortar raking, brick raking and abrasive materials - specialised diamond mortar rakes
  • Ceramic tiles - specialised diamond blades featuring a continuous blade
  • Granite, clay products, Indian sandstone, unabrasive concrete products and fast cutting G.P. - diamond blade benchsaws

Many of these kinds of blades come in more than one quality level, reflecting the needs of the job or the contractor. Similarly, there may be Abrasive or other specialised variations available, which can provide a blade with precisely the characteristics required for a particular application.

Diamond blades in use

While a diamond blade can withstand high temperatures, there comes a stage when the heat build-up can be detrimental. In addition, the contractor should consider the effect of increased temperature on the material being cut and its finish.

You need to mount your chosen diamond blade on any angle grinder or a petrol cut-off saw. Using diamond blades requires no specialised training over and above that needed to use conventional circular tools. Together with their competitive pricing, diamond blades' ease of use ensure they are affordable to both DIYers and contractors.

Dave Symons is Technical Manager of Hilbor Diamond Tools, whose Spectrum brand provide a large range of cutting tools, from general purpose diamond blades to bench saw blades suitable for granite and clay products.

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