man wearing rubber gloves and sunglasses while cutting cast iron pipe with reciprocating saw

Kendall "aka Renos"

Founder, Lead Instructor of Renos 4 Pros and Joes and Bathroom Update Guide


I’m on my way to a handyman service call in Atlanta. The property owner was specifically looking for a “plumbing handyman near me.” After gathering some additional information from the homeowner, I learned that he lived in a house built in the 1950’s with cast iron drain pipes. The waste lines in the home had never been replaced or repaired to the best of his knowledge.


Yesterday he just happened to go into his unfinished basement and he saw water on the floor and he was able to see that it was coming from his black cast iron pipe that was cracked. He sent me some photos of the pipe and I was able to confirm that cast iron was cracked and leaking. As a general contractor and handyman, I always keep a reciprocating saw in my vehicle. The reciprocating saw is one of the most versatile cutting tools and can be used with a variety of different blades. So then I had to determine what was the best reciprocating saw blade for cutting cast iron.

Best Blade for Cutting Cast Iron Pipe

The best reciprocating saw blade for cutting cast iron pipe is the Diablo Carbide Tipped Reciprocating Saw Blade (click here to see it on Amazon). These carbide tipped blades offer improved cutting speed and durability over the traditional diamond grit and carbide grit blades that have historically been used to cut cast iron. See the video below where I demonstrate cutting cast iron with the blade as fast as I can for time!

These blades come in 3 different lengths: 6 inches, 9 inches, and 12 inches. Pay close attention when you shop because these blades are available with different numbers of teeth per inch (TPI). The 8 TPI blade is designed to cut thick metal like cast iron. The 20 TPI blade is designed to cut thin metal and is not suitable for cutting cast iron.


Can you cut cast iron pipe with a Sawzall?

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. There are other tools that will also cut cast iron, but the reciprocating saw is the most versatile. You can more easily cut in tight spaces, as well as cut pipes that are in the dirt. The reciprocating saw has almost no setup time and creates minimal dust as it cuts. It does make noise as it cuts just like any other motorized saw tool.



What is the fastest way to cut cast iron pipe?

The fastest way to cut cast iron pipe is with a reciprocating saw and a carbide-tipped blade with 8 teeth per inch (TPI)  spacing. As i stated above and demonstrated in the video, Diablo makes the best blade for cutting cast iron (and it’s available on Amazon).


Can you cut cast iron pipe with an Angle Grinder?

Yes. You can cut cast iron with an angle grinder. An angle grinder is also a tool that many contractors and homeowners both own. In order to cut cast iron with an angle grinder all, you will need is a metal cut-off wheel designed for cutting metal. The downsides to cutting with an angle grinder are twofold. One issue is that the tool makes a lot of dust as it cuts. The second issue is that you have to be able to place the angle grinder directly against the surface of the pipe, and therefore you need clearance around the entire circumference of the pipe to cut cleanly all the way around. This can become an issue if you are cutting in tight areas, like up against a wall, or between framing, or in the dirt.


Can you cut cast iron pipe with a band saw?

Yes. A band saw is an effective way to cut cast iron pipe, but you do have to be able to access all sides of the pipe, and you need to have a clearance that is at least the width of the saw.


What is a Soil Pipe Cutter?

A soil pipe cutter is a manual tool for cutting cast iron pipe. These types of cutting tools have been around for a long time. They come in different sizes and configurations, but the overall principle is the same. One of the central parts to the cutter is a chain. You wrap the chain around the pipe and then tighten and secure it down. Then you ratchet down on the chain which creates tension that snaps the pipe. Because the pipe cutter works with tension, the pipe will need to be in decent condition for this cutter to work. If the pipe is already severely corroded or is visibly rotten, you may be better using a different method.


Where to rent cast iron pipe cutter

If you are in a major city, then the rental department of your local big box home improvement probably rents soil pipe cutters. You can also find them at tool rental stores.


Can you cut cast iron with a hacksaw?

Technically, yes, you can use a hacksaw to cut cast iron pipe. But it will be a very slow and difficult way to cut cast iron. You will also need to be able to access the pipe from all sides. Using a hacksaw to cut cast iron should be considered as an absolute last resort. And it may not be practical at all if you need to make multiple cuts.


Can you cast iron pipe with a Dremel?

No. A Dremel has a small motor that runs at a high rpm and will eventually burn up from cutting cast iron pipe. The same is true for a tool like a Rotozip.


How to Break cast Iron Pipe

In most instances, you will cut cast iron pipe out of its installed locations with some type of saw or breaker tool. However, once the pipe has been removed from the plumbing drain system, you can easily break it into smaller pieces with a hammer. Eye protection is recommended to protect you from small pieces of cast iron as well as anything that may be inside of the pipe. The overall condition of the cast iron pipe will affect hard the pipe is to break. I’ve seen cast iron pipe that looks like it did the day it was installed, and I’ve also seen cast iron that was so corroded that you can crack it with your hands. Every situation is different. Just because you bring the big hammer doesn’t mean that you will always have to use it.


Where to dispose of cast iron pipe

In Atlanta Georgia, most of the landfills that are open to the public do accept cast iron pipe. If you are working on a large project and have rented a dumpster you can just toss it in the dumpster. At least that’s the way it is in Atlanta. If you have a dumpster on your jobsite you can always play it safe and call the dumpster company to confirm that its ok.