How to Use a Wet Tile Saw: A Beginner’s Basic Guide
Brittney is a wife, a mom of four young children, a writer and editor (B.S. degree in English/Technical Writing), and a lover of interior design. She thrives on finding inexpensive ways to DIY her own home into a stylish yet family-friendly space.
If you are looking to redo your bathroom shower or tub surround, your kitchen backsplash, or even a laundry room floor, you are likely considering tile. As you’re likely aware, tile is a fantastic material to use for heavy-traffic, heavy-use, and watery areas. It can be an intimidating process if you’ve never attempted it before, so here is a beginner’s basic guide to using a tile wet saw. A tile wet saw is simple, fast, and the most efficient tool for tiling, in general, that’s out there. (Also, for more info, check out our tutorials for tiling a kitchen subway tile backsplash and tiling a shower/tub surround.)
To begin, let’s look at the wet tile saw itself. The wet tile saw used in this guide is a small tabletop number. Familiarize yourself with the components; these are the names of parts we’ll use in this guide.
Things to consider when you look for a wet tile saw
When looking to purchase a new tile saw there’s a few things to keep in mind, starting with your actual needs and expectations from the product. So ask yourself a few simple questions, like what you’ll be using the tile for, how or where you plan to use it and so on. Let’s go over a few of the criteria that can help you make an informed decision.
There are particular types of saws designed to cut specific kinds of tiles or to make certain types of cuts like an L or a U cut for example. If you plan to use your tile saw for something very specific then definitely FOCUS on that and try to prioritize accuracy. However, if you want a saw that can cut all sorts of different tiles which you can use for various types of projects, versatility should be a top priority.
It’s no use having a tile saw that promises all sorts of cool and convenient features if it can’t actually deliver those things. Look for a saw that has the appropriate motor power for what you intend to cut with it. A powerful enough saw will give you clean cuts, smooth lines and won’t damage the tiles.
Obviously, wet tile saws come in lots of different sizes. They can get quite big and heavy so make sure you don’t go overboard or that you don’t get a tile that’s too small and not powerful enough for your needs. If you’re doing all your cutting in a workshop, then you won’t need to move the saw around so portability shouldn’t be a priority. Also, you probably have plenty of space for a big saw. On the other hand, if you want to be able to easily carry the saw with you to various locations and job sites, something small and portable is best.
The blade is perhaps the most important element in a tile saw. A proper blade will deliver smooth and clean cuts making it easier to install the tiles. A diamond blade is a great choice. It gives you beautiful cuts that look professional and doesn’t leave sharp edges.
Dust and splashing
When using a wet tile saw a big concern is all the mess that goes with it. All the dust and the water splashing can really ruin a space, causing all sorts of problems and health hazards. It’s best to minimize these things by looking for a saw that prevents the dust from getting into the air. That’s what the water is for. Of course, you don’t want the water to cause a mess either so check out the spraying system as well.
Having a tile saw that you can outfit with all sorts of different accessories is definitely very convenient. That means you can use the same saw for multiple different tasks instead of having to buy and carry around different tools. A saw that doesn’t accept any accessories really limits your options in the future.
Choosing between a tile cutter and a wet saw
Both of these tools can be used for cutting tiles which can make choosing one over the other quite difficult. Generally, tile cutters are more convenient and easy to use but they’re not as fast as wet tile saws. The saws, on the other hand, are faster but less convenient, usually larger and size and more difficult to operate.
The way in which a tile cutter works is you place a tile inside and score it, then break the tile along the scored line. This can sometimes be difficult. Some types of types don’t score that well and some don’t score at all (glass for example).
Tile cutters are cheaper than wet tile saws, smaller and thus more portable and they’re easy to use. They\re useful for small projects or home renovations, in case you need to replace a few damaged tiles in a room or to redo a tiny bathroom for instance.
Wet tile saws
If you’re working on big projects, a wet tile saw is the way to go. They’re more precise compared to regular tile cutters and they give you perfectly straight lines every time. You can even use them to make intricate cuts and even curved tiles. They work with all sorts of different types of tiles and many materials and they’re definitely the way to go if you plan to cut glass tiles.
They’re also faster than tile cutters which adds up when working on large projects. Of course, wet saws are also bigger and more difficult to transport. They also require electricity so they’re of no use if you don’t have power.
