Cutting out drywall precisely is necessary for installation but can be tricky even for experts. For a professional finish, you’ll want to use a drywall cutout tool, but which is the best?
The tool that made it to the top of this list is the Rotozip SS355-10 5.5 Amp High-Speed Spiral Saw System. It’s a great, affordable tool you’ll use for years. It cuts drywall easily, and though it’s corded, it’s such a great tool for DIYers. If you buy one cutout tool, this should be it.
There are plenty of other options on the market with pros and cons depending on your preferences, skill, and budget.
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What Makes a Good Drywall Cutout Tool?
While you could conceivably do all of your drywall cutting with a simple jab saw and utility knife, a power cut-out tool makes the process much quicker and cleaner. They might be called Rotozips, rotary saws, rotary tools, or spiral saws. The style you’re looking for is a little more heavy-duty than a rotary tool like a Dremel tool. They’re more efficient than a jab saw, so you don’t have to do as much sanding and zip off edges and corners quickly. When deciding on what cutout tool to buy for your next project, consider the following:
Corded vs. Cordless
This will be one of the most significant differences between models of cutout tools. Like with any power tool, you will get more power with a corded version. The ones listed reach up to 30,000 RPMs. A more powerful motor gets up to speed faster and doesn’t slow as the battery dies. You have unlimited run time with a corded tool. High-end cordless options are only a little slower, but the battery has to be changed.
The speed of the motor is measured in RPMs. Most of these cutout tools do not have variable speed options. The faster the motor, the cleaner you can cut a hole, and the quicker you can trim a sheet of drywall.
You may be using the cutout tool for an extended amount of time or along long panels of drywall. Even a few pounds can make a big difference if you’re holding the tool over your head. Cordless versions require heavy batteries, which can cause strain. It’s a good idea to do cutouts as you attach drywall, so if you’re doing the installation yourself, you’ll want something easy to carry around. The best models should be well-balanced for extended use.
This is a matter of personal preference. Do you like to hold the drywall cutout tool like the handle of a knife, or more like a screw gun? Cordless cutout tools are easier to manage without the long cord in the way and have more unrestricted movement when you’re cutting out holes on ceilings and high up in walls.
Kits vs. Tool Only
Kits will vary in price and included accessories. Some will just have the tool, battery, and charger. Some will have a case and maybe some extra collets. If you’re going with a cordless version, make sure you’re getting the battery and charger included, or you already have a compatible battery from the same brand. The kits drive up the cost.
These are pretty expensive power tools. The least costly options are small, corded, and more like Dremel tools. They will not give you the same result and aren’t much better than a regular jab saw or utility knife. Complete cordless kits with batteries and adjustable depth guards are the most expensive products you’ll find and are several hundred dollars. When you’re looking at the tool only, you’ll have to figure in the cost of the battery and charger, which can be nearly double the price of corded options.
Dust Management Systems
Some tools have additional dust collection systems like the Rotozip’s Dust Vault. The fans inside the tool suck dust into an attached container. This makes the unit heavier but does cut down on about 90% of the dust that gets into the air. Some models just have an exhaust that blows the dust away from the motor.
The Best Reviewed Drywall Cutout Tools
Here are five of the best corded and cordless models on the market today.
Rotozip SS355-10 5.5 Amp High-Speed Spiral Saw System
You may hear other cutout tools called a Rotozip, but this is the classic. It’s a terrific product that can perform various tasks, including clean and quick drywall cutout. The 30,000 RPM motor gets up to speed quickly and slices through drywall easily. Though not included, you can purchase circle guides and a dust management kit for this product.
This brand is only available as a corded tool, which some users find more awkward to drag around the shop.
This is a great, basic cutout tool. If you’re doing a lot of construction, you’ll find plenty of uses for the Rotozip.
