Do you need to cut porcelain tile, but have no idea what tool to use?
Porcelain tile is a gorgeous, easy-to-clean material ideal for kitchens and bathrooms, but it can be fragile when it needs to be cut into circular or smaller pieces.
Choose the wrong equipment and you could end up with uneven or chipped tiles. Or worse, you could end up with an injured hand.
In this guide, we’ll discuss what porcelain tile is made of and 4 of the most common tools you can use to cut porcelain tile accurately and safely.
What You Should Know About Porcelain Tile
Porcelain and ceramic tiles often seem indistinguishable from one another. Both tiles used to fall under the “ceramics” classification, since they are both made from natural earthen clays and then hardened by heat.
But in recent years, the Tile Council of North America decided to assign porcelain tile its own category based on specific water absorption criteria and other characteristics.
Porcelain tiles are available in more patterns, colors, textures than ceramic tiles. A technology was even invented that creates porcelain tiles to look like natural stone or wood grains.
The clays used for porcelain are denser, heavier, and less porous than ceramic clays. And because they are heat- and water-resistant, porcelain tiles aren’t easily destroyed by simple chipping or moisture.
Cutting porcelain tiles is more challenging since they are harder and more brittle than their ceramic counterparts. But it isn’t impossible. With the right tools, you’ll be able to cut and customize porcelain tiles exactly to your specifications.
Types of Equipment Used for Cutting Porcelain Tile
You can pick and use just one of these 4 tools to cut porcelain tile:
- Tabletop wet tile saw. Ideal for both curved and straight cuts, a wet tile saw is expensive, but it is the industry standard choice for cutting porcelain tiles. It does precise cuts and is recommended for big projects.
- Tile cutter. Also called “snap cutter” or “manual tile cutter,” this affordable tool works best for straight cuts and diagonal cuts. It requires little investment and skill, but it would take more effort to use.
- Tile nipper. A tile nipper or “tile nibbler” is a handheld tool ideal for curved, arc, circular, and other irregular cuts. It takes time to use it since it “snips” one small section at a time, but it works effortlessly on thin porcelain tiles for non-wall or non-flooring projects.
- Angle Grinder. Used with blade attachments, the handheld angle grinder could make circular, square, and curved cuts of your porcelain tiles. It can be used when the tile is still attached to a floor or wall.
Each tool follows a different set of instructions for cutting porcelain tiles. Take note of the step-by-step procedures (below) for each type of equipment outlined above.
How to Cut Porcelain Tile with a Tabletop Wet Tile Saw
- Learn and prep: Before you begin cutting, read the manual and fill up the reservoir with water. Wear goggles, gloves, and ear protection.
- Measure and Position: Measure and mark your tile. Position the tile onto the tabletop tile saw and line it up with the blade.
- Cut: Turn on the saw, let it run for 15 seconds, and gently feed the tile along the fence towards the blade. Don’t force-feed the tile. Instead, let the saw cut for you and just push the tile as slowly and safely as you can. Turn off the saw before removing your newly-cut tile. Unplug when not in use.
Pro Tip: To keep the porcelain tile from chipping while you cut, add tape to the outer edges of the tile.
How to Cut Porcelain Tile with a Tile Cutter
- Measure: Mark the spot where you want to make a cut.
- Set up: Find a stable spot on either a table or floor. Position the tile cutter in front of you. Place the tile against the fence, which will hold it in place. Line your mark with the wheel.
- Score: Slowly slide the manual cutter forward. Put a bit of pressure as you push it forward and score the tile. You might want to do a second pass of the cutting wheel to start a line. Make sure you create a line up to the other end of the tile.
- Cut: Lift the lever and push it down onto the center of the tile. If you successfully scored the tile on Step 3, the gentle pressure will be enough to snap your tile into two pieces.
Note that there are various sizes of tile cutters. The tile cutter will only be able to cut porcelain tiles if it is at least an inch larger than the size of your tile.
How to Cut Porcelain Tile with a Tile Nipper & 8mm Scoring Wheel
A tile nipper won’t work without a scoring wheel. For porcelain tiles, you’ll need an 8mm scoring wheel for a deeper cut in just one go.
- Mark and Score: The 8mm scoring wheel does two things: it marks the exact spot where you want the tile cut and creates a weak spot for the tile nipper to cut it more accurately.
- Nip and Snap: Hold on to the tile nipper with one hand, and the tile on the other. Cut down the tile until you reach the area you want to be trimmed. You have to cut the parts slowly because the nipper can only snap tiny chips of the tile one at a time.
- Smooth: Unlike other methods of cutting porcelain tile, using a tile nipper results in sharp edges. You can use a grinder or filing stone to rub the edges down and reduce the sharpness of your newly cut, smaller piece of tile.
How to Cut Porcelain Tile with an Angle Grinder
- Mark: Make a line or draw the desired shape you want to cut using a pen or marker. If you’re making a straight cut, add masking tape along the mark to prevent any chipping.
- Set up the grinder and blade: Replace the grinder’s blade with notched blades, which are recommended for porcelain tiles. Make sure all parts of the grinder are secured before use.
- Cut: Position your tile on a flat surface. Use a clamp to hold it in place. You can use the grinder to score on the first pass, followed by another pass to make a deeper cut. You need to hold the grinder vertically for the blade to make straight cuts, or angle it horizontally for circular or round cuts.
Pro Tip: If the grinder generates a lot of dust, wet the tile with water using a spray bottle.
If this is your first time cutting porcelain tiles, make sure to buy extra tiles in case the process does not go as smoothly as you would like at first. You can always start from the beginning and handle the tile cutter, tile nipper, angle grinder or a wet tile saw a little better next time.