Content of the material
- Cutting ceramic wall tiles – general:
- Cutting Ceramic Tiles With a Mechanical Tile Cutter
- Contractors Tile Cutter
- Cutting Ceramic Tiles With a Hand Saw
- Can you cut tiles yourself?
- Step 3: Cut and smooth the tile
- Corner Cuts and Really Big Jobs
- STEP 1: Measure and mark the tile.
- STEP 2: Cut the tile with a wet saw.
- STEP 3: Smooth the edges of the tile.
- Make a dish-shaped cutout for small holes
- Photo 1: Plunge cut
- Photo 2: Repeat plunge cut
- Making irregular cuts
- Tile Saw:
- Tile nibblers:
- 9 Methods to Cut Ceramic Tile
- #1 Using a Manual Snap Cutter
- #2 Using a Tile Nipper
- #3 Using a Wet Tile Saw
- #4 Using a Glass Cutter
- #5 Using an Angle Grinder
- #6 Using a Rotary Cutting Tool
- #7 Using a Tile Scribe
- #8 Using a Power Drill
- #9 Using a JigSaw
- Why Trust The Spruce?
Cutting ceramic wall tiles – general:
The vast majority of tiles have some form of pattern, this may not always be easy to recognise as the pattern may appear to be random – very few are truly random. The pattern should always be used to establish a common ‘way up’ – do not use the impression on the back of the tiles as a guide – these are not always consistent.
Before marking a tile to cut, ensure that it is orientated so that the pattern is the same way up as the others.
Generally, thicker tiles are harder to cut than thinner tiles – you can expect more failures when cutting thicker tiles, however, hiring ‘professional’ cutting equipment from the local tool hire shop will improve your success rate.
Use a pencil or crayon to mark cut lines on tiles, avoid felt tipped markers as the ink will discolour the grout when applied.
Take care when handling cut tiles as the cut edges will be sharp.
Cutting Ceramic Tiles With a Mechanical Tile Cutter
To make the job of cutting tiles a little easier there is a range of mechanical tile cutters that can be used, these are as follows:
Contractors Tile Cutter
A slightly easier way is by using a mechanical tile cutter or contractors tile cutter as they are sometimes known. The tile is placed in the machine, the handle, which has a circular blade on the end is pushed over the tile along the line you need to cut and then the clamp is wound down onto the tile which breaks it in the required place.
You may find that with some of the cheaper ones that you need to go over the tile with the cutter 2 – 3 times to make sure that you have completly scored the glaze so the unwanted section will break off easily.
For only £15.00 its worth its weight in gold and will save you a lot of time if you have quite a few cuts to make.
If possible, get one with an adjustable guide as you can then ensure that your tile stays straight while cutting it. You will also then get a nice crisp line.
Attach the hole saw bit to the drill, and place the tip of the guiding bit against the mark you made on the tile. Twist the saw back and forth a few times to help the bit begin to bite into the glaze on the tile. Start the drill, holding it straight up and down against the tile.
Cutting Ceramic Tiles With a Hand Saw
Last but not least in the "straight line cutting" category is the hand saw. A tungsten carbide cylindrical blade literally wears its way through the tile as you pull it back and forwards.
Straight lines are not very easy with this beast, but its ideal for cutting shapes such as cistern corners, or half-pipes.
Can you cut tiles yourself?
‘Yes, with the right equipment and correct measurements, cutting your own tiles can be incredibly simple,’ assures Geraghty.
‘Before starting, make sure you do have the correct equipment for your tile type, and do not assume a multi-functional tool will work for all, especially for more delicate tiles.’
‘For example, if you’re cutting such as porcelain, then you should only use a wet-saw cutter as anything else will be too tough. A multi-tool can replace the need for a tile nipper, used to make circular cuts in a ceramic tile, however they cannot replace a manual tile cutter.’
‘Then, ensure you have the necessary protective wear, including goggles and gloves, as tile cutting will create a lot of dust.’
Step 3: Cut and smooth the tile
Ensuring the tile hasn't shifted, press the lever down directly over the scored line using even pressure. This should split the tile in two. If the tile edges are rough after being split, use a rubbing stone ($10, The Home Depot) to smooth uneven edges.
Corner Cuts and Really Big Jobs
If you’ll be cutting lots of tiles for a big job, or if you need to make corner cuts around door jambs or wall outlets, invest in a wet saw or rent one from your local home center. (I recommend renting unless you envision doing many similar projects in the future.) As with any power tool, read the instructions carefully before you begin and heed the recommended safety precautions. It’s also not bad idea to take a few practice cuts before jumping into the project.
STEP 1: Measure and mark the tile
First, measure and mark the tile where you want to make the cut.
STEP 2: Cut the tile with a wet saw
Follow all the manufacturer’s instructions for the wet saw, and make sure you’ve put enough water in the tub. Turn the wet saw on, confirm that water is flowing over the blade, then proceed to make your cut the same way you would cut wood on a table saw.
