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How does a tile cutter work?

Anyone who is building or renovating a house knows that doing it yourself saves money. There are various tools and aids for cutting tiles.

Exactly which one you need depends on whether you want to lay tiles on the floor or glue wall tiles – in other words, how stable the tiles themselves are, and whether you need round cuts or only square ones.

  • Manual tile cutters have a built-in wheel made of hard metal in the front part, usually under a handrail. The type of metal and the size of the wheel depend on the manufacturer. The task of the wheel is to score the tile along the drawn cutting line to such an extent that you can break through it afterward at the predetermined breaking point thus created. Depending on the device, this can also be done by hand either with the tile cutter or with tile nippers over a hard edge.
  • Electric tile cutters have a built-in saw blade that varies in size and quality depending on the manufacturer. For example, there are diamond saw blades that can cut tiles up to 1.2 inches thick. As with most sawing work, the tile can be cut to the desired dimensions in the wet cut, i.e. sprayed with water, or in the dry cut, without water. Tools for wet cutting work are much more dust-free and can also be used indoors. Without water, on the other hand, tile cutting is quite a dusty job that is better done outdoors with a dust mask.

Caution: Natural stone tiles, such as granite or marble, should not be processed with a manual but always with an electric tile cutter. Otherwise, the risk is too great that a straight cut fails due to the storage and nature of the material.

Cutting tiles
You will need the following tools and supplies in any case:

Tile cutters are generally divided into manual (with wheels) and electric devices. In principle, both variants are suitable for both home use and professionals. There are tile cutters with and without a base. If the device has no base, it is simply placed on a sturdy table or on the floor. Another distinguishing feature is the cutting length – that is, up to what length the tile can be scored.

Cutting tiles: How to do it properly?

Step 1: Mark the cutting edge correctly

First, measure exactly how many centimeters and millimeters need to be cut from the tile. To do this, it’s best to place the tile along the edge and make sure it’s exactly horizontal. On the wall side, simply place a fragment underneath. Using a ruler and a foil pen, draw the cutting line on the visible side of the tile, taking into account the width of the joint.

But be careful: this fairly simple and quick method works only if the wall is exactly parallel to the outer edges of the already laid tiles.

If this is not the case, you will need to measure the length of the top and bottom edges individually and mark them on the tile, then connect the two points with the ruler. If your tile cutter has a scale and a so-called stop, you can also simply set the required tile width on the device and cut several tiles to the required dimension at once.

Step 2: Cut tiles correctly

What is the best way to cut tiles? Place the tile with one side “full”, i.e. without a gap, against the fence and make sure that it rests with its entire underside on the usually rubberized working surface of the tile cutter. If there are individual splinters underneath, these must be removed without fail, otherwise, there is a risk of breakage. Now fix the tile in place. This works a little differently on each model – usually, there is a bracket that runs through the machine from front to back, and you simply push it down, just like on a roller coaster. If necessary, double-check that your marked cutting edge on the tile is exactly under the cutting wheel.

Cutting tiles with an electric tile cutter

  • How it works: With electric tile cutters, the tile is often just held in place by hand and not given an extra fix. For example, use a straight ruler to check that the saw is really moving toward the line you drew on the tile. Do not start cutting until the measurements on the tile and on the tile cutter match.
  • Be sure to keep this in mind: If you have an electric tile cutter, add a safety goggle to the basic equipment already mentioned. Set up the cutter in a safe place – it must be level and firm. If the base is wobbly, tighten the screws to be safe and check that all four legs have good contact with the ground. If they don’t, place a suitable piece of cardboard under the leg that is hanging in the air. For wet cutters, also make sure that the water bath for the saw blade is filled to the mark before the first cut. Draw the cutting edge on the visible part of the tile as described above and place it on the work surface. Only then switch on the machine and cut through the tile. Make sure that the hand with which you hold the tile while cutting has sufficient distance to the rotating saw blade.

