How to Cut Ceramic Tile with a Snap Tile Cutter
A part of ceramic tile installation that often concerns people is being able to cut the tile cleanly, and rightly so as poorly cut tiles can ruin the looks of an installation. Cutting tile is much easier than you may think and certainly within the capabilities of my readers!
This tutorial will show you how to cut a ceramic tile up to 3/8" thick using a simple snap tile cutter like you can find in any big box home improvement center. The snap tile cutter uses a non-skid reinforced steel base that houses a rubber pad upon which the tile sets, and dual steel rails that allow a handle controlling a combination tile scoring/pressure bar to move back and forth. The tile is placed into position in the cutter over a metal ridge that runs parallel to the path of a tungsten carbide scoring wheel. The tile is scored by firmly moving the scoring wheel from bottom to top across the face of the tile surface. Then by placing the pressure bar pad across the tile and applying firm and gently increasing pressure, the pressure pad will apply even pressure to both sides of the tile on either side of the metal ridge and the tile will snap across its scoreline.
This tutorial uses the HDX 14 in. Rip Ceramic Tile Cutter Model # 10214X from Home Depot. It costs about $20 bucks and yes it is made in China like everything else these days, but hey, even this tool cuts great if you use some care.
Please note that as with tile nippers which are used for small curved cuts, eye protection should be worn when using a snap tile cutter.
Setting Up the Tile Cut
To set up the tile (or tiles if a cutting a sheet of tiles) for cutting, place the tile firmly against the top edge of the cutting tool.
Lift the handle up and tilt the pressure pad, so it is angled out of the way. Then move the tile, so the cutting wheel is placed at the bottom edge of the tile, located precisely where you want to cut the tile.
Score the Ceramic Tile
Once the tile is exactly positioned, score the tile face by firmly moving the tungsten carbide scoring wheel from bottom to top across the face of the tile surface. You can usually do this one to two times with good results. Try to avoid too many scores as each score will increasingly crack the edge of the glaze and you will end up with a rough cut finished edge.
Snap Cut the Ceramic Tile
With the tile scored the next step is to make the snap cut. This is done by lifting the handle and letting the pressure bar pad drop down onto the approximate center of the tile.
Apply firm and gently increasing pressure to the handle. This will force the pressure pad to apply even pressure to both sides of the tile over the metal snapping ridge and if properly scored, the tile will snap cleanly across its scoreline.
The Finished Clean Cut Tile
This tool was used for cutting individual tiles as well as sheets of tiles in the tutorial how to install ceramic subway wall tiles as a Kitchen Backsplash. If cutting a tile sheet, start the scoring wheel at the bottom of the bottom tile and carefully, slowly and deliberately score each tile. The trick is to make sure you have a good solid score at the bottom of each tile. If not, the tile may not snap cleanly apart especially at the tile's edge, and you can end up with a chip in the tile's colored surface glazing.