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How to Cut Tile

In This Article

In this article, we'll go over three different tools for cutting tile: with a wet saw, snap cutter and angle grinder. For each method, we’ll talk about how to cut various materials, including natural stone, porcelain, glass and ceramic. (Not every cutting method is suitable for all of these materials, and we’ll talk about those considerations, too.) We’ll also call out some important safety tips to keep in mind during your project, and share general tips for smoothing the edges of cut tile.

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Cutting Tile With a Wet Saw

wet saw

The first tool we’ll discuss, which is one of the most versatile for any pro, is the wet saw, which can cut all of the materials mentioned above: natural stone, porcelain and ceramic, and glass. (The only caveat is that if you will be cutting glass tile, you’ll need to switch out your blade for one specifically designed for cutting glass. demonstrate that for you with a couple of different materials.)

A wet saw is a saw with water in the reservoir. Water is pumped up through a hose and drips it out onto the blade, keeping the blade cool so that your tile can get smooth cuts all the way through. The blade stays in place, and you slide the tile through to make cuts.

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  • How to Cut Ceramic Tile With a Wet Saw

    While very durable, ceramic tile is softer than some other common materials, such as porcelain, and therefore cuts more easily. Position your tile against the fence, and apply smooth and consistent pressure (without going too fast) as you run your tile through the score.

  • How to Cut Marble Tile With a Wet Saw

    Marble is another soft material and should always be cut using a water source to prevent chipping. The key to cutting natural stone, like marble, is to apply slow, smooth, consistent pressure to ensure an extra smooth cut. Going slower than you would for a material like ceramic ensures that the blade doesn't heat up too fast and start chipping the stone.

  • How to Cut Porcelain Tile With a Wet Saw

    Porcelain is one of the hardest tile materials. It is also the hardest to cut. Again, you’ll want to bring the tile through the blade very slowly so that the blade doesn’t heat up and chip the tile.

    Sometimes chipping does occur on the glaze of the tile during cutting, but we’ll share some pro tips on how to fix this at the end of the article.

  • How to Cut Glass Tile With a Wet Saw

    Glass is one of the more difficult tile materials to install and to cut because it requires special nuances when installing. Before you attempt to cut glass tile with a wet saw, make sure you switch out your blade for a blade made specifically to cut glass tile. It’s also critical to go extra slowly while making your cuts.

Top Tips for Cutting Tile With a Wet Saw

  • After turning on the machine, let the blade come up to speed before you begin.
  • Apply constant pressure as you push the tile through using two hands.
  • Always use appropriate protective equipment to cover your ears and eyes when using a wet saw.

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Cutting Tile With a Snap Cutter

wet saw

In this section, we’ll demonstrate how to use a snap cutter to cut glass tile, ceramic tile and porcelain tile. The only tile you cannot cut on a snap cutter is natural stone.

Snap cutters are very versatile tools, because they are relatively lightweight and easy to carry around, set up and break down, and you can work with virtually no dust—or mess—right next to your job site.

There are many different versions of snap cutters on the market, but all of them have virtually the same components: they’ll have a cutting wheel, rails (usually two, but sometimes a single rail), and a handle so you can apply pressure.

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  • How to Use a Snap Cutter

    To use a snap cutter, you’ll first apply even and consistent pressure to the handle so the cutting wheel makes a score line into the surface of the tile. Second, you’ll press down on either side of the score line to break the tile. The result is a cut line that’s slightly less clean than what you would get from a wet saw, but it still works very effectively for many materials.

  • How to Cut Glass Tile With a Snap Cutter

    As we mentioned above when discussing how to cut glass tile with a wet saw, glass is a very difficult material to work with, especially when cutting. It’s crucial to go very slowly and provide consistent pressure.

    Our pros recommend making a very light score line when cutting glass tile, because pressing too hard will crack the tile in half. That means that you might not hear the score as you would if you were cutting ceramic or porcelain. The score line will still show up as the cutting wheel runs across the top of the tile.

  • How to Cut Ceramic (and Porcelain) Tile With a Snap Cutter

    The techniques for cutting ceramic tile with a snap cutter and cutting porcelain tile with a snap cutter are nearly identical. When you’re cutting either of these materials, you’ll clearly hear the scoring. You’ll want to use nice, even pressure all the way through on the cut.

    Both porcelain and ceramic cut beautifully on the snap cutter. Because of its relative softness, ceramic tile will only require slight downward pressure after the score has been made for the tile to snap. Porcelain tile is harder and might require more strength to snap along the score line.

Top Tips for Cutting Tile With a Snap Cutter

  • Hold the tile with firm downward pressure
  • Start your cut at the very edge of the tile
  • Apply even pressure all the way through until the wheel rolls off of the tile
  • Make sure pressure legs are flat when they come into contact with the tile

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Cutting Tile With an Angle Grinder

wet saw

The third and final method covered in this article is an angle grinder. When using an angle grinder to cut tile, you want to make sure that you are using a diamond blade.

We recommend using an angle grinder to cut ceramic and porcelain only. There are glass blades for angle grinders available on the market for cutting glass tile, but it’s extremely difficult. And while you can cut natural stone with an angle grinder, you need to apply a water source to prevent chipping, so it takes a higher level of skill.

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  • How to Use an Angle Grinder

    When you first start off your cut, you want to have a nice light pressure and let the blade start the cut for you. To get the straightest cut possible, continue to hold the grinder lightly—using two hands to keep it stabilized—and let the blade do the cutting for you.

    If you’re looking for a perfect, factory-straight cut, the angle grinder isn’t the best tool to achieve that. (It’s hard to get a that result with a handheld tool operated by a human.) But an angle grinder is very useful when a project calls for intricate cuts, L cuts, or cuts to fit unusual angles.

Top Tips for Cutting Tile With an Angle Grinder

  • An angle grinder is very loud, very powerful and generates a lot of dust. Perform your cuts outdoors, wear a face mask, and protect your ears and eyes.
  • As you cut, pull the grinder toward you in a straight line. Don't twist your wrist or try to go left or right.

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How to Smooth Edges of Cut Tile

wet saw

Whether you cut tile using a wet saw, snap cutter or angle grinder, you will end up with some sort of imperfection or chipping on the cut edge of your tile. Even tile pros need to go back and polish the cut edges of every cut they make.

In the image above, the factory edge is on the right, and the cut edge of the tile is on the left. In the close-up, some chipping in the glaze is visible.

To smooth cut edges, you can use a variable speed angle grinder with diamond polishing pads, held at a 45-degree angle to the glazed edge.

If you do not have a variable speed angle grinder, diamond polishing hand pads (available at most hardware and home improvement stores) will provide the same result.

  • When smoothing tile edges by hand, DO position the pad at a 45-degree angle to the glazed edge of the tile, in one direction only.
  • DON’T smooth on a perpendicular angle or scrape the pad back and forth, as this can cause more chipping.

When you’re finished, the cut edge will look as close to the factory edge as possible.

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