"In my best estimate, I've installed and cut over 85,000 square feet of segmental pavers. If you've installed 85,000 square feet of pavers or more, there's no reason for you to continue reading."
∼Nate Lynch.

Reliable Block & Paver Border-Cutting Techniques

Nate Lynch, Owner of Special Additions Landscaping, LLC

Cutting concrete and pavers isn't an especially difficult skill to learn, but it does take some time to perfect. Assuming you don't have several projects to obliterate prior to doing your own, I've decided to reveal my most guarded secrets of block-cutting to the lucky few who've happened to stumble upon our website. Why reveal such protected information free of charge? I'll tell you why… Because although only a handful of individuals currently know the secrets of these priceless techniques, the knowledge itself appears to have no cash value (the same can be said of landscaping in general).

Recommended Tools:  Tools of the trade

  • Hot Saw/Concrete Saw
  • Plumb Bob
  • Tape Measure
  • Sand
  • Plate Compactor
  • Marking Utensil
  • Blocks

This step-by-step tutorial will feature a project of my own. I live in Spokane, Washington and installed a basketball hoop and paver driveway several years ago at my home. Now I'm ready to cut in the 3-point line.

Step 1: I'm hanging a plumb-bob from the center of the basketball hoop in order to give myself a fixed location from which to measure the distance of the 3-point line (confession: I'm bad at basketball and a cad. Therefore, my 3-point line will be installed at a shorter distance than normal, so I can occasionally make a shot).

Centering the plum bob to the basket Using the plum bob to center the three point line measurements to the basket

Step 2: With the help of a friend, I'll measure from the located point to the inner-half of the 3-point line. I'll make approximately 30 marks with a piece of chalk/marker/pencil in a radius from that point. My 3-point line will be only 18'6" from the rim.

Measure to the inner half of the three point line

Step 3: This paver driveway is made of a product called "Old Countrystone" that is manufactured by Abbotsford of Canada. The color is simply that of natural concrete, and is aptly named "Natural". Old Countrystone comes in 8-colors, many more interesting than "Natural", but I'm a boring person with little personality and I was drawn to its beauty. Old Countrystone comes in 3 sizes, and for the border I've chosen the smallest size. It's shaped like a Twinkie, but strangely it's called a "Type III" paving block. Following the inner line I've drawn, I lay the pavers end-to-end until I've completed the half-circle of the 3-point line.

Lay out pavers that will be cut in along the measured line

Step 4: With a fine-point drawing instrument, I outline both sides of the block, trying to stay as tight to the paver as possible.

Outline both sides of the pavers Doubled, traced line to guide our cut

Step 5: After removing the block, I've revealed the outline of the 3-point line. Taking my concrete saw-ideally it's running at this point-I make a light cut to outline the block. I like to move quickly. I've found there's less likelihood for "squiggles" if I can walk with the saw at a penguin-esque pace. I've tried a turtle-esque crawl and a rabbit-esque hop, but the penguin-esque waddle has really paid dividends for me.

We're only scoring the block at this point, not actually cutting through the pavers. If you score the block prior to making the full cut, you won't lose the original line in the dust and/or water. If you marked the cut with chalk, it will blow away while you're cutting. If you used a marker/pencil the velocity of the blade and fine debris will fade the mark prior to finishing the cut.

Nate cutting along the traced line with a dry concrete saw

Question: Why do I cut without the wet-saw attachment that's available on most concrete saws?

Answer: There are several great reasons to cut with water: no dust, blade life, quicker cutting. I would argue that the positives of wet-cutting are outweighed by the negatives. The first problem with cutting wet is that you're adding water to an already unstable area. This can create a soup-like consistency in the sand, which may take hours to re-stabilize-therefore slowing progress. There's also an issue with adding water to concrete dust. Behind the cut you're creating instant concrete as the velocity of the blade and expelled concrete dust mix with the water. That mud can be sprayed on a nearby home, plants, pavers, etc. On a hot day, it can dry before you have time to wash it off.

Step 6: Finish the cut. Here's the important part: on a two-sided cut like this, the saw must be held at a 90-degree angle to the cut. On most border cuts I would advise that the saw be held at a 75-90-degree angle to the pavers because you're intentionally trying to "miss" the cut so the border-block can be set tightly to the paver field. In this case, if the block isn't cut at a 90-degree angle, you'll have at least one of two problems: (1) you won't (easily) be able to remove the waste-block from inside the field, or (2) the new "type III" blocks you're attempting to install won't fit because they're blocked-off by the bottom side of the protruding cut.

Finished cut, ready for extraction

Step 7: Now that you're installing the 3-point line block, you'll want to add a minimal layer of new sand to the empty space prior to installation. When you're cutting, the blade will spit sand backward as you move forward. This will leave a shortage of bedding sand following the cut. You won't notice this until you've re-compacted the area. If you've added no replacement sand, the 3-point line will sink lower than the rest of the court. If anything, make sure to miss on the high side. A plate compactor will naturally level out high areas as it moves across the paver field. Prior to compacting, sweep some fine sand into the area to seal/finish the pavers.

Installing sand and then pavers into the cut

Step 8 (Optional): If you've mistakenly made the cut too wide, don't worry-we can fix that. Simply take a large flat-head screwdriver and manipulate the "field" of pavers on both sides of the cut toward the new 3-point line. This will eliminate a wide gap, and the mistake can be hidden by "cheating" the blocks toward the gaff.

Manipulating the field to close any gaps

Step 9: I assume you're satisfied with the information and that you've found it to be sound. Please send a check in the amount of 12-cents to Special Additions Landscaping, LLC when convenient.

Finished 3-point line
Closer look at the finished 3-point line