Safety tips when using a tile saw
A tile saw can be a dangerous tool if not used properly. You should always take safety precautions when operating it, such as:
- wear safety goggles and gloves to protect yourself
- wear a face mask to prevent dust and debris in the air from being inhaled
- check the sharpness of the blade before using the saw to ensure it can operate properly
- don’t overload the saw and operate it only within its limits
Best Tile Saws for the Money
DeWALT Wet Tile Saw with Stand
If you’re planning to make a purchase and have a wet tile saw of yourself to use on future renovation projects, you might want to consider one of these options. The DeWALT Wet Tile Saw comes with a stand and weighs 69 pounds (a little over 30 kg). It features a cut line indicator and stainless steel rollers as well as a plunge feature for making quick cuts. It can cut 18’’ x 18’’ tiles on a diagonal and has a 45 or 22.5 degree miter feature for making angled cuts.
PORTER-CABLE PCE980 Wet Tile Saw
The PORTER-CABLE PCE980 Wet Tile Saw weighs only 32 pounds (14.5 kg) and measures 26.9’’ x 22.7’’ x 8.9’’ in total which allows it to be portable and easy to carry and to move around. It also includes a roll cage and a drain plug which allows you to quickly remove the water without making a mess when you’re done using the saw. The splash guard prevents the water from getting on your hands and miter square helps you line up miter cuts and repeatable rip cuts, making it easy and enjoyable to use the saw.
SKIL 3540-02 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw
If you want an even smaller and lighter wet tile saw, check out the SKIL 3540-02. It weighs only 17.69 pounds (8 kg) which makes it super portable and practical. Its overall dimensions are 18’’ x 14.5’’ x 7.8’’. You can easily pack it and carry it around or store it when you’re not using it. You can use it to cut 12’’ x 12’’ tiles which does have its limitations. The saw has a corrosive-resistant stainless steel top and a water reservoir. This minimizes dust and debris and also keeps the blade cool while cutting.
Wet Tile Saw with HydroLock Water Containment System
This is the SKIL 3550-02 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw which compared to the other model that we mentioned previously also includes a Hydro Lock Water Containment System designed to prevent the water from splashing and making a mess. This allows you to cut the tiles in the same room where they’re being installed without having to worry about cleaning up. The overall dimensions of this model are 22’’ x 18’’ x 8.5’’ and it weighs 24 pounds (almost 11 kg). It also has an adjustable rip fence with miter gauge which helps you make accurate cuts.
The lock plate can be moved from side to side to enable you to cut your tile to any distance (as long as it fits on your saw table). There is a locking mechanism that’s similar to what’s used in raising and lowering a bicycle seat – pull the lever (lock) out to unlock, adjust the lock plate, and push the lock back in.
After you measure the desired length of your tile, use the measuring guides on your saw table to lock the lock plate for your tile cut. These guides are located at the front and back edges of your saw table. Note: As you go along on your project, the measurement numbers will get covered with water and tile dust, so you’ll probably have to wipe them off regularly to be able to see them. Be precise with these measurements for a cleaner, more professional tile job’s outcome.
Position your tile snug against the measured and locked lock plate. Note: You can lock it in on either the right or left side of your blade, depending on the cut and what is comfortable for you. The on/off switch is typically located on the front of your wet tile saw.
Holding both ends securely while double-(triple-?)checking your measurements, push down the locking lever.
With your lock plate secured, your tile in place, your blade guard lowered, you’re ready to cut the tile. Switch on your tile saw.
Using two hands when possible (only one is shown in these photos because I needed one hand to take the photos), push the tile downward onto the saw table, inward toward the lock plate, and backward (away from you) through the saw blade. Do this simultaneously and with equal pressure in all directions.
Note: For some cuts, it’s not safe to use two hands because the distance between the spinning blade and lock plate is too narrow. DO NOT USE YOUR FINGERS HERE. Instead, use a long (2’-3’) piece of scrap wood or trim or another tile to serve as your fingers to push that section through the saw blade. This is so important. When this happens, use your other hand to be particularly careful to keep the tile pushed down snug and flat on the saw table; the tiles will have a tendency to want to rise.
Continue pushing with your hand(s) and/or your scrap wood, equal speeds and pressures, until the tile is completely cut.
Congratulations, you’ve just cut your first piece of tile for an amazing tile transformation project. If the tile remnant, touching the lock plate, doesn’t come out as easily for some reason (this doesn’t happen often, but in case it does), just leave it there momentarily while you turn off your tile saw.
