Cutting Tile with an Oscillating Tool: A How-to Guide.

Cutting tiles requires the right type of tool. It’s not every cutting tool that can accurately and safely cut tile without the danger of splitting or shattering the material. One tool that is commonly asked about is the multi tool or oscillating multi-tool.

In this article, I’ll guide you through the process of using an oscillating tool to cut tiles efficiently and safely.

Can You Cut Tiles with a Multi Tool?

First, you can cut tiles using an oscillating multi tool. In fact, it is one of the better tools for making smaller, precision cuts into softer materials such as ceramic tile. Although it is arguably not the best tool for certain tile cutting jobs, it is a better for cutting tile corners as compared to the tile nipper.

Oscillating multi tool on wall tiles

How to Cut Tiles with Oscillating Multi Tool

The oscillating multi tool is perfect for making trim, shaping, and curved cuts to ceramic tile. Its versatility means you can also use it for straight cuts when creating unique shapes for tile. If you do not have a tile cutter, then this tool is a good replacement. It’s also less expensive compared to buying all the other tools needed that can do what the oscillating multi-tool can perform.

Keep in mind that power tools such as the oscillating multi tool and Dremel are perfect for cutting soft ceramic tiles, especially when making small, precise cuts. If you need to cut a large number of tiles or need long, straight cuts on tiles that are harder such as porcelain, then consider using a wet tile saw. A wet tile saw is far more efficient when you need to make a lot of long, straight cuts compared to an oscillating multi tool.

Tools Needed

You will obviously need the oscillating multi tool, but you also will need to use a carbide or diamond grit blade to make the cuts. Softer blades will not deliver performance or longevity compared to a carbide or diamond grit. In addition, you will need the following.

  • Carpenter’s Pencil or Sharpie and Carpenter’s Square or Ruler
  • Eye Goggles and Dust Mask
  • Rubber-Tipped Clamps
  • Water

You will need a pencil or sharpie to create the line which will be cut. Plus, a carpenter’s square or ruler will ensure that the line is straight. You may need other tools to help you create a curved line. Proper safety equipment such as eye goggles and dust masks will keep the dust from entering your eyes, nose, and throat.

Rubber-tipped clamps will hold the tile firmly to the workbench without creating marks. If you have clamps that are not rubber-tipped, consider putting tissue between the clamp and tile to prevent marking. And, having some water handy to wet down the tile will keep the saw blade cool and help control the dust that is created.

Also, if you can make the cuts in a well-ventilated area, that will help with the dust that is created. Cutting outside is ideal, but if that is not possible, try cutting in the garage with the garage door open or using a fan with an open window to blow the dust outside.

Cutting Steps

Cutting Tile with Oscillating Tool

Making the proper cuts into tiles using an oscillating tool requires the following steps.

  • Mark the Cut Line
  • Install the Diamond Grit Blade
  • Secure the workpiece
  • Do a Controlled Cutting
  • Apply Steady Pressure
  1. Safety First: Power tools in general should be handled with care. However, cutting tiles with an oscillating tool require extra care.
    You must wear dust mast and safety glasses.
  2. Marking the Cut Line: The old saying of “measure twice, cut one” applies to marking the lines for cutting tile. A carpenter’s pencil works on most surfaces and provides an easy to see line. However, if the tile is glossy, your best bet may be the Sharpie. Just wait a few seconds for the sharpie line to dry before cutting, then you can wipe the rest away easily.
  3. Carbide or Diamond Grit Blade: Next, install the right blade for cutting the tile. Carbide blades are good for softer tiles such as ceramic. But if you are cutting porcelain or harder tiles, then diamond blades are the best choice. In fact, diamond grit blades are arguably the best for both.
    Before you start cutting, be sure you are wearing your safety gear and check that the oscillating multi-tool is functioning properly. Then double-check the tile to ensure that it is clamped firmly to the workbench.
  4. Secure the Tile
    Make sure your tile is secured on a stable surface before you start cutting.
    Do not attempt to hold the tile in one hand and cut it with an oscillating tool. The to-and-fro motion of oscillating blades imparts too much vibration and will be very difficult to control. If the workpiece is not secured tightly, it could move while you’re cutting and cause the cut to go off course or even potentially cause an accident.
  5. Controlled Cutting: For cutting tile, the most common method is to cut slowly along the marked line. You can cut along the line in a shallow cut, then follow with a deeper cut. This depends on the thickness of the tile. Thin tile can be cut once, but thicker tile may require two or three passes to properly cut all the way through.
    You can start at a low speed to make the first cut line, then increase the speed as needed to make a deeper cut. Remember to let the oscillating multi tool do the work. That means do not apply unnecessary pressure to force the cut.
    For cutting tile that will be used to house an electrical outlet, pipe, or other protruding object, you will need to make a plunge cut. This requires more control to stay within the lines, but exercising patience will achieve the desired results.
  6. Cooling the Blade:  Tile are hard objects and cutting them will generate a lot of heat. You should not allow the blade to overheat as it may warp or damage the blade, or even the multi-tool itself.
    Keep a bowl of water or coolant nearby and dip the blade in water to cool it down.
  7. Steady Pressure: The key to getting a properly controlled cut is to exert a steady pressure on the tile. Do not add more pressure as that might break the tile.

    Once you have made the cut you desire, you can switch to the sanding pads on the oscillating multi tool to smooth rough edges. Alternatively, you may use another tool such as a Dremel to clean off excess material and smooth out the cut.

Safety Precautions

In addition to wearing eye goggles and a dust mask, it pays to be patient when making the cuts. Allow yourself plenty of time and do not get into a hurry. All it takes is one mistake to ruin a tile, but one mistake can also cause an injury to you. Be sure to stay in control and focus on one cut at a time. With a steady pace, you will be able to make many cuts in a relatively short time.

By using the proper blade, safety precautions, and with a lot of patience you can cut ceramic tiles using an oscillating multi-tool.

Closing Thoughts

In my opinion, the oscillating multi-tool might not be the best choice cutting tiles especially for large jobs or for cutting through very thick or hard materials. For these types of tasks, a wet tile saw or a manual tile cutter could be more suitable.
However, for smaller jobs or making cutouts in already installed tile, an oscillating multi-tool can be quite handy.