STEP 3: Smooth the edges of the tile
If the cut edge of the tile is rough, smooth it with a rubbing stone.
Make a dish-shaped cutout for small holes
Photo 1: Plunge cut
Center the cut on the hole and plunge slowly from the back. Stop when the slot through the face of the tile lines up with the edges of the desired cutout.
Photo 2: Repeat plunge cut Draw another larger circle to guide the depth of the remaining cuts. Make repeated plunge cuts until the circle is complete.
Most plumbing pipe holes are covered by a decorative escutcheon or hidden by a fixture base, so a precise round hole isn’t necessary. Use the technique shown here to make rough, round holes.
Start by marking the circular cutout on the back of the tile. Then plunge the diamond blade down through the tile, keeping it centered on the hole so that the slot made by the blade extends equally on both sides of the circle marks (Photo 1). Check often to see when the slot through the front of the tile reaches the edges of the desired cutout. Then use the length of that plunge cut to gauge the diameter of a second, larger circle. Draw that larger circle on the back of the tile (Photo 2). Use this circle as a guide for making the rest of the plunge cuts. Rotate the grinder about a blade’s width and make another plunge cut, stopping at the outer circle. Continue this process until you finish the hole.
Making irregular cuts
Cutting tiles to irregular shapes is harder than making straight cuts and requires the use of a special tile saw and/or tile nippers. There is no need to accurately cut complicated shapes, filling in around the edge of tiles with grout will provide a satisfactory finish.
A tile saw consists of a frame holding the ends of a tile cutting blade (the blade is circular in section with cutting edges all the way round) – it looks similar to a hack saw.
To avoid damage to the glazing on the tile, always use a tile saw from the glazed side of the tiles and cut the tile on the down stroke of the blade.
Tile nibblers are hand tools which removes small pieces of tile when the handles are squeezed together – they are like a pair of woodworking pinchers but with toughened cutting edges.
Don’t try to make too large a cut with nibblers at one time, it is better to nibble away small pieces to slowly shape the tile.
9 Methods to Cut Ceramic Tile
To make the procedure of cutting ceramic tile easy, three different tools and techniques are recommended the most. However, one should keep in mind that cement, stone, terracotta and a certain type of porcelain tiles should only be processed using a wet saw. Here are the 8 tools you can use for cutting a ceramic tile:
- Manual Snap Cutter
- Tile Nipper
- Wet Tile Saw
- Glass Cutter
- Angle Grinder
- Rotary Cutting Tool
- Jig Saw
- Tile Scribe
- Power Drill
#1 Using a Manual Snap Cutter
A snap cutter and a wet tile saw are the two main power tools which can be used to cut a ceramic tile. If you are looking for a budget option which is easy to carry out the task as well, then you should go for a snap tile cutter.
It is also known as a rail cutter and works similarly to a glass cutter. It has a carbide wheel that is slowly pressed along the tile to score.
A manual snap cutter comes in really handy for making straight cuts. If you want to make a perfectly straight cut, the manual snap cutter is what you’re looking for. Handy as it is, it is a worthy investment as it only ranges around $200 (decent quality) and is available on any home improvement online portal or shop.
Follow the guide to cut a ceramic tile with manual snap cutter:
- To use the snap cutter, initially, you have to prepare the tile and mark the line.
- After marking the line, place the tile firmly against the front guide, lift it and depress to score a straight line.
- After scoring, depress the handle in order to snap the tile in two pieces. If you’re cutting ceramic tile (more than one), clamp the fence into the same position as the first cut and place the tiles succeedingly.
- However, you should brush the debris away after you’re done with the cutting procedure.
#2 Using a Tile Nipper
But most of the times we want to make irregular cuts across the edges rather than the straight cuts. In such cases, using an efficient tile nipper is beneficial as the snap cutters can’t make the irregular cuts.
Also, known as the nibbling tool, it can be used to make a half inch or an entire inch distant cuts from the edge by making the scoring lines. This tool is also used to make notches or tiny cutout. The best part about the nippers is that they are relatively chip ranging from $10-$25 based on their quality.
However, the drawback of a tile nipper is that the cuts that are made using it are not as clean, unlike the rest two tools.
- To make a cut using the tile nipper, initially use a snap cutter for scoring the lines.
- After scoring, nibble the tile chips one by one slowly from the tile area that is to be removed.
- Removing larger bits will shatter the entire tile and therefore, patience is what you require while nibbling the tile away.
#3 Using a Wet Tile Saw
The precision of tile cuts are made using the wet saw, but one has to be experienced to use the wet saw. Wet saws are largely available in different models, different sizes both for renting and owning.
Therefore, find a prominent home improvement center or portal to purchase a budget priced wet saw which can be available for around $60. In case if you are looking for a wet saw that can handle the bulk job, get a professional one which costs around $500.