When the blade stops spinning, lift your blade guard. Note: If you lift the blade guard while the saw is still on, this is not only dangerous, but it will also spray dirty tile-water all over your face and clothes.
With the tile saw turned off and blade completely stopped, it is now safe to reach in and pull out any tile remnants.
Now that you understand the basic method of using a tile wet saw to make your tile cuts, let’s look at some of the techniques you might need should your tiling job get fancy. For example, an L-shaped tile might be required when tiling around a window or a cabinet…or anything else that doesn’t follow your tile line.
Make your measurements, either writing them down somewhere or drawing directly onto the tile itself (whatever you’re more comfortable with given your space constraints). Choose one cut to make and set your lock plate accordingly. Cut only until the blade reaches the second (intersecting) measurement of your perpendicular line. Note: To do this, you may need to stand to the side of your tile saw, slightly lift the blade guard, and carefully push your tile through while watching from the side until the blade meets the line. Photos of this technique will be shown a little later.
With your first cut made precisely, turn off your tile saw. Remove your tile carefully, keeping in mind that any tile that has been cut has a compromised (weakened) strength and can crack or break much more readily than a full tile. Find your other line to make your L-shaped tile and lay your tile in place in front of the blade.
Measure then lock your lock plate into place accordingly.
Turn on the tile saw and cut slowly. As you push an already-cut tile through, pay attention to pressure points. In this case, if I were to push too hard on the narrow part of the cut tile while moving it through the blade, the tile would have a high likelihood of snapping. Instead, use caution and choose the strongest parts of your tile to move it through the blade; in this case, the back (thicker) half of the cut part. (And also a scrap wood on the narrow strip on the left.)
As you approach the intersecting line, you’ll want to get a precise, 90-degree corner. Step slightly to the side of your tile saw and raise the glade guard about an inch. (The tile broke off here before the cut was complete, so I still needed to complete the cut to create a sharp 90-degree corner.)
Continue pushing the tile through, slowly, until the blade meets your first line on the top surface of your tile. Note: To take this photo, the saw was turned off and the blade was not spinning. This would be a terrible place for one’s thumb if the saw were actually moving. SAFETY FIRST.
You’ll be watching from the side so you don’t get sprayed in the face with water, impeding your vision for a clean cut.
Using a Wet Tile Saw to Cut Porcelain & Ceramic Tiles. Are Both Tiles Chipped Along the Cut Edge?
The corner is now square, but there’s now a bump created by the first cut’s not coming down far enough. If this happens to you, it’s completely fixable.
Simply pull out your tile, line the blade up on the other cut, and shave it off.
You might notice the back of the tile at this point. Because of the blade’s arc, the cuts will extend further on the tile’s back than on the front. This is one reason why it’s important to always use a tile wet saw with your tile facing upward.
The front of the tile looks great. Well, good enough. J
Take your now-L-shaped tile into your space and marvel at its flawless fit. Nicely done!
So, we’ve covered basic cuts and L-shaped (or multiple-cut) cuts. Another tricky cut you might run into, particularly in a shower/tub surround, is the circle cut. Obviously, it isn’t possible to cut a circle with a straight saw blade. But you can use that same straight saw blade to create a circle cut. Here’s how. First, measure exactly (and I mean exactly) how big/small you need your circle to be. Draw it with a pencil or permanent marker onto your tile. This particular circle will be cut for the tub mixer valve.
Start making narrow, parallel cuts with your saw blade up to your drawn line. The narrow strips of tile might break off as you’re sawing, and that’s fine, but don’t worry about it if they don’t break.
When you’ve finished the complete arc, use tile nippers to snip off the narrow bits up to your drawn line.
You have the advantage here of being able to angle your nippers to follow, pretty closely, your drawn line exactly.
You’ll notice that the thinner your saw cuts are, the easier it is to break off the strips accurately. But there’s a tradeoff, because doing so many saw cuts takes more time as well. I’d recommend keeping your strips to about ¼” wide, if possible.
When all is said and done, you should have a beautifully rounded cut. And to think you accomplished this with just a straight saw blade and some nippers!
Here’s the fit. Perfect!
We hope you’ve found this basic beginner’s guide to using a tile wet saw helpful. Good luck on your projects!
How To Use A Wet Tile Saw
Note: The author is an experienced, although not professional, DIYer. Neither the author nor Homedit is responsible for any injury or damage that may be a result of following this tutorial.
