For a long time, cast-iron was the primary material used for plumbing. Though some newer builds may not make use of the material any longer, there is a good chance that if you have bought a home recently, you may run into cast iron piping at some point.
When it comes time to remove that piping, there are a few options that will get the job done. All it takes is a little bit of know-how and the proper tools to get the job done. You can use a snap cutter, cold chisel, hacksaw, reciprocating saw, or even an angle grinder to get the job done. Each requires its own steps and method to get the job done properly.
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How to Cut Cast Iron Pipes
Most homes made prior to the 21st century (and a good deal since the dawn of the millennium) will no doubt have cast iron piping running throughout the home. If you want to make a repair or changes to any of the pipes, it will likely require cutting out the section of the pipe.
Step 1: Have the Right Tools
Depending on which method that you go with, the tools required to do the job can vary. For the most part, you need something to do the cutting, though you may also require a hammer to knock the piping out, too.
For the most part, you will either need replacement blades or a hammer in addition to the method of choice. Be as prepared as you can be before cutting cast iron pipe to save yourself a lot of time and hassle in the process.
Step 2: Mark the Pipe
Before you begin cutting, you should be aware of where you are making the cuts. You can use a piece of light-colored chalk or even a crayon to designate where on the pipe that you want to make the cuts.
Simply wrap a piece of notebook or printer paper all the way around the pipe (you might need two pieces). Then, trace along the edge of the paper so that you create a clean, straight cutting line to follow along.
Step 3: Installing Pipe Supports if Necessary
If you run into any exposed horizontal runs of piping, they should be supported using pipe hangers in intervals of at least five feet. For vertical runs of pipe, they will require a riser clamp for each of the floor levels.
Unsupported cuts. If you make cuts that leave long sections of the cast iron pipe unsupported, make sure that you install riser clams or pipe hangers on both sides of that section you will be cutting out. This part is imperative so don’t skip it.
Riser clamps look like shackles and have two pieces. They clamp around the pipe through the use of bolts and they bear into the structure of the floor or into any wood blocks that may be anchored onto the wall studs inside of the stud cavities.
6 Tools and How to Use Them To Cut Cast Iron Pipe
Method 1: Using a Hacksaw
Hacksaws are the cheapest tool to use and one that the vast majority of do-it-yourself types will have around the house. That said, using a hacksaw is not necessarily the cheapest option available for cutting cast iron pipe.
The reason it isn’t necessarily the cheapest is that you will likely need multiple blades to get the job done. Using a hacksaw is fine, but it can lead to a lot of frustration in seeing blades break and needing to replace them on a regular basis. Moreover, it is also the most physically demanding and slowest method that you can use.
Method 2: Using a Cold Chisel
The other handheld method is using a cold chisel in tandem with a ball-peen hammer. The cut is generally easier, but this method takes skill and experience in order to perform it properly and successfully.
There is also another major downside to using a cold chisel: you need more space. To use the cold chisel, you will need access to the entirety of the pipe and all of the sides. Moreover, you will have to have the requisite space to use a hammer.
- Trace your line. Start by tracing your chalk or crayon line. Having a distinct, straight line to work off of simply makes cutting a bit easier and more precise.
- Make small cuts. Using a cold chisel can be more precise but it will also take quite a bit of time. To have the best results, you should make smaller cuts, moving slowly around the line as you go.
- Breakaway the pipe. Keep making small cuts all the way around the diameter of the pipe until you can tap it free using your hammer. It is best to cut all the way around the pipe to avoid any fraying or jagged edges that would need to be cleaned up.
Method 3: Using a Snap Cutter
Snap cutters are a fairly simple and effective tool to cut through cast iron pipe. The process is also fairly simple, though it can be a little physically exerting to get the job done. Still, if you are looking for a secure way to cut through cast iron, this is probably it.
- Cutting chain. Start by wrapping the cutting chain all the way around the pipe and then latching the chain. The chain will latch onto the ratcheting head and should secure fairly snugly.
- Cutting wheels. Position the cutting wheels so that they are resting on the marked line. Snug up the chain using the tension adjustment to get the proper tightness.
- Pump the ratchet arm. Use the ratchet arm to pump; this will tighten the chain each time that you crank it. The pipe should eventually snap, making a loud popping sound when it has finally broken away from the rest of the pipe.
Method 4: Using a Reciprocating Saw
Having a reciprocating saw on hand can make for a versatile tool in a number of situations. In a similar vein to the hacksaw, you may have to have a couple of extra blades on hand just in case one of them snaps during the cutting process.
- Align the blade. Start by lining up your reciprocating saw blade with the line that you marked earlier. When you are confident that you are properly lined up, start cutting at a moderate speed. You want to avoid cutting too fast because the blade can overheat and snap far more easily this way.
- Add water. Again, you want to keep the blade as cool as you can during the cutting process to prevent overheating. You can try adding cold water in small amounts as you cut to help achieve this, though it may add a little inconvenience to the process.
- Complete the cut. Finish the cut, cutting starting on one side and going to the other if you can. Using this method means getting a cleaner cut than starting from multiple directions and cutting towards the center of the pipe.
