Should You Cut Tile Around Door Casing?

Working Tiling Around a Door
gilaxia / Getty Images

You're at the juncture where your new tile meets the door casing (the vertical trim running along the sides of the door opening.) Do you cut the tile to fit around the casing, or do you cut the casing to fit against the top of the installed tile? If you're remodeling and neither the tile nor the casing is installed, which should you install first? The answer, in both cases, is quite clear: never cut the tile to fit around the casing.

The Tile-Casing Guide

Use this handy guide to determine what to do—and why—in the scenario that fits your project:

Strategy Description Why?
Install flooring before everything else Install all of the ceramic tiles in the room first. Then, install the door casing, leaving a small space between the top of the tile and the bottom of the casing. Ceramic tile is difficult to cut at odd angles, while wood is much easier to cut. This allows you to butt the tile right up to the door frame. When the casing is installed, it hides the cut edges of the tile.
Install casing first, leaving space Use a spare tile as a guide to keep the bottom of the door casing high enough so that tile can later be slipped in underneath. Be generous about your spacing, because you will also have thinset mortar under the tile. Do this when you need to install the casing now and the tile later. You're cutting the casing short to allow room for the tile.
Install casing first, then cut a space If the door casing has already been installed before the tile, cut the casing while it's in place (see below), using a spare tile as a spacing guide. This is the least desirable option but is acceptable if done cleanly. Essentially, this is the same as the above option, except that the casing is being cut in place, rather than installed with a space for the tile.

Tile Around Casing Not an Option

Under no circumstances do you want to try to cut ceramic tile to fit the odd angles of door casing. Even if you can do it, it will be hard to install and will probably look like you were too lazy to remove or cut the casing. Also, there is no good way to cover up the space between the casing and tile. Caulking the crack will work for a while, but caulk never looks good for long, especially on a floor. 

How to Cut Casing in Place

This is easier than you might think. That is, it's easier with the right tool. You can make this cut with a small, flexible handsaw (like a mini version of a standard rip saw, but a better tool is an undercut saw. It looks like a pie server but has a squared-off nose and saw teeth along three edges. 

To use an undercut saw, place a tile on the floor with a spacer beneath to represent the tile mortar, and hold the tile against the casing. Set the saw flat on top of the tile and simply work it back and forth (you know, like a saw) to cut the casing at the tile height. Genius!

As an alternative, you can use some types of Japanese pull saws in the same manner, or use a multi-tool (oscillating tool) with an undercut attachment.