Brittney is a wife, a mom of four young children, a writer and editor (B.S. degree in English/Technical Writing), and a lover of interior design. She thrives on finding inexpensive ways to DIY her own home into a stylish yet family-friendly space.
Consider the size of your tile and the slant of desired cuts to choose the tile saw that works best for you.
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When setting out on a tile project, it’s as important to give as much consideration to the tile saw used as the tile itself. The best tile saws use diamond blades to cut glass, ceramic, and other materials, though they differ in beds, power, and water reservoirs―all factors to keep in mind when selecting the right saw for the work.
That’s just the beginning. Many (but not all) tile saws also use water on the spinning blade to reduce friction, noise, and dust while also increasing the blade’s longevity. Don’t forget to weigh the option of sliding beds, which many believe make it easier for you to accurately and safely slide a tile under the blade. With all of these available features, you can wind up with the wrong tile saw if you don’t carefully consider your project’s details. Start your project by reviewing the shopping tips and recommendations in this guide.
- BEST OVERALL:Porter-Cable Wet Tile Saw (PCE980)
- RUNNER UP:Skil 3550-02 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK:Leegol Electric 7-Inch Bench Wet Tile Saw
- UPGRADE PICK:DeWALT Wet Tile Saw with Stand (D24000S)
- BEST PORTABLE:DeWALT Wet Tile Saw, Masonry, 4 3/8-Inch (DWC860W)
- BEST FOR SMALL PROJECTS:Skil 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw – 3540-02
- BEST HANDHELD:Rotorazer Compact Circular Saw Set
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT:QEP 22400Q 3/5 HP Torque Master Tile Saw
- HONORABLE MENTION:QEP 10630Q 24-Inch Manual Tile Cutter
Editor’s Note: We’re in the middle of testing the top tile saws on the market right now, including our current favorite from Porter-Cable. Check back for our honest reactions after getting our hands on the tile saws.
How We Chose the Best Tile Saws
The best tile saws should provide accurate and high-quality cuts to a variety of tile thicknesses and materials. In our research we looked at a variety of models to gather our top picks across a range of features to offer choices that best suit your specific needs—from lightweight and handheld options ideal for working in tight spaces, to more robust and powerful tools suitable for heavy-duty work. Every tile saw in our list of recommendations is made from durable and high-quality materials by a reputable brand. We have curated a list of choices to suit everyone from highly skilled professionals to DIYers just starting out.
Our Top Picks
Now that you know what you need for your renovation, you’re ready to shop for your supplies. See some of the best tile saws you can buy for achieving a top-notch finished product.
PORTER-CABLE Wet Tile Saw (PCE980)
If you have a long list of tile projects ahead of you, the PORTER-CABLE PCE980 Wet Tile Saw fits the bill. This durable saw features a stainless steel top for greater longevity, half of which slides for highly accurate results. It can handle up to 17-inch cuts, which is perfect for 12-inch tiles cut at 45-degree angles. It has a 1-horsepower motor, a 7-inch blade, and an enclosed water reservoir for dust control and blade longevity.
Even though the splash guard may obstruct some of the sight lines, it’s a design flaw that most of the competition faces as well. This saw is still among the best for fine tile work because it allows you to cut down to 1/16 of an inch.
- The convenient carry handle makes this model a breeze to tote around from project to project
- Impressive cutting depth down to 1/16 of an inch; can handle most jobs
- Enclosed water tank helps preserve blade and mitigates dust in the work area
Get the Porter-Cable tile saw at Amazon, Target, or Acme Tools.
Skil 3550-02 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw
The Skil 3550-02 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw features Skil’s HydroLock system, which stops water splash when it’s in use. The blade guard contains the water and also does a great job of allowing the user to see the cut. The worktable has a slide-out wing to support larger tiles up to 18 inches. Plus, the water-fill lid doubles to help the operator cut bevels at 22.5 and 45 degrees.
This saw falls short of the top spot for only one reason: It doesn’t have a sliding bed. Sliding wide tiles through a wet saw accurately can be a challenge without one. Thanks to the blade guard’s superior visibility, you can still get accurate cuts if you use its adjustable fence with a sliding bevel gauge.
