Horse stall mats are generally made of a fairly thick rubber or rubber-like material. They are usually 0.75 inches in thickness as well, though some may be a bit thinner or thicker depending on the manufacturer and brand. Knowing how to cut horse stall mats can be a bit tricky because you need to have a sharp cut that won’t shred the rubber.
You could pay a professional to make the cuts for you, but there are some DIY options that will work as well for a fraction of the cost. Here are your options.
#1. Cutting the Horse Stall Mats by Hand
For many, the easiest way to cut horse stall mats also tends to be the most time consuming. Once you’ve measured out where your cuts need to be and drawn your lines, take a standard box cutter or similar blade and just start making small cuts into the rubber.
You do not want to cut too deeply when using this method. It will cause the blade to shatter and you’ll end up with sharp fragments contained within the cutting area. Just go slowly down the line, doing a fractional cut from top to bottom or left to right. Then keep repeating until you’re all the way through the rubber.
If you place a firm piece of plywood underneath the horse stall mat while cutting through it, then the slices you make with the cutter will begin to spread apart naturally as you widen the cut.
You can also use a carpet knife or other similar tool to accomplish a similar result.
Some who have used this method to cut their horse stall mats used some sort of lubricant in order for the blade to keep moving through the rubber. Some said that they used water. Others have reported using a product like WD-40 with good results.
Do not bear down on the blade or cutter as you are working because this will just push the rubber to the sides of the blade instead of cutting through it. Light pressure will always give you the best cut, even if it takes a few passes. If the blade stops cutting well, then it’s time to change the blade. If you have to pull hard on the blade to remove it from the mat, then you’re pressing too hard. Gently remove the blade without yanking.
#2. Use a Hacksaw to Perform a Manual Cut
If you don’t have the patience for small slices down a long horse stall mat, then a hacksaw might be a better option for you. You’ll want to use a fine-edged blade that has not been used for any other purpose for the best possible results. Do not place anything firm underneath the mat either. You will need another pair of hands to hold the mat for you while the cutting takes place.
Once you’ve completed the cut, you will need to replace the blade on the hacksaw before starting another mat.
#3. A Circular Saw Can Be Used in Certain Situations
Power tools can be hit or miss when it comes to cutting through a rubber horse stall mat. If you don’t have a powerful enough saw, you’ll either have a stuck blade in the mat, melted rubber at the cut point, or a combination of both. Then you’ve got the stink of burnt rubber that lingers for weeks on end – not such a good result.
If you have a wormdrive circular saw, however, then you can potentially use this power tool to get the job done. A standard carbide blade will work to get the job done. Set the blade to drop a little deeper than you would if you were cutting through wood.
Then, as you are cutting through the mat, you will need to keep pulling the rubber mats away from each other to prevent them from binding the blade. This will prevent the heat buildup and that terrible smell of hot rubber.
The disadvantage of using a circular saw for cutting a horse stall mat is that it is difficult to create an accurate cut for stalls that are not exactly straight. If you need to work around support posts or perform other cutouts, then you will still likely need to use a manual cutting method to finish the job.
#4. Here’s How to Use a Saws-All
If you don’t want to deal with the risks of a circular saw to cut your horse stall mats, but you don’t want to be spending the entire afternoon cutting your mats, then a saws-all might be the right option. You’ll need to equip it with a fine-tooth blade, much like the hacksaw, and you will need to swap out the blades after a mat or two for best results.
When you are using a saws-all for the cut, you’ll notice that there will be some ragged edges that come from the cut. You’ll want to give yourself a margin of error for your cut because of this, so measure about 0.5 inches larger than normal. Then you’ll need to use a grinder with a cutting wheel in order to smooth out the ragged edging that tends to develop.
With enough practice, you can use a saws-all for the fine cuts that may be needed to properly shape a horse stall mat around various obstacles.
Here’s What You Need to Know About Horse Stall Mats
Because the vast majority of horse stall mats are made from a thick rubber or rubber-like material, they will expand or contract depending on the surrounding temperature and humidity. If you measure the mats underneath the afternoon soon and then cut them in the evening after the day cools down, then you’ll find that your mats are actually about 0.25 inches or smaller than when you made your initial measurements.
Chalk lines tend to work the best for creating a straight line to follow. You may wish to use a pencil if you’re using a manual cutting method.
If you are using power tools for this job, it works best to put them up on saw horses so that you’re not hunched over the mat as you cut it. If you are manually cutting the mats, then working on the ground or on a saw horse will create an equally good cut – so it’s more about personal preference.
Always remember to wear personal protective equipment when performing this job. This includes safety glasses or goggles and breathing protection. Breathing in rubber dust has been associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer, especially when it occurs over long periods of time. There may also be links to increased risks of stomach or lung cancers. Recent studies may contradict these previous findings as well.
How to Move Horse Stall Mats After You’ve Cut Them
Horse stall mats are surprisingly heavy. Even if you have several sets of helping hands around, the weight of the mats tends to pull on your fingernails with great force. Most people will have at least one broken fingernail from the transportation process. If you have Vise Grips that can attach to the mats, then these can be used as “handles” to move the mat in a quicker and safer fashion.
If you don’t have Vise Grips, then C-clamps make for an adequate substitute.
Which Method Is Right for You?
The best method to cut horse stall mats often depends on your personal preferences and how much time you’re willing to take to shape the mat properly.
Manual cutting methods tend to provide the most accurate cuts. They also tend to take the most time to complete the project. Using a hacksaw can cut down this time somewhat, but it will also increase the chances that an error may occur. You will also need to have someone help you spread out the cut line as you work with a hacksaw if you want the quickest possible experience.
Power tools can be used if you are able to get the technique write. Circular saws can work very quickly, but they must have enough horsepower to prevent the blade from binding. A blade that is underpowered and small won’t work well, even if you have someone spreading the mat out for the cut.
A saws-all is a good compromise between power tools and manual cutting. Because the cutting action can be ragged, however, you’ll often need to smooth your edging before installing the horse stall mats. That can mean you spend just as much time with this method as you would with a manual cut.
The rest is up to you. Knowing how to cut horse stall mats means creating an accurate measurement and then following those lines to the best of your ability. In return, you’ll likely wind up with a happier horse, a stall that is easier to muck out, and a better overall ownership experience.
Get your preferred method setup and remember to follow all safety procedures to make sure this project can be completed safely, quickly, and effectively.