- 5.5 Amp Motor
- 30,000 RPM Motor
- best in class power to weight ratio
- plunge cuts, freehand cuts, cut-outs, and more
- Bump switch
- Dual grip zones
- Exhaust vents
- Compatible accessories: ZipBits, XBits, XCores
- Accepts Dust Management Kit, Circle Cutter Guide Attachments
Milwaukee 2627-20 M18 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Cut Out Tool
- Compact spiral saw with 4-pole motor delivers fast cuts
- The product is manufactured in China
- Red link Intelligence provides overload protection to defend against abusive situations
A good tool from a well-known brand. This lightweight cordless tool cuts quickly and cleanly. It features an ergonomic grip and comfortable handle. The tool also has a belt clip, making it great for the solo drywaller to attach and cut out drywall together.
It does not have a variable speed option, but users say it still zings through drywall effectively. It doesn’t come with a case, battery or charger.
Get this tool if you have other Milwaukee cordless products or need a simple cutout tool for all-day use.
- 4-pole motor
- 1.85 Pounds
- Belt Clip
- 28000 RPM Motor
- 5 Year Tool Warranty
DEWALT Rotary Saw
- DEWALT rotary tool features tool-free bit change for fast and easy bit changing without a wrench
- Turn-on/Bump-off switch of DEWALT cut out tool allows user to easily shut tool off
- 5.0 amp, 30,000 rpm motor provides more cutting power
This corded drill from Dewalt is another solid and practical cutting tool. At about half the price of the Dewalt cordless version, this is a great value for a high-powered piece of equipment. It lacks the portability of a cordless version, but its high-powered motor gets jobs done fast, and it’s suitable for a wide range of remodeling tasks. It’s significantly more affordable than its cordless counterpart. It comes with one drywall cutting bit and two different collets.
Users were impressed that this tool cut a variety of materials and could even tackle small demolition tasks.
Get this tool if you need something that will last and is of great value.
- 3.5 pounds
- Turn on/bump off switch
- 1 Drywall Cutting Bit and 1/4″, 1/8″ Collets Included
- Dust Sealed Switch
- 30,000 RPM Motor
- 1- Year Warranty + 1 Year Service Agreement + 30 Day No-Risk Trial
DEWALT 20V MAX Drywall Cutting Tool
- 26,000 RPM motor of the drywall cutting tool delivers fast cutting in drywall, acoustical ceiling tiles, plywood, etc.
- The drywall tool features tool-free for fast and easy bit changing without a wrench
- Dust-sealed switch protects against dust ingestion for longer tool life of DEWALT drywall cutout tool
This Dewalt drywall cutout tool is a high-quality, portable and cordless model. It’s the perfect tool for light construction work and can be easily carried on your belt all day. The LED light illuminates dark work surfaces, and the 26,000 RPM motor gets through drywall easily.
Users report the life of the cordless Dewalt doesn’t match the durability of the corded model. Batteries and chargers are not included, and this model does not feature a belt loop.
Get this tool if you’re looking for an affordable and portable option for light work.
- 26,000 RPM Motor
- 2 Pounds
- Tool-free Bit Changing
- Dust-Sealed Switch
- Bright LED Light
- Slim and Lightweight Design
- Collet Diameter ¼ IN, 1/8 IN
- Battery & Charger Sold Separately
- 3 Year Limited Warranty
Makita XOC01Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless Cut-Out Tool
- Makita-built motor delivers 30,000 RPM for faster cutting
- Vent slots direct air and debris away from the operator
- Slide switch with lock-on for operator convenience
A great brand and a great product. This Makita cordless cut-out tool’s compact design makes it easy to carry around and use all day. As far as cordless rotary cut-out tools, the Makita stands out as being incredibly lightweight and durable. Makita makes a range of products that use the same lithium-ion batteries, and this model accepts Roto-zip collets. The shaft lock button makes changing bits on the fly simple and quick.
Tool reviews mention the lack of LED light makes working in certain conditions difficult.
Get this tool if you’ve got other cordless Makita tools.
