How to Cut Porcelain

Tools Needed to Cut Porcelain

A wet saw is the industry standard for cutting tile. It has a diamond edge -- so, as you can imagine, it's pretty hard. There are a few tradeoffs: Wet saws aren't cheap, they can be slow and you can't put adhesive on the tile until it has dried. You will, however, also be able to use it to cut granite, should your future home improvement projects involve that.

A wet saw does use water, as its name implies; there's a shallow well of water beneath the blade, and the bottom edge of the blade passes through the water as it rotates. That keeps the blade cool and reduces the amount of dust your cutting project kicks up. Its blade is a stationary rotor, something like the blade of a table saw. You simply guide the tile toward the blade. If you don't want to invest in a wet saw, you can always rent one.

Most score-and-snap tile cutters follow the same basic principle: You fit the tile into a cutting bed (sometimes with guides that help keep your cut straight), and then push or pull a rotating blade across the tile's glaze, to score it. After scoring the tile, you break it with a gentle tap. The tile bed is padded to help the tile break evenly and to ensure the tile doesn't move while you score it. Some cutters have a lever that helps you get consistent, even pressure for the break. With other cutters, you're on your own.

You might be able to use a jigsaw with a carbide-grit blade, but keep in mind that porcelain is really strong stuff. If you use a jigsaw, you'll probably have to replace the blade several times in the course of the project.

You'll also need:

  • A grease pencil or permanent marker to mark your planned cuts on the tile
  • A tape measure
  • A ruler or straightedge
  • Safety goggles
  • An apron (a wet saw can splash you)
  • Light oil, if you're using a score-and-snap cutter

Finally, if you're using the wet saw to make diagonal cuts (and if you want to make diagonal cuts, you should be using a wet saw), you'll need a triangular attachment for the saw.

On the next pages, we'll look at the best ways to cut porcelain, and how to avoid cutting yourself in the process.