How to Cut Contours in Tile

What You'll Need
Tile cutter
Tile nippers
Tape measure
Masonry bit
Hole cutter bit

Making cuts in tile is sometimes necessary. You might have to tile around a pillar or post, which requires square cuts. You might also have to tile around a curved pipe or fit a tile over it, and these require curved cuts. This might seem daunting, and can result in some split tiles, but overall it’s not too difficult.

Step 1 - Square Cuts

The most common types of cuts are square cuts. This actually requires you to make two cuts in tile, as you would to butt up around a pillar. Take your measurements and mark them on the tile in pencil. Be sure to leave enough room for grout around the pillar.

It’s possible to use a tile nipper to make these cuts, but a tile cutter will be much faster and generally more successful. Unless you’re planning plenty of tiling it might be better to rent the tile cutter. Make the cuts slowly, being careful not to extend beyond the marks you’ve made. Always wear safety goggles so that any flying tile chips don’t end up in your eyes. Stop the second cut just where it meets the first. If there’s any roughness along the surfaces, file it away.

Step 2 - Curved Cuts

There is a technique for cutting a curve in tile. Start by taking your measurements, allowing for grout, and mark it on the tile. In this instance, permanent marker might be best.

You’ll need to use the tile cutter to make a number of cuts going from the edge into the tile and going to the line of the curve. Make these cuts about ½ inch apart; ¼ is better if feasible. This might require some practice and broken tiles, but persist. When you have the cuts you should be able to snap off the tile. If the edges aren’t smooth you should use a rounded file to smooth the edges. Larger pieces can be ground down or you can remove them with the tile nippers.

Step 3 - Starting a Hole

Cutting a hole in tile can be a tricky job. For a small hole you should use a masonry drill in the tile while for a larger hole use hole cutter bit. Whichever you use you need to make a starting hole. To do this, begin by measuring and marking the hole you’ll need to cut on the tile. Take a nail set and hammer and gently go through the surface glaze. This will give you a guide hole for the drill with the masonry bit.

Another method is to have a piece of plywood the same size as the tile. Also mark the dimensions of the hole on the plywood. Clamp the two together. Drill through the center of the circle in the plywood; it will be the guide for drilling through the tile.

Step 4 - Completing the Hole

You can use the plywood method with a hole cutter saw. The alternative is to cut the tile in half and cut circles from each half.