Last updated on September 7, 2021
What is a cement board and where to use it?
A cement board is a mixture of cement and cellulose fibers that are formed into thick sheets similar size to drywall and plywood except for heavier, long-lasting, and fire retardant.
They usually come in the standard 4 x 8(ft) size and are commonly used as flooring, wall paneling, and backing for tiles. Cement boards perform well in areas that are prone to water exposure, such as bathrooms and kitchens, because of their inherent resistance to water damage and the formation of mold and mildew.
Things to consider before cutting cement board
Tools for cutting cement board
1. Backerboard scoring knife
A scoring knife is used to “score” or cut small grooves across certain lengths of material. The easiest way on how to cut cement backer board with one of these is to actually score along the area you wish to cut and then snap the sheet along the scored lines.
These work well mainly for straight and linear cuts that don’t need to be paint-smooth, without the hassle of dust or the need for power tools.
2. Circular saw
You can cut cement boards with a circular saw so long as you’re using a carbide-tipped fiber cement cutting blade with a low teeth count. Toothed blades will blunt and have the tendency to get bogged down and rip chucks out.
Ideal for making straight cuts, just don’t use a new saw.
A jigsaw is one alternative to a circular saw. Arm it with a metal-cutting or carbide-grit jigsaw blade to cut cement board and you’re good to go. It cuts slower than a circular saw, but leaves smoother edges and expels very little debris.
Use for small straight cuts, and for making curved cuts. Blades can dull quickly so only use them for curved cuts, or checkouts.
4. Tile saw
A wet saw, which is a type of tile-cutting saw, is surprisingly effective on a cement board. The abrasive blade bathed in water produces clean and dustless cuts faster than cuts produced by a jigsaw or a circular saw.
Cuts similarly to a circular saw, but with a longer-lasting blade, and a more dust-free operation. Slightly more tedious to use on wider boards.
5. Angle grinder
Another alternative to a circular saw is an angle grinder. For best results, go with a diamond cutting wheel, but do take care since this tool is harder to control and produces heaps of dust.
Better for cutting straight, edges, and corners if you know how to use it properly.
6. Dremel rotary tool
Cutting cement board with a dremel is basically a miniature angle grinder. It’s easier to control and expels only a small amount of dust. With a carbide cutting wheel, it works remarkably well on a cement board.
Cuts similarly to an angle grinder, but cleaner and at a smaller scale for tiny checkouts.
7. Fiber cement shear drill attachment
Fiber cement shear attachments are specially designed cutting accessories that are compatible with power drills. The hardened carbon-steel blades are tailored to cut cement siding and transforms your drill into mechanical cement backer board scissors.
Ideal for cutting straight, but can also be used for precise arcs and curves.
8. Electric fiber cement cutter
These are technically circular saws armed by default with carbide-tipped blades that are dedicated mainly to cut fiber cement and similar material. They also come with a handy dust-collection system.
Cuts similarly to circular saws, but can do plunge cuts easier. Better for cutting cement sheets with and protecting your circular saw from this type of work.
9. D-cut fiber cement cutter
These are dedicated tools for cutting cement siding. With an adjustable, swinging cutting head, the D-cut can cut at a maximum pitch of 4/12 with no dust, noise, and power requirements.
Great for making straight cuts and angle cuts up to 70°.
10. Hand fiber cement sheet cutter guillotine
More portable versions of standard fiber cement cutters. Fiber cement guillotines or hand shears are specialized cement siding cutters mainly for working with smaller pieces (up to 8mm).
Good for dust and power free straight and square cuts on the go when portability is desired.
11. Track saw
A track saw also comes with an adjustable aluminum track that helps guide the saw and keeps it straight throughout a cut. The blade cover has a dust exhaust port which you connect to the vacuum to keep the dust from accumulating around your workspace.
Best used for creating clean and accurate straight cuts on cement board. With its ability to angle the blade as well, you can also create bevel cuts for corners.
As well as stacking and cutting multiple sheets at the same time with ultimate precision.
12. Hole saw attachment
Using a brushless cordless drill is the recommended way of cutting with a hole saw attachment. This is useful when you need to create holes for vents, pipes, and conduits to pass through. For cutting interior squares, you would need to use a jigsaw or reciprocating saw to cut out the corners after working with the hole saw.