Method 5: Using an Angle Grinder
Angle grinders can be quite versatile and may even be able to perform cutting jobs in tight quarters. Like any of the other saws, it is imperative that you use caution and take proper safety precautions when using this tool.
- Protect from sparks. If you are working in tight quarters, be aware that the angle grinder will give off sparks. Make sure that you protect any of the surrounding materials from sparks as they could potentially burn or even ignite those materials.
- Cut carefully. Make sure that you keep a firm grip on your grinder. Going with a lax grip can result in some very hazardous consequences. Cut carefully along the line that you marked earlier, moving around the entire diameter of the pipe.
- Diamond blade alternative. Having a diamond blade is the best option. Diamond blades are particularly hard and make for a highly effective cutting tool. If you don’t have one, there is a chance that you can get away by using more than a single cutoff wheel in order to perform the complete cut.
Method 6: Use a Portable Bandsaw
Bandsaws are a great tool for regular cutting use. Going with smaller, lighter models means greater flexibility and versatility in cutting potential. Cast iron can be a bit tougher for some saws, but a portable bandsaw should do the trick.
The downside. There is one significant downside to using a portable bandsaw. There isn’t a whole lot of support offered by this tool, so there is a chance that your cuts may be crooked. Unless you want to deal with the cleanup efforts involved in a lopsided cut, you may want to pick something that offers a bit more in the way of support.
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Can a Dremel Cut Cast Iron?
While it would be great to have a variety of saws available for any occasion, saws can get expensive. Not every do-it-yourselfer has a wide array of saws available to them. So, it only makes sense to make do with what is available.
Having a Dremel with a heavy-duty cut-off wheel can make for an effective solution in a pinch. It is generally advised that a Dremel be used for softer metals, ceramics, plastics, and thin woods though it can probably work on cast iron in a pinch.
The cutting disc in this instance has a hard abrasive construction that can be used for cutting through even hardened steel.
Ryan Womeldorf has more than a decade of experience writing. He loves to blog about construction, plumbing, and other home topics. Ryan also loves hockey and a lifelong Buffalo sports fan.
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What is the best tool to cut cast iron? ›
The angle grinder is probably going to be your best bet for making cuts in the cast iron piece.Can you cut cast iron pipe with a hacksaw? ›
There are many different tools you can use to cut a cast iron pipe. Each of them is capable of producing clean cuts but comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some of the most commonly used tools are as follows: Hacksaw.What can I use to cut iron pipe? ›
Heavy-duty steel pipe and tube cutters are usually the easiest to use, but for tight spaces, an angle grinder or reciprocating saw may be needed. When using a metal pipe cutter, align the tool around the marked place on the galvanized pipe and rotate so that the wheel cuts deeper into the pipe until severed.What is the best blade to cut cast iron pipe? ›
Best Blade for Cutting Cast Iron Pipe
But the best saw blade for cutting cast iron pipe is the carbide-tipped blade. Carbide-tipped blades provide improved cutting speed and durability in relation to diamond grit blades. Carbide-tipped blades come in 3 lengths, including 6 inches, 9 inches, and 12 inches.
Cut Smarter: Use a Reciprocating Saw
Mount a metal-cutting blade in your reciprocating saw and you've got the ultimate power hacksaw for cutting bolts, rods, pipes and angle iron. A recip saw with a metalcutting blade also works great for remodeling demolition when there are nails and pipes to cut off.
Our Diamond Grit SAWZALL® TORCH™ blades are ideal for cutting cast iron, hard tile, masonry and other abrasive and hard materials. The diamond grit delivers you up to 30X longer life than standard blades and a thick, rigid blade body resists bending and fracturing for added durability.Will a Sawzall blade cut cast iron pipe? ›
Yes. Cutting cast iron with a sawzall is an efficient way to cut cast iron. Many contractors, handymen, and homeowners own reciprocating saws. If you already own the tool, all you need is the blade designed for cutting cast iron.Can you cut cast iron pipe with a torch? ›
In addition to being cut with an abrasive pipe saw, a rotary wheel cutter, a guillotine pipe saw, or a milling saw, Ductile Iron Pipe can also be cut with an oxyacetylene torch if recommended by the pipe manufacturer.Can I cut cast iron with a Dremel? ›
To keep the disc life as long as possible, do not apply excessive pressure and do not exceed the RPM limits. This cut-off disk can be used on different metal types, like aluminum, copper, cast iron or even hardened steel.How do you cut a pipe without a pipe cutter? ›
People use hacksaws to cut copper pipe because they typically have them lying around. If you have one, and you don't need to access the pipe in place or underneath the sink, the tool works great. Just ream the pipe or use a copper pipe cleaner before you do any soldering.
Can you cut cast iron with a metal blade? ›
In tight spaces where my grinder won't go, I've always used a reciprocating saw and metal-cutting or carbide-grit blade. That works, but not very quickly. And cast iron destroys blades fast; I'd go through two or three blades cutting a 4-in. pipe.How do you cut a large diameter cast iron pipe? ›
When you have larger diameter iron or steel pipe to cut or trim, a rotary cutter is a great solution. For cutting pipe in place, a rotary cutter makes the task much more manageable, and helps to reduce the down time that removing and replacing the pipe may create.How do you cut iron easily? ›
Use a horizontal band saw.
