Cutting tile is similar to cutting glass.

How to Measure & Make Cuts in Ceramic Tile

by Chris Deziel

With their color and geometric interest, ceramic tiles bring visual appeal to your kitchen or bathroom. They also provide a hygienic counter surface that's easy to keep clean. Measuring and cutting the tiles for installation calls for a precise eye -- a small mistake can throw adjoining rows out of alignment and ruin their symmetry. To keep your cuts clean and straight, the simplest tool is the tile snapper. And the best all-around tool is a wet saw. It's messy but fun to use.

Measuring for a Straight Cut

When you're laying tile on the floor or wall, and you come to the end of a row, you have to cut a tile to fit. This involves making a straight cut across the entire tile, and the easiest tool for the job is a tile snapper. Set the tile you need to cut in place against the wall and make marks on the sides to denote the intersection with the adjoining tile. You'll have to move these marks toward the wall to allow for spacing between tiles. A ruler can help you do this accurately.

Using a Tile Snapper

The least complicated tile-cutting devices, tile snappers are especially effective with large, thin floor and wall tiles. To use one, you set the tile on the cutting board and align the scoring wheel with the cutting mark. Holding the tile steady with one hand, you draw the diamond blade along the surface, applying just enough downward pressure on the handle to make a thin score line. After scoring the surface, you then move the wheel to the top of the track and push down on the handle to break the tile. Wear goggles to protect your eyes from shards of flying tile.

Operating a Wet Saw

A wet saw functions in much the same way as a table saw, except the blade actually a diamond-tipped cutting wheel, and it passes through a pool of water on the downturn. The water cools the blade. You push the tile through the saw, guiding the blade through the cut line. The saw has a fence that you can use for making straight cut, but because there's little danger of kickback, you can leave the fence off and guide the tile by hand if you need to make a slightly curved or angled line. It's best to use the wet saw outdoors, and you should wear an apron and goggles.

Notches and Curves

While you may be able use a jigsaw on some types of clay tile, there is no saw that effectively cuts curves and notches on all types of tile. If you have a wet saw, you can cut them by making a series of straight cuts that define the shape and then breaking off the pieces between the cutlines with nippers. You then use the nippers to smooth out the cut, or you can use a rotary tool and a grinding accessory. The rotary tool is also effective when you need to round corners or make small notches. Run the tool at less than half speed to avoid overheating.

About the Author

Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.

Photo Credits

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