There are a few different ways to cut through stucco and some work better than others and are better for certain circumstances too.
Knowing what the different tools, blades, etc. will help you get a better understanding of what to expect and how to cut through all kinds of plaster effectively.
What About The Dust?
The Dust Factor: An important thing to remember when cutting stucco is the fact that it will create a lot of dust. This can be controlled using a couple of different methods, some working better than others, some more convenient and so on.
Using A Wet/Dry Vac As You Cut: You can use a simple wet/dry vac when you are saw cutting stucco to help suck up a lot of the dust that comes with cutting any type of cement-based material. The picture shows the nozzle of a wet/dry vac close to the grinder to catch the dust.
This will never completely eliminate the need for protection like respirators but it does a pretty good job at catching a lot of the dust, probably eliminating somewhere around 70 to 80% of the "visual dust".
Your filter must be clean for this to work though so keep that in mind. If you have a dirty filter, all it seems to do is divert the dust going in one side of the vacuum and coming out of the opposite hole.
Helpful Tip: Try to hold the end of the hose where the majority of the dust is coming out to pick up the greatest amount possible. You will want to hold it off to the side of the "dust stream" and not directly in front of it (because of flying particles) so a more powerful vacuum is recommended to add more suction.
Special Attachments: They have special dust collection systems that you can attach to just about any wet/dry shop vac and it will do a very good job of separating out the dust, which will save your vacuum in the long run.
A lot of these will require a longer hose which usually is not included but has to be bought separately and typically comes in 20 feet increments.
The other part of these dust collection systems is the actual dust separator that is connected to the vacuum that collects all of the dust before it enters your vacuum. If you plan on doing a lot of cutting this will save your filter and help cut down on the amount of time it would take to clean out your filter constantly.
Special Vacuums And Dust Collection Systems: They make HEPA filtration type vacuums that can eliminate nearly all of the harmful dust particles that pass through the filter.
There are two main types of these vacuums out there and one has a standard HEPA filter and the other has a special HEPA filter that can actually filter out harmful material such as asbestos,silica, chromium and so on.
The major difference between these two types of vacuums is the price and it is pretty significant if you plan on getting a true HEPA filter vacuum that can eliminate a lot of the harmful particles in the air.
A standard one will do the job just as good, providing that the majority of the dust is sucked up through the vacuum nozzle.
Using A Grinder And A Diamond Blade:
These work extremely well and are much lighter in weight than a circular saw is. These are very versatile and is the go to tool if you are looking to cut out any sort of stucco.
A 4.5 inch grinder is more common and easier to find blades for too, so a nice tip.
These can be a little tough and jerky at times to hold on to, even with the side handle attached so it can be hard for some people who have limited strength in their wrists.
The Blades: These are some of the toughest blades, compared to all of the others in the lineup, excluding the circular saw but are far less than a 7.25 inch blade too. These are hard to find at some stores and the selection is usually weak so I would recommend looking online for them.
Using A Circular Saw With A Diamond Blade:
A circular saw with a diamond blade attached is also a great tool to have for cutting stucco. It is larger than a grinder but also has a depth gauge, which comes in nice for cutting the stucco out and saving the wire, in most cases.
The handles are also a big advantage and lets the user have a more comfortable grip on the saw.
It is a lot heavier compared to an angle grinder, so you will get wore out a bit quicker and be more susceptible to cramping if you use the saw for extended periods of time. The dust also has a streamlined pattern to it, which makes sucking it up a lot easier and more controlled, at the same time.
The Blades: These are typically just like what you would see from an angle grinder but larger in size, to accommodate the larger tool. The most common saws are 7 1/4" circular saws and the blades seem to be less expensive than a saw that uses a 6" blade (supply and demand, I suppose).
Using A Jigsaw With A Diamond Blade:
This is a helpful tool for detail work but is NOT recommended for cutting alarge amounts of stucco. It will not hold up to the task long and is slow when cutting, compared to a standard (circular shaped) diamond blade used in a circular saw or angle grinder.
If you have to cut out a square or rectangular shape out of interior or exterior plaster, then you would make the initial cuts with a smaller grinder or mini saw and then finish off the corners with one of these (jigsaw).
It will help to have someone constantly spraying off the blade while you use it to help keep it cooler during the cutting process and to wash away some of that debris that gets built up on the blade.
