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I have a couple of 4"x4" ceramic tiles that are cut just slightly too wide. I need to take off about an eighth of an inch. I expect that's too little for the standard score-and-snap approach. What's the easiest way, given that I don't have any tile cutting tools.

  • Will the cut edge be visible? – bib Jan 17 '17 at 18:18
  • No, it will be caulked there. It's OK to be ugly. – Jeremy Stein Jan 17 '17 at 18:22
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    A run-of-the-mill angle grinder with a diamond wheel is a very versatile tool for this situation. – isherwood Jan 17 '17 at 19:18
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    I have used several techniques for this purpose. A table-style tile saw is probably the best/fastest/neatest approach, if you have one available (or don't mind renting for a few hours). Nippers will work but can be quite crude (depends a lot on the texture of the tile). And I've used a Dremel with a carbide blade. For slightly thicker cutoffs I've used a hacksaw with a round carbide blade. (Never used a rotary drum in a drill, but I'd imagine that could be made to work, similar to a Dremel.) A lot depends on how many you have to cut and how much time you're willing to spend on the effort. – Hot Licks Jan 18 '17 at 3:30
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    I am sure you do not want to spend a lot of money on a tool you will only use once. Take it to the big box store as suggested below and have them cut it on their wet saw. Sometimes it's free, sometimes they charge, depends on the person doing the cutting. Or you can take it out onto the concrete sidewalk and use that as a grinder. Set the edge on the concrete and push and grind away – Jack Jan 18 '17 at 15:58
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The best approach is a tile saw that can make small precise cuts along the length of a tile. It is a power tool like a table saw but uses a diamond impregnated blade and a water cooling system. They can be bought or rented. tile saw

A cruder approach if the tiles are not too big (4x4 should not be a problem)and there are not too many tiles to cut is a tile nipper. tile nippers

These chip off little bits and you can work along an edge to do the whole side. However, some tiles are especially brittle and some are prone to cracking. I would not try it unless you have some spares to test on and in case the selected ones break.

And, as noted in Jimmy James' comment, eye protection (e.g. safety goggles) is a must for nippers and also for the saw. A random bit of ceramic shard or grit shot into the eye is no joke.

Images and links are illustrative only, not an endorsement of goods or sources.

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    If you are using nippers, make sure you wear eye protection. Little shards of tile will often go flying like bits of shattered glass. – JimmyJames Jan 18 '17 at 16:58
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    @JimmyJames Excellent point. And it also applies to the saw. I will ad it to the text. Thanks. – bib Jan 18 '17 at 17:52
  • I rented a score-and-snap tile cutter for a DIY job once because it was cheaper than renting the tile saw. That was a dumb idea. I tried to make up for it by buying a pair of nippers. Second dumb idea. So I agree—tile saw. – Matthew Leingang Jan 18 '17 at 18:01
  • With the saw, my experience is that the water turns fragments into slurry but it never hurts to put on a pair of goggles. When I was a kid, I took a stained glass class and we used a little wet grinder. It had a spinning post that was abrasive and was used to shape bits of glass. It would really be perfect for this but I'm not sure where you would find one. – JimmyJames Jan 18 '17 at 18:23
  • Since I only had two tiles to adjust, I tried the nippers. They worked great. Thanks! – Jeremy Stein Jan 18 '17 at 18:27
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I own a pair of tile nippers - I bought them first, they were cheap. Unfortunately, they didn't work (pretty much "at all") on the tiles I was using - breaks would be more or less random.

Dry Diamond blade

So I bought one of these dry diamond blades for an angle grinder - if you don't own an angle grinder, this might just be one of the few times I'd say that the cheapest knock-off you can find with a warranty that's slightly longer than your project will take would be appropriate - personally, I had one already. Eye protection, dust mask, work outside or somewhere with massive dust collection. As compared to the wet tile saw, no built in fence, (I was able to set up wood to clamp tiles and act as a fence when needed) not wet so there's dust, much less expensive. As compared to the nippers, no comparison, this just works. I was even able to miter-cut some tile to make up for not being able to find bull-nose for 50 year old tile I was reusing.

Image is an example, not an endorsement. A dry or dry/wet blade is what you want for dry cutting - a wet (only) diamond blade will not be happy if used dry.

However if you literally have only a couple of tiles you need trimmed, bringing them to a tile shop might be the best option - pay them a couple of bucks to trim them for you. Or the cheapest (if a bit slow) tool would probably be one of these silicon carbide rubbing blocks:

rubbing block

which you could just grind down the edge with.

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    Could a grinding block be used on already installed tiles? The edges of our tiled counters have tiles with 90 degree bends, but due to repairs or whatnot (before my time) some of the tiles hang down further than others. – stannius Jan 17 '17 at 21:01
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    Yes, they can be used on installed tiles. – Ecnerwal Jan 17 '17 at 21:03
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Use the “wet saw” for free at the place you bought the tiles. The store will usually include one cut per item bought for no charge. That’s what I’ve done (at one of the big-box stores). If you can’t get that where you bought, take them to the store which does have such a saw and pay 10¢ – 20¢ per cut.

  • That's what I was going to suggest but you beat me to it:) – Jack Jan 18 '17 at 5:46
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    This may be location specific. Certainly none of the DIY stores that I've visited in the UK have tile cutting saws available; they only have wood saws. – AndyT Jan 18 '17 at 9:22
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Dremel with a grinding wheel or a carbide cutoff blade. Do this OUTSIDE with a N95 mask, goggles, gloves and try to control the shards (arrange so the spray goes into a towel or use a wet/dry vac).

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There are hand saws sold for awkward cuts in tiles Here's one from B&Q (UK). I've got one and have used it for just the sort of job you describe. I suggest scoring the glaze first, then running over the scored line with a marker pen before cutting, so your cut line is both clean and clear to follow.

It's not really a saw blade, more a grit-coated wire of around 1mm diameter (so 1/3 of the amount you want to take off is the with of the cut).

This example may be a bit too fine but you can also get tile files which allow you to take off even less. Again I have one and it wouldn't be too much work to do what you want with that.

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