- Total Time: 5 – 10 mins
- Yield: Cut one porcelain tile
- Skill Level: Beginner
- Estimated Cost: $75 to $200
Porcelain tile is a versatile and durable material suitable for various applications, including flooring, walls, countertops, and backsplashes. Its exceptional performance in high-moisture environments makes it a popular choice. Cutting porcelain tile follows similar methods as ceramic or stone tiles, utilizing either a manual tile cutter or a wet tile saw. Achieving accurate cuts in porcelain tile is efficient, provided you have the appropriate tools for the task.
Tools to Cut Porcelain Tile
Manual Tile Cutter
- Operation: Scores and separates the tile
- Advantages: Quiet, minimal dust, suitable for full cuts
- Disadvantages: Cuts may have ragged edges, occasional cracking
- Tile Compatibility: Works best on smooth tiles
Wet Tile Saw
- Operation: Utilizes a blade to cut the tile
- Advantages: Produces clean cuts, rare cracking, suitable for full or partial cuts
- Disadvantages: Noisy, generates water mess, requires setup time
- Tile Compatibility: Suitable for smooth or textured tiles
The most basic yet effective tools for cutting porcelain tile across its face are the manual tile cutter and the wet tile saw.
Manual tile cutter: This tool scores and snaps the porcelain tile into two full pieces. It is simple to set up, cost-effective, and produces minimal mess. However, the cut line may sometimes have small ragged sections, and there is a chance of occasional tile cracking.
Wet tile saw: A wet tile saw employs a diamond blade to cut the porcelain tile while water cools the tile and controls dust. Although more expensive than a manual cutter, a wet tile saw delivers clean, precise cuts with rare occurrences of cracking. However, it requires time for setup, and the cutting process is noisy and wet.
Tip: For cutting tiles manually in cases of short curves, consider using a tile nipper or drilling into the tile with an electric drill equipped with a diamond-tip drill bit or a hole saw.
Cutting porcelain tile with a manual tile cutter is generally safe but watch out for sharp tile edges. When using a wet tile saw, begin by carefully reading the safety instructions provided with the tool. Ensure that your fingers and loose clothing are kept away from the blade. Plug the machine into a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlet only, and wear safety glasses while operating either tool.
What You’ll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Manual tile cutter (optional)
- Wet tile saw (optional)
- Pencil or erasable marker
- Safety glasses
- Hearing protection
- Porcelain tile
How to Cut Porcelain Tile With a Manual Tile Cutter
Use a manual tile cutter to cut smooth-faced (not textured) porcelain tiles up to 1/2-inch thick. This method is suitable for applications where the cut edge will be concealed, such as beneath a baseboard.
1. Mark the Tile
- Mark a straight line on the top (finished) side of the porcelain tile where you intend to make the cut. Utilize a pencil or an erasable marker for this purpose.
2. Lay the Tile on the Tray
- Place the porcelain tile on the tray of the manual tile cutter, positioning it below the rails and the separator. You might need to slightly raise the lever to accommodate the tile on the tray. Ensure that one edge of the tile rests against the backrest bar.
Tip: Before placing the tile, wipe the tray clean as tile debris or other hard items can cause the tile to crack in the wrong place.
3. Position the Tile
- Align the porcelain tile in the manual cutter so that the cutting wheel runs directly over the intended score line. Some cutters feature a laser line that indicates the path of the cutting wheel. In the absence of a laser guide, use the positioning marks at the front and rear of the tray, aligning them with the line drawn on the tile.
4. Score the Tile
- Move the scoring wheel to the starting point at the edge of the tile. Apply light pressure on the scoring wheel by pushing the lever down. Proceed to move the wheel forward in a single, continuous motion until it reaches the backrest bar. At the end of the cut, the wheel will move off the tile and rest in a cradle.
Tip: Make only one scoring pass, as multiple scores may result in a jagged cut.
5. Separate the Porcelain Tile
- With the tile still in its original position on the cutter, lift the lever to raise the separator bar. Allow the separator bar to drop onto the porcelain tile, and then push down firmly on the lever. This action will cause the tile to snap along the scored line.
Tip: The separator bar functions to break the tile at the end of the scored line. Do not adjust the bar to any other position on the tile.
How to Cut Porcelain Tile With a Wet Tile Saw
A wet tile saw is suitable for cutting any type of porcelain tile, especially when precision is required or for partial cuts, such as cutting angles into a tile.
1. Prepare the Saw
- Plug the wet tile saw into a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlet. Fill the water reservoir with clean water to ensure that the water level covers the pump’s intake. Create a drip loop in the electrical cord by allowing one section of the cord to hang lower than the saw and the outlet.
2. Mark the Tile
- Use a pencil or erasable marker to draw the desired cut line on the finished face of the porcelain tile. Ensure accuracy by using a straightedge.
3. Activate the Pump
- Turn on the pump and let it run for a moment to ensure that water circulates properly, directing a stream of water to the cutting area.
4. Position the Tile
- Place the porcelain tile onto the cutting tray, ensuring that the blade will follow the marked line. Turn on the saw with your hands safely away from the blade.
5. Cut the Porcelain Tile
- Gently push the cutting tray toward the blade, maintaining a consistent speed and keeping the porcelain tile securely on the tray. Proceed with the cut, ensuring safety precautions are observed.
When to Call a Professional
While porcelain tile may be harder than other ceramics, more complex cutting tasks such as diagonal cuts, curves, or creating holes may necessitate the assistance of a professional tile installer. For longitudinal cuts across the entire face of the tile, basic cutting techniques can be mastered by do-it-yourselfers.