Cutting Tile with a Dremel: Step-by-Step Guide

Ceramic tile is one of the more difficult materials to cut. While hard, it is also fragile, which means that using the wrong tool may result in splitting or shattering the tile. This leads to the question of whether you can use a Dremel to cut tile.

Can a Dremel Cut Tiles?

Key Takeaways

  • A Dremel, when equipped with a diamond cutting wheel, is capable of cutting through hard materials like ceramic and porcelain tiles.
  • The process of cutting tiles with a Dremel requires careful preparation, setting the correct tool speed, and proper cooling of the cutting wheel to prevent overheating.
  • Ensuring personal safety is extremely important during the process, and after cutting the tile edges should be smoothed with a grinding attachment.

A Dremel is quite versatile, and yes, it can cut tile as well. But you should use the correct type of blade to make the cut. Most importantly, you must use a diamond wheel when cutting tile. Ceramic and porcelain tiles are hard and diamond being harder than them will cut through the material.

Image of using a Dremel to cut tile
Note: Metal cutting abrasive discs and other Dremel bits are not suitable for tile cutting.

I suggest you use one of the more powerful corded Dremel tools, such as the Dremel 3000 or 4000. That has the power to make the cuts cleanly when combined with the diamond wheel. Less powerful Dremel tools, such as the Stylo+ are not sufficient to make cuts into tile.

Tools Needed

What follows is the list of tools you need when making cuts into tile using a Dremel.

  • Dremel 3000, 4000, or 4300
  • Diamond Cutting Wheel EZ545
  • Dust Mask & Safety Glasses
  • Clamps
  • Pencil or Sharpie and Ruler or Carpenter’s Square

Keep in mind that the Dremel is best used for cutting ceramic tiles. Tiles made of porcelain can be cut as well, but it will take longer, and it is better use a dedicated tile saw for this task. If you are cutting porcelain or similar materials, consider using another more powerful cutting tool.

How to Cut Tiles with a Dremel?

Cutting Tiles with Dremel

Cutting tiles using a Dremel rotary tool is relatively simple if you follow the steps in the right order. The first step is to be patient. While a Dremel is an excellent cutting tool, you will need to set up the cut properly and control the cutting precisely to get the desired results.

Set aside enough time to make the cuts that you want, and then start one at a time with each tile. If you work efficiently, you can make a considerable number of cuts in a relatively short amount of time using the Dremel.

1. Selecting & Marking Tiles:

Mark the cuts you want to make using a pencil or sharpie. Because the Dremel is operated free hand, you need to mark straight lines so the cuts will be precise. A carpenter’s pencil is a good choice because it makes clear, thick lines even on rough material. A Sharpie will do in a pinch. However, you will need to let the lines dry first so they can be wiped away after you have made the cut.

You can mark all the tiles that you want to cut first before going to the next step or follow the steps one tile at a time; it is your choice.

2. Clamping Tile to Surface

Now that you have made the lines, the next step is securing the tile to the bench. It is recommended that you use rubber clamps as they can hold the tile firmly without marking or breaking the tile itself. If you do not have rubber clamps, place some tissue between the tile and clamp so that no marks are made.

Clamp the tile directly to the workbench or other surface that does not move. Once secure, double-check by trying to move the tile with your hand.

3. Attaching Diamond Cutting Wheel

You are now ready to attach the diamond cutting wheel. The diamonds make the wheel hard enough to either edge or plunge cut into the tile with relative ease. Another benefit is that the wheel is thin enough that you are not removing that much material with each cut.

Dremel EZ545 1-1/2-Inch EZ Lock Diamond Cutting Wheel
I recommend the Dremel EZ Lock EZ545 Diamond Tile Cutting Wheel

4. Selecting the Correct Speed Setting

The higher the revolutions per minute (RPM), the better the quality of the cut will be. The speed at which your Dremel tool spins its cutting wheel has a significant impact on the quality of your cut.

