If only there were one tool for cutting tile! Unfortunately not. By assembling a number of tools–some expensive, some not–you can make every kind of cut you’ll need for home remodeling work.
Read: List of Must-Have Tile Tools
1. Wet Tile Saw – For Perfect Straight Cuts
Ryobi 7″ Wet Tile Saw
A wet tile saw, if you decide to outlay the cash, will take care of a number of other manual tile-cutting tools. But it won’t do everything. In simple terms, a wet tile saw is a table saw like a type you might use to cut wood, except you use a carbon blade made just for cutting tile and you have a continuous stream of water hitting the work material. Try as you might, it’s not a process you can duplicate with other, non-tile-related tools; you pretty much have to buy a wet tile saw.
The good thing is that wet tile saws don’t have to cost a fortune. Cheap ones can be had for under $150. Keep in mind that their usage may be limited. They might last only the duration of your whole-house renovation. If so, you could still consider it money well-spent, as hiring tile installers is an expensive proposition.
2. Snap (or Rail) Tile Cutter – For Fast But Ragged Straight Lines
The irony with snap tile cutters is that they are cheap, very cheap. You can buy a decent snap tile cutter for $35-$40, and some for even less. When you buy a cheap model it may produce such poor work that you end up barely using it. But why consider buying a pricier snap tile cutter–for not much more money you could almost buy a wet tile saw?
Well, one great thing about these tile cutters is that they are fast. Working like glass cutters, with carbide wheels that score into the surface, rail cutters allow you to put the tile in place, zip the wheel across the surface, press the handle–voila. You’ve got a cut tile within seconds. It’s almost as fast and easy as running a utility knife across drywall and snapping it in half. Rail tile cutters don’t give you flawless lines (as a wet tile saw would), but this is acceptable if the ragged edge will be covered by something like baseboard.
3. Tile Nibbler / Tile Nipper – For Curves on Edge of Tile
Call it a tile nipper, nibbler, or whatever, this is the most dead-simple tile cutting tool you will buy. It looks like a set of spring-loaded pliers, except the “jaw end” of the tile nipper, has two hardened, carbide blades. These blades are very dull, though, and allow you to systematically nibble away at the edge of the tile to make curves. It’s a painstaking process, but you probably don’t need to make a lot of these cuts in your remodel.
Look at it as a chance to sit down and take a load off for a while. Make the wrong move, though, and you’ll end up breaking your tile: the name of the tool is accurate since you need to nibble away at the tile, crumb by crumb.
4. RotoZip – For Holes in Tile or Cuts on Edge
Tile nippers cut tile edges. What about cuts within the tile (circles for pipes, rectangles for outlets, etc.)? You need more firepower for this job. Don’t confuse a RotoZip with a Dremel tool–different things. Dremels have either a rotary or an oscillating blade.
A RotoZip has a blade that’s like a rotating drill bit, except it moves exceedingly fast and the sides of the bits are covered in diamond grit that bites through ceramic tile. A RotoZip will cover tile nipper duties but will not make good straight lines.
RotoZips are expensive, but you can use them for a multitude of other remodeling (and non-remodeling) tasks. At the time of this writing, RotoZip has 6 bits just for ceramic tile. The Tiledock TD1-10 is a cutting surface with clamps. It’s nice, but not necessary.