Want to learn how to cut tile without a wet saw?
Fantastic, you are in the right place.
In this ToolsGaloreHQ.com guide, I will show you:
- Different tiles and how they cut
- Various options at your disposal
- Key safety tips
- And So Much More!
Before we get into the details on how to cut tile without a wet saw, please have a read of the table below.
What You Need To Know About How To Cut Tile Without A Wet Saw
First and foremost, I think I must acknowledge that a wet saw is an incredible tool for cutting a wide range of tile, be it ceramic, glass, porcelain or terracotta.
However, wet saws are not the cheapest of power tools and in fact are usually not worth the investment unless you really plan on performing multiple tile cuts over an extended period of time.
So naturally, if you a DIYer or weekend warrior who is looking to cut tiles with a reasonable finish, you will look for alternative avenues.
I have compiled a comprehensive guide of alternative options through which you can cut tile without a tile saw.
But before we go into that I want you to remember something. There is a specific tool that works best for a specific tile. Most people (weekend warriors) make the mistake of using the same tool throughout all the different tiles. This is not the best approach.
So before you can understand which tools to use, let’s take a look at the common tiles you will come across and how certain characteristics favour certain tools.
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Let’s look at a few in more detail
Glass tiles are very useful and versatile, they come in multiple shapes and sizes. They are a great addition to showers or as a cover to surfaces. They are often dual material (meaning that the glass can be paired with something like an aluminum under sheet.
What makes glass tiles very unique is that they are extremely rigid. So they can easily fracture or crack when undergoing a sawing operation.
I would love to say something different, however unfortunately to get the cleanest gut with glass you must use a wet saw. In fact I would go as far as to say glass tile can only be cut with a wet saw.
But, if you are serious about an alternative you can also use a manual tile cutter. Not perfect but it will get the job done.
Manual tile cutter works but ensure that the glass tile is less than ½ inch in thickness otherwise the microcracking becomes that much more visible.
Porcelain and Ceramic
Now that we got through glass, when it comes to porcelain or ceramic tiles we do have slightly more flexibility – hang tight, there is hope.
Most porcelain tiles come in at a 3 to 4 on a hardness scale out of 5. Whilst ceramic tiles usually come in at about 1 or 2 out of 5 on the hardness scale.
So this means that ceramic tiles are generally cheaper and softer, in fact with a ceramic tile you can use a Nipper cutter, especially when you want to create curve cuts for shower heads or around the base of a toilet.
You cannot use nipper cutters on porcelain simply because the material is just way to hard.
The negative thing about ceramic though is that due to the softness it has a very large thermal expansion and contraction coefficient – meaning that they are more likely to crack when exposed to cyclical temperatures (i.e. close to a heater during cold winters).
Now that you understand the basic tiles and how they affect your choice of tile cut without the use of a wet saw, let’s delve into more detail on each of the various tools, how they work and one which tile a tool works best.
Understanding the different tools you will be using
As you can see from the picture above various tools can work on various types of tiles. It must be mentioned however that the thicker the tile the harder it is to use methods either than a wet saw.
This rings especially true when factoring in tiles such as 1 inch thick porcelain which as you can imagine is an absolute beast.
Wet Saws always win the thicker you go. However for your standard porch/floor tile coming in at about ½ to ¾ inch thick all the other methods should do the job as per the image above.
Safety When Cutting Tiles
Before we go into the various options please ensure that you operate safely, at the minimum you should wear protective eyewear as floating pieces of chipped tiles can fly through the air and into your eyes which can cause serious damage.
Secondly some options create a lot of noise and dust pollution – so it is recommended that you use ear muffs and a good respirator as well. Especially if you are one of those DIYers who foresee themselves cutting tiles for an extended period of time.
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Guide On How To Cut Tile Without A Wet Saw (For Each Method)
This blog post is not about wet saws, so wet saw aside, lets take a look at using the good old manual tile cutter.
Option 1: Manual Tile Cutter
This tool comes in a large variety of ranges and lengths. It is termed the best alternative across the board because it can provide very reasonable cuts across the board – irrespective of the tile material.
Worth mentioning though is that it tends to struggle with very large porcelain tiles and it is not very good with granite or marble.
Using this manual cutter is very simple.
See the video below
You basically slide the blade across the tile, apply pressure to the levers on top and pop the tile splits along the cut line.
You can also already pick up the limitation in that it is only really good for cutting straight lines. Nonetheless it is a great alternative to cut tile without the use of a wet saw.
Option 2: Nipper cutter
The nipper cutter is a real old school tool, but an option nonetheless. In olden times before 1980’s ceramic tiles were the leaders in the market and using a nipper to create curved cuts was very common place.
Especially if you only needed to create one of two cuts.
It’s a handheld tools and very simple and easy to use. It is best for softer tiles such as ceramic. This will not work too well on porcelain and its actually not recommended at all.
It is also a terrible option in terms of creating straight cuts and working fast.
However as said previously, if you have a boutique unique cut and want a quick solution then a nipper cutter could be just the right tool to use.
Option 3: Angle Grinder
Most DIYers and weekend warriors would get surprised by this inclusion, but yes! You can use your angle grinder in very innovative ways to create perfect cut squares through the middle of tile or even in some instances perfect circles.
I must admit the circles is probably my favourite use of this tool.
Key to remember however, you must use a diamond blade, as the hardness of diamond will practically work it’s way through any material including granite and marble, let alone porcelain or ceramics.
Be sure to wear a respirator because this method of cutting without a wet saw creates the most dust of them all.
Option 4: Hole Saw
One last method you should investigate especially if you want to create small circles for plumbing or shower head fixtures is the use of a hole saw.
Diamond hole saws will practically cut through any tile like butter.
The key with using a diamond hole saw is to first ensure that you create an indentation in the tile so that you have adequate friction before going full speed ahead.
If you find it difficult, which is often the case especially with porcelain tiles. Add a bit of water to the drill area. This tends to make the entire process a lot smoother.
The negative about using this method however is that your flexibility in hole diameter will be limited to the diameter of your available hole saw. Still it is quite an effective alternative to using a wet saw.
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Final Thoughts On How To Cut Wile Without A Wet Saw
As you can see even if you are without a wet saw, you still have a large range of flexibility when it comes to creating holes through a large range of tiles.
I hope you learnt a thing or two from this guide, trust me I had a lot of fun putting this together. Feel free to share it with friends and family, and let them know that you can still do pretty well cutting tiles without the use of a wet saw.