How to Cut Ceramic Tile for Professional-Looking Results

Learn the best tools for the job and how to achieve precise results with these tile-cutting tips.

Whether you're tiling a backsplash, a shower, or an entire floor, most projects require cutting tiles to fit along edges and corners or around fixtures. Although cutting tile might seem like a daunting task, having the right tools and a little patience will make the job much easier. Keep in mind that various types of tile, such as glass or porcelain, require different cutting tools, so determine the best method for your material before you begin. Here, we'll show you how to cut ceramic tile using a manual tile cutter, which is great for making straight or diagonal tile cuts. For larger jobs, you might need to rent or buy other tools, such as a wet saw, regular tile nippers, or double-wheeled tile nippers. Once the tile is cut, you'll also need to smooth out any rough or sharp edges. Follow these instructions on how to cut tile to achieve a professional-looking installation.

kitchen subway tile open wooden shelving
Christina Schmidhofer

How to Cut Ceramic Tile

When buying tile for your project, purchase a few extra so you can practice your tile-cutting technique before you begin. You can rent or purchase a tile cutter ($26, The Home Depot) at most home improvement stores. Make sure the tile cutter is large enough for the size of tile you need to cut.

What You Need

  • Protective gloves, eye gear, and mask
  • Ceramic tile
  • Ruler
  • Erasable marker or pencil
  • Straightedge
  • Tile cutter
  • Rubbing stone

Step 1: Measure and mark tile.

Always wear gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask ($10, The Home Depot) when cutting tile. Use a ruler to measure where your ceramic tile needs to be cut. Mark the measurement on the glazed side of the tile using an erasable marker or pencil and a straightedge.

How to Cut Tile

Step 2: Score the tile.

Slide the tile into the tile cutter, glazed-side up. Line up your cut mark with the guideline and make sure the tile is pushed snugly against the end stop. Use light pressure to run the carbide wheel along the surface of the tile to slice through the tile glaze. It should just score the tile, not slice it completely. Be sure to only score your ceramic tile once.

Step 3: Cut and smooth the tile.

Ensuring the tile hasn't shifted, press the lever down directly over the scored line using even pressure. This should split the tile in two. If the tile edges are rough after being split, use a rubbing stone ($10, The Home Depot) to smooth uneven edges.

More Tile-Cutting Tools

If you only need to make simple cuts on a handful of tiles, a glass cutter ($5, The Home Depot) can be an inexpensive yet effective tile-cutting tool. For this method, you'll measure and score the tile using a straightedge or carpenter's square for a guide. Then place the scored tile over a wire hanger on a flat surface and gently press down on both sides of the tile to snap it in two.

For larger jobs or more complicated corner cuts, a wet saw is one of the best tile-cutting tools to use. Purchasing one can be a smart investment if you plan to complete many similar projects; otherwise, you can often rent a wet saw from your local home improvement store. Be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions carefully and follow all safety precautions when using a wet saw. To cut tile with a wet saw, feed the tile into the blade glazed side up, using both hands while keeping your fingers away from the blade. Once the tile clears the blade, turn off the saw and let it come to a full stop before removing the tile.

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