How to Cut Ceramic Tile

What a Tile Snap Cutter Is

A tile snap cutter, also known as a rail tile cutter, is a manual tool for cutting straight lines across ceramic, glass, or stone tile.

A tile snap cutter is closer to a glass cutter than it is to the other tool for cutting tile, the wet tile saw. A glass cutter has a carbide wheel, which is slowly drawn across the glass with force to create a score mark. Once the score is made, the glass is snapped off by hand or with a tool along the line.

A tile snap cutter works in much the same way. A tile is inserted into the tool. A cutting wheel, mounted on a rail, is drawn by hand across the tile surface once or twice.

After the score is made, a built-in tile snapper is moved into place over the score. After the user pulls back on a lever, the snapper presses on the score until the tile snaps in half.

How to cut tiles with a wet saw

For experienced DIYers, a wet saw will make cutting tiles easy. Wet saws/electric cutters are used for right angles, curved or beveled edges and thicker tiles such as porcelain and natural stone. You can use it indoors but outside use is less messy.

The RYOBI 7 in. 4.8 Amp Tile Saw with Stand, exclusively available at Home Depot (opens in new tab)is a great candidate for more complex home improvements and comes with attractive features to help you achieve flawless results. 

The anti-slip rubber feet on the stand creates a stable surface, while the splash hood allows you to see exactly what you’re doing, without the water getting in the way.

How to:

  1. Make sure the electric cutter has water in the tray as the blade will overheat; it also reduces the amount of dust produced when cutting.
  2. For curved edges, mark with a pencil the area that needs to be cut, and mark several lines up to the curved mark. This is because a tile can’t be turned whilst being cut.
  3. Using the electric cutter, cut the number of lines up to the curved mark so it looks like a comb.
  4. Draw round the curved mark with a tile scribe to score and cut into the glaze.
  5. Using a tile nipper, break away small bits at a time up to the curve, and file down until smooth.


Notching One End

Set the saw blade or platform to full tile thickness.

Place the tile on the platform with the mark facing the blade, but don’t touch it. If you’ve scored the tile, one end of the cut should face the saw blade. Engage the saw’s blade.

Push the tile 1 or 2 inches into the saw blade, then pull it out and turn off the saw. If it’s a small tile, cut 1 inch from the edge; if it’s 12 inches square, cut 2 inches.

Turn the tile to the opposite end of the initial cut, the mark or scored line.

Turn on the saw and cut the tile across the mark to where you made the first cut.

Howto Use Tile Nippers

A pair of tile nippers are an essential part of the tiler’s toolbag, coming in handy with its time to finesse a small piece of tile or make circle cuts. Like your tile cutter, you’ll want to upgrade your nippers to the RUBI nippers for porcelain tiles. The tungsten carbide scoring wheels offer lighter and smoother penetration to ensure a clean score on narrow strips under 1cm wide.

For a clean break, once you make your cut, RUBI parrot nippers have a similar tungsten carbide design to handle porcelain.

Tile Nipper Tips

When making circle cuts in porcelain, mark your score line and use your wet saw or manual cutter to trim back the edges so that you can easily work with your tile nippers.

For straight, narrow cuts, score your line with your tile cutter. Position the tile on the edge of a surface, such as a workbench, so the scoreline is on the edge.

When nipping, start with the two ends first and work your way toward the center of the scoreline. Starting at one end, fit the tooth of the nippers in the scoreline and start taking small bites out of the tile by applying firm pressure.

You don’t want to go too fast while nipping, as that can damage the tile. If you have a stubborn piece, score it deeper and try to nip it again. If you have to apply too much force, you’ll likely break the tile the wrong way.

When you’re done nipping, you’ll often have a rough edge, especially where the nips met. Take a rub brick, like the RUBI Diamond Polishing Pad, to smooth out the sharp edges.

Transfering Shapes onto Tiles

The shapes mentioned above can easily be transferred to the tile, for cutting with the saw, with this little beauty.

Called a profile gauge, it has hundreds of thin "needles" which, when pressed against the profile, will form the outline which can be transferred to the tile by drawing along the edge of the gauge with a pencil on to the tile.

There is one drawback with this tool however and this comes in the form of actually getting the copied profile of your shape on to the tile in the right place. This tool is great at marking out the correct shape but it is then left up to you to measure and mark the tile with the shape in exactly the right place. This can be quite tricky!

Profile Gauge

Profile Gauge

Bigger Jobs with Straight Cuts

If you have lots of tiles to cut, or if you need to make cuts from corner to corner, use a tile cutter. Whether you plan to invest in the purchase or rent one to save a few bucks, just make sure you pick up a tile cutter that’s big enough for the tile you’re cutting! Then, as mentioned above, practice on a few spare tiles until you’re comfortable with this tiling tool.


STEP 1: Measure and mark the tile

First, measure and mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

STEP 2: Score the tile

Place the tile into the tile cutter. Make sure the tile is pushed snugly up to the fence and that your marked line is directly under the scoring wheel. While applying slight pressure on the handle, slide the wheel forward across the tile. You should hear a scratching noise, which is the sign that the tile is being scored.

STEP 3: Snap the tile

Once you’ve scored the tile, move the handle back slightly from the tile’s edge and let the breaking feet lie flat on top of the tile. Apply downward pressure on the handle, and the tile will snap.

STEP 4: Smooth the edges of the tile

If the cut edge of the tile is rough, smooth it with a rubbing stone.

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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.’

Tile Scribes

  1. Tile scribes operate in the same fashion as the snap cutter by scribing the surface of the tile. It is a simple tool that resembles a common glass cutter. After aligning a metal straightedge in the desired location on the tile, dragging the tile scribe along the straightedge in one firm, quick movement produces the score. After placing a support under the tile aligned with the score, you snap the tile by pressing firmly with your hand. Always wear protective gloves when using a tile scribe to avoid injury.

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.

Contractors tile cutter

Contractors tile cutter

Tools Materials

  • Carbide scribe

    Carbide scribe

  • Tile nippers

    Tile nippers

  • Rubbing brick

    Rubbing brick

  • Tile cutter

    Tile cutter

  • Drill/driver


  • Hole saw bits - carbide tipped

    Hole saw bits – carbide tipped

Pros and Cons


  • Excellent for small projects such as bathrooms.
  • Tile edge-work can be covered with baseboards, molding, or cabinets.
  • Best for tile 1-foot-square or less.
  • Except for the snapping motion, tile snap cutters are mostly quiet.
  • Snap tile cutters are dust-free and safe to use.
  • Though tile snap cutters can cut glass or stone, they work best for ceramic or porcelain tile.


  • Tile snap cutters are more difficult to use for more expansive projects like large basement floors or big kitchens.
  • While the line will largely be straight, they are imperfect. Within that line will be smaller surface irregularities to make the cut less than perfect.
  • Tile snap cutters can produce only straight lines, not curves or holes.

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