Troubleshooting Your Ceramic Tile Cutter

With a properly functioning ceramic tile cutter, it is quick and simple to dramatically improve the appearance of a room. Ceramic tile comes in many shapes and colors so you can design a customized kitchen backsplash, shower cabinet, or floor pattern. Although tile cutters lack the flexibility of wet saws or snippers, their speed and portability makes them an invaluable part of the tilesetter’s toolkit. Learning to use the cutting wheel to score and snap tile cleanly takes both patience and practice. Jagged breaks could be a result of overscoring or using a cutting wheel that is not sharp enough for the job. Although it might be tempting to save money by choosing a relatively cheap tile cutter, be aware that quality comes with a price.

Check Tile Type

Ceramic tile is easy to work with because it can withstand a lot of compression but it breaks easily when bent. Relatively thin clay tiles are the easiest to score and snap.  As clay tiles get thicker, it becomes more difficult to break cleanly. However, it is still possible for an experienced technician using quality tools. Likewise, porcelain tiles are challenging to cut because they contain crystallized silica, which causes them to break in a conchoidal fracture. Use a wet saw to cut harder materials such as granite, marble, or stone.

Be Realistic in Your Expectations

Large pieces of tile offer more leverage than small pieces, which makes them relatively easier to snap and score. Attempting to cut curved pieces using the cutter will usually result in shattering the tile. If your tile cutter works fine for cutting squares but not for curves or pieces smaller than 1/2-inch, there may not be anything wrong with it at all. Use a wet saw or tile snippers for these cuts.

Maintain Equipment Regularly

The carbide cutting wheel will eventually dull from repeated use. Replacing the scoring wheel should restore the cutter to its original performance. Some brands offer adjustable wheel heights; make sure the height of the wheel is appropriate for the thickness of the tile. If the handle sticks when pushing or pulling the blade, clean the slide rails with WD-40 and lubricate them with silicone grease.

Buy Quality Equipment

Although it is possible to obtain ceramic tile cutters for as little as $10 or $20, these models will likely lead to frustration and wasted time. Cheap cutters contain plastic parts that will bend from the stress of use. Check the base plate and the support brackets on the slide rail for deformation. Cheap cutters may also be too small for the tile you wish to cut. Rubi and Sigma are two of the leading brands that professionals favor. A good cutter costs over $500, but you can rent one by the day for much less.


Excessive pressure when scoring will create internal cracks and cause the tile to shatter when the break-bar is depressed. Likewise, repeat scoring will cause multiple fracture lines and a jagged break. Set the wheel against the tile’s leading edge and firmly roll it over, then slide it lightly across the tile’s face. One pass is ideal, but take a second if the tile doesn't snap readily under light pressure.