After your tile project has been planned and your tiles are bought, it eventually comes time to think about how to cut your tiles. Even the most straightforward tiling job requires some kind of cutting - whether to fit pieces in corners or to work around obstacles – so knowing how to cut tiles is an important skill to achieve a professional look and cut down on wasted material.
Different jobs require different cuts. The material you’re working with as well as the shape of cut you need entails different methods and tools. To figure out how to handle all those different cuts, we’re bringing you this guide which will help you plan ahead of time - remember, you can never ‘uncut’ a tile!
We’ll cover some of the most widely used tile cutting tools and when to use them in this guide for DIY home improvement fans or first-time tilers!
Your Guide to Tile Cutting Tools
Deciding on which tile cutting method is best for your particular project begins with understanding the design of each tool as well as considering the scope of your job. There are 3 factors that will help you determine what type of tool you should use:
1- What type of tile you’re cutting
2- What sort of cut is needed
3- How many tiles you plan on cutting
To begin, determine the type of tile you’re installing. Here is a quick breakdown of the most common tools you can use for each type of tile.
Next, narrow down your options by figuring out the sort of cut(s) you need (straight, angled, curved, etc.) and how many tiles you plan on cutting for the whole project. After you narrow down your options, you can finally decide on the right tool(s) based on your budget and personal preferences. But first, let’s see the purpose of each tool and how they work!
(As a note, you’ll see that with most of the tools, in general, have the same cutting process: Measure and mark the tile, snap or cut it, then smooth the edges. Also, some tile projects may need a combination of tools and techniques too. Let’s start.)
A glass cutter is often used if the task is small and does not involve any complex or curvy cuts. This small hand tool uses rotating wheels to cut glass tiles or ceramic tiles without chipping or crushing them.
When Does it Work Best? This tool is better suited to small jobs where you need just a few cuts.
When to Avoid? When you need to cut out corners or curves.
Which Materials is it Used For? Glass and ceramic tiles
What Else You’ll Need: A square ruler, chalk or pencil to mark lines, wire hanger, and a rubbing stone
How to Cut Tile with a Glass Cutter -
1. Measure & Mark: Mark the line on the tile where you want to make a cut - it’s essential to place your mark on the glazed or polished side of your tile that will face outwards.
2. Position: Place the tile on a flat surface, and use a square ruler as a guide for your glass cutter. Always set your square ruler slightly off the marked line (less than ¼ inch) so the cutter hits the right place.
3. Score: Place the scoring tool on the marked line, starting at the edge of the tile. Press down the cutter as you move across the tile - the goal is to score a line without cutting all the way through. If you hear a scratching noise as you move the, it means your tile is being scored!
4. Snap: Place a wire hanger on a flat surface, and position your scored line over it. Using gentle pressure, push down on the sides of the tile to snap it. You can also use tile nippers to complete this step.
5. Smooth: Smooth out sharp cut edges to ensure there are no cuts or snags. Use your rubbing stone (aluminum oxide stone) to file glass tile edges as well as high fired porcelain.
How Much is a Glass Cutter? You can easily pick one up for around $10 at Home Depot or Lowes. You can also find this IMT Heavy Duty Pencil Glass Cutter Oil on Amazon.
Snap Cutter (Manual Tile Cutter)
Also known as a rail tile cutter, a snap cutter is a low-budget option when it comes to cutting tile. It’s also a safe alternative to power tools, as it does not require electricity or water.
When Does it Work Best? A snap cutter works great for small projects when you don’t need to cut a huge amount of tiles. It’s also good for diagonal cuts and cuts at different angles.
When to Avoid? A snap cutter will not cut curves or bevels. Because it is a manual process, it’s not very ideal for large projects (such as large scale floor tiling projects). Although this tool is handy for making straight cuts, it doesn’t create perfectly straight lines like a wet tile saw. Ceramic or porcelain tiles more than 3/8 inches thickness, natural stone and marble tiles, and large format tiles shouldn’t be cut with a snap cutter - these tiles should be cut with a wet tile saw.
Used for Which Materials? A snap cutter is mostly used to cut ceramic tiles that are up to 3/8 inches thick. Depending on the type of texture, you can also use it for cutting porcelain tile. A snap cutter may be used to cut marble tiles too - but only if it has tungsten carbide blades.
How to Cut Tile with a Snap Cutter
1. Measure & Mark: Mark the line on the tile where you want to make a cut.
2. Position & Score: Place the tile on a flat surface, glazed side up, beneath the cutting wheel. Starting at the edge of the tile, press the carbide scoring wheel firmly across the face of the tile, until you score a straight line. It may require a second pass of the cutting wheel to start a line, but don’t attempt multiple passes as too many scores will chip the edges.
