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3 Million Pounds of Concrete: Drilling & Sawing Company Tackles Massive Tower in Decatur

3 Million Pounds of Concrete: Drilling & Sawing Company Tackles Massive Tower in Decatur

Decatur Morgan Hospital in Decatur, AL was scheduled to have the top three floors of its south tower removed in late 2016 to eliminate excess space and lower utility and maintenance costs. It was determined that the project, which would last over a year, would benefit greatly with the selection of concrete cutting services because they offered a less invasive approach by reducing noise, vibration and damage to surrounding structures. This was ideal for the hospital which would remain operational during this massive demolition project.

Operator making cuts with a Diamond Products WS25 Wire Saw

The general contractor for this job was Robins & Morton Group. The demolition contractor, D. H. Griffin Companies, contracted CSDA member International Drilling & Sawing Inc. (IDS) to complete the cutting portions of the job. This included the cutting of all concrete slabs, columns and girders with multiple sawing machines. IDS started their portion of the job on the roof by cutting it into 10,500-pound panels for easier removal. The roof slab required the use of some heavy equipment including a 1,700-pound Core Cut dual shaft slab saw CC6560XLT and a Core Cut electrical slab saw CC1300, both by Diamond Products. Once the roof was removed, IDS proceeded to use a WS25 wire saw by Diamond Products to cut most of the beams, girders, columns and slabs on each of the lower levels. This same wire saw was also used on parts of the roof but was particularly useful for the lower floor slabs which were narrower and couldn’t bear the weight of the heavier Core Cut models. The 30-60 feet wires were used on inner beams, facial beams and both single and double girders, some of which weighed as much as 26,000 pounds each.

Decatur Morgan Hospital in Decatur, AL before demolition.

For the roof, IDS had to drill pic holes into 160 cut sections of concrete so that D.H. Griffin Companies could haul them off. A Core Bore H/S by Diamond Products was used to drill a total of 658 six-inch wide holes with depths ranging between 4 to 16 inches into the panels. These pic holes allowed the demolished sections of the tower to be lowered to ground level by an on-site crane. Cable was run through the pic holes, attached to the crane, and then lowered to ground level where demolished sections were broken up, loaded into trucks and hauled off.

Lasting about 13 months, operators did encounter a couple challenges, but nothing the guys at IDS couldn’t handle! The general contractor, Robbins & Morton, established a safe distance of five feet that workers were required to maintain while cutting near the edge of the building. Due to the height of the tower, red tape was used to mark the safe distance points and workers were required to wear safety harnesses with retractable lanyards. “Running slab saws close to the edge five stories high can be somewhat unnerving,” said Head Operator Mike Chapin. Additional required PPE included safety goggles, face shields and steel-toed boots. Additionally, IDS encountered the challenge of adhering to the new OSHA silica laws which went into effect toward the end of the job. To comply with the new regulations, IDS brought in a portable concrete slurry water recycling system made by Mud Hen. Project Manager Travis Wilson and Head Operator Mike Chapin both played instrumental roles in ensuring the progress and success of the job from start to finish.

Overhead photo showing various slabs, beams, and girders.

This job was one for the books as almost every kind of concrete cutting a contractor can do was implemented. Birmingham Manager Terry Sanders said the job, “kept our guys up to speed. Work was efficient with 10-hour work days Monday through Friday and the job was staged in a fashion that our guys could maximize their skills and abilities.” Including the roof and mezzanine, there were a total of five levels and one staircase that were cut and removed. Each floor took IDS about two weeks to complete. After 160 panels, 90 beams, and 42 girders, there was a total of 3,000,000 pounds of concrete cut and removed during this job. IDS met all expectations and exceeded all goals set forth by D.H. Griffin Companies.

The use of controlled demolition was the best option for Decatur Morgan Hospital, which remained fully operational during the duration of the project. The use of diamond cutting limited the vibrations and noise, while also maintaining structural integrity of the connecting operational side of the building. Concrete cutting proved to be an ideal solution and a far less aggressive approach compared to alternative methods such as wrecking balls and jackhammers.

Hospital President Nat Richardson said to the Decatur Daily News that, “The project will save the hospital money in the long run, because it will no longer have to pay for utilities on those floors or other maintenance and upkeep costs.”


Company Profile

International Drilling & Sawing Inc. started in 1993 with a vision of providing the best concrete cutting services in the Southeast. They’ve been a CSDA member for 22 years and have three branches: Pensacola, FL, Montgomery, AL and Birmingham, AL. They pride themselves on staying abreast of changes in technology by always keeping tools and equipment up to date. IDS has 30 operators and 21 trucks. They offer a vast range of services including: flat sawing, core drilling, wire sawing, wall sawing, soft-cut sawing, demolition and removal, curb cutting and GPR imaging. IDS also has the ability to cater to smaller jobs such as dryer vents, pet doors and pool decks.


CSDA Cutting Contractor

International Drilling & Sawing Inc.

Pensacola, Florida

Tel: 334-288-2355




Methods Used

Wire sawing, core drilling, slab sawing


General Contractor

Robins & Morton Group

Birmingham, Alabama

Tel: 205-870-1000




Demolition Contractor

Greensboro, North Carolina

D.H. Griffin Companies

Tel: 888-336-3366



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