I have tiled with all kind of tile in the past. When redoing my kitchen I custom ordered hand painted tiles to match the odd color of the granite. So I only had enough tiles for the project without breaking a single one. So I decided to split the two evils and rent a table saw. When everything was said and done I tried to manually cut one of the tiles to see if it could be done without chipping the finish. To my surprise it worked fine.

The question is this. Are there any guide lines for cutting tile without a table saw, and instead using a manual saw with a guide? For years I have cut plain white tile with a hand saw and I get perfect cuts every time, but for something like terracotta I get chips. Also are there any procedural steps that work better for some tiles than others, for instance when cutting a thick tile, I use a hack saw for the first cuts into the finish, then switch over to a true tile hand saw to handle the "meat" of the tile. In this way the finish and features on the tile remain unchipped.

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    Personally I used a saw for all of my cuts and picked up a rather cheap wet saw at the hardware store. Going around corners was the main reason to use the saw over something else. But then, this was floor tile and I get the feeling you're talking about counter tops and back splashes where precision is more important.
    – BMitch
    May 17, 2011 at 0:03
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    I always thought a wet saw was to keep the dust down and the water helped prolong the life of the blade. That's why whenever you use a wet saw I have been told not to recirculate the water but always pull in fresh (just put the pump in a garbage can filled with water). May 17, 2011 at 2:39
  • @jeff, that goes without saying but the primary reason they are used is because either you have a ton of tile to cut and it's faster or the tile/ finish requires that you use one.
    – allindal
    May 17, 2011 at 17:29
  • Cutting tiles dry, take it easy, you can catch the diamonds on fire, they go with one smooth, red burst and then all you have is a metal disk. It's a heck of a way to lose $40-80. The water carries away heat and also keeps the dust down. Jul 3, 2015 at 5:41

1 Answer 1


For cutting porcelain or ceramic tile, standard practice is to use:

  • A wet saw with a diamond blade
  • A manual tile cutter (a carbide wheel slides along a rail to score the tile, then you snap on the line.
  • Tile nippers for complex shapes

You can use a diamond blade with a hacksaw to cut holes, but it won't be very efficient.

If you have mostly straight lines, you can get away with a decent manual cutter and perhaps a pair of nippers. A wet saw makes the job go faster, but is not necessary.

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