Installing your own tiles can be one of the most satisfying DIY experiences. Cutting the tiles to shape without cracking, chipping, or breaking them is another story. Tiling is a backbreaking job with many complications when done incorrectly or without the right tools. That’s why most DIYers like to use power tools instead of traditional tile cutters, but can you use a circular saw to cut tile?
Circular saws can be used for cutting tile. A wet circular saw is a perfect tool for big tile installation contracts or jobs, with a dedicated water projector or nozzle that cools the blade while cutting tiles Handheld dry circular saws can be used but only for small jobs, as the friction generated by the blade can damage the machine and the tile alike.
Whether you are in the market for a new circular-saw or interested in a renovation that includes tiling, read on below to discover which tool fits your DIY needs best and which tools and practices to avoid.
What is a Circular Saw?
The word “circular saw” is a collective term covering any motorized circular blade used to cut or saw into a surface. Once activated, it rotates at a high speed to cut through various materials.
I know that this might seem like a redundant thing, to start by defining a circular saw. However, there are, in fact, many types of circular saws.
- Most people refer to the handheld variety when using the term “circular saw.”
- Table saws use a retracting circular saw.
- This means that a sawmill saw (like what they use to process lumber in a sawmill) is also called a circular saw, even though it’s not a circular saw that any backyard homesteader is likely to have.
To avoid confusion, I will cover the different types of circular saws you can use to cut and saw tiles. I will also discuss which circular saws are not to be used to cut or saw tiles in any shape or form to avoid injury to yourself, those around you, the tile, and damage to the machine.
Circular Saws Made for Cutting Tile
Ready to dive into the best circular saws for cutting tile? Here they are.
- A handheld wet tile saw is just what the name says it is. This type of circular saw is quite popular because of its versatility. A hose can be connected to the saw to cool the blade while cutting into stone or tile. These are used to cut bigger pieces of stone or tile that are difficult or impossible to load onto a wettable saw. They are highly mobile and the cheapest of the wet saws, making them a favorite amongst DIYers and tile setters alike. Unfortunately, handheld wet tile saws are notoriously tricky to use for straight and accurate cuts without a guide rail system or jig. They are also quite prone to blade kickbacks and are therefore not recommended for beginners.
- Fixed tile saws are stationary circular saws that resemble mini table saws. They have a rotating blade that is fixed in position, requiring the user to push the tile towards the blade. These types of saws are also referred to as tabletop sliding saws. These circular saws have a reservoir or water tank beneath, which is filled with water to cool down the blade as it rotates, as a section of the blade remains submerged beneath the water. These types of circular saws are also relatively cheap, lightweight, and therefore portable. However, performing accurate cuts can be quite difficult for novice and even intermediate users as it requires a steady and strong hand. They also make a bit of a mess.
- A tabletop tile saw with a rolling tray works almost the same way as the fixed tile saws, except that, as the name indicates, it has a rolling tray. This makes a huge difference as it allows you to feed the tile smoothly across the spinning circular blade. This results in more accurate cuts at higher speeds. The saw also has a reservoir or tank filled with water to cool down the blade as you cut through tiles. These circular saws are still mobile enough to be carried from construction site to construction site without too much hassle, making them quite popular.
- Sliding table tile saws are similar in appearance to a miter saw in the way that it has a blade mounted from above the cutting table. You can adjust the blade to cut at different angles and form bevels. The sliding table tile saw also has a table upon which the tile or stone is placed and then pushed or fed toward the spinning blade. The blade is cooled down by nozzles, which are mounted on the side of the blade and connected to a small built-in pump, which in turn needs to be connected to a water tank. This saw can cut thicker tiles and stones faster and more accurately due to the combination of the blade placement and the sliding table.
- Last, on our list is the Bridge tile saw. This machine is vastly different from most of the aforementioned circular saw types. It resembles a radial arm saw, where the mounted blade is pushed across a stationary mounted tile on the saw’s table. The table is also fixed for stability and accurate cuts. It also helps with cutting larger tiles and stones. These types of machines, however, are costly and only really used by professionals. Bridge tile saws models differ in how water is applied to the blades. Some have reservoirs with built-in pumps, and others need to be connected to a water source. Dry cutting is not recommended for personal health and machine safety issues.
