How to Cut Tiles Straight

For the most part, tiling a floor or feature wall is a simple, albeit somewhat time-consuming process. From preparing the floor to mixing the mortar and laying the tiles, the process of tiling is a simple, straightforward one that anyone can do.

Reach an oddly-shaped corner or curve in the wall, however, and even the most detailed tiling instructions suddenly become unhelpful. How can you lay a tile if there’s no space for it?

Enter the tile cutter. Whether you’re tiling a floor or a wall, home tiling jobs will occasionally require you to cut one or several of your tiles into a different shape, mostly so that they will fit into tight spaces or curved walls.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to get the perfect straight cuts in your tiles using a tile cutter or wet saw and lay them perfectly in awkward corners, around electricity outlets or in any other awkward or unusual location.

 

 

Should you use a tile cutter or a wet saw?

There are two ways to cut a tile: with a tile cutter or with a wet saw. The ideal tool for cutting your tiles depends on several factors, ranging from the specific type of tiles you’re cutting to the extent of your tiling job.

A tile cutter is a hand tool (although electric tile cutters are also available) that, as its name suggests, is used to cut tiles. Most manual tile cutters are designed to cut ceramic tiles – thicker, stronger tiles are often too tough for some tile cutters.

Tile cutters are simple tools made up of a cutting handle attached to two rails. The rails guide the handle and cutting mechanism down the tile, letting you line up the tungsten carbide cutting wheel with the part of the tile you’d like to cut through.

For the most part, tile cutters are the ideal tool for cutting ceramic and porcelain tiles. Tiles made from thicker materials such as natural stone are often too strong for a manual tile cutter and are best cut using a wet saw.

Using a wet saw lets you create a clean cut through a wider variety of tiles. It also lets you create curves in your tiles, although this is quite difficult and can require quite a lot of experience using a wet saw.

Cutting tiles straight using a tile cutter

If you need to make straight cuts in your tiles – for example, cutting a square tile in two down the middle – you’ll want to use a manual tile cutter. Tile cutters are easy to find in almost any hardware shop and are priced from £10 to £50.

It’s important to buy a tile cutter that’s big enough for the tiles you’ll be cutting. The 300mm tile cutters sold at many local hardware stores may not be big enough for a large ceramic tile – if you’re cutting large tiles, choose a 600mm cutter instead.

The slice tile cutters make into your tiles is created by a thin tungsten carbide wheel that can wear down over time. If you’re cutting a large number of tiles, make sure to buy a couple of replacement wheels to keep your cuts straight and smooth.


Before you cut the tile you’ll be using on your floor or wall, choose a scratched or old tile to practice on. Mark the beginning and end of the cut on the tile’s surface using a pencil to create a guiding line for yourself.

Pull the lever and mechanism of your tile cutter close to you, then place the practice tile inside the far end of the cutter. The tile should be placed snugly against the end of the cutter, with the glazed side facing upwards and the guiding lines visible.

Before you start cutting, make sure that the guiding lines are aligned with your tile cutter. Position the level and cutting mechanism so that the cutting wheel is placed on the edge of the tile, then gently press down and drag the wheel over the tile.

Press down on the lever to apply pressure to the tile. The cutter is designed to apply pressure to both sides of the tile, causing it to break cleanly. As you press the lever, the tile should snap into two pieces.

If you scored the tile gently and used a high quality cutter, the cut should be clean and smooth. If there are any imperfections, use a sharpening stone to gently grind down the edge and smooth the cut of the tile.

 

Cutting tiles using a wet saw

Most ceramic tiles can be cut using a manual tile cutter. However, thick, strong and very large tiles will need to be cut using a wet saw. If you’ve used a wet saw before, you’ll find the process of cutting a tile quick and simple.

Start by preparing the saw. Clean your work area and fill the saw’s reservoir with water. Make sure that your saw’s guide is clean to avoid leaving marks on the edge of the tile.

There are two ways to cut accurately using a wet saw. Firstly, you can draw a guide line on the top of the tile as you would if you were using a tile cutter. You could also measure the tile and adjust your wet saw’s guide to hold it in place.

Once you’ve marked the tile so that it can be cut accurately, gently place it on your saw’s guide. Press is right up against the guide to make sure it can’t move while it’s being cut, as this can lead to an uneven cut in the tile.

Switch on your saw and carefully cut the tile along the guiding line. Make sure you wear ear and eye protection, as the dust from the tile can spread throughout your work environment and become a safety hazard.

 

Have you prepared your floor for tiling?

Before you start cutting tiles, you’ll need to prepare the floor you’re about to tile by stripping away existing flooring material and creating a plan. Are you ready to start tiling yet or do you still need to prepare your tiling area?