Leegol Electric 7-Inch Bench Wet Tile Saw
When you want a utilitarian wet tile saw at a bargain price, consider the Leegol 7-inch Wet Tile Saw. The Leegol is an effective unit with few frills but great features. It has a 7-inch blade and bladeguard, a water reservoir, and a rip fence, but nothing more. The entire worktop tilts, both for filling the reservoir and making bevel cuts. The Leegol features a 12-inch cut capacity and a rip fence that helps to guide straighter cuts.
Do take care of the chrome-plated worktop, as pushing tiles across it may scratch it, and the surface will eventually rust. At this price point, however, this seems like a fair trade-off.
DeWALT Wet Tile Saw with Stand (D24000S)
The DeWALT Wet Tile Saw works well for both pros and DIYers. This upgrade has a 1½.horsepower motor that easily powers a 10-inch diamond blade. It allows you to cut moldings up to 3⅛-inches thick and to make plunge cuts for outlets. Plus, it has a cut capacity of 24 inches, which is enough for a 45-degree cut on an 18-inch tile.
It has two adjustable spray nozzles to control dust and overspray. The large sliding bed makes long cuts accurate to within 1/32-inch over 18 inches. It also bevels to preset 22.5 and 45-degree angles.If you’re willing to spend a little extra on a high-quality tile saw, the DeWALT system is top-notch and durable enough to serve you well for years to come.
- Includes 2 adjustable spray nozzles that can help control dust and overspray
- Long cutting blade suitable for a wide range of projects
- Ideal for large tiles; can even make 45-degree cuts on 18-inch tiles
Get the DeWALT wet tile saw at Amazon, Acme Tools, or MSC.
DeWALT Wet Tile Saw, Masonry, 4 3/8-Inch (DWC860W)
Even some of the best tile saws aren’t right for intricate outlet or vent hole cuts in the middle of a tile. For those jobs, a handheld masonry saw is the better choice. The DeWALT DWC860W 4⅜-inch Wet Masonry Saw can plunge cut awkward cut-outs or cut a rounded corner on a tile. It can also cut curves for tiles against wavy walls. It has a powerful 10.8-amp motor that runs at 13,000 rpm for plenty of cutting capability.
It includes a 12-foot water hose that hooks up to the saw for wet saw applications. You can also run it dry if you are concerned about dust or the blade overheating. The DeWALT bevels up to 45 degrees as well, creating clean outside corners where needed.
- Having full handheld control is great for making awkward cuts
- Smaller form factor allows this tool to work well in tight spaces
- Capable of cutting through multiple materials such as porcelain or stone
Get the DeWALT handheld tile cutter at Amazon, Acme Tools, or MSC.
SKIL 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw. 3540-02
Skil’s 3540-02 7-inch Wet Tile Saw is designed to help homeowners and DIYers tackle small- to medium-size projects, such as backsplashes and craftwork. This saw can handle 12-inch cross cuts and 7¾-inch tiles on a 45-degree angle, and its adjustable fence aids in accurate and repeatable cuts. The beveling worktable can cut measurements between 0 and 45-degrees. Plus, the stainless steel worktop will outlast those made with cheaper materials.
While the reservoir and blade-guard combination does a solid job of containing most of the mess in cutting backsplash or shower tile, beveling corner tiles still can get a little tricky. And the entire table has beveled edges, so watch out for water running off the side of the saw instead of into the reservoir.
- At just 18 pounds, this model is lightweight and portable; great for jobs on the go
- Made from durable stainless steel materials; easy to maintain and wipe clean
- Miter gauge and adjustable rip fence make this ideal for repeated accurate cuts
Get the Skil tile saw at Amazon, Lowe’s, or Menards.
ROTORAZER Compact Circular Saw Set
If you’re looking for a tile-cutting tool with some extra versatility, check out the ROTORAZER Compact Circular Saw Set. This saw comes with multiple saw blades, allowing you to tackle tile, metal, wood, and other materials with the same saw. With the diamond blade fitting, its plunge-cut action makes it capable of cutting outlet and vent holes in tile with ease.
The ROTORAZER comes with three different blades, including tungsten carbide for wood, steel for metals, and diamond-embedded for cutting tile. It also features a hard carrying case for safe storage and a dust extraction hose that attaches to the saw to keep the mess controllable. It can cut materials up to ½-inch thick and allows you to make curved cuts easily.