3. Snap: After scoring the line, lift the handle and let the pressure down onto the center of the tile. Apply a firm and gentle pressure to the handle. If your tile was properly scored, it will snap easily.
4. Smooth: If the edges of tile are sharp or rough, smooth with a rubbing stone or brick.
How Much is a Snap Cutter? Snap cutters can cost as little as $15 to $25, but professional ones go up to $200. Tools Boss.com recommended the QEP 10630Q 24-Inch Manual Tile Cutter which is typically around $100.
A tile nipper, also known as a nibbling tool, will help you to cut tile in small snips, which is difficult to do with larger tools. You need to have some patience though, as you can cut tile this way only a little bit at a time!
When Does it Work Best? When you want to make irregular cuts rather than straight– such as curved cuts, arcs, circular sections, tiny cutouts or notches - a tile nipper is beneficial. Tile nippers are excellent for cutting small pieces off a tile; for example, around toilet flanges, faucet valves, door cases, etc.
When to Avoid? When you want to cut off large, straight pieces!
Used for Which Materials? A tile nipper is commonly used with ceramic tiles. It can also cut thinner porcelain, concrete, or even some natural stone tiles but beware that you need a quite firm grip and squeeze to cut those materials. It’s also useful for tiles with smaller sections, such as mosaic tile sheets.
How to Cut Tile with a Tile Nipper
1. Measure & Mark: Mark the line on the tile where you want to make a cut. You can also use a compass, or round objects such as cans or lids to draw a curve or semicircles.
2. Position & Score: If the area you’ll be cutting is far from the edge of the tile, consider cutting the tile down first. In that case, start with a snap cutter or a wet tile saw to score and cut off straight pieces. Then continue shaping your smaller area once it has been trimmed.
3. Snap: Squeeze the nipper’s handles forcefully to nibble the chips one by one. Take small nips, without going too fast so that you don’t risk breaking the tile beyond the mark.
4. Smooth: Tile edges are extremely sharp unless they’re rubbed down! Pay extra attention to rubbing the cuts that will align with objects, such as shower drains.
How Much is a Tile Nipper? Tile nippers usually range between $10-$25 like this QEP
Handheld Tile Cutter with Tungsten Carbide Scoring Wheel for Ceramic Wall Tile up to 1/4 in. Thick from Home Depot.
An angled grinder is helpful to make multiple cuts in different sizes and shapes, including L cuts, circle cuts, straight cuts and square cuts. Although its cuts are not as clean as the ones you get with a wet saw, this tool is still a good option as it requires less finesse to operate. Depending on the work, you can choose electric, cordless, pneumatic or gas powered angle grinders. We recommend electric angle grinders as they are more powerful and cover a lot of surface area (better for large jobs!).
Where Does it Work Best? This tool works best when cutting tiles around doorways, heater vents, even toilets for piping. It is also suited to cutting curves in tiles rather than drilling holes.
Used for Which Materials? It is a common tool for cutting ceramic, porcelain, stone, marble, and glass tiles. A diamond-tipped, smooth-edge blade must be used when cutting ceramic tiles whereas notched blades are better for porcelain tiles and serrated blades are more suited to natural stone tiles.
How to Cut Tile with an Angled Grinder
1. Measure & Mark: Mark the desired shape (circular shape, square, semi-circular, etc.) you want to cut on both sides of the tile.
2. Position: Place the tile on a flat surface. Place masking tape painter’s tape around the outer edge to prevent the glaze from chipping. Make sure you have the right blade depending on the type of tile you have (as mentioned above). Secure your tile with a clamp.
3. Cut: Follow the marked shape by using the edge of the angled grinder gently to get a clean mark. Make multiple cuts, bringing the blade deeper each time. Make straight cuts by holding the blade vertically (as pictured), or angle it horizontally to make rounded cuts and circles.
4. Smooth: Finally, smooth out the edges of the tile. You can use the flat side of the blade, a rubbing stone, or sandpaper for smoothing.
How Much is an Angled Grinder? They typically start around $30 for a basic angle grinder but lower price points may not offer as many options or accessories as higher priced models
This method is suitable for bigger jobs that involve a great amount of tile, but one has to be experienced to use a wet saw. Their tile cuts are extremely precise - not only can they be cut to your exact measurements, but they create a smooth, straight edge. Wet saws can even cut tile trimmings with bullnose or quarter-round shapes.
When Does it Work Best? Wet saws are great for bulk projects! If you’re cutting a large amount of tile, or need corner cuts around door jambs and wall outlets, this is the tool for you.
Used for Which Materials? A wet saw can be used for cutting porcelain tile, as well as ceramic, marble, and glass tiles.