- 30,000 RPM
- 3.7 lb
- Tool-Less Depth Adjustment
- Tool-free bit change
- Onboard Bit Change Capabilities
- Includes 1/8 inch Collet Cone, 2 1/8 inch Drywall Cut-out Bit, Collet Nut
- 3-Year Limited Warranty
How to Choose Cut-Out Rotary Tools
A cutout tool is an excellent value for the amount of time and effort it will save. It’s also the key to professional-level cutouts and drywall trimming. You’ll zip around light bulbs, electrical boxes, and outlets; be able to trim hard-to-fit drywall around curves and even freehand amorphous shapes. It’s a tool worth investing in. Before you commit to another power tool, consider what you’ll be using it for.
How much do you need in a cutout tool?
There are other ways to cut out the drywall that isn’t as expensive as purchasing a new power tool. If you’re replacing a single panel or doing a small job, you could get away with a simple keyhole saw.
The cordless versions and corded + accessories are more expensive and could mean more clutter if you’ve already got plenty of tools and accessories. However, if you’re just getting started and have many constructions, remodeling, and DIY projects planned, this could be a great value. You’ll have the tool, a battery compatible with the brand’s other cordless tools, extra blades, collets, carrying case, and possibly other spare parts. However, if you’ve only got one use in mind and that’s a single drywall project, the simple corded models will come with everything you need to get started on a drywall project pronto.
How big is your drywall project?
Large projects call for a better tool and possibly some kind of dust mitigation. Cutting drywall kicks up a lot of dust that is irritating and can slow your work down. Some of these models have dust collection systems you can use. If you’re doing a sheet of drywall or patching up a wall around an outlet, you don’t need more than a quick tool and a little cleanup.
What other construction projects do you have?
One of the great things about a cutout tool is that you can use it for a ton of other projects. These specialized drywall tools are often a one-trick pony, but the cutout can be used on a range of materials.
Do you already have a line of power tools?
This will probably make or break your decision on a cordless brand. Dewalt, Milwaukee, Makita, and others offer power tools lines with interchangeable batteries. Since the battery and charger can nearly double the cost of the tool, it’s probably going to be the best value to stick with a cordless model that’s compatible with the batteries you already own. It’s also nice to have backups for all-day jobs.
What material are you cutting?
Besides drywall, some of the more heavy-duty cutting tools can also trim pipes and even wood. If you’ll be using the device around the house or work site, a more powerful tool is a good investment.
How long do you need it to last?
Corded tools generally have a longer tool life than cordless versions. Not only are they not limited to finite battery life, but they’ll also work for years longer than a cordless drywall cutting tool.
What is a Drywall Cutout Tool?
There are several kinds of tools that function and, in some cases, look much like a drywall cutout tool. They can all be used to cut out drywall, but this article looks at a particular type of heavy-duty cutting tool. The cutout tools you find may even have these words in the name. Let’s look at some different tool types so you know what to look for.
This is also called a rotary cut-out tool, and this is the best all-around option for cutting out holes, electrical boxes, and amorphous shapes in your panels and trimming long pieces of drywall or creating curves and corners for non-square areas. A typical cutout tool is either battery operated or corded, and there’s often a depth setting guard that locks into place. They have a slim body design and are lightweight. They’re high-powered and can reach around 35,000 RPM. Since they are specifically designed for drywall, they usually have a single speed setting with an on/off switch.
They cut with a particular bit that spins in the collet. These bits have guides on end, meant to contact metal cans and outlet boxes but not damage them. The center of the bits does the cutting. Cutout tools often have adjustable depth guides that click into place and keep the bit from going too deep into the wall.
Cutout tools have different tool attachments, including auto circle cutters, grinding and sanding attachments, and guided bits.
Cutout tools are versatile and can be used for cutting wood, pipe, fiberglass, and more. Attachments let you sand, grind, strip glaze, and even etch and carve into surfaces.
This is a smaller multi-tool, often called a Dremel tool (even if that’s not the brand you choose). They’re shaped like a cutout tool but are smaller, lighter, and designed to be held like a pencil. Rotary tools are usually corded because they’re so small and lightweight.
These can be used to cut small holes and trim along drywall if you have to. They’re too small for actually finishing a whole room of drywall. You shouldn’t get a rotary tool kit if you’re primarily looking for something to cut out or trim drywall, but they can be used in a pinch for quick repairs or checking behind drywall.
