How to Cut Ceramic Tile Without a Tile Cutter

If you aren't a professional, it's likely that you aren't frequently working with tile – which can make renovation projects seem nightmarish, if you need to cut ceramic tiles and find yourself without access to a ceramic tile cutter. If you're in this situation, don't fret: you can still get the job done by using more common tools as makeshift tile cutting tools. Just make sure you're careful not to cut yourself.

Installing ceramic tiles.
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How to Cut Ceramic Tile Without a Tile Cutter

Penciling It In

For simple, straight ceramic tile cuts, a carbide-tipped pencil does the trick. It's not the best way to cut tiles, and this method might get tiring for large-scale tile jobs, but it comes in handy for basic DIY projects. Grab a carbide-tipped pencil and a straightedge, such as a speed square, from your local hardware store. Place the tile on a stable, flat cutting surface. Position your straightedge as desired, and hold it securely in place, applying ample pressure. With moderate downward pressure, drag the carbide-tipped pencil along the straightedge, across the length of the tile, to make your cut. Quickly repeat the cut, making a few drags across the tile, to create a scored line. Once that's done, turn the pencil around and fit the scored edge of the tile into the attached clamp. Hold the tile tightly with your other hand and press the pencil downward to snap off the scored part of the tile, or use tile nippers as a stronger alternative if one's handy. You can then sand the edge smooth with a medium-grit rubbing stone. This will work for ceramic tile specifically, but other types of tile and flooring – including brick, cement, terra-cotta and porcelain – will require a wet saw.

Advanced Tile Cutting Tools

For larger jobs, or situations in which you have to create notches in your ceramic tile, a wet tile saw is your best bet. If this is a tool that you'll only ever use once, check your local home improvement center for rental availability. Once you've marked your cuts, using a wet saw is closely akin to using a table saw. To cut your tiles, align your marks with the blade, then carefully slide it forward to make your cuts. Avoid pushing the tile into the blade; be gentle and let the blade do the work for you for the smoothest cut. If you have to cut a circle in your ceramic tile, turn to a hole saw of the desired size, which attaches to your electric drill. Tungsten-rimmed hole saws with a carbide-tipped pilot bit work well for cutting ceramic tile. To make your cut, clamp the tile, place the bit in the center of your soon-to-be-hole and then drill, applying stable downward pressure.