Whether you’re working on a backsplash, shower surround, or new tile floor, tiling projects are viewed by many DIYers as messy, thankless jobs that require too many limited-application tools without providing enough fun to make up for an achy back or tired knees. I’d argue that tiling is also one of the most impactful, fulfilling projects you can take on, but I fully understand why many shy away from it.
Though not much can be done to avoid the laborious work tiling projects demand, what if we could at least use a tool we already have on hand, instead of having to invest in wet saws, tile nippers, or score-and-snap dry tile cutters? The good news is that we can. The bad news is that after you finish reading this article, you won’t be able to use your lack of a tile saw or tile cutter as an excuse not to tile anymore. Sorry, not sorry.
Can You Cut Tile with a Circular Saw?
Yes! A circular saw can also be used to cut through tiles of various materials and sizes and, when used correctly, this MVP of most tool collections can even cut through thick stone countertops like granite and marble.
You might be wondering how that’s possible, considering the fact that most tile and stonework projects are better off with a water component while saw-cutting due to the fact that the water decreases friction, cools the saw blade, minimizes dust, and creates a cleaner cut.
It’s true that circular saws were not designed with this application in mind. But even so, with just a few simple tweaks, it is still quite possible to temporarily turn your circular saw into a wet saw that is capable of handling any DIY tile job you can throw at it.
If you happen to be adamant about dry-cutting using a circular saw, know that it is also possible with a few cutting-speed and PPE modifications.
Circular Saw Blade for Cutting Tiles
What Kind of Blade Do You Use to Cut Tile?
You will a diamond circular saw blade to cut tiles and other hard stones such as marble and granite. No ifs, ands, or buts about it, if you are going to be cutting tile with your circular saw, you are going to need to swap out your current wood blade for a diamond grit blade.
When it comes to diamond blades, however, there’s such a huge variety of styles, sizes, and designed uses that choosing the right one for the job can be a bit overwhelming.
After all, there are segmented diamond blades, continuous diamond blades, blades meant for wet applications, blades meant for dry applications, blades that can do both, and blades specifically designed for use with the type of material being cut. How do you know what the best option is for your job?
Let’s simplify your diamond blade search:
Choose the Right Size Diamond Blade for Your Circular Saw
There’s a good chance that your handheld circular saw uses a 7 ¼-inch blade which happens to be the most common circular saw size, but you may, instead, have a 5 ½-inch or a 6 ½-inch circular saw, or maybe you went with a 10 ¼-incher. This likely goes without saying, but you will need to choose a blade size that fits your saw, correctly.
However, the most readily available blades meant for tile cutting (and, in turn, for use in a tile-saw) do not always align with the other saws in your tool shed in terms of blade sizing. In other words, if you have a 7 ¼-inch circular saw, you might only be able to find a 7-inch diamond blade meant for tile cutting at your local hardware store.
Annoying, I know. Is it a tool-spiracy? Probably.
But don’t fret! The general rule of thumb is that you can usually get away with a smaller blade, but you mustn’t ever attempt to go larger. A smaller blade will change your allotted cutting depth slightly, so find a blade at least close in size to your saw’s.
Wet vs Dry Cutting
If using a wet-cut approach, ensure that the diamond blade you choose can be used in wet applications. If using a dry-cut approach, ensure that the diamond blade you choose can be used in dry applications.
It’s best to stick with blades meant for tile cutting, but in case you have a good diamond blade laying around that doesn’t specify or if you can’t find one specifically meant for wet- or dry-only applications, keep in mind that it is generally acceptable to use a dry-cutting blade in wet applications, but it’s never a good idea to use a wet cutting blade in dry applications.
So, if you choose the dry-cutting approach, make sure your blade is designed for this and will be able to handle the friction and heat. You may even be able to find one that can do both!
Continuous Rim Blade
Choose a continuous-rim diamond blade. This will greatly minimize chipping of your tile, but may limit you to wet-cutting applications depending on the blade you choose.
Choose a blade that will work for the tile material you will be cutting. Diamond blades will specify whether they will work for ceramic, porcelain, granite, and/or marble tile. Some are designed to work on all of them.
How to Cut Tile with a Circular Saw?
Wet-Cutting Tile with a Circular Saw
To wet-cut with a circular saw, there are a few methods for you to choose from, and as you might have guessed, they all include introducing water into the equation while simply making your cuts as you would any other material. In all instances, you must avoid using too much water and spraying the circular saw, itself, and ensure that you focus water at a very low flow rate towards the blade and tile, only.
