How to Cut Tiles
– The different types of tile cutting
– Straight cut with ceramic tongs
– Straight cut with a tile cutter
– Straight cut with an electric tile cutter
– Rounded cut with a parrot cutter
– Rounded cut with a crankshaft saw
– Rounded cut with a hole saw
– Angled cut with an angle grinder
– Tips for cutting thick tiles
When laying tiles, it is often necessary to adjust the size or shape of certain tiles, either to fill in the remaining edges, known as rims, or to insert a switch, an electrical socket, or a pipe. Some tiles, therefore, need to be cut.
You can make straight cuts, angled cuts, or rounded cuts.
There are several tools for cutting tiles. Each one is adapted to the style of tile and the degree of precision of the cut.
The different types of tile cuts
You can make different tile cuts depending on the spaces to be covered.
The straight cut
The straight cut is the most common, used to cut tiles to size and cover the edges (the small spaces left between a full row of tiles and a skirting board or the corner of a wall).
– Ceramic tongs are used to make straight cuts by hand and are helpful when a small number of thin tiles need to be cut.
– The tile cutter is a practical tool for making straight cuts on tiles. It is a machine that works on the same principle as the ceramic cutter but saves time.
– The electric tile cutter can make straight cuts or cut only part of the tile. It offers the advantage of working precisely and quickly.
The round cut is used to adapt the shape of the tiles to allow a pipe to pass through or a switch or socket to be fitted. If you want to cut many thick tiles, use a machine.
– The parrot tongs or the crankshaft saw can make rounded cuts by hand. They allow you to work with thin tiles with precision.
– The hole saw, mounted on a drill, can be used to drill large diameter holes in the center of tiles. It is convenient for making circular cuts.
The miter cut is most often used when laying tiles diagonally.
– Ceramic tongs can manually make miter cuts on thin tiles.
– You can use the angle grinder with a diamond disc to make angled cuts on thick or tough tiles.
Straight cuts with ceramic tongs
To make a straight cut using a ceramic cutter:
– Draw the cutting line with a felt-tip pen. Use a ruler to get a perfect result.
– With the help of a ruler, draw a groove with an engraving tip along the line, passing the engraving tip several times to weaken the tile.
– Separate the tile with the pliers: follow the cut line by squeezing the pliers, and the tile is cut.
Straight cut with a tile cutter
For thick tiles or exact cuts, use a machine.
The tile cutter allows straight cuts:
– Using a felt-tip pen and a ruler, draw a line on the tile to guide the cut.
– Place the tile on the cutter, positioning it on the machine’s cutting line.
– Then, lower the lever gently and evenly to separate the tile into two
– The tile is cut.
The tile cutter is mainly used to cut wall tiles, which are often less resistant than floor tiles.
Straight cutting with an electric tile cutter
The electric tile cutter makes it easier to cut thick tiles (e.g., stoneware floor tiles) or large tiles:
– Mark the tile with a ruler and felt-tip pen.
– Place the tile on the cutting line of the tile cutter: this is the line that the blade follows.
– Turn on the tile cutter (be careful, this machine is very noisy) and slowly slide the tile along the cutting line towards the blade. Push the tile to cut it. Keep your fingers away from the blade.
– Start by cutting the tile about a third of the way through.
– Then, replace it in the other direction and finish the cut.
- Wear protective glasses and gloves.
- Remove any bracelets, watches, or objects hanging from your wrist and roll up your sleeves.
- Keep your fingers away from the blade when cutting.
- Remember to protect your floor with a tarp or an old sheet.
Round cuts with parrot tongs
For rounded cuts, use a parrot clip:
– Delineate the cut to be made on the tile:
◦ First, outline a piece of cardboard the same size as the tile.
◦ Then, cut out the template for the shape.
◦ Transfer the outline to the tile.
– Use the parrot beak pliers to “nibble” the tile following the contours.
– Deburr the tile to finish: sand the edges to remove burrs and smooth them out.
Rounded cut with a saw
You can use the crankshaft saw to make rounded cuts:
– Draw and cut a template on a piece of cardboard the same size as the tile to be cut. Transfer the outline to the tile with a felt pen.
– On a wooden board, nail two strips (long wooden sticks): the space between the two strips must correspond to the width of a tile. Wedge the tile between the two strips, so it does not move during cutting.
– Saw the tile along the cut line you have drawn.
– Sand the edges of the tile to smooth them out after the cut.
Round cuts with a hole saw
The hole saw is mounted on a drill and can be used to drill large diameter holes in tiles. It is used to make perfectly circular cuts in tiles.
There are different types of hole saws for drilling various types of materials; choose a special hole saw for tiling with the correct diameter for the cut you want to make:
– Locate the point to be drilled on your tile and mark it with a felt pen. This is the center of the circle.
– Place the tile on a board before drilling; the wooden board absorbs the vibrations of the drill.
– Cover the area to be drilled with transparent tape so that the hole saw does not slip on the tile.
– Drill slowly at first and then gradually increase the speed of the drill.
Note: Do not use the percussion function of the drill.
It is more convenient to use a drill press on which you can clamp the tile and work accurately.
Cutting at an angle with an angle grinder
Use the angle grinder to make angled cuts:
– Draw the cut lines with a felt-tip pen and a ruler
– Fit the angle grinder with a diamond disc.
– On a wooden board, nail two strips (long wooden sticks): the distance between the two strips should correspond to the width of a tile.
– Clamp the tile between the two strips, so it does not move during cutting.
– Tilt the grinder slightly downwards and cut the tile, holding the grinder with both hands.
– Move back and forth to cut the tile. Follow the lines you have drawn.
– Sand the edges of the cut tile to remove any irregularities caused by the cut.
Caution: Wear safety glasses, a mask, and gloves.
Tips for cutting thick tiles
Using appropriate tools and appropriate gestures is best to avoid damaging thick tiles when cutting them. The most difficult tiles to cut are porcelain stoneware, stone, etc.
On the other hand, earthenware or terracotta tiles, for example, are softer and therefore easier to cut.
Tools for cutting thick tiles
Successful cutting of thick tiles requires the use of the right tools:
– Ideally, you should use a tungsten carbide drill bit on a drill press;
– other options:
◦ get a manual or electric tiler: electric tilers can make cuts on tiles up to 10 mm thick;
◦ prefer a grinder disc: in this case, choose a special tile disc or one suitable for cutting building materials.
Good to know: buying an electric tile cutter costs between $40 and $300, depending on the model. You can also rent one for about $15 a day.
Cutting thick tiles
Once you are well equipped, cutting your thick tiles is relatively simple if you follow these tips:
– Before cutting the tiles:
◦ make a cardboard template to the desired dimensions;
◦ position it at the future location of the tile to check its accuracy and, if necessary, mark the changes in dimensions to be made.
– If using a drill:
◦ remember to put a piece of adhesive between the tile and the drill bit to avoid chipping it ;
◦ work at a slow speed.
– If you are using a manual tiler: if the cut is challenging, make a scratch on the back of the tile with a nail or sharp tool, then rerun the tiler.
– To lay the last tile:
◦ position it on the last one you have stuck against the wall;
◦ draw a reference line with a pencil;
◦ remove the thickness of the joint from this line to determine the correct cut.
Please remember to protect yourself with gloves and goggles when cutting.
Tools for cutting tile
Tile cutter $6
Pliers $4 approx.
Parrot nose pliers $5
Tile cutter starting at $25
Electric tile cutter starting at $45, available for rent
Angle grinder starting at $45
Scribe for $6
Crankshaft saw $35
Hole saw: starting at $35 (without drill)