When setting out on a tile project, it’s as important to give as much consideration to the tile saw used as the tile itself. The best tile saws use diamond blades to cut glass, ceramic, and other materials, though they differ in beds, power, and water reservoirs―all factors to keep in mind when selecting the right saw for the work.
That’s just the beginning. Many (but not all) tile saws also use water on the spinning blade to reduce friction, noise, and dust while also increasing the blade’s longevity. Don’t forget to weigh the option of sliding beds, which many believe make it easier for you to accurately and safely slide a tile under the blade. With all of these available features, you can wind up with the wrong tile saw if you don’t carefully consider your project’s details. Start your project by reviewing the shopping tips and recommendations in this guide.
- BEST OVERALL: PORTER-CABLE PCE980 Wet Tile Saw
- RUNNER-UP: SKIL 3550-02 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw
- UPGRADE PICK: DEWALT Wet Tile Saw with Stand (D24000S)
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Leegol Electric 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw
- BEST PORTABLE: DEWALT Wet Tile Saw, Masonry, 4 3/8-Inch (DWC860W)
- BEST FOR SMALL PROJECTS: SKIL 3540-02 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw
- BEST HANDHELD: ROTORAZER Compact Circular Saw Set
- BEST FOR MANUAL CUTTING: QEP 10630Q 24-Inch Manual Tile Cutter
Types of Tile Saws
As you start shopping for the best tile saw, it may not take long before you notice there are a few types of tile saws available. Each type works a bit differently than the others, so learning about the differences will help you figure out which one will work for your project.
Wet Tile Saw
One of the most common ways to cut tile is with a wet tile saw. These electric saws use a spinning, diamond-embedded blade to cut tile accurately and rather quickly. Wet saws look similar to table saws, but with the addition of a water basin underneath. The water both lubricates and cools the saw blade, while also keeping airborne dust to a minimum.
Much like table saws can bevel wood, it’s possible to cut bevels and angles on your tile saw. Often this requires you to adjust the deck or topside of the saw rather than tilting the blade. Many wet saws have sliding beds or adjustable rip fences, increasing your control as you push the tile through the saw blade. The size of the sliding bed varies from model to model, and a bigger bed can make cutting large floor tiles easier.
A large wet saw isn’t your only option for cutting tile quickly and accurately. Electric or battery-powered handheld models can quickly cut a tile to shape or even cut intricate angles or shapes around moldings and cabinets. They work best with medium to large tiles but also work well for smaller tiles attached with fiberglass sheets.
Handheld tile saws look and work a lot like a circular saw. Like wet saws, they use diamond-embedded blades, though they come in both wet and dry versions. Wet versions usually feature a hose attached to the saw to keep the blade lubricated and keep the dust down, while dry versions just let the dust fly.
The advantage of a handheld tile saw is you can conquer tight angles and irregular shapes or curves. They also can be easier and quicker to set up, making them desirable for jobs that require just a cut or two. The downside is you need to develop an accurate technique, which can take a bit of experience. Also, these saws can be quite messy, since they don’t have water basins to catch water, so you’ll probably want to use them outside.
Some tile professionals prefer to use an electric grinder fitted with a diamond-embedded wheel for cutting tile. A wheel can be an attractive option if you already own a grinder. These wheels make the grinder work similarly to a handheld saw, but with some trade-offs.
Grinders have plenty of power, so they’re great for stubborn materials like granite. However, they’re often more awkward to hold, as they’re slightly less balanced than a handheld saw. Also, they don’t have a flat surface for the tile to sit against, so you can inadvertently cut bevels if you aren’t paying attention. The significant advantage is you can use the face of the grinding wheel to work your way to a perfect cut, rather than using just the edge of a handheld saw’s blade.
Working with a grinder is messy. It’s best to have a helper hold a shop vacuum close to your spinning blade if you prefer to keep the mess down.
The most common and inexpensive way to cut tiles to shape involves a tile cutter. Without requiring any electricity or a battery, you can use them to make straight cuts across certain types of tiles.
If you’re installing glass or ceramic tiles, tile cutters are an excellent way to make quick, relatively mess-free cuts. These tools work by scoring a cut line with a small tungsten-carbide blade across the surface of a tile. You then use a lever to apply pressure to both sides of the score line. When you apply sufficient pressure, the tile will snap along the line.
This method creates very little dust, though small bits of glass can be left behind. Also, since this method depends on breaking the tile, the edges aren’t as cleanly cut as they would be with a diamond-embedded power saw. They also cannot make curves or intricate cuts.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Tile Saw
Now that you know a bit more about the types of saws, there are a few other things to keep in mind while you’re shopping for the best tile saw. This section shares some of the most important features to consider, so you can choose the best tile saw for your work.
