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How to Cut Ceramic Tile

There are many methods to cut ceramic tile. Some of them are dependent on how hard the tile is. For example, porcelain tile - which is VERY HARD - is best cut with a wet diamond tile saw. Snap tile cutters almost always shatter this brittle tile.

Common 1/4-inch tile found in most tile stores that’s used for bathroom walls and kitchen back splashes is not nearly as hard as porcelain. These can be nipped by hand or cut easily with a traditional snap tile cutter.

You can access a handy quick start guide with more tips and a full tool list here: How to Cut Ceramic Tile Quick Start Guide.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: hammer-2-5

Step One: Try to identify the tile you’re trying to cut before you invest in tools. Look at the label on the box or ask the tile store sales associate to help you. The center core of porcelain tile often, but not always, has a putty color. Softer tile that’s easier to cut almost always has a white or orange-red core color.

Step Two: If you only need to cut tile for one or two days, consider renting the needed tools. Tool rental businesses will have everything you need, even deluxe wet-diamond saws that will cut any tile.

Step Three: Purchase some very inexpensive tile, or ask for damaged scraps that might be thrown away for you to make practice cuts. It won’t take long for you to see how easy it is to use a traditional snap cutter and tile nippers.

Step Four: A snap cutter cuts tile like you might score and cut a piece of clear glass. A small carbide wheel is pulled across the glazed face of the tile scratching it exactly along the cut line. Pressing down on the lever used to make the scratch applies pressure to the tile on either side of the score mark snapping the tile.

Step Five: Tile nippers are tools that are similar to scissors. You squeeze the handles of this tool and carbide-tipped jaws crunch the tile. If you take small bites, you can cut a tile. It just takes a while to use this tool. If you try to bite too much tile at once, you’ll ruin the tile causing it to crack randomly.

Step Six: L-shaped cuts can be done with a snap cutter and a carbide rod or straight saw. You need to cut the shortest leg of the L-cut first with the saw, then you use the snap cutter to finish the longer cut. It can be tricky if you’re cutting an L-shaped piece that has a least one long, narrow leg.

Step Seven: Wet saws are deluxe tools that allow you to make fast cuts on tile made from any material. A spinning saw blade that has tiny diamonds on the edge of the blade cuts through tile like a hot knife through butter. Water flowing on the blade keeps it cool so you don’t ruin the blade.

Step Eight: If you can’t afford to rent or purchase a wet diamond saw, a simple grinder equipped with a dry abrasive blade will do everything the wet saw will do. However, the grinder will create vast clouds of dust. Work outdoors and wear protective eye-wear and high-quality dust masks to prevent harm to your lungs and eyes.

Summary: There are many tools you can use to cut ceramic tile. It pays to purchase the tools if you intend to do lots of tile work over time. Snap cutters are not too expensive. Grinders with abrasive blades are also affordable. Professionals will almost always go for the wet saw because it’s faster and there’s no dust.

Column: HT005

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