reciprocating saw laying next to a pair of rubber cloves in front of a dumpster

Kendall "aka Renos"

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

Ways to Use a Reciprocating Saw

I was using my reciprocating saw the other day for a small demolition project.   Whether you are a DIYer or a Contractor, a good reciprocating saw is one of the most versatile tools out there.  As I was riding home I started to think about, “How many different ways can you use a reciprocating saw?”


Cutting PVC

This one is a no-brainer. Almost any plumber is going to have some type of reciprocating saw in their arsenal.  It’s especially handy for cutting larger pipe such as drain pipe. A common alternative is to use a hacksaw or hand saw which will work just as well. However, the reciprocating saw has three major advantages: number one is the speed at which it can cut you can I cut multiple pieces 4-inch pipe in the same time that it will take you to cut through one piece of pipe with a hand saw.  the second advantage is that the reciprocating saw requires a lot less effort from the user compared to using a hand saw. The third advantage is a lot more subjective but at least in my experience, I found that it’s easier to make a straight cut through pipe with the reciprocating saw than with a hacksaw. With the hacksaw, you have to make sure that you apply the appropriate pressure and hold the blade straight at the same time. With a reciprocating saw you just make sure that you have the blade lined up appropriately and pull the trigger and hold it in place. And if you have an issue it’s also easy to trim off any uneven areas with a reciprocating saw.


Cutting Plywood and Framing Lumber

While a circular saw is more ideal if you are making a lot of precision cuts, but if you are in a pinch and you only need to make a limited number of cuts, the reciprocating saw will get the job done. The reciprocating saw specializes in shaving framing lumber and plywood and does it quicker and easier than any other saw. Sometimes when you are installing windows or doors, the framed opening may be a little too tight for door or window to function properly once installed. The reciprocating saw will allow you easily and quickly remove small amounts of wood from the perimeter of the framed opening.


reciprocating saw in saw horses and near dumpster

Demolition of Lumber with Nails

Using a reciprocating saw to demolish a pressure treated wood deck will allow you to make short work of the structure. a good reciprocating saw with the right blade will cut through pressure-treated lumber like butter. when you’re cutting through pressure treated lumber that has been used for a deck it also is going to have lots of Nails in it. when you’re demolishing a deck it’s always better to make you trash smaller so that will for more easily fit into a dumpster or a pickup truck or however you’re going to be hauling it away from the job site. the reciprocating saw will allow you to make as many Cuts as you want.


Removing Doors Frames

The reciprocating saw is the best tool for removing door frames. Door frames are installed by driving nails or screws through the door frame and into the lumber that forms the door opening. When its time to remove the complete door units, all you have to do is remove the door trim on one side of the door and then slip the saw blade in the opening and cut through all the nails and screws. No need to try and back the nails out which takes more time, and could damage the wood door frame.



Every pruning job doesn’t call for a chainsaw. Or maybe you don’t have access to a chainsaw. The reciprocating saw can cut through some pretty good side branches, and it also makes a lot less noise than a chainsaw. If you only need to make a few cuts, or you are in a pinch the reciprocating saw can definitely handle the task.



I use my Sawzall to cut tree and hedge roots almost every time I do a landscape project. I don’t think there is a better tool for the job. Use an old blade, since you are going to put it in the dirt. But you can effortlessly cut through obstacles that it would take you a lot more time and effort to chop through with an ax. And you would never want to subject the blade on your chainsaw to this type of abuse. The design of the reciprocating saw allows you to work in dirty environments without worrying about the blade transferring the dirt into the motor or inside the housing of the saw.



Plumbers that replace water supply lines and drain lines also use reciprocating saws to demolish the old pipe. Galvanized pipe can be a pain to demolish by hand, but the reciprocating saw will cut straight through it. The same is also true for old copper pipe. But perhaps the area where the reciprocating saw makes the absolute biggest impact is demolishing case iron pipe. Cast iron is very hard, heavy and somewhat brittle. You’re only other option besides cutting the cast iron, is to break it with a hammer, which is doable, but can get messy.



In doing some online research, I came across a video of a contractor cutting brick with a reciprocating saw. There are saws that are designed specifically for cutting brick and block. However, most of these saws are designed to cut the brick before it’s installed. If you need to notch or cut a brick that is already permanently installed, the reciprocating saw may be an excellent option.



Brick masons use angles irons when they are installing brick around wall openings like windows and doors. The angle iron provides the support stability necessary for the brick to be installed over the top of the doorway or window. And while they do cut angle iron at many masonry supply houses, there will be situations where masons need to modify or cut the iron on the jobsite. The reciprocating saw will definitely save time from having to go back to the supply house to trim the iron. The reciprocating saw is also likely smaller and easier to tote than a stationary saw that is designed to cut iron. With the right blade, you can also make these cuts with a circular saw, or miter saw.



admittedly I have not tried this one myself. However, when I was doing research for this post I came across an old video of a guy edging up his sidewalk with a reciprocating saw. he had quite a bit of overgrowth over the edge of his sidewalk. He’s simply placed the blade down next to the concrete and cut along the edge. Then he came back with a shovel and scoop the way the portion of the grass that had grown over the sidewalk. The more common way to achieve this is with an edger tool or by turning a weed eater on its side.  I guess if your landscape tools are in the shop and you just have to edge up your driveway or walkway you can use this technique too.



Concrete contractors Who complete projects that require rebar you may also carry a reciprocating saw. Rebar is very strong steel that is used to make concrete stronger. There are other tools that are specifically designed to make these tough cuts, but in a pinch, this saw will do the trick.



Have you ever been loosening a nut from a bolt and had the nut get to a point that it would not budge beyond? In some circumstances, your best option is to cut the through the bolt. I have definitely had to do this on more than one occasion when a toilet flange bolt would not come loose. No need to fight it, just cut it, especially if you are replacing the nut and bolt anyway. This is just one example, but rusted bolts can be found most anywhere they may be exposed to moisture -from mechanic shops to outdoors.  


This is a fun one. If you are venting a bath fan or an exhaust fan, you will likely run into some plywood. After cutting through the interior wall which could be drywall or plaster, you have to cut through the building sheathing which is installed on the exterior side of the wall framing. You can draw your circle for your hole and then drill several pilot holes in order to get your blade in place. Once you get the blade started, it should pretty smooth. They do make hole saw bit for your drill that is specifically designed to make these holes but the bits are pretty pricey. Financially, it may not make sense to by one if you’re only going to use it once and you already own a reciprocating saw. You could even use the reciprocating saw to cut the drywall or plaster, but a hand saw will probably be easier and make less of a mess.



Gutter Fabricators and installers also use reciprocating saws on their jobs. A reciprocating saw allows the installer to cut straight through the downspout without having to create a hole to get started. The same cut can be made with a pair to metal snips, but you have to make a hole to get the scissors started. You can lay the reciprocating saw blade across the gutter downspout and cut it in half with minimal effort