Great for cutting out perfectly circular and square holes.
1. Using backer boards knife
Use the score and snap method for thinner boards. Mark and lay down the workpiece on a flat, even surface. Get rid of nearby objects that might damage the board.
How to score and snap cement boards with a backer boards knife?
2. Using a circular saw
Need to cut thicker sheets of cement board? No worries, just use a circular saw. It’s a much faster and better way of cutting cement boards than with a knife.
Make sure to plug in your saw into a stable power supply and wear proper protection beforehand.
Cutting cement board with circular saw
3. Using a tile saw
You’ll need to set up the saw on a flat, even surface that’s preferably near a water and power source. Take extra caution to ensure that the hoses that connect to the saw and the power cord won’t come in contact with each other. Be sure to wear all the necessary protective equipment.
How to use a tile saw to cut cement backer boards?
4. Using an angle grinder
If you’re going to use an angle grinder to cut cement board, then be fully prepared for a dust storm. Make sure to be working in a spacious area, preferably outside, where it’ll be harder for the dust to accumulate.
Wear full hand and face protective equipment. Be sure to be using a carbide-grit or diamond cutting wheel.
How to use an angle grinder to cut cement boards?
5. Using an electric shear
In contrast to an angle grinder, using an electric shear creates little-to-no dust when cutting. This removes the need for a respirator – handy for when you don’t have one.
There are some downsides though as the shears can only cut thin sheets of cement board up to ⅜ inches and you waste some materials as the shears take out thin strips when cutting.
How to use an electric shear to cut cement boards?
6. Using a turbo drill attachment
Using a shear attachment removes the need to purchase a totally separate tool. Compatible with most power drills and impact drivers, a turbo shear attachment gives you the same off-hand cutting efficiency with a little more oomph.
It’s a viable option for straight and even curve-cutting thicker cement boards.
How to use a turbo drill attachment?
7. Using a D-cut fiber cement cutter
A fiber cement cutter is a good option to efficiently cut numerous cement boards. Dustless, noiseless, and manually operated, working with one of these is as easy and simple as using an office paper cutter.
Measure and mark your pieces to make cutting even faster.
How to use a D-cut fiber cement shear cutter?
8. Using a hand guillotine
For another dust-free way of making straight cuts on backer boards, you can use a hand guillotine shear. Place the hand guillotine on top of a smooth, flat, and solid surface and secure it to your liking.
You don’t need a respirator but you will still need to wear your favorite job site T-shirt.
Cutting with a hand guillotine
9. Using a hole saw attachment
A hole saw is great if you need to cut a clean, perfectly circular hole. This can be done before or even after the backer board has been mounted.
When you cut before mounting, make sure to lift the board up so that the drill attachment does not damage the surface underneath once it goes through the board.
Cut holes using a hole saw attachment
What is the best tool and method to cut fiber cement boards?
Out of all the tools mentioned, while all are perfectly usable, the best way to cut cement board is with a track saw.
A track saw allows you to work with both speed and precision, combining the power and versatility of a circular saw with the control and accuracy of both the reciprocating saw and the jigsaw.
Outside the need for power tools or large-scale work, a scoring or utility knife will suffice.
In terms of cost-efficiency, a track saw gets you the effectiveness of several other cement board cutting tools combined for a slightly higher individual tool cost.
It’s surprisingly portable and the rail provides both ample protection and additional support when cutting even without clamping the piece down.
Unless you absolutely need to, the simple score and snap are enough for most small, personal projects.
No need to spend much on anything other than a good scoring or utility knife for projects that won’t be seen with the naked eye. Saves you money and also works a couple of muscles.
How to safely cut fiber cement?
A cement board can be a very durable and aesthetic option for both wall paneling and flooring. With higher heat, corrosion, and warping resistance, it’s no wonder why more people are opting to spend on the slightly more expensive cement boards over other cladding options.
With that being said, certain applications do require you to cut cement boards – which in itself is also a tad bit harder. Luckily, so long as you have a cutting tool like a track saw, you’ll be able to work your cement boards into shape with the proper knowledge and technique.
A cost-free solution is an electric shear drill attachment. Now, who says scissors can’t beat rock – or, in this case, cement.
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