Today, we are asking our DIY and contractor readers to put thoughts of saw dust aside and focus the reviews on cutting tile. For many of you, tile work is an occasional thing. In those cases, the question we will help answer is, “What is your best option outside a dedicated tile saw?” As is always the case, choices and options abound! That makes this job fun even if it is frustrating for people trying to get the job done.
Part of your decision-making process revolves around what kind of tiles you plan to cut. Ceramic tile has different requirements than glass or porcelain tile. We have glazed and unglazed, slate, granite, and marble. At some point, painting or paneling may occur to you as a better alternative.
Don’t give in to such urges! Tile is a grand addition to any home or building. Look at how long some tile installations have lasted, a couple of thousand years! If it was good enough for the Romans, it should work for your project, right?
Read on as we take the results of our research and help you along the path to tile perfection.
|Rank||Model||Our Favorite Product|
|#1||A Wet Saw|
(Our Preferred Way)
|WEN 71745 4.1A 4.5-Inch Portable Wet Tile Saw with Fence and Miter Gauge
|#2||A Table Saw||MK Diamond 159100 MK-304CR Diamond Blade
|#3||A Miter Saw||MK Diamond 159100 MK-304CR Diamond Blade
|#4||A Manual Tile Cutter||Seeutek 24 Inch Manual Tile Cutter
|#5||A Rotary Tool with Diamond Cutters|
(Our Top Recommendation for Intricate Cuts)
|MOARMOR 10 Piece 545 Diamond Cutting Wheel with 402 Mandrel (2 Pieces)
|#6||A Jigsaw with Diamond Blades||Lenox Tools 20320GT300J U-Shank Carbide Grit Jig Saw Blade for Tile
|#7||A Tile Nippers||ABN Tile & Mosaic Nipper, Cutter Pliers with Carbide Trimming Tips
There are two categories of cutting, wet and dry. You can dry saw with any power tool you have equipped with the right kind of blade. Dry sawing is exceptionally dusty. For your protection, always wear a dust mask with eye and hearing protection. Tile sawing produces sharp particles, and dust as fine as talc. You do not want any of that in your eyes, nose, throat, or lungs.
Wet sawing uses a purpose-built saw resembling a portable table saw. A reservoir of water cools the blade as it cuts and reduces dust. Even so, you still need to wear proper protection. This saw reduces the dust to a minimum, but small sharp bits are still created and sent flying.
We lean towards the wet saw for any and all tile work. It is a bit messy, and cleanup is not a lot of fun. However, there are saws available you can easily take to the worksite. That is better than running back and forth between a cutting tool in the shop and the tile work.
Dry sawing will get plenty of attention too. What we plan to do in these reviews is look at common tools you can adapt to dry cutting tile. If the word adapt gives you any concern, fear not as the adaptation we refer to is picking the right blade.
As we noted above, we prefer wet saws for tile work. They perform as well as any dry saw alternative. Because you use it like a table saw, you have a lot more control over the tile you are cutting. Control of the material is a critical issue. One of the most common tile sizes is 4 x 4 inches. We think it is easier to control tiles this small in a table saw environment. Trying to cut these with a jigsaw, miter saw, or Dremel-style rotary tool is harder and exposes fingers to sharp, cutty edges.
An important consideration for wet saws is the size of the blade they use. Make sure they use standard sizes, so you are not locked to a manufacturer in the future for new blades. When you are a captive customer, prices somehow magically seem to be higher.
Tip: Tiles can suffer chipping that ruins the piece, especially when cutting triangles. At the end of the cut, a bit of the corner can break off. According to the edicts laid down by Mr. Murphy, the chip must always be on the piece you want to use. To outwit Mr. Murphy, start a cut at one corner and go in an inch or so. Reverse the tile and complete the cut from the other direction, working slowly. Like the transcontinental railroads, the two cuts will meet perfectly, Mr. Murphy permitting.
We recommend the WEN 71745 4.1A 4.5-Inch Portable Wet Tile Saw with Fence and Miter Gauge:
Note: We find the diamond blades to be the most versatile option for cutting tile, wet or dry. You can find carbide blades for rotary tools and jigsaws. We’ll talk about those later.
Tip: When using a wet saw, place a towel under the saw and protect nearby surfaces from flying water. Things do get wet.
If you must go dry, we recommend a table saw with a diamond blade. This is our first pick for dry sawing because of the control you have over the tile and the ability to cut angles and retain all your fingers. These tools also have larger work surfaces and more powerful motors which allow you to cut larger and thicker tiles.
The drawbacks are the talc-like tile dust created and more difficult blade changing process. You know what we mean, remove the throat plate, remove the blade, reinstall the blade, replace the throat plate.
Tip: Consider a zero-clearance throat plate for your saw, especially if working with small pieces that can fall through your regular plate.
Tip: Another way to prevent chipping is to put a piece of duct tape on the surface of the tile. Mark your line on the tape then cut slowly. Remove the tape, and all may be well. We say “may” because it isn’t foolproof. Also, test the tape on a piece of scrap tile if it is unglazed. Unglazed tile might absorb some of the adhesive and leave visible signs.
