How to Cut Ceramic Tile

Want to install ceramic tile floors, walls or backsplashes but don't know how? It's easier than you think. One of the first things you need to know is how to cut ceramic tile.

Cutting ceramic tile is a snap. Literally. There are three basic tools that you'll need:

  1. A tile cutter. You can buy a single rail ceramic tile cutter at any hardware or home supply store, or you can rent one from any place that rents tools. If you're buying one, they can be expensive; professional grade models cost upwards of $500 to $700 and  low-end models will start at around $40, but come without much cutting power. If you don't plan to use it often enough to justify the cost of buying, consider renting the best professional grade cutter available at your local hardware rental center.
  2. A hacksaw. A standard hacksaw will do, but you'll need a special carbide-tipped blade available at any hardware store. There are two kinds of blades and you might need both depending on the job: a standard flat blade for cutting a straight line and a rod blade for cutting curves.
  3. A power drill with a carbide tipped drill bit for ceramic tile. Drill bits for drilling wood or metal will not work on ceramic tile as they cannot penetrate the hard porcelain surface. Any hardware store will stock drill bits specifically for drilling ceramic tile.

A tile cutter is simple and easy to use. You simply lay the piece of tile you want to cut into the cutter and lock it into place by tightening the guide. Score the tile by running the carbide wheel across the top or glazed side of the tile. Then press down on the handle which will snap the tile into two clean pieces at the score.

It might take a little practice at first so allow for a few extra tiles for practice.

For L-shaped cuts, here's where you need the hacksaw. With a flat carbide-tipped blade in your hacksaw, cut into the tile as far as you need to for the first cut. For best results on the second cut, it's recommended you use the tile cutter.

If you need to cut a curve, here's where the rod blade comes in. Draw the shape you need to cut onto the tile with a pencil, then saw it with the carbide rod blade installed in your hacksaw.

To cut a hole in the tile, you may need to use a combination of the drill and the rod saw. Drilling a hole can be tricky and require some practice. First place masking tape over where you want to drill to help keep the drill point from "skating" across the porcelain surface, damaging the tile. Then with firm pressure, start at a low speed and drill gently. Be careful as you start to break through the back of the tile and slow the drill to ensure a clean hole. 

If the hole you require is larger than your drill bit, or is of an irregular shape, insert your rod blade through the hole that you've drilled before securing it in your hacksaw, then expand your hole by handsawing.

With a little practice, you'll find it's easier than you think. Keep in mind these instructions are for glazed ceramic tile only and will not work for stone, porcelain or unglazed tile. Look for separate instructions for those materials.

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