These high-powered tools use a pull and push motion to power the saw blade. They’re very fast, very sharp, and very destructive. Reciprocating saw will cut quickly through drywall, but they’re best used for demolishing or cutting large holes for inspections.
Reciprocating saws take both hands to use and are much heavier than the previous two tools mentioned. You will not be able to cut precise holes or lines with this saw. Always be careful when cutting into drywall with a reciprocating saw and use a special, dull blade- these tools will slice through anything, including studs, pipes, and electric wires.
This is a little bigger than the hand-held Dremel or multi-tool and can handle various materials and tasks. They come with different attachments for cutting, sawing, grinding, and sanding. It’s suitable for long straight cuts along the drywall, but you may have difficulty making even circles. This is a great tool to have around, and for a small drywall project or just trimming drywall, an oscillating saw works great.
You might hear a drywall cut-out tool called a drywall router, but it’s much different than a wood router. Large routers used for cutting patterns into wood are too fast and high-powered to cut your drywall.
Using your Cutout Tool
You’ll want to make sure you not only get the appropriate tool but that you have the right accessories to get to work. Learn what bits to use and how to cut drywall with your tool effectively.
Mount the Right Bit
Some drywall tools come with bits already, but you can buy something like the Rotozip X-bits if not. They’re 5/32 inches for accurate cutting around electrical boxes and lights. The tip of the bit is a guide point that runs around the metal boxes while the center of the bit is doing the cutting. A thicker, quarter-inch X-bit is suitable for cutting along doors and windows.
Mark Your Cutouts
Measure and mark to the center of lights, air vents, and boxes before you attach your drywall panels. Put marked lines on the studs and surrounding panels and the distance the centers are from the edge. You should cut out as you go so you don’t forget any holes, and always cut any drywall that you have to bend over an exposed can or fixture.
Set your Depth Guard
Most tools come with a tool-free depth adjustment that just locks into place at your desired cutting depth. Many professionals don’t use the depth guide, but if you’re new to the tool, it’s a good idea. Some areas of drywall are challenging to cut with the depth guard, and you’ll have to remove it.
Cut Circular Holes
Poke the router bit into the center of the outlet or circle, drag the bit until you hit the edge. If you’re cutting around the outside of something, you’ll find the edge and then poke into the drywall on the outside – the guide end will come in contact with metal but won’t damage it and cut in a counterclockwise circle. Always cut in a counterclockwise circle when going around the outside of a box or can.
Cut Outlets and Boxes
Start in the middle again and drag towards the outside. When cutting around door frames, you’re cutting around the inside, so you need to go in a clockwise direction. This keeps your tool tight to the edge.
Optional: Use a Circle Guide
This is unnecessary, but if your tool accepts a guide like this RotoZip CRCT4 Circle Cutter Guide, you can add this attachment to guide your cut. You should still cut clockwise or counterclockwise depending on if you’re going along the outside or inside, but this tool could give you some added confidence for the beginner.
You don’t have to invest in a whole new power tool to trim and cut out holes in sheetrock. If your project is small, consider a more economical solution.
Also called a jab saw, you can use this tool to cut out recessed lights and outlets. A simple saw is not expensive. They’re usually double or triple ground with rubber or wooden handles. It’s not as fast or as clean as an electric cutout tool, but it can be done. Mark all your holes after you attach the drywall, noting where the center of the cutouts are and how far they are from the edge of the last panel or stud.
There are two ways you can manually cut a hole:
Trace another box.
If you have another box or light fixture, you can simply line the center up with your markings and trace around the shape with chalk. Then simply cut around the chalk lines, adjusting as your saw blade finds the metal.
Start in the center.
You can also use the same technique you use with the cutout tool. Jab the saw into the center and saw towards the edge. When you hit the edge, poke back into the drywall on the outside and saw around the edge of the box.
You may need to sand the drywall edges when you’ve cut out your shape and especially around door frames and windows.