Check out our Video on How to Cut Marble Peel and Stick Tile-
How to Cut Tile with a Wet Saw
1. Measure & Mark: Mark the tile in the shape you want to make a cut.
2. Position & Prepare: Place the tile on a flat surface. Use a leveler to make sure your tile and cut marks are lined up perfectly with your blade. As with any power tool, read your tool’s instructions before you begin. Ensure your blade is sharp and fresh. Use tape to mask the outer edges of the tile to prevent chipping. Make sure to have a full reservoir of water before you begin. Place the tile into the water when you’re ready to start cutting and confirm that water is flowing over the blade.
3. Cut: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cutting your tiles. For the cleanest cut, avoid pushing or forcing the tile into the saw. Instead, gently guide the tile towards the saw and let the saw do the cutting for you. The slower you feed the tile into the blade, the more accurate your cut will be. You can also use a cutter to score lines before entering the tile into the saw for even cleaner cuts.
4. Smooth: Use a rubbing stone or a rubbing brick to smooth out the edges of the tile if needed.
How Much is a Wet Saw? A budget priced wet saw can be around $60 while a professional one can cost upwards of $500 or a high capacity saw with a stand can be close to $1200. Unless you envision doing many projects in the future, renting one may be the best option to complete your project.
How to Cut Holes in Tile
What if you want to create a hole in the center of the tile? That’s not a problem! Whether you need to cut circles for a pipe, valve fixtures, or for any other reason, there is one tool that makes cutting a hole much easier: Dremel!
With a Dremel tool, it is especially easy to cut holes. A Dremel tool allows you to drill holes in a fixed tile as well as make holes in a loose tile that has not been installed yet. Cutting ceramic tile with a Dremel is the easiest option, as other tiles may require a different bit. To cut a round hole in porcelain tile or in marble, a diamond bit is ideal to cut holes through those tiles.
The expert recommendation when you’re opening a hole in a fixed tile is to put the drill to the tile at a 45-degree angle, pushing until it is at a 90-degree angle. Don’t push too hard, or the drill bit will be worn out too fast. Once you reach the end of your cut line, pull the tool out gently. Cutting past the marked lines may result in damaged tile.
When you’re drilling a hole in a loose tile, make sure to use industry-grade clamps to secure the tile in place before cutting.
Cutting Curved Glass
Cutting curved glass is another challenge if you’re not sure which tools you need! Yes, using a wet saw for glass tile is a time-effective method to get clean glass edges and reduce the risk of damaging glass tiles. However, if you’re laying tiles around a curved object, a wet saw won’t do the work! You need to use the combination of a scoring tool, wet saw, pliers and a rubbing stone.
Here are the steps to follow for cutting curved glass;
1. Mark your cut with a marker and score your tile with a handheld glass scoring tool
2. Use your wet saw to make straight cuts starting from the edge of the tile that you’re planning to remove
3. Snap off glass pieces around the curved cut, using pliers until you’re left with just curved glass tile
4. Finally, smooth and polish the glass tile with a rubbing stone!
How to Cut Ceramic Tile without Chipping
Cutting ceramic tile without chipping it can be a separate challenge. That’s why experts have invented methods for cutting tile that can prevent chips and breaks. Here are a few methods to prevent chips during the tile cutting process if you’re working with ceramic tiles.
Notch System - If you have a wet saw or other power blade to cut your ceramics, you should insert notches into the tile before you cut it all the way through.
Applying Pressure - With a successful notching system in place, another way to prevent the likelihood of chips or cracks is by gently applying pressure while cutting the tile. The method is the same whether using a hand tool or a power saw. Apply an even amount of pressure from start to finish as your blade goes through the cutter. Gentle pressure ensures that your tile goes all the way through, from end to end, as smoothly as possible.
Make Shallow Cuts - You don’t want to cut too deeply, or you ruin the structural integrity of the tile itself! Cutting shallow and slow will prevent the tile from chipping. It’s important to adjust your blade to make ⅛” deep cuts. Anything more, and you may damage the tiles!
When cutting glass tiles, always remember that a glass cutting blade is different than blades used for ceramic tiles. Consider getting a diamond blade for your glass tile cutter as it reduces aggressive friction which may cause cracks or harsh cuts!
Wet saws can get really expensive and take up a lot of room. If this is a one-time job, consider renting from your local hardware store instead.
Make sure you are always following safety precautions so you don’t end up hurting yourself or your project! Always wear protective eye gear, thick gloves, and a mask while operating saws.
Don’t worry, cutting tiles isn’t as daunting as it sounds! Just make sure you consider your material and quantity, then find the right tool for your job. If that still sounds like too much work there’s always peel and stick tile!
As you can see, there are various tools to use for cutting tiles based on the type and number of tiles, as well as the kinds of cuts you want to make. Consider your factors and pick the one that fits your needs to ensure a professional result. Initially, you might break a tile or two, but that’s okay! With time, you’ll be an expert. If you have any doubts regarding the usage of any tool, let us know in the comment section for further guidance!