It is very likely that if you are doing some tiling work on your house that you will need to cut through the tiles. However, tiles can be difficult to cut without a wet tile saw or a tile cutter.
I am going to tell you everything that you need to know about tile saws, including the different kinds of tile saws and what you should look for when buying one.
Do you need a wet saw to cut tile?
Can you use a table saw to cut tile? You can cut tile with a regular circular or table saw, but it is very difficult. You have to make sure you have a combination of a powerful saw and the right blade. Even then, it is very risky, and cutting through tiles will wear your saw out very fast. That is why you need to get a dedicated tile saw.
Tile Cutting Tools
The four most commonly used tile cutting tools are,
- Tile nippers
- Score-and-Snap Tile Cutter
- Handheld Dry Saw (Masonry Saw)
- Wet tile Saw
The first two options, tile nippers and snap tile cutters, are tools that you can use to manually cut tiles. While a tile cutter is a good solution to split ceramic and porcelain, the best and way to cut tile is to use a dedicated wet tile saw that allows you to cut through tiles with absolute ease. This is because a wet tile saw has a sintered diamond cutting wheel and utilizes water as lubricant and coolant to prevent the blade from overheating.
Here, I am going to discuss mainly wet tile saws, different types, and their uses.
Best Type of Wet Tile Saw
A wet tile saw is a power saw that utilizes water as a cooling and lubricating agent. The water also keeps the fine dust from spreading all over the place as the dust and debris get washed away. The wet tile saw is your best friend when you want to cut hard substance such as slate, limestone, granite, marble, quartz, travertine etc.
1. Handheld Wet/Dry Tile Saw
This type of tile saw is similar to a circular saw in appearance. The blade is slightly away from the body, but not as much as of a toe kick saw. Sometimes people also refer to this tool as masonry saw, although handheld masonry saws usually have larger blade diameter.
You can find two variations of this saw; one is dry cut and the other one is wet.
As you can guess the dry cut saw does not use water and is suitable only for small jobs. In contrast, a handheld wet tile saw has a water cooling system to which you can connect your regular garden hose. The water passes through the small pipe and falls on to the blade from the nozzles that are fixed on either side of the blade.
This type of saw is highly portable and is simple in construction. It is the least expensive electric tile saw type and is easy to use. Another advantage is the ability to cut large and heady stones that you cannot easily load on to tabletop saws.
It is relatively difficult to cut straight along a long straight line unless you make use of a jig or a guide rail system. Not recommended for novice users since they pose a real risk of blade kickbacks and accidents.
2. Fixed Tile Saw
This kind of tile cutter looks very similar to a standard table saw. You have a rotating blade at a fixed position and the user has to push the tile into the blade. The blade that is fixed below the table is protruding out from the surface of the table. This type of saw is also called tabletop sliding saw.
You should fill water in the lower tank below the table till the safe level marked. This will ensure that the bottom half of the blade is submerged in water and the revolving blade carries water to the cutting area.
The benefits of this kind of tile saws are that they are relatively cheap. It is also very easy to use. Anyone who has ever used a table saw can easily make cuts with a fixed tile saw. Another advantage is size and weight. Since it is lightweight and easy to carry, it offers good portability.
A tabletop or stationary type saw is simple and effective. However, there are some downsides, firstly it is very difficult to make a precise cut with a fixed tile saw. Remember, you are manually feeding the tile against a rotating diamond blade. It is possible to cut straight, but it will take a mixture of practice and a very steady hand.
Overall, you cannot go wrong with a fixed tile saw, but be mindful of its downsides.
3. Table-top tile saw with rolling tray
This is a clever design. It combines the simplicity of a stationary saw with a sliding tray on the side. Now you are able to feed the tile smoothly across the rotating blade and is able to achieve perfectly straight cuts.
The main advantage of sliding tile saws when compared to fixed tile saws is the accuracy and speed at which they can cut through tiles. In short, they have all the benefits of a stationary saw without the cons attached to it.
4. Sliding table tile saw
This kind of tile saw looks similar to a miter saw with a sliding table below it. These saws operate very similarly to fixed tile saws but with a sliding table and the blade is mounted above the table. A sliding tile saw has a single spinning blade and the user is required to push the rolling table with tile forward into the blade.
Do not get this confused with the saw type number 3.
