How to Cut Rocks for Landscaping

Ed English

The ability to cut rocks can add versatility to your landscape choices. Cutting rocks gives you a choice between a rigid straight line appearance at borders or a more natural broken look. For multicolored rocks, placing a specific rock where you want it can help in getting the color scheme you want.

It really comes in handy when you are creating rock steps and walls. Straight or curved walls are made easier when you can cut rocks.

  1. Adjust your respirator and goggles for proper fitting and protection. Cutting rocks with a saw creates a lot of dust.

  2. Determine which way the grain is running in your rock piece. The grain is the lines that appear in the rock. Make two test cuts on a rock to check the ability of your saw and blade and the reaction of your particular rock type. Make one cut against the grain and another with the grain. It may be easier to cut against the grain than with the grain. Vibration may cause some rocks to fall apart prematurely when cutting with the grain. Many rocks can be cut with a standard circular saw and a masonry blade. The type of rock will determine the ease of the operation. For example, limestone is softer and cuts more easily than granite.

  3. Stop cutting before the blade goes all the way through the rock. Depending on the thickness of the rock, most rocks can be cut less than 1 inch deep and then tapped on the back side to break them the rest of the way. Use the hammer to tap all along the back side of the cut until the rock breaks apart. Essentially you are finishing the cut with the hammer. The rock will break in line with the saw cut most of the time. If the break does not follow the saw cut, make the cut deeper and try again.

  4. Use a hammer to chip away any uneven portions of the rock. Some rocks can be cut entirely with the hammer. Hit the rock all along the line where you want it to break. Continue tapping as if you were drawing a line with the hammer. After you have broken a few rocks, you will get a feel for the breaking characteristics of the particular type rock you are cutting.


Use a hammer to control the location of the break by tapping along the route where you want the break to occur. With trial and error you can improve the results. Each rock type has specific characteristics for cutting and breaking. Large rocks may need special saws and blades to get the job done.


Always take safety precautions and wear proper safety equipment while operating machinery or using hand tools. Take extra precautions with your eyes and lungs from flying rock pieces and dust.