How To: Cut Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile affords a durable, attractive surface for floors and walls alike. If there's a ceramic tile job in your future, ensure quality results by first learning what tools you'll need and how best to use them to make a variety of cuts in tile.

How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Prep for Cuts

Photo: fotosearch.com

A small- to medium-size ceramic tiling job is a project that’s well within the grasp of most DIYers. With careful measuring, the right tools, and conscientious attention to detail, a determined homeowner can achieve satisfying results. But doing things right can be time-consuming. Case in point: Even the most straightforward tiling job will require cutting a few tiles, whether to complete the edges of the surface or to work around obstacles. Cutting tiles is a task that demands accurate measurements and precise use of tools. To make sure your project goes smoothly, it’s best to figure out ahead of time how you’ll handle all those cuts.

Different jobs require different types of cuts. For some, you’ll be able to get by with just straight cuts; for others, you may need to cut on the diagonal or carve a corner or curve out of a tile. And each type of cut entails different methods and tools. As you lay out your tile design, determine what kinds of cuts you’ll need, then check below for the situation that best describes your job to find out how to proceed.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Eye protection
- Gloves
- Pencil
- Glass cutter or tile-cutting pliers
- Square
- Rubbing stone
- Tile nippers
- Tile cutter
- Wet saw

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

Whatever cuts you’re making, the general process is the same: Measure and mark the tile on the top (glazed) side, snap or cut it, then smooth the edges. If you’re doing a one-time job that will require a tile cutter or wet saw, you may want to rent instead of buy; these tools are available for rental from home improvement stores. If you have never used any of these tools before, it’s a good idea to practice a little on some spare or scrap tiles before you get started in earnest.

Note that the divisions below are just general guidelines: For some tiles, you may need to use a combination of tools and techniques. Most important, before starting any project that involves cutting tile, put on your eye protection and gloves!

 

How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using a Glass Cutter

Photo: fotosearch.com

1. FOR SMALL JOBS WITH STRAIGHT CUTS

If you need to cut just a few tiles and you don’t need to make any curved or corner cuts, you can probably make do with just a square and a glass cutter or tile-cutting pliers.

• Measure and Mark. Measure, then use a pencil to mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Score. Place the tile on a flat surface, such as a workbench or a piece of plywood. Set your square slightly off your marked line so the glass cutter (or the scoring wheel on the pliers) will hit the right place. Then, starting at the edge of the tile, place the scoring tool on the line and press down firmly as you drag it across the tile. You should hear a scratching noise, which is the sign that the tile is being scored.

• Snap. If you’re using pliers, open them and slide the tile all the way into them, with the scoring wheel sitting directly under the line you’ve scored on top of the tile. Squeeze the pliers while gently supporting the tile as it snaps. If you’re used a glass cutter, place a length of wire hanger or other appropriately sized material beneath the scored line, then push down on either side of the tile to snap it; alternatively, grab the tile nippers and snap off the scored piece.

• Smooth. If the cut edge of the tile is rough, smooth it with a rubbing stone.

 

How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using a Tile Cutter

Photo: fotosearch.com

2. FOR BIGGER JOBS WITH STRAIGHT CUTS

If you have lots of tiles to cut, or if you need to make cuts from corner to corner, use a tile cutter. Whether you plan to invest in the purchase or rent one to save a few bucks, just make sure you pick up a tile cutter that’s big enough for the tile you’re cutting! Then, as mentioned above, practice on a few spare tiles until you’re comfortable with this tiling tool.

• Measure and Mark. First, measure and mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Score. Place the tile into the tile cutter. Make sure the tile is pushed snugly up to the fence and that your marked line is directly under the scoring wheel. While applying slight pressure on the handle, slide the wheel forward across the tile. You should hear a scratching noise, which is the sign that the tile is being scored.

• Snap. Once you’ve scored the tile, move the handle back slightly from the tile’s edge and let the breaking feet lie flat on top of the tile. Apply downward pressure on the handle, and the tile will snap.

• Smooth. If the cut edge of the tile is rough, smooth it with a rubbing stone.

 

How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using a Wet Saw

Photo: amazon.com

3. FOR CORNER CUTS AND REALLY BIG JOBS

If you’ll be cutting lots of tiles for a big job, or if you need to make corner cuts around door jambs or wall outlets, you should either invest in or rent a wet saw. As with any power tool, read the instructions before you begin and use all recommended safety precautions—and take a few practice cuts before jumping into the project.

• Measure and Mark. First, measure and mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Cut. Follow all the manufacturer’s instructions for the wet saw, and make sure you’ve put enough water in the tub. Turn the wet saw on, confirm that water is flowing over the blade, then proceed to make your cut the same way you would cut wood on a table saw.

• Smooth. If the cut edge of the tile is rough, smooth it with a rubbing stone.

 

How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using Tile Nippers

Photo: fotosearch.com

4. FOR CURVED CUTS

To make curved cuts, or to remove small pieces of tile, use tile nippers. Have patience, as you can successfully cut tile this way only a little bit at a time.

• Measure and Mark. First, measure and mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Nip. Starting at the edge of the tile, place the tile into the tile nippers and squeeze, removing just a small amount of tile. In this fashion, continue to work your way toward your marked line, taking off only a little bit of tile at a time. If you try to remove too much at once, you will end up cracking the tile. As you get closer to your marked line, take smaller and smaller nips.

• Smooth. The cut edge of a nipped tile will be rough, so be sure to smooth it with a rubbing stone.


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