How to Cut Ceramic Tile

Beth Asaff
Tile being cut on a wet saw

During any ceramic tile installation, at least a few tiles will need to be cut to size. Depending on the number of tiles you are cutting, and whether they are designated for floor or wall use, you may use any one of several different methods for cutting the tiles.

How to Cut Ceramic Tiles with Various Tools

There are several tools available, all of which can cut ceramic tiles easily. These include devices such as:

  • Carbide tipped pencils
  • Score-and-snap cutters
  • Tile nippers
  • Tile wet saws

Not every tool is suitable for every job. Take the time to determine whether a simple tool or a more complex one is needed before you begin.

Carbide Tipped Pencils

A carbide tipped pencil is one of the easiest tools to use for cutting ceramic tile. Use it for wall tiles when you don't have many cuts to make.

  1. Place the ceramic tile face up, flat on a table.
  2. Hold a straight edge on the tile next to the line you want to cut on.
  3. Drag the tip of the pencil over the tile, next to the straight edge, multiple times.
  4. Lift up the tile, turn the pencil around and insert the tile into the notched end of the pencil.
  5. Exert downward pressure on the tile until it snaps on the scored mark.
  6. Clean up the edge with a hand-held grinding wheel or block.

Score-and-Snap Tile Cutters

A score-and-snap cutter works in a similar fashion as the carbide tipped pencil. It scores the tile before breaking it in half. Depending on the size of the cutter, it can cut up to 18-inch tiles. It cuts only in straight lines, with no angles or specialty cuts, but it can help make a simple installation with multiple cuts go much faster.

  1. Mark the tile on one end where the cut will be placed.
  2. Line up the mark on the tile with the notch on the inside of the cutter, and rest the tile on the raised plate. It will wobble; hold it down to one side or the other with the flat of your hand.
  3. Lift up the handle of the cutter and position it at one end of the tile.
  4. Gently depress the handle and drag it over the tile to score it.
  5. Lift the handle of the tile again, and move it to the center of the tile.
  6. Position the flat foot beneath the handle on the center line of the tile and depress the handle quickly to snap the tile in half.

Tile Nippers

Tile nippers can be used alone or in conjunction with a wet saw to make specialty cuts. Nippers have a handle that operates like a set of pliers, and carbide tipped jaws. The nippers can take bites out of a tile, or cut a mosaic tile in half.

  1. Position the tile between the jaws of the nippers.
  2. Squeeze the handles together until the tile snaps.

Tile Wet Saw

The tile wet saw is the fastest method for cutting tiles. It will also make specialty cuts such as angles, curves or notches. It consists of a diamond encrusted blade that is cooled by water as it cuts through the tile. It is useful for large installations, or for installations that go around tile outlets, corners or shower valves.

  1. Place the ceramic tile face up on the plate and turn on the blade.
  2. Line up the area you want to cut with the blade and place your hands on the back edge of the tile, on either side, as far from the blade as possible.
  3. Slowly push the tile into the blade. Do not force it; the blade will pull the tile through with slight pressure from your fingers.
  4. Push the tile all the way through for straight cuts, or pull it back toward you again for angle or intersecting cuts.
  5. Turn off the blade before removing the tile from the table. The tile will be wet; dry it before installing.

Install Your Tile with Ease

Practice whichever method you are planning on using on a piece of scrap tile before moving on to the job. It may take a few tries before cutting the tiles becomes second nature. Learning how to cut ceramic tiles properly, however, can make your job go much faster in the end.

How to Cut Ceramic Tile