We recommend the MK Diamond 159100 MK-304CR Diamond Blade:
Note: You will see continuous and segmented rim diamond saw blades. Segmented are suitable for coarser materials like pavers and blocks. However, they tend to chip more. The continuous rim is for harder materials and creates a better cut. These are what you want for glazed and porcelain tile.
Tip: Unless you are working in granite, marble, or similar materials, a continuous rim blade can be used to cut everything.
Tip: A dry saw blade can be used wet due to the way it is made. A wet saw blade cannot be used for dry cutting.
Miter saws have the power and adjustments to make many of the cuts you need for your tile job. They can use the same blades as the table saws with the appropriate size arbor hole. About arbor sizes, many blades come with a variety of different inserts to match your arbor.
Where the miter saw falls down relative to a table or wet saw is in the size of their work area. Miter saws are designed to work of stock of smaller dimensions, like crown molding. As a result, the work surface is smaller, limiting the size of tile that can be cut. They also make it more difficult and exciting to complete cuts. With small tile sizes, you have one hand holding the tile steady, very close to the blade while the other hand operates the saw. Our high school shop teachers are cringing, especially those missing a finger here and there.
We recommend the MK Diamond 159100 MK-304CR Diamond Blade:
For certain types of tile, you can use a glass cutter, that little tool with the carbide wheel. Score a line and break the glass. That is hit and miss and laborious. If you prefer to go the manual route, save your glass cutter and pick up a tile cutter.
The tile cutter doesn’t look much like its tiny counterpart but works the same way. You position your tile lining the cut mark up with the tungsten carbide head, hold the tile firmly, press down the cutter handle, and pull towards you. Or, you can push if you prefer. Maybe give both a go! You have a lovely scored line you can now use to snap the tile into shape.
This tool gives you a decent amount of control and flexibility in terms of the types of cuts you can make. They all must be straight, but you could cut a parallelogram if the tile spirit moves you. It also accommodates tile sizes up to 24 inches.
We recommend the Seeutek 24 Inch Manual Tile Cutter:
Up to this point, the reviews have focused on making straight cuts. Straight cuts probably are most of the project, but at some point, you may need, or want to make a more intricate cut. Say around a floor drain in a shower or around a plumbing fixture or vent in a wall.
Rotary hand tools like the Dremel can be a lifesaver when you need to make those unusual cuts your bigger tools can’t handle. It may be as simple as cutting a notch to go around molding or some shaping to create a mosaic effect. Here’s where these tools can shine.
Diamond saws are a standard accessory for these tools. They are also affordable. We think the best use for this tool is to use them to score along the cut line and then break off the waste. We don’t recommend attempting to cut through the tile.
Another use we recommend for these tools is smoothing cut edges and grinding in small bevels to match an edge configuration on the rest of the tiles. Be sure to clamp the tile to a stable platform. Holding it and operating the rotary tool is probably a bad idea.
We recommend the MOARMOR 10 Piece 545 Diamond Cutting Wheel with 402 Mandrel (2 Pieces):
Tip: When putting tile down in a shower, you need to use smaller sizes like 1.25 x 1.25 inch. Bigger tiles get very slick. The grout lines create a grippy surface to help you stay upright while belting out your favorite opera. They are also easier to install on the sloping angle leading to the floor drain.
The tile cutting medium of choice for many jigsaw blades is carbide grit. While not on a par with diamond regarding hardness, it is no slouch. According to the Mohs Scale, Diamond is King at 10 with different forms of carbide at 8.5 to 9.5. It also comes with the advantage of a lower cost.
The jigsaw can cut all the way through the tile. It can also make curved cuts that are more challenging with the rotary tool. Heat build up is an issue again like it is in all dry sawing. It is worse in intricate and curved cuts because you work on the tile longer than when making a straight cut.
You need to clamp the tile securely, so you have both hands free to control the jigsaw. Work carefully and avoid a lot of downward and horizontal pressure to prevent breaking your tile.
Tip: Keep a spray bottle handy to cool off the tile and simulate wet sawing.
We recommend the Lenox Tools 20320GT300J U-Shank Carbide Grit Jig Saw Blade for Tile:
We do not know if these tools are the root of the phrase, “little nippers.” Maybe they are. We’ll investigate the etymology later. When working with tile and making those irregular cuts, tile nippers are mighty handy for breaking along your score marks or roughly crushing off pieces. They are not a precision tool. When you need to remove that tiny last bit and don’t want to fire up a power saw, these babies can do the job. Keep a pair in a hip pocket for emergencies.
We recommend the ABN Tile & Mosaic Nipper, Cutter Pliers with Carbide Trimming Tips:
We have al little buying guide for your convenience when tooling up for your next tile project.
Shopping for tile tools is not as complicated as it may seem. We hope these reviews help you on your way to a relaxing and successful tile project. We want to emphasize again how vital eye, ear, nose, and mouth protection is when cutting tile. There is nothing there you want to inhale or flush out of your eyes. And the shrieks of diamonds cutting glazed tile are probably the sound effect used for the Nazgûl in the “Lord of the Rings.”
You aren’t making sawdust, but you are making progress. Go show that tile who’s the boss. See you in the next review.