- Cuts several types of material
- Includes convenient carry case
- Multiple saws in a single tool
- Adjustable cutting depth
QEP 22400Q 3/5 HP Torque Master Tile Saw
While most power tool users will shun a plastic tool, it makes sense that QEP would sell a plastic tile saw. At only 8 pounds, it’s one-third of the weight of some of the other benchtop saws on our list, making it easier to store or carry into the house. It’s also watertight and rust resistant, so it could potentially last years. While a perfectly fine material for the body and worktop, the slight downside to a plastic fence is that it’s not as rigid and accurate as some of the heavier competition, so cut with care.
The ⅗-horsepower motor is enough for most light-duty work, but it may bog down a bit on tiles tougher than ceramic or porcelain. The worktop has two extendable wings for cutting tiles over 12 inches. It will also bevel, so if you’re cutting mitered corners, the QEP can handle the job.
QEP 10630Q 24-Inch Manual Tile Cutter
Tile saws are inherently messy, so if you don’t need a saw filled with water, why use one? Instead, consider a tile cutter such as QEP’s 24-inch cutter. It uses a tungsten-carbide cutting wheel to score and snap tiles to size, without spinning wheels or all the dust and water. This QEP tool can cut 24-inch flooring tiles or 12-inch tiles on a 45-degree angle. It also works well on large mosaics, though a tile saw is more suitable for smaller mosaics as they’re hard to snap cleanly.
Also remember that tile cutters are best saved for straight cuts, as they won’t bevel or cut curves. If you’re looking for outside corners or curved cuts, you’ll be better off using a standard tile saw or handheld masonry saw.
- Manual tools produce less mess compared to power tools; less water and less dust
- Can cut large tiles up to 25 inches long; suitable for the majority of projects
- Simple tool with flat surfaces is very easy to clean and maintain
Get the QEP tile saw at Amazon or The Home Depot.
Types of Tile Saws
As you start shopping for the best tile saw, it may not take long before you notice there are a few types of tile saws available. Each type works a bit differently than the others, so learning about the differences will help you figure out which one will work for your project.
Wet Tile Saw
One of the most common ways to cut tile is with a wet tile saw. These electric saws use a spinning, diamond-embedded blade to cut tile accurately and rather quickly. Wet saws look similar to table saws, but with the addition of a water basin underneath. The water both lubricates and cools the saw blade, while also keeping airborne dust to a minimum.
Much like table saws can bevel wood, it’s possible to cut bevels and angles on your tile saw. Often this requires you to adjust the deck or topside of the saw rather than tilting the blade. Many wet saws have sliding beds or adjustable rip fences, increasing your control as you push the tile through the saw blade. The size of the sliding bed varies from model to model, and a bigger bed can make cutting large floor tiles easier.
A large wet saw isn’t your only option for cutting tile quickly and accurately. Electric or battery-powered handheld models can quickly cut a tile to shape or even cut intricate angles or shapes around moldings and cabinets. They work best with medium to large tiles but also work well for smaller tiles attached with fiberglass sheets.
Handheld tile saws look and work a lot like a circular saw. Like wet saws, they use diamond-embedded blades, though they come in both wet and dry versions. Wet versions usually feature a hose attached to the saw to keep the blade lubricated and keep the dust down, while dry versions just let the dust fly.
The advantage of a handheld tile saw is you can conquer tight angles and irregular shapes or curves. They also can be easier and quicker to set up, making them desirable for jobs that require just a cut or two. The downside is you need to develop an accurate technique, which can take a bit of experience. Also, these saws can be quite messy since they don’t have water basins to catch water, so you’ll probably want to use them outside.
Some tile professionals prefer to use an electric grinder fitted with a diamond-embedded wheel for cutting tile. A wheel can be an attractive option if you already own a grinder. These wheels make the grinder work similarly to a handheld saw, but with some trade-offs.
Grinders have plenty of power, so they’re great for stubborn materials like granite. However, they’re often more awkward to hold, as they’re slightly less balanced than a handheld saw. Also, they don’t have a flat surface for the tile to sit against, so you can inadvertently cut bevels if you aren’t paying attention. The significant advantage is you can use the face of the grinding wheel to work your way to a perfect cut, rather than using just the edge of a handheld saw’s blade.
Working with a grinder is messy. It’s best to have a helper hold a shop vacuum close to your spinning blade if you prefer to keep the mess down.
The most common and inexpensive way to cut tiles to shape involves a tile cutter. Without requiring any electricity or a battery, these can be used to make straight cuts across certain types of tiles.
