Tile Cutters: What You Need To Know

If you’re planning to take on a tiling project, you’ll need the right tools for the job. Cutting your tiles neatly is essential if you want the job to look neat and tidy so choosing the right tile cutter is crucial.

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Choosing a tile cutter
The range of options is large and the things you’ll need to consider include what your tiles are made of, how big they are, where you’ll be doing the cutting and how big the project is.

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Tile Cutter Buying Guide 2019

Pricing
Prices vary considerably from cheap manual cutters for home use to expensive radial saws for the professionals. There’s no point spending a lot on a cutter you’ll only use once or twice so weigh up quality and ease of use against cost before deciding what to buy.

Types of tile cutter
Tile cutters are either manual or electric but within those groups there are many options. It’s important to check that that the cutter you choose can actually cut the tiles you intend to use. All models have a maximum cutting thickness and some also have a minimum. Getting the right size cutter for the tiles you intend to use is also important.

Manual
At the basic end of the manual tile cutter range is the hand held, tungsten carbide tipped tile cutter, with which you can score the tile surface before snapping it to size.

You’ll need a metal rule and a lot of downward pressure to get a good straight cut but, if you have only a few tiles to fit or you have lots of time and patience, this may be all you will need.

The majority of manual tile cutters operate by running a wheel along a guide rail to score the tile. Wheels are either tungsten carbide or, for more durability, titanium carbide. They vary in size and, on some models, can be changed depending on the tile thickness. Cutters may have two guide rails, improving cutting accuracy, or adjustable height rails.

With some cutters the wheel is pushed and with others pulled. Some models have a spring-loaded wheel which can score thicker tiles more easily. Once the tile is scored a lever operates a breaking anvil which snaps the tile. The exact mechanism varies between brands with some being fixed and others moveable.

They vary in size, sturdiness and price. For occasional use, cutting only ceramic tiles, a cheaper, less sturdy model will be adequate but for porcelain tiles or more sustained use, a sturdier model will be required.

Electric
These use a replaceable water-cooled diamond cutting blade. In most models the blade is set into a deck with the water reservoir below but there are some models which have a blade that lowers. Usually the blade height is adjustable, but this might not be the case with some cheaper models.

Deck sizes vary and some are extendable, so, if you’re using larger tiles, you’ll need a larger machine.

Electric cutters use water to cool the blade which helps suppress dust. However, some models still emit dust and/or spray so unless your whole house is a building site, you’ll probably prefer to use it outdoors and away from your prize plants. They are also noisy so you will need ear defenders.

Radial saws
These are serious pieces of kit used by professional tilers. They are fast, can cut single tiles up to 1500mm long and 100mm thick and can be fitted with laser sights.

Unless you have a seriously big property or plan to set up a tiling business these are not a cost-effective option.

Tile types
Ceramic tiles can easily be cut with a manual cutter although, if you have a lot of cutting to do, an electric model might be quicker.

Porcelain tiles are denser and more durable than ceramic tiles making them harder to cut. They can be cut with manual cutters, but a higher breaking strength is needed than that required for ceramic tiles. A wet cutter with a diamond blade will give a more reliable finish.

Stone tiles are generally thicker and heavier than other types. Being a natural material, characteristics can vary from tile to tile and they do not always divide as cleanly as man-made materials. To cut them cleanly you will need a heavy-duty table saw or an angle grinder.

Tile sizes
Over the years, the range of tile sizes has increased with some very large tiles now being available. If you’re planning a project, choose your tiles before you buy a cutter or you might find they are too big to cut.

Additional features
Many electric cutters have a deck that can be raised by up to 45° on one side to allow the cutting of bevelled edges enabling a more professional finish to be achieved.

Safety
With any type of cutter, you should wear gloves and eye protection to prevent injury from splinters and rough edges but with electric cutters your hands and eyes are particularly vulnerable. Careless use can result in the loss of a finger or two, whether you’re wearing gloves or not.

Eye protection is essential and should meet the relevant British Standard in order to give the right degree of protection.

Electric tile cutters can be very loud so ear protection is also necessary, particularly if you will be exposed to the noise over a long period. Anyone else in the vicinity of someone using a noisy machine should also be protected.