How to cut tiles

Our guide will show you the various ways to cut tiles. We’ll show you how to use a tile scribe, a combined scorer and snapper, and, for when lots of tiles need cutting, a tile-cutting machine. You’ll find out how to create curved tiles with a tile nipper and tile file, or tile saw, and how to use a tungsten carbide rod for more complex shapes. There’s even advice on using a diamond blade wet saw cutter.

Preparation

Whenever you’re tiling a surface, you will need to cut some of the tiles – either because an exact number won’t fill the space, or you need to fit them around an obstacle, such as a toilet or pipe.

The cutting method you need to use will depend on the type of tiles you choose. For ceramic tiles, which tend to measure less than 15mm thick, there are a number of options for cutting straight lines, including a tile scorer, a combined scorer and snapper and, when lots of tiles need cutting, a tile-cutting machine. For porcelain and natural stone tiles, which are usually more than 15mm thick, a diamond blade wet-saw tile cutter is the best option.

In both kitchens and bathrooms, you’re likely to need to cut curved tiles to fit around pipes and other obstacles, such as toilets. For this, you can choose between a tile nipper, a tile saw, or a hacksaw with a tungsten carbide rod, which is a thin wire covered in abrasive particles.

Wickes Tip

If you are going to be installing new pipes, it's best to tile before the plumbing is completed. You can then use a tile-hole cutter to cut through the pipes, rather than tiling around them.

You'll need to kneel for extended periods of time when tiling a floor, so it's a good idea to use knee pads.

Safety

  • Shards of tile could fly off when cutting, so always wear protective gloves and goggles. Always take care not to get fingers too close to the blade when cutting.

Step by step instructions

How to use a tile scorer

Step 1 of How to use a tile scorer
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Use a metal ruler and pencil or felt tip pen to mark a line across the tile where you want to cut.

Step 2 of How to use a tile scorer
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Scrape along the mark once using the tile scorer and a metal ruler to prevent it from breaking in the wrong place.

Step 3 of How to use a tile scorer
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To snap the tile, place a pencil or felt tip under the line and apply downward pressure on either side. You could also place the tile on the edge of a workbench and press down.


How to use a tile nipper

Step 1 of How to use a tile nipper
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Tile nippers are used to cut curved or irregular lines. Use the steps below to create an accurate template of the obstacle you need to cut around, and then use it to mark a line on the tile.

Step 2 of How to use a tile nipper
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Start cutting small chunks from the tile, working towards your line. When you get close to the line be extra careful, taking tiny pieces so you don’t over-cut or shatter the tile.

Step 3 of How to use a tile nipper
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Once you’re on the line, you’ll need to smooth the edge down with a tile file or a piece of very fine sandpaper.

Step 4 of How to use a tile nipper
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Wipe the tile down with a damp cloth to get rid of dust and any remaining splinters.


How to tile around an obstacle

Step 1 of How to tile around an obstacle
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To tile around an obstacle, such as a toilet or pipe, you'll need to create an accurate paper template. To do this, first cut a piece of paper or card the same size as your tile.

Step 2 of How to tile around an obstacle
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In the area of the tile that will come into contact with the obstacle, cut a series of slits about 5-10mm apart that are slightly longer than the obstruction.

Step 3 of How to tile around an obstacle
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Place the template into position with the cut slits against the obstruction, remembering to take into account a 5mm gap for grout.

Step 4 of How to tile around an obstacle
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Press each slit against the obstacle, drawing a line along its base where the slits are bent.


How to use a tile cutting machine

Step 1 of How to use a tile cutting machine
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Mark up the tile and insert it into the machine so that the mark is in line with the guide.

Step 2 of How to use a tile cutting machine
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Lower the handle to bring the scorer into contact with the tile and either push or pull (depending on the cutter) to score once along the line.

Step 3 of How to use a tile cutting machine
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Lower the handle fully so that the snapper touches the tile and apply pressure to snap it in two.


How to use a combined scorer and snapper

Step 1 of How to use a combined scorer and snapper
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Scrape along the mark using the tile scorer and a metal ruler to prevent it from breaking in the wrong place.

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Insert the tile into the jaws of the tool, aligning the scored mark to the centre of the tool.

Step 3 of How to use a combined scorer and snapper
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Squeeze the handles and the tile will snap in two.


How to use a tile saw

Step 1 of How to use a tile saw
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After marking your cut with a pencil, use the tile saw on a work bench and choose a slow cutting speed. Turn the tile rather than the tool to make the cut.

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Smooth off the edges with a tile file or fine sandpaper and wipe down with a damp cloth.


How to cut porcelain and natural tiles

Step 1 of How to cut porcelain and natural tiles
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You’ll need to use a diamond blade wet-saw tile cutter that can cut tiles up to 25mm thick, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Remember to keep the water topped up or the blade might overheat.


How to use a hacksaw with a tungston carbide rod

Step 1 of How to use a hacksaw with a tungston carbide rod
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Securely hold the tile on a workbench and gently cut along the line, pulling the saw backwards and forwards.

Step 2 of How to use a hacksaw with a tungston carbide rod
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Smooth off the edges with a tile file or fine sandpaper and wipe down with a damp cloth.