How To Cut A Hole In Tile Without Breaking It

Manual tile cutter

The manual tile cutter is the perfect tool for making straight cuts in smaller tiles. It uses a simple “score-and-snap” technique that goes very quickly, enabling you to cut many tiles in a short period of time.

Best suited for: Making straight cuts in small cer

Best suited for: Making straight cuts in small ceramic tiles.

Not suited for: Diagonal cuts, very tiny cuts, rounded cuts, or larger tiles that won’t fit inside the cutter.

Cost: $25 – $30

Cutting a Hole for Pipes

Cutting a hole in the center of a porcelain tile to accommodate a pipe, faucet or shower valve must happen before you install the tile. A diamond core drill, along with a diamond guiding bit, will make the cut through the porcelain, says This Old House. Clamp the tile to a work surface to keep it from shifting as you drill. Dip the guiding bit in cooling oil and set it in the center of the area you want to cut. Twist the drill back and forth a few times to help it begin to cut into the porcelain. Drill straight down until both the guiding bit and the core drill have passed through the tile.


#1 Cutting Porcelain Tile Using a Tile Nipper

Tile nippers are excellent for cutting arcs or circular section of tiles which is difficult to do using a wet tile saw. They are also great for making regular cuts.

In the construction industry, we see a lot of peop

In the construction industry, we see a lot of people using tile nippers in huge amount. This is because of the ease of their functionality and also because most of us are only interested in cutting a small piece off the tile.

Given below are the easy steps for the guide to using tile nipper:  

  • Initially, take the tile that you want to cut and prepare it. Then, score a line marking the edge where you want to make a cut with a cutter.
  • Use the tile nipper, hold it at the edge centre of the marked line and apply pressure. The nipper will break the piece off.
  • Take small nips and go slow as sometimes the piece fails to nip off, and that’s when you should try cutting it with a cutter.
  • Don’t stress your nipper so much that it might even give up.
  • After nipping is completed, use a rub brick to smoothen the edges and the cut itself. The edges will be sharp so be cautious when doing so.
  • The best tile nippers that are found in the contemporary market are Qep and Kobalt.

I would recommend you to use tile nippers only to cut curvy and circular areas. For straight and angled cuts, use a wet tile saw. Also, a good idea today would be to use the new generation tile nipper with replaceable teeth.

The old ones can break due to the hardness of porcelain tiles made today.

How To Cut A Hole In Tile

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Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. Let’s talk about how to actually cut the tile. When it comes to straight cuts, it’s pretty simple. But when it comes to holes, things get quite complicated. A hole cutter is your best option.

A hole cutter can cut perfectly round holes in tile in seconds. You choose your size and cut the hole just like it’s a hole punch. Only it normally uses a drill to cut these holes, which you probably already have on hand. 

How To Cut A Hole In Tile With A Hole Saw Kit

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The first thing you should do is measure the object you need to tile around. This is most often a showerhead or nozzle. But it can be plumbing or something else entirely. You need to measure it and make a copy of that shape on cardboard.

Then, you can start testing out the hole saw heads that you have. Find the one that is the closest in size, giving a tile bit extra room. After you choose a bit, it’s time to start cutting the tiles to fit.

If you only have one tile to cut, like if the hole is near the center of a tile, then you will drill straight through. But a better way to prevent breaks is to have two tiles cover the hole. If they meet in the middle, it’s easier to cut without breaking it.

You will need to lay something under the tile to steady it and protect the floor, drill bit, and the tile itself. This acts as a cushion for all three. Drywall does a great job of this. Then, putting a knee or hand on the tile, start drilling. 

Push quite hard to keep the drill and tile steady and it should drill through in less than a second. That’s all there is to it. The hardest part aside from that is making sure the measurements are all correct and in place. 

General Safety Tips

Though some of the tools mentioned above like the wet saw and the drill bit are not very safe to use because of their potential for accidental hazards.

  • Wear protective gear
  • Wear the right shoes and proper clothing
  • Use gloves, goggles and ear protection
  • Stay alert and don’t lose focus
  • Lubricate the saw blades regularly
  • Use scrap wood to keep fingers away from the cutting blade

Diamond hole saw

The diamond hole saw is used in combination with a power drill. It fits into the chuck of the drill just as any drill bit would, and then you can use it to cut round holes in the tile. This is very helpful when you have to tile around obstacles, such as plumbing pipes.

Best suited for: Making round holes in tile. It has just this one use. However, when you need to make a round hole, it’s great to have on hand!

Cost: $15 – $25 for a mid-range type. (Plus a power drill.)