Here, on a sliding table tile saw the blade is mounted above the table. On the other hand, the tabletop tile saw with a sliding tray has its blade fixed below the bed, similar to a table saw.
A small pump connected to the water tank carries the water to the nozzles on the side of the blade and the water jet sweep the cutting dust away.
This type of power saw usually has a larger diameter cutting wheel when compared to stationary type saws. This means you can cut faster and accommodate thicker tiles and stones.
You can bring the blade head assembly up and down to adjust the depth of cut. This also allows you to do plunge cuts.
Another important feature is the ability to cut bevels. In some models, you will have to tilt the whole table to cut bevels. But here all you need to do is tilt the blade head to the required angle.
Both sliding tile saws, as the name implies, has rollers or sliding guideways installed below the moving table. These rollers enable you to cut through tile along a straight line at a much quicker rate.
5. Bridge tile saw
A bridge or overhead tile saw differs radically in design from the first two kinds of tile saw. Firstly, the bridge tile saw works similarly to a radial arm saw. Here the table is fixed, but the blade head can move along a bridge or arm that is extended above the table. The person doing the cutting maneuvers the saw while the tile stays perfectly stay.
The good thing about this is that it makes cutting large tiles and stones easier. In my opinion, as it is easier to maneuver a saw as opposed to a tile.
On the flip side, these types of wet saws are large and are very expensive. Unless you are a tiling professional it is better to rent a wet tile saw than spending money on expensive models that you would rarely utilize.
This is a rough picture of the five different types of wet tile saws that you can expect to find when you shop for one. There may be slightly different models here and there, but this list gives you a broad outline that you can follow. Each kind of tile saw has its own advantages and disadvantages, and which kind you end up going with is entirely a personal preference.
Bridge Tile Saw vs Sliding Table Saw
Overhead (bridge) tile saw or the sliding table; which one is better? This is a question I often see and let me explain the pros and cons of each.
If you compare a brand new bridge tile saw and a sliding table saw you will find that they are both precise and cuts smooth. In fact, I feel that the sliding table one to be slightly more precise because the sliding action is more stable since the guideways are farther apart.
However, if you do not clean and maintain the tool in good condition, the sliding table will lose its accuracy. This is because the fine dust that is produced while cutting tiles gets mixed with water and forms a paste. If you let this gum up the table guideways or rollers, soon it will erode the guides and eventually will end up with a lot of play.
The overhead tile saw is less prone to this since less amount of contaminated water reaches the bridge. In either case, it is important that you use sufficient amount of water and clean the power saw immediately after use.
The bridge type works best for large size tiles whereas the sliding type is best suitable for smaller tiles.
In the case of a heavy granite or marble blocks, you can imagine that it is easy to move the blade over the work that sliding the table.
In addition to this, the bridge saw is the best option for extra wide tiles. Imagine am extra-wide tile that is protruding from the side of the table. You can easily cut through the center of a wide tile using a bridge tile saw. However, this is often not possible on a rolling table type, because most of these saws have their blade head fixed on a pole that is attached on the side of the table. The tile will clash with the side pole preventing any further movement of the table.
Type of Cuts
Bridge type is the best option for long rip cuts while the sliding kind has the advantage of plunge cuts. A simple technique that tiling contractors often use on a sliding table saw is to cut the long tiles until half the way. Then rotate the work-piece 180 degree and carefully align to cut the other half to achieve a long rip-cut that is otherwise not possible.
Here is a comparison table that shows the difference between a bridge tile saw versus sliding table tile saw.
|Bridge Tile Saw||Sliding Table|
|The tile is stationary and blade moves over the tile.||The table is moved across the revolving blade.|
|Works best for large tiles.||Better choice for smaller tiles.|
|Accommodates wider tile. Possible to cut wider tiles that extends on both sides of the table.||The side pole on which the blade is mounted prevents you from cutting extra wide tiles.|
|Safe and easy to cut bevels up to 45-degrees.||Holding the table on either side and sliding it across a beveled blade is intimidating.|
|Since less dirt and water falls on the bridge, the overhead tile saw is more accurate in the long run.||Contamination gets accumulated on the guide way causing the jerky table movement and may even damage the slide.|
|Works best for rip cuts. Difficult to cut notches etc.||Easy to do plunge cuts and notches.|
Personally, I would recommend sliding tile saw for most small jobs and the overhead or bridge type for professional contractors who are working on large projects.
