Whether you’re renovating or building a new deck for your yard, you’ve most likely come across the term “rip cut” when it comes to cutting wood or composite deck boards. When you rip cut a board, you’re cutting along the length of the board with your saw. Rip cutting boards allows you to narrow the width so they fit the design you’ve planned for your deck.
What Is a Rip Cut vs Cross Cut?
Whether you’re building or renovating your deck, you will need to make cross cuts in addition to rip cuts. What is a rip cut vs a cross cut? A rip cut goes along the grain of a deck board, while a cross cut goes along the width of a deck board.
What Is a Rip Cut?
A rip cut is a cut along the grain of a deck board – that is, cutting a board lengthwise to make it narrower.
What Is a Cross Cut?
A cross cut is a cut along the width of a deck board to shorten its length.
When Do I Need to Rip Cut a Deck Board?
Rip cutting a deck board helps you build any deck size that fits in your outdoor space without worrying about whether the boards will fit over your substructure. For a well-constructed, polished deck surface, you need to rip cut a board:
- When your house shape dictates that some boards be custom widths to properly adhere to the edge of your home.
- When your deck shape or size doesn’t perfectly accommodate a full width final deck board.
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Before you renovate, resurface, or build your deck, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the installation processes to ensure you’re comfortable completing the project on your own. If at any point you’re unsure, we recommend contacting a contractor to assist you with your deck build.
What to Know Before You Build
Read through our DIY tips and considerations to help you decide if building your own deck is the right decision.
Rip Cutting Safety
When you’re ready to rip cut your deck boards, there are some tips you can follow to ensure you stay safe and cut your deck board properly.
Safety Considerations for Rip Cutting
- Use a table saw for consistent and reliable cuts.
- Use a push stick – or a piece of scrap wood – to push a short piece of deck board through the table saw, which helps to protect your hands while allowing good hand control.
- Keep the table saw unplugged when not in use.
- Always use safety glasses and ear plugs.
- Keep the blade guard on the saw whenever possible.
- DO NOT rip severely bowed or curved wood.
- Watch for kickback – when the wood is picked up by the blade and violently throw back at you.
Best Practices: How to Rip Cut Your Deck Boards
Rip cutting your deck board is a relatively easy process, but there are some best practices you’ll want to follow to ensure your boards are cut properly and safely. The first thing you’ll need to do is assemble your tools.
Rip Cutting Tools
- Use a table saw for best results
- You can also use a track saw or an electric circular saw without a track
- Any saw you use should have a sharp, proper blade
- Measuring tape
- Push stick (or a piece of scrap wood)
Once you have your tools in hand, you can begin cutting your deck boards for installation. Follow the steps below to ensure your boards are cut properly.
- Set the blade depth.
- Measure and mark the board for cutting.
- Set the table saw fence — a support surface that sits next to the table saw blade and is used to keep your board in place as you cut.
- Position an outfeed support — typically a board or table to support the wood piece as it passes through the saw.
- Double check the level and measurements.
- Rip cut the workpiece by cutting along the length of the board.
- Finish the cut using a push stick.
- Power down the table saw.
Get More DIY Guidance With TimberTech
Get more best practices for designing and building the perfect outdoor space for your friends and family with the help of TimberTech. Whether you need help with deck board installation or finishing touches like deck decoration ideas, our Deck Building Resource Center has guides that will assist you from start to finish.