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Porcelain tiles are a hard-wearing, durable tile which can last many years - which is precisely why they’re difficult to cut. As well as having a very hard structure on the outside, where they’re fired with a hard glaze, the underneath is softer which makes them brittle and easy to crack when you’re cutting them. To cut porcelain tiles successfully you’ll need the right tools for a precise cut.
As porcelain slabs are harder to cut than other types of outdoor slabs, and are more dense than ceramic tiles, you’ll need a strong diamond blade wet saw tile cutter. The fine blade helps prevent chipping and can cut tiles up to 25mm thickness. Here are some other top tips on how to cut porcelain tiles without chipping:
Use a wet saw or angle grinder with a well-sharpened blade
Ensure the blade is fully clean before starting
Work at a slow and steady pace
Make shallow cuts (⅛ of an inch is ideal)
Use gentle, consistent pressure if using a manual cutter
Use masking tape around the tile when cutting
Cut the tile upside down to help prevent chips
Handle the tiles as little as possible to prevent the risk of dropping or damaging them
Wear the correct PPE to protect yourself from dust and flying debris, which also helps to ensure you make accurate cuts
Porcelain is a popular tile choice for both interior tiling - for kitchen or bathroom walls and floors - as well as for exterior use on patios and pathways. Porcelain tiles can offer a long-lasting and great-looking solution.
Porcelain is tough, strong and long-wearing. It’s more dense than ceramic tiles, as they’re fired at a higher temperature, so when laid correctly they can largely resist damage and can last for many years. Their strength and durability is what makes porcelain tiles ideal for use for hallways and patios, as well as indoors on walls and floors.
Porcelain tiles come in a wide range of colours, shapes and styles. The variety of sizes and finishes available means you can have the look of natural stone or wood, but generally at a lower price and with less maintenance. Being heavy and strong also means porcelain tiles can be used almost anywhere in and around the home, and they are ideal for households with pets and children.
Low maintenance, moisture resistant and with a high-gloss finish, porcelain tiles are ideal for heavy traffic areas and rooms with a lot of moisture. They’re easy to clean and require little maintenance to keep them looking their best. Most porcelain tile types don’t usually need regular sealing, like natural stone can, and pre-glazed tiles can be simply wiped clean.
The best way to cut porcelain tile is using a strong diamond-cut blade with a continuous rim. Alternatively, you can use a masonry blade or table saw blade, which is specially designed for cutting porcelain, with very narrow gullets. The blade must be fully clean and well sharpened before cutting, in order to get precise results.
Diamond-cut blades are made of steel with a diamond coating, making them extremely tough and durable for that perfect cut. The size of the blade you’ll need will depend on how thick the tile is. There are a wide variety of diamond-cut discs to choose from, so make sure the brand and disc size is compatible with your cutter.
Most installers prefer to use a wet cutter for cutting porcelain tiles, as it’s fast, creates less dust and can also help to reduce chipping and cracking as the water helps lubricate the blade to prevent overheating.
Wet tile cutting is usually recommended for porcelain tiles, as it helps to reduce breakage, but it can be trickier to make the cut as the tile is less brittle than when it’s dry. This method creates less mess, and is generally much quicker than dry cutting, and creates cleaner cuts. It also helps keep blades working for longer, as the water keeps it cool to prevent smoking and premature wear and tear. For wet cutting you’ll need a diamond-tipped blade on your wet saw, and a water source.
To use a wet cutter:
Set up the machine, cutting area and fill saw basin with water, wear PPE
Mark where you need to cut on both sides of the tile
Use masking tape around tile edges to help prevent breakage (optional)
Cut a small notch on your marked line on the tile reverse. Flip the tile over and start cutting face-up from the opposite side of the notch
Do slow, gentle cuts
You may need a sanding block to smooth edges after cutting
Make sure the water level is always topped up
Despite the advantages of using a wet cutter for porcelain tiles, some people still prefer to use a dry cutter as it’s slightly easier to cut and you can see precisely where you’re cutting. However, it creates a lot of dust, can lead to jagged edges and the tile is more at risk of breaking. Keep in mind that you’ll need an extremely sharp blade which is recommended for cutting porcelain tiles, as well as an appropriate dry tile saw with diamond blade.
To use a dry cutter:
Set up your angle grinder bench or dry saw area and put on PPE
Mark the shape or line on the tile where it needs to be cut (both sides)
Mask the edges to prevent cracks
Make multiple little cuts by turning the tile over
Ensure the blade runs into the waste side
When the tile is fully cut you can use an abrasive wheel to smooth the edge
Before cutting your porcelain tiles, you’ll need:
If using an electric cutter, ear defenders
A suitable ventilated area with work bench
Sanding stone or tile file
It’s possible to cut porcelain slabs by hand using a tile nipper, manual tile cutter or even a hacksaw with an extra-sharp blade. This method is preferred for fine detail, ornate shapes and complex curves. Mark the shape you need to cut, score the area using a utility knife and then use small, gentle cuts to create the shape you need.
This method, although precise and a good option if you don’t have an electric tile cutter, takes a long time to do and it can be hard work cutting through the strong porcelain material.
Porcelain wall and floor tiles can be cut using a wet or dry electric cutter, a nipper, a manual cutter or by hand. However, most professionals recommend using a strong diamond blade wet saw tile cutter. This will give you a neat finish and will help prevent chips or cracking.
It’s best to drill porcelain tiles slowly and steadily, as porcelain tiles are extremely hard but are likely to crack. Make sure you keep your drill bit as cool as possible, as this can increase the risk of cracking. Use careful, constant pressure and take your time.
Porcelain tiles have precise edges and usually need gaps between 2mm and 5mm wide between each tile. You can use tile spacers for a uniform finish. It’s not recommended to lay tiles without gaps for grouting, as they’re more likely to break or crack.
It’s possible to cut porcelain tiles with a hand grinder. A notched diamond-tipped blade on an angle grinder is recommended. Although wet saws are usually preferred for cutting tough porcelain tiles, angle grinders can be great for cutting tiles that are fixed to the wall, or for cutting special shapes into the tile.
Masonry blades can be used to cut porcelain. They are durable enough to cut tough tiles, and are useful for precision or decorative cuts. Be aware that they can chip the tile’s glazing though, so a slow and steady technique should be used. Many installers prefer to use a diamond blade wet saw to achieve the best results.
It’s possible to cut porcelain slabs by hand using a tile nipper, manual tile cutter or even a hacksaw with an extra-sharp blade. This method is suitable for fine detail, ornate shapes and complex curves. Mark the shape you need to cut, score the area using a utility knife and then use small, gentle cuts to create the shape you need.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this page is intended as an overall introduction and is not intended as specific advice from a qualified professional. Travis Perkins aims to avoid, but accepts no liability, in the case that any information stated is out of date.