We will go over a few options for introducing water, here:
- Use a water saw accessory attachment kit for circular saws. These kits can be pricey and brand-specific, but are simple to use and work by attaching a hose directly to the circular saw shoe, and they often include GFCI circuit interrupters for use with corded circular saws.
- Create your own water saw accessory attachment kit by making a siphon out of ⅛”-¼” tubing and a bucket of water. Then jerry-rig one end of the tubing onto the top of your circular saw shoe and allow the siphon to begin flowing before beginning your cut.
- Use a garden hose and set to very low flow. Have a friend assist you by directing the flow of water toward the blade as you cut.
- Have a friend slowly pour water from a bucket or cup onto your tile as you cut. Make sure they do not pour too quickly and make sure they stay clear of the saw blade while directing the water towards it.
Pros of Wet-Cutting with a Circular Saw
Some advantages of wet-cutting include:
- Smoother and cleaner tile edges after cutting. Wet-cutting results in less friction, less heat, less chipping, and a far smoother cut.
- Less dust to breathe and clean up. Wet-cutting greatly reduces the amount of dust that escapes into the air while cutting.
- Easier on your equipment (assuming you don’t get your motor wet). Because you are actively cooling your blade while making your cut, the blade and your saw are much less likely to overheat which is much easier on both and helps protect their longevity. This also means that you can cut faster because you don’t need to stop or go very slowly in order to allow your blade ample time to cool.
Cons of Wet-Cutting with a Circular Saw
Wet saws and their internal housing are designed to be largely protected from water infiltration and are therefore a bit less risky to use in wet conditions than circular saws in terms of both electrical shock and damaging your saw. You wouldn’t want to use or leave your circular saw out in a heavy downpour of rain, for example. So if you choose to use your circular saw for wet-cutting tile, be clear on the risks associated with this and take precautions to avoid allowing water near your motor.
Though dry-cutting can be equally messy (just in a different way), wet-cutting can cover various items in tile-water, including your own saw. You can generally avoid dirtying your work area and walls by simply doing all of your cutting outdoors, but you may still find it annoying to have to deal with wet, dripping tiles and you’ll likely be covered in tile-water at the end of the day. Depending on the material, the porous tile dust you’re covered in after the water evaporates can be very drying on the skin.
Dry-Cutting Tile with a Circular Saw
- Ensure that you are equipped with a respirator, as there will be quite a bit of dust created when cutting.
- Make very slow, deliberate, and shallow cuts. It may take a few passes in the same spot to make a single cut, but you will need to take it very slowly so as not to overheat your blade while also avoiding chipping of your tile.
- If you do chip your tile, or find that your edges are rougher than you’d like, try using an angle grinder (also equipped with a diamond blade) to help smooth your tile edges.
Pros of Dry-Cutting with a Circular Saw
Some advantages of dry-cutting include:
- Greater portability around the job site. In other words, you aren’t limited by where you can access water or where you can allow water to spray or drain.
- Less materials required. You don’t need to buy or jerry-rig a hose line kit to your saw. You just need a good blade, your saw, a good working surface, and your tile.
- Lower risk of electrical shock or getting your saw motor wet. Obviously, the absence of water means the absence of the risks associated with combining water and power tools.
Cons of Dry-Cutting with a Circular Saw
Dry-cutting tile with power tools is not wholly uncommon, and tile saws have even evolved to include dry saws with more advanced technology, but there are certainly real drawbacks to using a dry-cutting technique.
In addition to taking much longer to make each cut so that you don’t overheat and damage your blade and saw, dry-cutting also produces a lot of dust that is not only messy but could also be harmful to your health if you do not use a respirator.
Dry-cut tile also tends to have rougher edges and more chipping due to the fact the cutting friction is not limited by a lubricant like water, so the movements of the blade are less smooth and precise.
Additionally, you are somewhat limited in terms of your blade choice, as a dry-only tile saw blades are less common than wet-cut blade options meant specifically for tile cutting.
A circular saw might not be the optimal choice for tile work, but if you need it to do the job in a pinch, it certainly can do so. Whether you choose to use a dry-cutting or wet-cutting method (though wet-cutting is preferred by many), it might simply require a bit of patience, possibly a dash of teamwork, and some easy modifications.
- Can You Cut Tile with a Circular Saw?
- Circular Saw Blade for Cutting Tiles
- How to Cut Tile with a Circular Saw?