Drywall Circle Cutter
Like the Edward Tools Drywall Circle Cutter, these inexpensive, simple tools act like a caliper to draw and score a circle on the drywall. Mark the center of your circle, adjust the tool to the correct radius and drag around the sharp end to score a circle, then knock it out.
This is the tool of choice to trim drywall. A utility knife in combination with a drywall t-square makes very clean cuts. Score the surface of the drywall, but don’t cut into the gypsum core by guiding the knife with the t-square. Snap the length of drywall backward. You should have a nice, straight, and smooth trim. You can find an excellent ergonomic utility knife with a comfortable rubber handle for less than $15.
For quick, clean cuts, follow these drywall cutting tips when using your rotary cutout tool.
- Don’t fully attach your drywall panels. This might be difficult if you’re not used to sinking screws in drywall. If you loosely attach the drywall panels then cut them, it will keep you from tearing into the drywall, and if you do have a huge mistake, it’s easy to take off the panel and quickly replace it. When you’re done cutting your holes, secure the panel with the appropriate number of fasteners.
- Keep your bits sharp. You can usually buy drywall bits in packages of ten or more. Don’t
- Use a simple utility knife to trim. Score and snap long ends of drywall. This is much cleaner, quieter, and quicker than using a cutout tool.
- Use wider tolerances around door frames. Trim will cover up to an inch around door frames, so you can afford a half-inch gap.
- Turn circuits off. You will be getting close to wires when cutting outlet holes.
- Push wiring back. Electricians may have already done it, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure wires are pushed far back into boxes.
- For electrical boxes, don’t aim directly for the middle. Just to be safe, aim closer to the edge than the middle where wires are. This also makes your initial cut shorter.
- Cut sections of drywall immediately. It’s easy to lose track of your markings, so it’s best to cut each panel as you attach it.
- Use proper personal protection. Cutting drywall creates a lot of dust. Wear a mask and safety glasses. Consider using a dust management system along with your cutout tool to minimize cleanup and keep your work areas dust-free as possible.
Which Direction Should I Cut Circles in Drywall?
When you’re putting on the inside of something, you cut in a counterclockwise circle, keeping the guide end of the bit against the metal. If you’re cutting on the inside of something – a door frame or window, you cut clockwise. The bit spins clockwise – imagine it rolling along whatever you’re cutting against.
How Do I Cut More Cleanly?
Make sure you’re cutting in a clockwise direction when cutting along the inside of something and counterclockwise around the outside of something. Let the edges guide your bit. They’re designed to prevent damage to metal and vinyl near the ends. Don’t force the cutout tool. If you’re cutting in the right direction, it shouldn’t take much force to get through the sheetrock.
Will a Hardware Store Cut Drywall for Me?
A hardware store will trim drywall or score drywall for you, but you can’t precut holes since you don’t know exactly where they’ll fall. You’ll do all your cutouts while the drywall is attached to the framing.
Can I Cut Metal with a Drywall Cutout Tool?
Some drywall cutout tools can accept circular cutter attachments, which turns it into a bigger rotary multi-tool. There are better tools for cutting metal, though. Always choose the correct bit.
Can I Cut Countertops with a Drywall Cutout Tool?
The heavy-duty versions like the Rotozip can cut just about anything less than an inch thick. Make sure you’re using the right bit, and for countertops, consider a more powerful rotary saw.
My Cut Lines aren’t Straight. Is That Ok?
It depends on where they are. Around door frames and windows, about an inch of drywall will be covered, so you can afford some gaps. The lines around electrical outlets and light fixtures need to be more precise. Small gaps can be filled with joint compound. For straight lines, avoid large gaps- these will be very hard to tape and mud over. Recut if your abutting drywall is farther than 1/2 inch apart.
Can I Cut Out Holes With the Drywall off the Walls?
Yes, you can take the time to decide where each panel goes, trim to length, then measure all your outlets, lights, and other cutouts and transfer the measurements to the drywall panels. You can then pre-cut the drywall before attaching it to the walls. You can do this, but it’s not recommended. There’s so much room for mistakes, it’s hard to reline up the drywall, and it will take a very long time.