Are you wondering if you can cut tiles with your miter saw instead of buying or renting a dedicated tile saw?
A miter saw is a tool that cuts wood by pulling a spinning circular blade across the material. Miter saws are one of the most versatile tools in a woodworker’s arsenal and can be used for everything from cross-cutting wood and plywood to making intricate cuts on crown molding.
Can You Cut Tile With a Miter Saw?
Though it might seem difficult at first glance, cutting tile on a miter saw is possible with a little practice. By using the right blade, miter saws can cut modest amounts of ceramic and glass tile. To cut tiles, you will need diamond or carbide with a turbo rim or segmented rim design.
Unlike a specialized wet tile saw, you cannot use water when cutting on a miter saw. Blades with turbo and segmented rims have openings that let heat escape into the air, which is crucial during dry cutting.
For large tiling projects you will need a wet tile saw or a tile cutter. But a miter saw can do the job when you need to remodel your bathroom, add a backsplash in the kitchen, etc.
In short, while you can use a miter saw or circular saw to cut small quantity of tiles with the help of a diamond blade, it is better to get a wet tile saw.
Type of Miter Saw Blade for Cutting Tiles
Traditionally miter saws are used to cut wood, MDF, moldings, etc., and not tough materials.
To cut tiles on a miter saw, you should choose a carbide or diamond-impregnated blade that has been specially made for dry-cutting. Generally, tiles are cut wet (using water as coolant) but wetting on a miter saw is not possible for safety reasons, and hence, you need a dry cutting blade.
Diamond or Carbide Blade
Diamond or carbide blades can cut tiles because they are harder than tiles and can withstand higher temperatures. The increased hardness ensures that it will not chip when working with tough material and allows for wider, more accurate cuts.
The ability of diamond or carbide-tipped blades to withstand higher temperatures keeps the cutting edge from getting dull and reduces the risk of warping.
I strongly recommend you go for the diamond blade since they offer better quality cut on tiles than carbide. Plus, extremely hard tiles such as porcelain can be cut only with diamond blades.
You should also keep in mind that your wood-cutting carbide blade may not be suitable for cutting tiles or glass. You will need a carbide grit blade for this task.
Blades made of diamond for dry cutting often differ from those used for wet cutting. Continuous rim blades have been created for use with wet tile saws such that while in use, a stream of water continuously cools the blade and washes the masonry dust away.
The dry-cutting blade requires a special rim design to dissipate the heat and remove the dust generated during cutting.
When it comes to diamond blades for tile cutting, there are two types of rim designs that are suitable for dry cutting.
- Turbo Rim and
- Segmented Rim
1. Turbo Rim Diamond Blades
Turbo rim diamond blades are blades with a continuous rim with small gaps in between to allow the air or water to flow through. This avoids intermittent cutting, and the turbo rim allows rapid cooling.
However, they tend to get heated faster and wear down faster than segmented blades. For this reason, it is best not to push the blade through the tile always in the same place. Spreading the cuts on a larger surface can reduce blade wear.
Also, a turbo rim blade can cut in multiple directions at once because it has four to six teeth that are added to one side of the blade. Some miter saws have the ability to change the direction of the saw’s movement with a lever on the saw, making it easier to make more cuts simultaneously.
A turbo rim blade is usually necessary for any tile cuts that involve cutting across a specific room or space, especially orienting tile in a diagonal direction for the kitchen backsplash.
2. Segmented Rim
Segmented rim blades are generally thinner, with fewer teeth than turbo blades. As the name suggests, a segmented blade does not have continuous cutting teeth on the periphery.
They can cut the tile with less effort since this rim design suits the best for dry cutting. However, if you are not careful, this blade may chip the tile edges.
If all of one’s cuts are in a straight line, then these types of blades usually work best.
How to Cut Tile on a Miter Saw?
- Prepare the workspace: Dry cutting tile on a miter saw will produce a lot of fine dust. You might want to move your saw to an open space with proper ventilation…
- Change the blade. The design of miter saw blades differs from a regular saw blade, not only in how they are used but also in their general shape. When cutting tile on a miter saw, be sure to select the right blade; a diamond or carbide dry-cutting blade.
- Always wear protective gear. Eye and ear protection are essential when operating any power tool, even a saw as seemingly harmless as a miter saw. In addition to that, you also need to wear a mask to protect your lungs.
- Apply lubricant to the blade. While you cannot use water or excessive coolant, applying slight lubrication will allow for more precise cuts.
- Mark the cut line: Make sure that you mark on the correct side and that the line is visible from the side you are operating the saw .
- Secure the tile. Put down some cardboard or a thin piece of wood underneath it and secure the tile against the fence to keep it from sliding around while cutting. This is imperative if using a turbo rim blade for cutting an entire room’s worth of tiles (for example, in a bathroom backsplash).
- Cut along the lines. Bring the spinning blade down and slowly penetrate into the tile.
- Lift the Blade and remove the workpiece. Wait till the blade stops to a complete halt before you remove the tile.
- Use Vacuum: The fine tile dust can enter inside the guideways and spindle, causing damage to your saw. Use your shop vac to remove all the dust and debris immediately after cutting.
Safety: Why Miter Saw is Not Ideal for Tiles
Miter saws are not designed for cutting tiles but rather for cutting wood, plywood, crown molding, MDF, etc. While you can use a miter saw to cut hard materials such as metal and tiles, here is why it is not ideal for the task:
- Dust damage: Tiles are layer of porcelain, ceramic, or glass which has abrasive property. After cutting, quite a bit of dust is produced from the chipped tile. Even with the use of a vacuum cleaner, the dust can get into the spindle, bearings, and guideways, affecting the performance of the saw.
- Breaking: When cutting tile on a miter saw, never apply too much pressure, as this puts stress on the workpiece and may cause the tile to shatter.
- Blade overheating: Cutting with a diamond blade is more like grinding than cutting and will generate a lot of heat. Although the turbo and segmented rim designs can help, the absence of coolant will result in excess heat. Ensure that you allow the blade to cool down from time to time. When overheated, the blade can damage the tile and/or the saw itself.
- Motor damage: Cutting hard objects such as tiles and stones may cause overload on the motor and the bearings, which could potentially damage the power saw..
- Pinching and Kickback: Ensure that the blade and workpiece are secured properly against the fence. Pinching happens when the blade pulls the workpiece and can cause serious injury.