They are very easy to use – all you have to do is feed the metal into the saw and the blade does the rest. Make sure you're using metal-cutting (carbon steel or bimetal) blades with your band saw. There are three main blade tooth patterns – raker, wave and straight.
- Hacksaw. ...
- Tin Snips. ...
- Metal Air Shears. ...
- Angle Grinder with Cutoff Wheel. ...
- Cold Saw. ...
- Circular Saw with Metal Cutting Blade or Metal Circular Saw. ...
- Band Saws. ...
- Oxy-Acetylene Torch.
A hacksaw is not always the best option, but it can be used to cut pipe, especially if you already have one in your toolbox. You will need to secure the pipe before you start cutting.How can I cut metal without a machine? ›
Shears, also known as tin snips - I choose to use them whenever possible. As long as what I want to cut isn't too thick, the act of shearing will always be faster than cutting with a saw blade. They make quick work of angled tubing, especially steel drywall studs and aluminum angles.Will a Sawzall cut through metal? ›
With the right blade, your sawzall can cut through wood, nails, fiberglass, branches, plaster, masonry, and metals including aluminum, cast iron, steel, and even high-strength alloys.Will a hole saw cut cast iron? ›
Hole saws can cut clean, round holes in many machinable materials, including steel, cast iron, brass, bronze, aluminum, plastics and composites.What metal is hard to cut with a sawzall? ›
Carbide tipped blades cut harder, denser metals like hardened steel, cast iron, alloys including boron steel, and higher grades of stainless steel. These blades are extremely hard, heat-resistant, and impact-resistant.What is the best sawzall blade for cutting steel pipe? ›
Use 18-24 TPI bi-metal blades. For thicker metals such as steel pipe, angle irons, or tubing, use 14-18 TPI bi-metal blades. For aluminum, an 8-10 TPI blade is best. As far as the best brand of metal cutting blade, we like MK Morse and Diablo.
Why is it hard to cut cast iron? ›
More carbon makes the mix harder, more brittle, so less ductile. Cast iron contains MORE carbon than that rough upper limit of 2.1% for steel.Can you gas cut cast iron? ›
Due to its versatility, gas cutting can be used for machining cast iron, brass, bronze, steel and other metal alloys, as well as for heating, burning and soldering.Can you cut cast iron with a oxy fuel torch? ›
Oxy-fuel torches are normally used for cutting only ferrous metals and for the most part are not used for cutting cast iron, aluminum or stainless steel.Can you cut with a knife on cast iron? ›
It's perfectly fine to use metal utensils on plain cast-iron pans, says Keno; the "nonstick" surface created by seasoning is very resilient (the exception is enameled cast iron; metal can scratch its porcelain coating, according to the cast-iron manufacturer Lodge).Can you break cast iron with a sledgehammer? ›
If you can handle the temporary mess, using a sledgehammer is the fastest way to break up and remove a cast iron tub.How do you break a cast iron pipe with a hammer? ›
Hit the back of the chisel with a hammer. Move the chisel along the cast iron pieces while striking it with the hammer until the larger pieces break. Continue with the chisel and hammer until the cast iron breaks into manageable pieces.Can you use a Sawzall to cut cast iron pipe? ›
Yes. Cutting cast iron with a sawzall is an efficient way to cut cast iron. Many contractors, handymen, and homeowners own reciprocating saws. If you already own the tool, all you need is the blade designed for cutting cast iron.Can I use a grinder to cut cast iron pipe? ›
Best Grinder Blade for Cast Iron
As I begin cutting with the angle grinder, it does a good job of cutting through the pipe. I then begin to move the grinder back and forth along the initial cut.
Our Diamond Grit SAWZALL® TORCH™ blades are ideal for cutting cast iron, hard tile, masonry and other abrasive and hard materials. The diamond grit delivers you up to 30X longer life than standard blades and a thick, rigid blade body resists bending and fracturing for added durability.How do you cut an iron pipe? ›
Using Snap Cutters
Make the lines as straight on the pipe as possible. Wrap the chain of the snap cutter around the pipe as evenly as possible. Ensure that there are as many cutting wheels as possible against the pipe. Apply pressure onto the handles of the cutter so the wheels cut into the pipe.
How do you cut a pipe in tight space? ›
A mini hacksaw is the best copper pipe cutter for tight spaces. Begin sawing back and forth slowly on the side of the pipe furthest from the wall. As you continue to cut, be careful not to damage the wall behind the pipe. Don't use too much pressure but you'll need enough for the saw to cut through the copper.Will a carbide blade cut cast iron? ›
The can cut thicker pieces of metal including cast iron, stainless steel, and high-strength alloys. This makes them ideal for cutting metals that would almost immediately destroy a HCS, HSS, or traditional bi-metal blade, such as grade 8 bolts and boron reinforced auto pillars.