Cutting Tools for Ceramic Tiles

When preparing to do any type of ceramic tile work, it is inevitable that you will have to cut some tiles to fit around pipes, to fit to meet walls, or to complete part of your design. The tools that you need to cut tiles are basic - but just remember that, as ceramic tiles can sometimes break or crumble with an inaccurate cut or at impact, it is important to buy extra tiles to replace any that become broken during the cutting and laying process. If you don't use these tiles immediately, they may be useful in the future if a tile becomes cracked or broken; you'll already have the replacement for the broken tile.

Glass Cutter: A glass cutter is one of the handiest tools to have around when you need to make a straight cut. Use a straightedge (preferably one that doubles as a square), and score along the straightedge at the point you need to cut the tile. Then, laying the tile on a thin dowel rod taped to a hard surface (with the score mark matched lengthwise along the dowel), snap the tile along the cut.

Tile Nippers or Tile Biters: Tile nippers break off small bits of tile at a time, which allows you to shape tiles along the edge - for example, around a toilet or along the curved edge of a sink. Firmly hold the tile glazed-side up, and use the tile nippers to chip away at the ceramic tile until you have created the necessary shape. To make the shape more accurate, it's possible to trace a template from your curved surface, transferring the shape onto the tile. Score the area to be removed with a glass cutter (making parallel lines along the surface of the area, or even cross-hatch marks), then use the tile nippers to remove the unnecessary tile material. Take off small amounts of tile at a time; you don't want to take off too much tile, otherwise you'll have to start over with a new tile.

Snap Cutter: Snap cutters work similarly, but more rapidly, than the glass cutter-and-dowel method. They hold the tile in place, allowing you to score the tile at the appropriate place, then snap the tile at the score mark. These can be rented from home improvement shops.

Wet Saw: A wet saw can be used to make either straight cuts or curved cuts. To make curved cuts, use the same method you would with tile nippers - only use the wet saw to make parallel cuts within the area of the tile to be discarded. Then, use tile nippers to remove the strips you have cut into the tile. They should snap off easily. The more cuts you make, the more accurate your curve will be. Wet saws are used on a variety of tile materials and most home improvement centers have one on the premises.

Hole Cutters: If you need to make a hole in a ceramic tile, special tools and abrasives can be purchased to make holes at the diameter you need. These tools may be purchased individually, but also come in packaged sets. Using a hammer drill, use one of the hole cutters to bore through the tile, keeping the cutter vertical and using light downward pressure.

Practice on a few tiles with whatever cutting method you choose to use. You may find that one method works more efficiently for you than another. You will also be able to develop your technique so that you make fewer mistakes and more accurate cuts.

Home improvement center staff can also cut tile for you. However, this requires advanced planning. Lay out your tile, carefully marking each tile that needs to be trimmed, cut, or shaped. Then take all of the tiles that need cutting to the home improvement center to have them cut for a fee.

To finish off your cut tiles, use a grind stone or tile sander to remove sharp or irregular edges. This will make your tile project safe and professional looking.

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