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how to cut ceramic tile

How To Cut Ceramic Tile: Tools & Best Practices

As a professional tile setter, knowing how to cut ceramic tile is essential to ensuring you don’t make any costly mistakes. Ceramic tile is a popular choice among homeowners for various renovation projects. Having the best tools at your disposal will make your tile installation job even easier.

Ceramic tile can be fragile, with the smallest of chips making a difference in the overall appearance of the tile, so you want to be careful and use the right methods when cutting ceramic tile.

This guide will go over the right tools for the job, common problems you may run into, and tips and tricks that even the most experienced tile installers may not be aware of.

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Ceramic Tile Cutters

There are a variety of professional-grade tile cutting tools you can use when cutting ceramic tile. Whether you’re adding in a tile backsplash for a client’s home improvement project or doing something more involved, quality tools will make all the difference.

Some of the tools you can use when cutting ceramic tile include:

  • Manual tile cutter
  • Wet saw
  • Diamond blades
  • Diamond drill bits
  • Tile nipper
  • Angle grinder
  • Rubber diamond pad

To help determine what type of tools you’ll need to cut the tile, you need to figure out what cuts you need. This can include angled, straight, or curved. You also need to think about how many tiles you’ll be cutting for the project.

How to Cut Ceramic Tile With a Wet Saw

how to use a ceramic tile cutter

For an experienced professional tile setter, cutting with a wet saw is a great option when you’re working on a bigger job. You can get a precise cut with this type of saw and get a straight, smooth edge. If you need to cut corners around wall outlets or door jambs, go with a wet saw.

Wet saws come equipped with water pumps that squirt out the liquid on a continual basis onto the diamond blade. Your tile saw needs to have a splash guard if you’re using it inside to help with the spray. We recommend using it outside because of the splatter and dust it creates.

Follow these tips for cutting ceramic tile for big jobs with a wet saw:

  • Measure and mark on the ceramic tile where you want to cut it.
  • Put the tile on a smooth surface.
    • Note: put masking tape around the outside edges of the tile so it doesn’t chip. If your tile saw has a water pump, put the pump in the machine’s water deposit or in a separate bucket and fill it with water to the level indicated on the tank.
    • Note: test it before you start to make sure everything is functioning properly.
  • Each tool comes with different instructions from the manufacturer, so follow their guidelines.
  • Don’t force or push the ceramic tile into the saw.
  • Gently guide the ceramic tile toward the wet saw, letting the blade cut the tile for you.
    • Note: the slower you move, the more accurate the cut will be.

If you’re not confident with using a wet saw but need it to do a big flooring job, practice on old ceramic tiles first. Get the technique down and watch some videos online so you can learn the best methods.

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How to Cut Ceramic Tile with a Manual Tile Cutter

how to use a tile cutter

If you don’t want to bring your power tools or don’t have access to electricity or water, a manual tile cutter is a great option.

However, manual cutters don’t cut tiles on bevels, and it takes a fair amount of practice and skill to cut curves with them. For beginners, it’s best to use them only for diagonal or straight edge cuts.

Follow the below instructions for cutting ceramic tiles with a manual tile cutter

  • Using a pencil, measure and mark the line on the tile where you want to cut.
  • Put the tile on a flat surface with the glazed side up underneath the cutting wheel.
  • Beginning at the edge of the ceramic tile, press the scoring wheel firmly onto the face of the tile until a straight line is scored.
    • Note: it may take a second attempt to get the score line going but don’t do it multiple times as the edges may start to chip.

After the line has been scored, lift the handle of the manual tile cutter, applying pressure on the middle of the tile at one of its ends (which end may or may not matter and you can consult this in the instruction manual of your manual cutter).

  • If you properly scored your tile, it’ll snap.
  • If you have any rough or sharp edges, smooth them with a rubber diamond pad.

Avoid Common Problems With Cutting Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile is compressed and fragile, making it more susceptible to cracking and breaking when you attempt to cut it. There are certain things you can do to ensure you don’t end up with piles of tiles that have jagged breaks and cracks.

If tile setting is part of your profession, invest in quality equipment. Cheap cutters and saws will break easily and damage your tiles.

You should also do regular maintenance on your equipment. Replace the scoring wheel and blades as needed. You can also extend the life of your manual cutters by cleaning them with a proper maintenance kit.

Educate Yourself on the Best Tools & Techniques

Even the most experienced tile setters should continually educate themselves on how to cut ceramic tile. Tile cutting technologies change and advance, so staying on top of the industry news is vital to staying competitive. For more tips and tricks, check out one of our other articles.

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