How to cut tile without chipping

Updated February 21, 2017

It is easy to make clean-edged cuts in ceramic and porcelain tile as long as you remember to proceed slowly and use the correct tools. The tools you need for cutting ceramic tile without causing chips will depend on whether you need to make straight, curved or L-shaped cuts or to drill holes in the tile. While purchasing a complete set of tile-cutting tools might be expensive, most of the necessary tools are available at reasonable prices for short-term rental at ceramic tile dealers.

Practice making cuts with various hand tools on surplus tiles. Your tile dealer will have plenty of these odd pieces available at far less per square foot than you will be paying for your home-improvement project. There are several hand tools that, when used with care, allow you to create smooth cuts on ceramic and porcelain tile--both curved and straight. They include a rod saw fitted with a carbide-tipped blade, tile nippers and a snap cutter for making straight cuts.

Mark a curve on the back of a tile using a grease pencil or carpenter's pencil. Using the corner of your spring-mounted tile nippers, practice removing small shards of tile starting at the left end of the mark and proceeding from right to left. Use the nippers to remove any further protruding material once the cut is completed.

Mark an L-shaped and a squared off U-shaped cut on the finished side of another piece of tile. Use the rod saw to cut along the two marked lines on the L cut. Next use the rod saw to cut the two parallel lines on the "U" cut. Finally, score the finished side of the tile on the adjoining cut line with the glass cutter. Place the scored tile over the edge of a flat surface and use gentle pressure to snap the U-cut piece away from the rest of the tile.

To make a straight cut with a snap cutter, mark the cut and position the tile under the scoring blade on the snap cutter. Score the tile and then press down on the snap cutter lever in order to break the tile cleanly on the score line.

Practice power tools next. Clean cuts are easy to make with a wet saw. Mark the tile and then use the blade guides to make the cut as on any other table saw. Cut holes in tile by fitting your power drill with a spear point tip meant specifically for cutting tile. These come in a variety of sizes and cut perfect, clean holes in ceramic tile.

Make freehand curved cuts using a carbide-tipped non-segmented blade on a rotary grinder. For cutting large tiles, position yourself carefully and practice the motion to make sure that you can comfortably follow the curved line you have marked on the tile from beginning to end in one smooth motion.


Particles can fly when cutting ceramic tile and power tools can be loud. Be sure to use ear and eye protection when cutting tile.

Things You'll Need

  • Tile nipper
  • Rod saw
  • Glass cutter
  • Drill with spear point pilot
  • Rotary grinder
  • Non segmented blade
  • Grease pencil
  • Snap cutter or wet saw
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About the Author

Lois Lawrence is an attorney and freelance writer living and working in Stonington, Conn. She has written on many subjects including travel, food, consumerism, relationships, insurance and law. Lawrence earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1976, and a Juris Doctor degree from Boston University School of Law in 1979.