The tile saws come with pumps which squirt water on constant basis onto a sharp diamond blade. Inexpensive saws do not have any pumps but have the ability to keep the made submerged.
It’s a mandatory to have a splash guard for the wet saw if you want to use it in the indoor environment with the help of scattered spray. However, using it outdoors is recommended because of the dust and splatter it delivers. In case if you want to make curvaceous cuts, employ a radial arm wet saw.
- To cut a tile with a wet saw, initially set it on a smooth surface. If the saw comes with a pump, put the pump in a pan and fill the pan with water.
- Test it and make sure it’s functional before proceeding to cut in a way that it supplies water stream to the diamond blade.
- If your saw doesn’t have a pump, fill the pan to a certain level such that the blade stays submerged in water and keep filling the water after every 20 cuts.
- Now, take a marker and mark the tile on the surface in the shape you want to make a cut.
- To make straight lines, place the tile on the tray pulled away from the diamond blade. Turn on the saw, hold the tile rigidly against the tray, slide it and let the blade cut the tile.
- To make angle cuts, switch to the protractor like mode and cut notches by making small and parallel cuts that are around 1/4 inch distant. Take a tile nipper and finish the work by nibbling the chips away.
#4 Using a Glass Cutter
If the task is small and doesn’t involve any curvy or complex cuts, you should use a glass cutter. It can be found anywhere in the nearby local tool stores or even online for a very low cost.
- Measure & Mark: By aligning the horizontal edge to the bottom of the tile, measure and use a pencil to mark the area where you want to cut.
- Position & Score: Place the tile down on a robust surface (a plywood suits best), move the square cautiously and keep it a little off the marked line. Now press down the glass cutter and move it along the marked line by using the square as a reference.
- Snap Tile: Place a wire hanger along the marked/cut line and press down on the edges until the tile snaps.
- Smoothen: You want to smoothen out the edges whenever you cut a tile since the sharpness would be dangerous. Rub the edges across a brick or a rubbing stone to do so.
#5 Using an Angle Grinder
Another tool you can use is an angle grinder (4-inch) with a stone blade. It is helpful to make angled cuts. The cuts will not be as cleaner as you get using a wet tile saw though they would be fine. Around the doorways and heater vents, you can make rough cuts quite easily.
It is important to choose the right blade (diamond tipped and smooth edge) for the angle grinder when cutting ceramic tile. Once you are done fitting it tightly into it, start the procedure:
- Draw your lines to mark the area to be cut
- Place the tape on top to cover the edge to prevent chipping
- Gently press down the angle grinder and cut along the surface and the lines
- By holding the blade against an edge horizontally, you can make rounded cuts
- By holding the blade against an edge vertically, you can make straight cuts
#6 Using a Rotary Cutting Tool
What if you want to create a hole in the center of the tile or make cuts on the edge? Well, there is a solution!
A rotary cutting tool or RotoZip can be used to make such cuts (such as circles for pipe insertion) or any shape. It has a blade that works similarly to a drill bit and moves super quickly. The bits cut through the ceramic tile. It doesn’t cut straight lines too well, but can fulfil the duty of a tile nipper easily.
They are on the expensive side but can be used for a lot of remodelling jobs at home.
#7 Using a Tile Scribe
The most basic method of cutting tiles (particularly straight cuts) is using a tile scribe. It has a tungsten carbide tip which allows it to score almost on any tile.
- Do the marking on the tile where you want to cut and put another tile against the one which is to be cut (it will work as a straight edge)
- With a firm grip, press down on the tile scribe and draw it along the marked starting and finishing line
- After scoring, place the tile on the edge of the surface you were working on such that the scored line is just above the edge
- Press down strongly on the unwanted part of the tile and holding onto the piece that you need above the edge of the work surface with your other hand
#8 Using a Power Drill
You can either use a drill or a masonry drill to cut holes in ceramic tiles. First you need to drill small holes along the diameter of the hole you wish to cut and then cut along the edges using a tile saw. At the end, you can use a tile filer to smoothen the edges.
- Use a tile scribe to mark the centre inside the hole which is to be cut
- Put it in the centre and twist to score
- After that, use a power drill to make the hole
- Start with small drill bit size and make your way up to the desired hole size
#9 Using a JigSaw
A jigsaw can also be used to make cut in ceramic tiles. It works best to make notches and angled cuts in the tile.
A tile cutter helps to make straight cuts however at times, the requirements might be different (smaller, slanted or notches). Here’s where the jigsaw shines with it’s diamond blade.
- Make sure the tile is properly fitted on the work bench before starting cutting
- Also keep sprinkling some water on the tile while making cuts using a jigsaw to make sure it doesn’t overheat
Why Trust The Spruce?
This roundup was written by Erica Puisis, who has researched and written dozens of home improvement and DIY stories for The Spruce. A regular wanderer at big box home improvement stores and an official helper to her handyman husband, Erica is no stranger to the tool aisle and enjoys researching and recommending the right equipment to help you get the job done.