If you’re installing glass or ceramic tiles, tile cutters are an excellent way to make quick, relatively mess-free cuts. These tools work by scoring a cut line with a small tungsten-carbide blade across the surface of a tile. You then use a lever to apply pressure to both sides of the score line. When you apply sufficient pressure, the tile will snap along the line.
This method creates very little dust, though small bits of glass can be left behind. Also, since this method depends on breaking the tile, the edges aren’t as cleanly cut as they would be with a diamond-embedded power saw. They also cannot make curves or intricate cuts.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Tile Saw
Now that you know a bit more about the types of saws, there are a few other things to keep in mind while you’re shopping for the best tile saw. This section shares some of the most important features to consider so you can choose the best tile saw for your work.
Cut Quality and Accuracy
Tiles can affect the look of a space, so it’s important to consider the saw’s cut quality and accuracy in order to achieve the design you desire. Some saws have features that make accurate cuts easier to achieve.
When it comes to wet saws, consider a model that provides some type of guide for creating straight cuts. A guide could be an adjustable table saw-like fence or a sliding bed that holds your tile in place while cutting. Also, adjustable bevels will allow you to make accurate outside and inside corners, which are ideal if you’re using tile as a base molding.
For DIYers looking to cut out the cost of a professional installation, keep in mind that the accuracy of handheld and grinding tile saws is largely up to the user’s ability. However, some handheld saws have laser guides and attachments you can use to guide the saw as you cut.
The quickest way to go over your tile budget and frustrate yourself is by using a low-quality tile blade. Poor quality blades can chip your tile, slow the process, and cause more headaches than the initial savings are worth.
The chances are your saw will come with a diamond-grit blade, which is a necessity for fast cuts. However, the low-quality blades that come with budget-friendly saws often wobble a bit while cutting, causing you to create an inconsistent cut. They also wear out quickly, requiring more effort on your part to pass through the blade. If you find you’re struggling to achieve perfect results, it might be the blade’s fault, not yours.
Upgrading the blade can help make an inexpensive saw cut better, so it’s something to keep in mind if you’re getting frustrated.
Type of Tile
The type of tile you’re using can have a lot to do with choosing the best tile saw. Some materials require extra features to create the best results.
Glass, ceramic, and porcelain are generally pretty easy to work with, so you can use just about any saw to cut them. However, marble is too soft to snap, so a tile cutter won’t be your best choice. Some natural materials, like terra cotta, stone, and others that tend to be very dusty, almost require a wet saw, as the mess can be unbearable and can make it difficult to see what you’re doing.
A handheld wet/dry tile saw is the most versatile tile saw. A wet saw follows closely behind and creates more accurate cuts. If you’re unsure about the type of saw your tile requires, these two styles will work for almost any tile and situation.
As mentioned earlier, water can help make tile cutting a much more enjoyable process. While splashes can be messy, the trade-offs for quick and accurate cuts and working in a low-dust environment might be worth it to you.
How the water feeds onto the saw blade is something to consider. Many wet saws have no feed at all, instead relying on the blade dipping into the water basin below the saw’s surface. Others pump water out and onto the blade. Pumps are far more efficient, as they ensure there is plenty of water directly on the cut, but these models can be more expensive.
If you’re concerned about mixing water with power, that’s understandable. The motors are well sealed from splashes, so there’s very little risk of a shock from a new wet saw. If your saw is in disrepair, however, you might want to think about replacing it with a new model.
While cutting tile requires some special tools, it doesn’t have to be an intimidating task. With the right knowledge, you’ll be able to cut tiles with your new saw in no time. The result will be an excellent finish for your next renovation. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about tile saws and how they work.
Q. Do I need a wet saw to cut tile?
No, you don’t, but a wet saw could be your best option. If you don’t use a wet saw, you’ll have to deal with lots of dust. Otherwise, just ensure that you’re using a diamond-embedded blade in a grinder or handheld saw. You also can use a tile cutter for some softer materials.
Q. Can I use a Dremel to cut tile?
Dremel offers several diamond-embedded cutting wheels for its rotary tools. They’ll work, but it just might take you longer, and it could be more difficult to cut a straight line. With that said, Dremel rotary tools are excellent for creating outlet cuts and curves.
Q. What size tile saw do I need?
The most common size blades are 4½ and 7 inches. Both will work for most renovation work, though 4½.inch blades are much cheaper to replace than 7-inch models.