A higher speed – generally around 20,000 to 25,000 (RPM) – provides a cleaner, more efficient cut. This is because the faster spinning action of the diamond wheel at high speed more effectively grinds through the hard tile material.

That provides enough speed to cut efficiently while still keeping the Dremel under proper control.

If you are doing this for the first time start with a slightly lower speed of 15000 RPM to get a feel of the cutting action. Once you are comfortable slowly increase it to 20,000 to 25,000RPM.

You can raise the RPMs even higher, but the tool will create a high-pitched noise that may be distracting. If you have ear protection, you may want to set it higher, but 20000 RPMs is generally good enough for ceramic tile. However, feel free to experiment with scrap tile to find the speed that works best for you.

5. Put On the Safety Gear

Before you start the cut, be sure that you wear good quality mask and goggles.

Safety is paramount when working with power tools such as a Dremel, particularly when cutting hard materials like tiles. There will be a lot of fine dust particles generated when you cut the tile and spinning wheel could potentially send small fragments flying, so be sure that your safety gear is on properly.

It helps if you cut the tile in a well-ventilated area, such as outdoors, with the garage door open, or with a fan running to circulate the air. This helps disperse dust and keeps your working environment cleaner and safer.

6. Cooling the Cutting Wheel

If you cut the tile dry, you will notice the cutting wheel will heat up quickly. Before you make the cut, pour some water over the tile. That will help cool down the diamond grit wheel, reduce friction, and help control some of the dust that is normally generated when cutting tile.

You can put the water in a small bottle or use a wet sponge to cool down the cutting the tile.

You could also have a bowl of water and dip the cutting wheel in the water to cool it down. Just be sure not to splash or pour the water on the Dremel itself.

7. Creating Straight & Curved Cuts

Keep in mind that the cutting process will be slow compared to wet tile saw or tile cutter, so be patient.
Contact the tile gently by starting at the outer edge of the line. Follow the line in a soft cut first, then make another, deeper pass. It will take several passes to make a successful cut.

Tips for Achieving Clean Cuts

Here are 7 pro tips that will help you get the best cut possible.

  1. Practice First: If you’re new to using a Dremel for tile cutting, try practicing on an old or spare tile first. This gives you a chance to familiarize yourself with the process without risking any of your project tiles.
  2. Keep it Cool: Place a small container of water nearby to dip your cutting wheel in periodically. This helps prevent overheating, extends the life of your cutting wheel, and reduces dust.
  3. Prevent Skidding: To keep the Dremel from slipping when you start your cut, make a small notch at the start of the cut line. I like to scribe with a glass cutter. This gives the cutting wheel a ‘groove’ to sit in and makes it easier to start the cut.
  4. Let the Dremel do the Work: Don’t force or overly press the wheel into the tile.
  5. Use Plunge Cuts to create holes for electrical outlets on wall tiles. Using a Right Angle Attachment makes this task easier.
  6. Straight Edge Guide: If you’re making a long straight cut, consider getting an accessory such as the line and circle cutter.
    You could also use a straight edge as a guide. Clamp a ruler or a straight piece of scrap wood to your tile to guide your Dremel and help achieve a straight cut.
  7. Cleaning Up: After you’ve finished cutting, remember to clean your Dremel thoroughly with a shop vac. Tile cutting can leave dust and tiny fragments that may affect the performance of your Dremel tool over time.

Finishing the Cut Edges

After successfully cutting your tile, you’ll likely find that the cut edges are quite sharp or rough. This is where the grinding attachment for your Dremel comes into play. Attach a silicon carbide grinding stone to your Dremel, which is ideal for this task due to its hardness and durability.

Once the grinding attachment is securely in place, gently run it along the cut edges of your tile. This will help to smooth any rough edges and corners that your original cut created.

You must your safety gear during this process as well, because grinding can produce small particles that may harm your eyes or respiratory system.

By taking the time to smooth your edges, you not only make your tiles safer to handle but also give them a more professional, finished appearance.

And that is how you cut ceramic tile using a Dremel.