Cut Quality & Accuracy
Tiles can affect the look of a space, so it’s important to consider the saw’s cut quality and accuracy in order to achieve the design you desire. Some saws have features that make accurate cuts easier to achieve.
When it comes to wet saws, consider a model that provides some type of guide for creating straight cuts. A guide could be an adjustable table saw-like fence or a sliding bed that holds your tile in place while cutting. Also, adjustable bevels will allow you to make accurate outside and inside corners, which are ideal if you’re using tile as a base molding.
The accuracy of handheld and grinding tile saws is largely up to the user’s ability. However, some handheld saws have laser guides and attachments you can use to guide the saw as you cut.
The quickest way to go over your tile budget and frustrate yourself is by using a low-quality tile blade. Poor quality blades can chip your tile, slow the process, and cause more headaches than the initial savings are worth.
The chances are your saw will come with a diamond-grit blade, which is a necessity for fast cuts. However, the low-quality blades that come with budget-friendly saws often wobble a bit while cutting, causing you to create an inconsistent cut. They also wear out quickly, requiring more effort on your part to pass through the blade. If you find you’re struggling to achieve perfect results, it might be the blade’s fault, not yours.
Upgrading the blade can help make an inexpensive saw cut better, so it’s something to keep in mind if you’re getting frustrated.
Type of Tile
The type of tile you’re using can have a lot to do with choosing the best tile saw. Some materials require extra features to create the best results.
Glass, ceramic, and porcelain are generally pretty easy to work with, so you can use just about any saw to cut them. However, marble is too soft to snap, so a tile cutter won’t be your best choice. Some natural materials, like terracotta, stone, and others that tend to be very dusty, almost require a wet saw as the mess can be unbearable and can make it difficult to see what you’re doing.
A handheld wet/dry tile saw is the most versatile tile saw. A wet saw follows closely behind and creates more accurate cuts. If you’re unsure about the type of saw your tile requires, these two styles will work for almost any tile and situation.
As mentioned earlier, water can help make tile cutting a much more enjoyable process. While splashes can be messy, the trade-offs for quick and accurate cuts and working in a low-dust environment might be worth it to you.
How the water feeds onto the saw blade is something to consider. Many wet saws have no feed at all, instead relying on the blade dipping into the water basin below the saw’s surface. Others pump water out and onto the blade. Pumps are far more efficient, as they ensure there is plenty of water directly on the cut, but these models can be more expensive.
If you’re concerned about mixing water with power, that’s understandable. The motors are well sealed from splashes, so there’s very little risk of a shock from a new wet saw. If your saw is in disrepair, however, you might want to think about replacing it with a new model.
Our Top Picks
Now that you know what need for your renovation, you’re ready to shop for your supplies. See some of the best tile saws you can buy for achieving a top-notch finished product.
If you have a long list of tile projects ahead of you, the PORTER-CABLE PCE980 Wet Tile Saw fits the bill. This durable saw features a stainless steel top for greater longevity, half of which slides for highly accurate results. It can handle up to 17-inch cuts, which is perfect for 12-inch tiles cut at 45-degree angles. It has a one-horsepower motor, a 7-inch blade, and an enclosed water reservoir for dust control and blade longevity.
Even though the splash guard may obstruct some of the sightlines, it’s a design flaw that most of the competition faces as well. This saw is still among the best for fine tile work, because it allows you to cut down to 1/16 of an inch.
The SKIL 3550-02 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw features SKIL’s HydroLock system, which stops water splash when it’s in use. The blade guard contains the water and also does a great job of allowing the user to see the cut. The worktable has a slide-out wing to support larger tiles up to 18 inches. Plus, the water-fill lid doubles to help the operator cut bevels at 22.5 and 45 degrees.
This saw falls short of the top spot for only one reason: It doesn’t have a sliding bed. Sliding wide tiles through a wet saw accurately can be a challenge without one. Thanks to the blade guard’s superior visibility, you can still get accurate cuts if you use its adjustable fence with a sliding bevel gauge.
The DEWALT Wet Tile Saw works well for both pros and DIYers. This upgrade has a
1½ -horsepower motor that easily powers a 10-inch diamond blade. It allows you to cut moldings up to 3⅛-inches thick and to make plunge cuts for outlets. Plus, it has a cut capacity of 24 inches, which is enough for a 45-degree cut on an 18-inch tile.