Will A Reciprocating Saw & A Diamond Blade Work?
A reciprocating saw blade will work the same way a jigsaw blade would and is recommended for more detail type work than it is for massive amounts of stucco cutting.
The same problem exists with the blade, it just doesn't last long enough to do any real damage to large amounts of stucco. There are two different types of blades (shown below) and these are a diamond grit blade and a carbide tipped blade.
The blade will also get caked with cement dust which makes it cut a lot less effectively and doesn't really take all that long to get like that. So my final word on reciprocating saw blades for stucco is to only use them as much as you have to, where a circular type blade would not work as well which is usually detailed type cutting applications.
A Hole Saw Will Also Work On Stucco...
A hole saw blade will cut only one type of hole in the wall and as you can tell from the picture on the right these are circular holes.
These are probably one of the easier types of tools to use and are simply attached to a drill and the diamond grit on the hole saw a bit eats through the stucco quite well. They make these in just about any size you need.
These can come in so many different sizes which is helpful for many different things such as plumbing fixtures coming through the wall, dryer vents, exhaust vents and so on. If you have a round hole that needs to be cut in your stucco exterior then these hole saw bits are the only way to go and make the job a lot easier and a lot more efficient.
How About An Oscillating Multi Tool?
Oscillating multi tools can also be helpful for cutting holes in wall, equipped with the correct blade, that is. These usually use a carbide blade that will do a decent job at cutting through stucco.
This is also a tool for more of the detailed type cuts and typically don't last that long but from my experience they do last longer than jigsaw or reciprocating saw blades do. I know a lot of electricians that like using these tools for cutting out electrical boxes.
If you do plan on using in oscillating tool with a carbide blade, then I would recommend getting a few just in case they wear out quickly. A quality carbide blade should last a little while and keep in mind that the better quality blades usually cost more, in general. Below, are two different diamond blades that you will typically find for a multitool, the carbide blade looks a little different and has teeth on it (not pictured).
Will A Mini Saw Work On Stucco?
These mini circular saws actually work pretty well on stucco and have the equivalent power that an angle grinder would. The advantage to using a mini circular saw is the fact that you have a depth guide to use and the position of the trigger is a little bit more comfortable on the hand.
You will need a diamond blade to go with these though, which is not that big of a deal considering you would need a diamond blade for a standard circular saw or an angle grinder anyways.
Most of these mini circular saws will use a 4.5" blade, which is the same size as some angle grinders, so a pretty standard blade so to speak and easy to find online.
FAQ's Related To Cutting Stucco:
Are Diamond Blades The Only Thing That Will Cut Through Stucco? - Diamond Blades are typically the most common types of blades used for cutting through stucco but you can also use carbide blades. It is important to understand that a diamond blade is going to work 100 times better than the carbide blade and have 10 to 20 times the life as well. When in doubt, always look for a diamond blade over a carbide blade.
How Long Will A Blade Last? - This depends again, on the type of blade you actually end up using. I have cut several hundred linear feet using a diamond blade (wheel). A carbide blade is going to be more commonly found on an oscillating multitool and a reciprocating saw and has a tendency to only last a few feet, in my experience anyways.
There are many more determining factors that go into how long a blade will actually last in these things are related to the amount of force you use, the amount of heat that builds up while cutting, the quality of the blade and materials that it is made of (price of the blade) and other variables like that. The best advice I would have is to go with a diamond blade, if possible and get a moderately priced one and stay away from the cheaper ones.
What Is The Best Way To Cut Through Stucco? - If you are simply cutting through stucco to remove it from the wall then a circular type blade (diamond) is by far the best tool you can use, hands-down. If you are looking to cut finer detail type things then you may want to use an oscillating tool, a reciprocating saw or a jigsaw (in that order) to get a more precise cut.
How Much Dust Does Cutting Stucco Make? - If you are using a circular diamond blade type of cutting tool it is going to create a ton of dust, which is come parable to the amount of smoke a small fire pit would make. That is quite a bit of dust! You really want to take extra precautionary measures to make sure you have adequate ventilation and have the proper tools to combat the best especially if you are sensitive to airborne particles.
Using a reciprocating saw, oscillating multitool or a jigsaw will create far less dust in the cutting process than a circular saw or angle grinder would. It is significantly less but is still present and the same precautionary measures should be taken.