Cut Ceramic Tiles With Inexpensive Tools

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Situation:

I needed to lay ceramic tile in a small (8′ x 12′) mudroom. No fancy cuts were required but I did need to cut tiles for the perimeter walls.

Options:

1. Buy a tile cutter or wet saw ($50 – $300.00) – I have no intention of doing this again in the forseeable future so I really didn’t want to buy another tool (having already forked out $$ for a 1/2″ drill capable of mixing thinset without smoking) especially one that would just collect dust in my already crowded shop.

2. Rent one of the above mentioned items – Not convenient for me since I work on home projects like this when I have time available. The tool rental shop is a 25 minute drive each way and it meant at least one early morning trip to return it as well as committing me to a specific timeframe.

I really didn’t want to go with either of these options.

Simple solution

On one of my trips to my favourite home improvement centre I noticed a small tool about the size of a pencil hanging amongst the kneepads, tile spacers, and nippers – a simple tile scorer. The under $5.00 price was low enough for me to “give it a shot” — if it didn’t work then I’d have to consider one of the more expensive/inconvenient options.

Scorer and cut tile

After one broken test tile (when I was holding the tool wrong) I was off to the races. It took a little bit longer than if I’d used a $50.00+ machine but it did what I needed, when I needed it.

Want to give it a try?
Here’s all you need:

Tile scorer
Straightedge
Drill bit (3/16″ or so)
Linesmans pliers (they work like the $28.00 nippers)

1. Mark a reference line on your work surface. This makes it easy to line up the scored line with the drill bit when snapping the tiles.

2. Set a tile on a flat surface and to measure and mark it. Line up your straightedge and score the tile using two or three firm strokes.

3. Place the tile with drill bit under the centre of the tile at the score line.The drill bit and the score line should line up with your reference line.

4. Firmly hold down one edge of the tile and give the raised edge a quick, solid hit with the heel of your other hand. It should break cleanly along the scored line.

5. If you end up with less than perfect break you can CAREFULLY break away the extra tile with linesmans pliers. If the edge is going to be visible it may need some work with a rubbing stone to smooth the edge.

Here are a few other tile cutting tips:

1. Open ALL your boxes of tiles BEFORE you begin and examine them for defects or breakage . Set the damaged tile aside. You can cut damaged tiles first and save full tiles for where you need them.

2. Plan your cuts – Since there was a slight variation in width I made a map showing all the cut tiles and labled them on the grid. As I cut each tile I put the grid number on the back with a felt marker so I could stack them in reverse order.

3. Cut your larger tiles first – If a tiles breaks unevenly you still may be able to re-cut the tile for another spot.

4. Put some masking tape on the back of your straightedge to keep it from slipping.

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