It has two adjustable spray nozzles to control dust and overspray. The large sliding bed makes long cuts accurate to within 1/32-inch over 18 inches. It also bevels to preset 22.5 and 45-degree angles. If you’re willing to spend a little extra on a high-quality tile saw, the DEWALT system is top-notch and durable enough to serve you well for years to come.
When you want a utilitarian wet tile saw at a bargain price, consider the Leegol 7-inch Wet Tile Saw. The Leegol is an effective unit with few frills but great features. It has a 7-inch blade and bladeguard, a water reservoir, and a rip fence, but nothing more. The entire worktop tilts, both for filling the reservoir and making bevel cuts. The Leegol features a 12-inch cut capacity and a rip fence that helps to guide straighter cuts.
Do take care of the chrome-plated worktop, as pushing tiles across it may scratch it, and the surface will eventually rust. At this price point, however, this seems like a fair trade-off.
Even some of the best tile saws aren’t right for intricate outlet or vent hole cuts in the middle of a tile. For those jobs, a handheld masonry saw is the better choice. The DEWALT DWC860W
4⅜-inch Wet/Dry Masonry Saw can plunge cut awkward cut-outs or cut a rounded corner on a tile. It can also cut curves for tiles against wavy walls. It has a power 10.8-amp motor that runs at 13,000 rpm for plenty of cutting capability.
It includes a 12-foot water hose that hooks up to the saw for wet saw applications. You can also run it dry if you are concerned about dust or the blade overheating. The DEWALT bevels up to 45 degrees as well, creating clean outside corners where needed.
SKIL’s 3540-02 7-inch Wet Tile Saw is designed to help homeowners and DIYers tackle small- to medium-size projects, such as backsplashes and craftwork. This saw can handle 12-inch cross cuts and 7¾-inch tiles on a 45-degree angle, and its adjustable fence aids in accurate and repeatable cuts. The beveling worktable can cut measurements between 0 and 45-degrees. Plus, the stainless steel worktop will outlast those made with cheaper materials.
While the reservoir and blade guard combination does a solid job of containing most of the mess in cutting backsplash or shower tile, beveling corner tiles still can get a little tricky. And the entire table has beveled edges, so watch out for water running off the side of the saw instead of into the reservoir.
If you’re looking for a tile-cutting tool with some extra versatility, check out the ROTORAZER Compact Circular Saw Set. This saw comes with multiple saw blades, allowing you to tackle tile, metal, wood, and other materials with the same saw. With the diamond blade fitting, its plunge-cut action makes it capable of cutting outlet and vent holes in tile with ease.
The ROTORAZER comes with three different blades, including tungsten carbide for wood, steel for metals, and diamond-embedded for cutting tile. It also features a hard carrying case for safe storage and a dust extraction hose that attaches to the saw to keep the mess controllable. It can cut materials up to ½-inch thick and allows you to make curved cuts easily.
Tile saws are inherently messy, so if you don’t need a saw filled with water, why use one? Instead, consider a tile cutter such as QEP’s 24-inch cutter. It uses a tungsten-carbide cutting wheel to score and snap tiles to size, without spinning wheels or all the dust and water. This QEP tool can cut 24-inch flooring tiles or 12-inch tiles on a 45-degree angle. It also works well on large mosaics, though a tile saw is more suitable for smaller mosaics as they’re hard to snap cleanly.
Also remember that tile cutters are best saved for straight cuts, as they won’t bevel or cut curves. If you’re looking for outside corners or curved cuts, you’ll be better off using a standard tile saw or handheld masonry saw.
FAQs About Tile Saws
While cutting tile requires some special tools, it doesn’t have to be an intimidating task. With the right knowledge, you’ll be able to cut tiles with your new saw in no time. The result will be an excellent finish for your next renovation. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about tile saws and how they work.
Q: Do I need a wet saw to cut tile?
No, you don’t, but a wet saw could be your best option. If you don’t use a wet saw, you’ll have to deal with lots of dust. Otherwise, just ensure that you’re using a diamond-embedded blade in a grinder or handheld saw. You also can use a tile cutter for some softer materials.
Q: Can I use a Dremel to cut tile?
Dremel offers several diamond-embedded cutting wheels for their rotary tools. They’ll work, but it just might take you longer, and it could be more difficult to cut a straight line. With that said, Dremel rotary tools are excellent for creating outlet cuts and curves.
Q: What size tile saw do I need?
The most common size blades are 4½ and 7 inches. Both will work for most renovation work, though 4½ -inch blades are much cheaper to replace than 7-inch models.