Cutting tiles

Cutting tiles with a manual tile cutter

If you have a manual tile cutter, place the wheel right at the beginning of the tile, which also means at the beginning of the marked line, and pull it through once – on most machines, you simply slide the handrail with the wheel under it away from your body. Use your energy in good measure: Don’t use too much force to push, or you’ll ruin the coating on soft, glazed tiles. You must exert a certain amount of pressure, on the other hand. Otherwise, you won’t score the surface hard enough and won’t produce the desired predetermined breaking point. After a few tiles, you’ll have the feel of it: when you hear a slight crunch, the pressure is right.

Step 3: Skillfully breakthrough tiles

With a tile breaker integrated into the cutter.

If your tile cutter also has a tile breaker integrated, now proceed as follows: Fix the handrail with the wheel at the end of the tile in the holder provided in front of it, pull it up and then pull the front part back down. In this way, you break through the tile over a metal edge built into the tile cutter along the crack line.

  • With tile breaking pliers

If your machine does not have a built-in crusher, remove the tile from the cutter and place it on a smooth, clean surface, which must also have a well-defined edge. A metal or hardwood table is suitable here. Place the side of the tile you want to use on the tabletop and position the crack line over the edge. Now, with one hand, press the tile onto the tabletop and place the tile-breaking pliers on the side that is to be cut off. By gripping firmly with the pliers and pressing them down, break the tile at the predetermined breaking point.

  • Cutting holes in tiles

To cut holes, half-round or quarter-round cutouts in tile for plumbing or electrical connections, you will need one or more of the following tools:

Again, take measurements carefully. How big does the hole have to be? Transfer the values, preferably with a compass, to the visible side of the tile.

Cutting holes in tiles without electricity

Clamp the tile in the Tile Hole Boy and work the center of the hole or recess with the tile hammer until a piece of the coating cracks open. Now go into the hole with the tile hole punch and “nibble” away material with the pliers until the hole is the desired size. The technique works very well with soft materials.

cutting floor tiles

Cutting holes in tiles with electricity

Place the tile on a stable, secure surface. Turn it inside out, that is, with the gray laying side facing you. Draw the desired hole on the underside and work it crosswise with the angle grinder until the material breaks. Then enlarge the hole with the tile hammer and finally the tile hole punch nails the recess to the desired size.

For the second method with electricity, you need a drill. Again, place the tile on a stable, secure surface – preferably a piece of wood or concrete. On the visible side, draw the hole. Either, carefully and without the percussion feature, start drilling many small holes in the tile starting from the center of the drawn hole with the masonry drill, slowly working your way up to the appropriate size – but then possibly still use the pliers or hammer for the finishing touches.

Or – this is the slightly more expensive option – you can buy the right drill bits for the size of the holes you want to drill. Again, once the hole is drawn on the decor side, first make a hole in the center of the drawn circle, then place the drill bit there and cut the cutout in the tile with a few turns. This method produces a particularly clean-cut edge and works with all materials.

Summary

If you want to lay tiles in the house, such as in the kitchen, bathroom, hallway, or any other room, the most important thing is a clean cut. For this purpose, there are many tools to choose from, which should make your work easier. Professional tools certainly provide the best services but are only worthwhile if you want to cut tiles more often. For one-time use, we recommend simple, inexpensive tools. Alternatively, you can also equip yourself with professional machines for a perfect tile cut at a tool rental.

5 Ways To Cut Tile - Video

FAQ - Cutting Tiles

❓ Do you have to have a wet saw to cut tile?

While all tiles can be cut on a wet saw, you’ll get the best results from using a wet saw on the following materials: stone tiles, such as marble or granite; porcelain tiles; glass tiles, when the wet saw has been outfitted with a glass cutting blade; and commercial grade ceramic floor tiles.

❓ Can I cut tile with a circular saw?

Yes. The perfect tile cutting blade for a circular saw when performing on porcelain, is the diamond blade because it is one of the few materials that are harder than porcelain. In a few words, the diamond blade not only scores the tile but grinds it all the way through.

❓ Can I cut tile with a grinder?

A diamond blade used with an angle grinder is most suitable for cutting tiles, although cutting it with a wet saw might seem most effective. But since it takes a longer time to cut tiles manually, and it is also difficult to maintain accuracy, cutting tiles with the help of angle grinders is a better option.

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