Tilt the blade for cutting circles

Photo 1: Score the circle

Photo 1: Score the circle

Score the front of the tile along the circle guideline with the diamond blade. Tilt the grinder about 30 degrees and cut about 1/16 in. deep.

Photo 2: Make angle cuts

Photo 2: Make angle cuts

Move the blade 1/8 in. to the inside of the line and make a deeper cut. Continue moving the blade away from the line and cutting deeper until you cut completely through.

Photo 3: Smooth the cut edge Grind off rough edges and trim back to the line for a perfect curve.

Many tile jobs require you to cut one or more large round holes for floor drains or shower valves. Photos 1 – 3 show how to cut a hole for a shower valve. We’re showing how to cut a hole that’s entirely within a single tile, one of the most difficult cuts. In the next section we’ll show you an easier method to use for cutting curves in the edge of a tile.

Even with this method, try to avoid a tile layout that places the edge of the circular cutout less than 1/2 in. from the edge of a tile. It’s better to shift the entire layout instead. Otherwise, chances are good that you’ll break the tile at the narrow point while cutting.

The method shown for cutting a circle with a grinder and diamond blade requires you to cut around the circle a number of times, making a deeper cut with each revolution. The key is to maintain the same angle and shave off progressive layers, moving the cut closer to the center of the circle (Photo 2).

Circle Cuts Make accurate, near perfect circle cuts for shower valves and plumbing pipes with this technique.

Types Of Tile To Learn How To Cut A Hole In Tile

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The type of tile that you choose matters.  Especially if you have to cut that tile, which you will have to in most cases unless your room or shower is just the right size. Tiles come in all sizes, with most of them being square or with a 2:1 ratio. 

Tile Materials

There are many different materials of tiles. The two most common being porcelain and ceramic. It can be hard to choose between tile materials if you don’t know the pros and cons of each. Here are a few pointers to help you out. 

  • Ceramic – ceramic tile is probably the most common tile in America. It is durable, easy-to-clean, and can be put in any room. It also comes in both glazed and unglazed, so check both options out. 
  • Glass – glass tile is perfect for areas that can be difficult to clean as it won’t stain. But it is easy to break so it isn’t great for children who tend to drop things or are rough around the tile.
  • Porcelain – porcelain tile is also very popular. It is similar to ceramic only it is made to look like natural materials like stone. It is more difficult to install than ceramic but is generally about the same all-around.
  • Cement – cement tile isn’t very popular and is more like cement pavers than tiles. They require a lot of upkeep but can be highly customizable. So it is a middle-ground tile that is only for certain users.
  • Marble – marble is gorgeous but expensive. That’s kind of a given. Natural marble only comes in certain patterns as well. Although you can get both ceramic and porcelain tile that looks like marble, only is cheaper.
  • Granite – on countertops, granite is high-end. But in tiling, it is a cheaper alternative to some of the nicer tile options. It’s still pretty great, and natural, but the final result doesn’t look as fancy as marble.
  • Limestone – limestone looks unique and is a natural stone. However, it is porous and isn’t great in moist areas. It will need heavily sealed regularly to last very long at all. This is why it isn’t very popular.
  • Metal – metal is a relatively new material for tile. While it is durable in many cases, it can also dent fairly easily. Use it with caution to have some of the most beautiful and modern tile around.
  • Resin – resin tile isn’t the most durable tile, but it is the most highly customizable. If you have a resin 3D printer, you can even print your very own tiles in your custom design and lay them yourself.

How to Cut Porcelain Tile Using an Angle Grinder

Now that you have seen how easy it is to mark the flange on the tile, let’s move on and talk about cutting the tile. I just want to really beat this next statement with stick.

You Must Be Gentle With the Angle Grinder!

If you try to force the grinder to cut the tile, the tile will BREAK every time! Try to take light, even passes and all will be fine. If do break a tile, that’s okay, I do it too. Check out this video on how to cut porcelain tile using an angle grinder.

Plunge-cut from the back to make rectangular cutouts

Photo 1: Score the front

Photo 1: Score the front

Mark the cutout on the front and back of the tile precisely. Then score the front of the tile about 1/16 in. deep along the line.

Photo 2: Plunge cut the back Flip the tile over and plunge the cut from the back. Stop and check often. Stop when the cut lines up with the corners of the marked square on the front. Plunge-cut the remaining three sides.

Cutting rectangular or square holes for electrical outlets is simple with this method. The key is to avoid cutting beyond the corners of the square where the cut might be visible. Plunge-cut slowly from the back and check often to avoid going too far.

Rectangular Cutouts Make rectangular cutouts with plunge cuts from the back side.


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