When considering how to cut tiles, it helps to know the different tools for cutting tiles that are available for you to use.
Different tools will be better or worse at performing certain types of cuts such as:
Straight, precise and square cuts
Angled or mitred cuts on a 45 degree angle
Circular holes, cutouts and penetrations like a floor waste drain, shower tap or head etc.
Cutting longer lines (called ripping capacity)
Cutting different depths (some cut less than an inch, while other cut a few inches deep)
Some tools are simply for trimming or cutting slivers, compared to actual line or shape cuts
There is then the consideration that some tools are for power cutting i.e. power tools, and others are manual tools you can use to simply use to quickly make a simple cut without plugging in or making too much of a mess with offcuts.
Without further ado, if you want to know how to cut tiles, the different types of tiles you’ll come across, and the different tools available to cut those tiles, read on!
(*Note that this is a general information guide only, and not professional advice. Do your own research about proper safety and operating practices before cutting tiles)
Different Types Of Tiles
This guide is mainly for cutting ceramic and porcelain tiles, but the other types of tiles you’ll come across might include:
Ceramic Tiles – made of clay that is fired in a kiln, and glazed
Porcelain/Vitrified Tiles – strong, high quality, and almost nonporous (great for wet areas). Can have a polished, natural, or textured finish – and sometimes glazed finish too.
Finger and Pencil Tiles – similar to mosaic tiles, but longer and thinner
Glass Tiles – popular as a decorative tile. Used for mosaics and splash backs mainly
Listello – long and narrow – used to create borders
Metal Tiles – entirely metal, or just metal plating. Not common
Mosaic – smaller tiles laid together – popular as decorations or features.
Stone and Natural Material Tiles – Natural materials like stone, slate, marble, sandstone, granite, and travertine
When cutting other types of tiles, check the owner’s manual/specifications of the tool you’re using to see what types of tiles it was designed to cut.
You may need to change blades to accommodate different tile cutting also (a wet or dry diamond blade is common for cutting tiles).
How To Cut Tiles
How you cut tiles will vary slightly from tool to tool, but the following are general guidelines:
Straight Line Cuts (or breaks)
1. Set up your tool – angle grinder, manual tile cutter or wet tile saw are commonly used
2. Mark the line on the tile with a pencil, and remember to make it a little further in if a wall or floor tile to allow room for grout
3. Score the tile along the line
4. Break or cut along the pencil/score line on the tile
5. Dry (if using a wet tile saw) tile, and file or grind edge id necessary
6. Tile is ready to install
Shape & Circle Cutouts
1. Set up your angle grinder – using a 4 inch dry cut diamond blade usually works
2. Mark on the tile using a template of the penetration/cutout piece like the drain plate, and a pencil
3. Bring the line a little further in from the original line, and score if necessary
4. Place the head of the angle grinder in the middle of the marked circle, and simply slide the blade around the mark (like you would with a protractor)
1. Set up your wet tile saw – helps if you have a tile saw that allows you to set the blade head on a 45 degree angle
2. Mark on your tile where you’d like to cut
3. Score tile if necessary
4. Cut tile on 45 degree angle
6 Different Tools For Cutting Tiles You Can Use
1. Angle Grinder
Good for free handed cuts, or if you have a guide, can do straighter cuts. Also, an angle grinder is great for circular cutouts like bathroom drain traps and toilet flange holes.
If you want to read more about angle grinders, you can do so at Best Angle Grinder: Buyer’s Guide & Reviews.
2. Manual/Snap Tile cutter
Good for short, or long rough straight cuts.
A manual tile cutter doesn’t run off of power. You mark the tile, score it with the cutter, and then break the tile through the line.
3. Wet Tile Saw
A wet tile saw is the best tool for performing a large number of precise cuts – straight, diagonal or mitred.
If you are doing a small tiling job as a homeowner, consider buying a cheaper wet tile saw.
It is also best for the longest and deepest cuts, and cutting the largest tiles if you purchase a more expensive professional type wet tile saw.
If you want to read more about wet tile saws, you can do so at Best Wet Tile Saw: Buyer’s Guide & Reviews.
4. Rotozip Tool
Rotozip tools are good for shaving slivers and thin lengths off the side of a tile.
You can then touch it up with a file or stone if required after cutting.
5. Power Drills using Diamond Tips
Circle diamond tips (good for pipe, tap and other small wall cutouts) can be inserted into power drills to cutout small circles and shapes in tiles.
6. Tile Nippers Tool
Tile nippers are extremely quick and easy to use.
They are a manual snipper tool that will nip the of edge of tile and break off straight little sections for you.
You can straighten the edge with the angle grinder or file.