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How to Make Precision Cuts With a Diamond Tile Saw

A diamond tile saw is essential for cutting natural stone tile and other hard tile. In this article a tiling pro explains how to make tough cuts like curves, corners and tiny slivers.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

  • COST
  • CostCostCost $100 - $500
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    Tile retailers usually rent tile saws. Small, inexpensive homeowner-grade saws are also available at home centers and tile stores.

Overview

There's no substitute for a diamond tile saw when you have to make fine cuts—corners, curves, slivers—or cut stone or other hard tiles. In this article, we'll show you how a tile pro makes the tricky cuts that result in a first-class job. Tile-cutting diamond wet saws are available at rental stores, some large home centers and tile stores that cater to DIYers.

Set the saw up outside or in your garage or workshop. If a finished room is more convenient, cover the floor and wall behind the saw with plastic dropcloths. Then fill the tub with water.

Even though the tile saw looks scary, the blade is abrasive rather than toothed and therefore safer than wood-cutting saws. You'll still want to take precautions, as you would with any other saw.

Basic cuts

Photo 1 shows the basic technique for making straight cuts. Wait for a stream of water to cover the blade before you start cutting. Watch the line as you cut and slightly adjust the position of the tile to keep the blade on the line. Move the tile slowly through the blade for the best-quality cut. If you hear the saw slow down, you're cutting too fast. Harder materials require slower feed rates. When you finish the cut, keep both hands on the tile and slide the table back and clear of the blade before you reach to switch off the saw.

Special techniques

Photo 2 shows how to make a freehand diagonal cut. Use this technique to cut any angle marked on tile. The key is to sight down the cutting line and align the blade with the line. If your tile is too large to fit between the fence and blade, lay the tile on top of the fence.

Shiny tiles can be hard to mark. If you're having trouble seeing your line as you cut, place a strip of masking tape on the tile and mark that instead.

Cutting curves is no problem

You can even use your saw to cut inside curves (Photos 5 – 7). After breaking out the tile fingers (Photo 6), use the abrasive diamond blade to grind away excess tile and smooth the curve. Be careful, though; too much sideways pressure could damage the blade. Move the tile slowly across the blade, pressing lightly and nibbling off a fraction of an inch with each pass (Photo 7). Grip the tile firmly with both hands and tilt the edge closest to the blade up and off the bed to get a perpendicular cut.

There's a trick to slicing off slivers

Removing a tiny sliver of tile is tough because the blade tends to wander off the edge of the tile. The solution is to trap the blade between the tile you want to trim and a scrap (Photo 8). You may have to make several passes to shave away enough material.

Cut miters on stone as easily as wood

Fancy borders or stripes, called “listellos” in tile lingo, are a popular decorative feature that often requires miter cuts to fit around corners. A diamond wet saw makes these cuts effortlessly with the technique shown in Photo 9.

Tips for common problems

With a little practice, cutting tile on a wet saw is almost trouble free. But there are a few common problems that are easy to avoid or fix with the right techniques.

Some types of tile tend to break when the cut is almost complete. Photo 10 shows the solution. Straying from the line is another common problem, especially when you're cutting without a fence or guide. You can't force the blade back to the line by twisting the tile. Instead, back up and recut the tile, slicing off a small amount of tile until the blade is back on track.

Saw Safety

  1. Plug the saw into a GFCI-protected outlet.
  2. Don't wear jewelry or loose-fitting clothes. Tie back long hair.
  3. Wear safety glasses and hearing protection.
  4. Use both hands to guide the tile through the blade.
  5. Keep your fingers away from the blade.
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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Tape measure
    • Nippers

You'll need to rent or buy a wet-cutting diamond tile saw.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Masking tape
    • Grease pencil

Comments from DIY Community Members

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November 05, 11:07 AM [GMT -5]

I really want to redo my bathroom floors but that means I"ll have to be cutting curves in tile which sounds kind of obnoxious. Thanks for explaining! Hopefully I won't mess anything up and will be able to keep my patience.

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How to Make Precision Cuts With a Diamond Tile Saw

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