Handheld Tile Saw vs Circular Saw
Can you cut a tile with a circular saw? It is possible to cut vinyl, porcelain and ceramic tiles using a circular saw provided you have the right blade. But I wouldn’t recommend doing it.
A handheld tile saw may look similar to an electric circular saw, but there few key differences between the two.
Motor: The circular saw motors are designed to cut wood and other soft materials.
Dry Cut: When it comes to hard objects like stones and tiles, wet cutting is the preferred method.
Dust & Water Sealing: A dedicated handheld tile saw comes with dust and water sealed switches and body. If you use a regular circular saw the fine tile dust will get inside the bearings and motor assembly and will eventually damage the tool.
Wet Tile Saw vs Table Saw
If you look at a stationary tabletop tile saw or even the one with a rolling side table, they look very similar to a table saw. So this will leave you wondering why you can’t cut tiles on table saw.
The reason is similar to the above case; the motor, absence of water during cutting, and no dust protection. The main difference here is that a wet tile saw usually has its lower compartment filled with water which will cool the blade down and lubricates the cutting point.
Bevel Angle: This is another important consideration. The woodworking table saw has a limited amount of bevel since the blade can’t be tilted over a certain limit. Conversely, wet tile saws can cut bevels up to 45° easily, either by tilting the bed or the blade to the required angle.
Buyer’s Guide: What to look for when buying a tile saw?
Now that you know the easiest way to cut tile is to use a wet tile saw, let’s see the most important features to look for when getting one.
One of the most important things to look for when buying a tile saw is versatility. You want your saw to be able to make a wide variety of cuts. This will ensure that you can use your saw on a wide variety of tiling jobs. For example, many tile saws have a good beveling capacity, this is definitely something that you want to look for when purchasing a tile saw.
Another important thing to consider is the amount of sheer cutting power that the saw is able to bring to bear. It is hard to measure a saw’s cutting power; however, you can usually get a good idea of how powerful a saw is by looking at how many amps its motor outputs. Saw’s with a high number of amps put out more cutting power.
Size and portability
Although it would be nice, the reality is that most of us out there don’t have unlimited space in our workshops. So, size is an important consideration. Personally, I prefer to stick to smaller saws. I like having the option of being able to easily move the saw around on my own.
Bigger tile saws can be heavy to require two people to move them, which is an unnecessary hassle in my experience. Portability may also be a concern for some. Your average person probably isn’t going to be moving their saw from place to place (only professionals have to do that), but for certain others like professionals or people who often share their tools, they may want to consider how difficult it is to move their tile saw and set it up somewhere else.
Tile Saw Accessories
So far, I have talked exclusively about the tile saw itself, but you also want to consider potential accessories when purchasing a saw as well. Accessories for saws can make a lot of jobs a whole lot easier.
Accessories like leveling kits, miter gauges, table extensions, lateral stops, etc., can turn a difficult job into an easy one. So, when you are looking for a tile saw, don’t just consider the saw itself, but consider whether it comes with accessories or the ability to attach accessories if you decided to get some down the road.
Can I use the same blade to cut ceramic and porcelain tiles?
Porcelain is harder than ceramic and glass. So your porcelain blade that has ultra-hard diamond grit will cut ceramic tile as well. However, if you have a ceramic specific blade, then the blade will get dull faster if you cut porcelain with it.
How do you cut tile without a saw?
You could use a Score-and-Snap Tile Cutter or a tile nipper to cut tiles manually, without the help of an electric wet tile saw.
What kind of saw is needed to cut tile?
You can use a masonry saw or a wet tile saw to slice tiles.
Can I cut tiles with a miter saw?
It is not recommended because it can damage your miter saw and is not a safe practice.
Can I cut / remove tile with Dremel tool?
You can also use an angle grinder with diamond blade to do this type of work. While these handheld power tools are quiet versatile, they lack accuracy.
As I said in the beginning, the goal of this article is to give you all the information that you need to make an informed purchase when it comes to tile saws. Hopefully, the information I’ve included in this article is helpful. Tile saws are very useful power tools and this article will enable you to get one that fits your needs and wants perfectly.
- Tile Cutting Tools
- Best Type of Wet Tile Saw
- Bridge Tile Saw vs Sliding Table Saw
- Buyer’s Guide: What to look for when buying a tile saw?