Q: I’m pouring concrete piers for a deck and would like to precut the tops of my footing forms so that they extend a consistent 6 inches above grade. The challenge is to cut the forms square, so that I can screed and finish the concrete level and smooth before setting the anchor bolts for my post bases. Do you have any tips?
A: Mike Guertin, a builder and remodeler in East Greenwich, R.I., and a presenter at JLC Live, responds: Marking for an accurate cut on a cylinder can be a challenge, but I’ve found a couple of simple tricks that work well.
One method involves newspaper. I tape two or three full pages of newsprint end-to-end to make an elongated sheet, then wrap the sheet around the footing form. I keep the sheet snug as I wrap, and match the edges of the sheet as they meet around the cylinder. Then I tape the end of the newsprint to itself and slide one edge of the newsprint to the cut point. When it’s in position, I mark my straight line along the edge of the newsprint.
Or, the forms themselves can be used as a cutting template, because the factory ends on footing forms are usually square to the tube (as long as it hasn’t been damaged). I hack off a one-foot-long section from the factory end of a footing form (my cut doesn’t need to be square). Then I make a straight cut along the side of the form from one end to the other, which will allow me to expand the section to fit around a form of the same diameter. I slip this section over a form that I need to cut. The section will naturally clamp snug around the form and the factory end will demarcate the cut line. And once I’ve made this cutting template, I can use it to mark all of the forms on a deck.