Having the right tile saw really makes a huge difference. For our last big tiling projects, we borrowed a wettable, tabletop tile saw – it made the whole project so much easier. It’s so much easier, cleaner, and faster.
However, for smaller jobs or odd tile cuts, we do have a special tile blade for our angle grinder. It’s loads better than scoring and snapping tile, but not as nice as the tile saw.
Circular Saws that are not meant for cutting tile
Some circular saws can be used to cut tiles in a pinch. However, if done incorrectly, you run the risk of damaging your saw, hurting yourself or those around you, or breaking the tile. Below are some circular saws that can be used for quick small tile jobs, but that should be avoided.
- Table saws run at very revolutions and are definitely not made to cut tile. Due to the speed and blade type, users who attempt to cut tile on a table saw run the risk of having shards of tile shoot into their faces and bodies. The blade of the table saw can be switched to be diamond-coated and multi-toothed. However, this still does not guarantee the safety of the machine nor the user.
- Miter saws are another favorite of novices and inexperienced users for cutting tile. Because the saw can change angles, it is thought to be a good option. Although this can be done, this tool is specifically designed to cut through wood. The same issues are present when using a miter saw to cut tiles. The blade is liable to overheat, and though you move the saw blade towards the tile, if the blade is not the correct type, you will experience a barrage of tile fragments coming your way, if not blade fragments.
- A grinder is probably your best bet in a pinch. Getting accurate cuts may not be easy, but attempting to do so with a grinder will not land you in the emergency room. With a steady hand, patience, practice, and the right blade, you can perform some decent cuts with a grinder. Make sure to keep the guard on, and try to use a grinder that has a support handle behind the blade guard to help you keep a steady hand while cutting. Because grinders are made to cut through metal and hard materials, overheating should not occur if used sparingly. Also, make sure you’ve got an appropriate blade. That makes the biggest difference.
Like I said earlier, we do use our angle grinder with a diamond tile cutting blade. It’s not ideal for anything more than small cuts, though. And I definitely wouldn’t use it for large, straight cuts. It’s a touchup and minimal use kind of tool.
Blade types for cutting tiles
Most contractors and professional tile setters can agree that diamond-coated blades are usually the best for cutting tiles. However, this depends on the tile material, such as glass, porcelain, or ceramic. Read on to discover which blade to use for which material.
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- Ceramic tiles are probably the second hardest of tiles to cut, next to porcelain. For this reason, you will need to be careful when purchasing the right blade for this material. If you buy just any diamond-coated blade, you will have to sharpen the blade constantly. This is only true if the blade does not shatter (which isn’t a fun thought!). So take the extra time to ensure you have the right blade. A good choice would be the Piranha 7-inch continuous rim on Amazon for wet and dry cutting. This blade has a lifetime warranty and will ensure smooth cuts without breaking the bank. This blade has the added benefit of paring excellently with both ceramic and porcelain tiles.
- Glass tiles are the bain of many tile setters because of their fragility and vulnerability to chipping and breaking. I recommend something like the QEP 6-7006GLQ 7-Inch Continuous Rim Glass Tile Diamond Blade (on Amazon). Not only does it minimize chances of chipping, but this blade can also stably run at 8730 revolutions per minute. This is ideal for wet cutting glass, as the high speeds ensure accurate cuts and lower the chance of shattering. These blades are versatile and will fit a wide range of wet tile saws.
If you’d rather see your blades in person before purchasing them, good on you. We generally like to buy our saw blades in person at our local Home Depot. However, we’ve also loved browsing their online catalog and using their order-and-pickup. Better and faster online ordering with in-store pickup has been one of the few silver linings of the pandemic.
Final Thoughts on Circular Saws and Tiles
If you would like to cut tiles safely and accurately, the best choice is to get a wet tile circular saw. However, if you find yourself strapped for cash, you can use a grinder with the correct blade. Or you could opt for the good old-fashioned tile cutter.
If you are in the market for a tile cutter, I recommend you shop at Home Depot. It’s hands-down our favorite tool store.
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