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Updated May 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best tile cutters

If you have to tile an entire wall or floor, you really can’t do without a proper tile cutter. Fortunately, there are plenty to choose from.

If you’ve just got small areas of tile to repair, you can probably make do with a glass cutter, an angle grinder, or a multi-tool. The problem is, they’re not really designed for the job, so while they’ll probably get it done, it will take forever.

For those bigger jobs, you’ll need a serious tile cutter. While most look quite similar, there are important differences to consider before you buy. Our recommendations highlight the variety of price and performance options available. This guide looks at those in more detail, and offers advice to help you find exactly the right tool for your tiling task.

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Cutter wheels eventually need to be replaced, but most tools only come with one. You might want to add a spare to your order.

Tile cutter or tile saw?

Here, we’re talking about tile cutters, as opposed to tile saws, so it’s important to understand the difference before we look at specific features.

A tile saw uses an electric motor to power a rotating blade. Most are similar in appearance to a woodworker’s table saw. They cut right through the tile. Water is generally used both to cool the blade, and to wash away the dust that builds up. This creates a slurry which is collected in a tray underneath the machine and disposed of later.

Because of the electric motor, tile saws are noisy. The addition of water to a spinning blade also makes them pretty messy! Their big advantage is that with the right blade they will cut through just about every type of tile material.

Expert Tip
Keep a shop vac or vacuum handy to limit tile dust and shards in your work area.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert

A tile cutter is a manual device. A cutting wheel runs along two guide rails and scores the surface of the tile. A ‘breaker bar’ or ‘foot’ is then used to snap the tile in two.

Although you might think a hand tool would be slower than a machine, after a little practice they’re actually faster. Many argue it’s easier to keep the cut straight and to maintain accuracy. They’re also very quiet and create less mess.

The downside is that while they are very good with ceramic and porcelain tiles, the score-and-snap technique isn’t good with most glass, marble or masonry. For those, you really need the tile saw.

A note on vinyl tile cutters

Neither of the above devices will cut vinyl tile. You need a different device that has a shearing or guillotine action. You have a reasonable choice of stand-alone tools, or you can look at laminate flooring cutters, most of which also handle vinyl.

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Expert Tip
Always mark your cuts with pencil lines so you don't get confused about placement when aligning the blade for your cuts.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert

Choosing the right tile cutter

Though most components might look similar, you need to pay special attention to capacities and features.

Capacities

On the vast majority of manual tile cutters, the cutter wheel is guided by a carriage that runs on parallel rails. The need to support these at both ends of the tool restricts the maximum length of the cut. Cheaper tile cutters are often 14-inch models. In the mid-range you have a selection at 20 inches, and the largest are 29 inches.

Be careful with these measurements. While a 14-inch model will cut through a 12-inch tile at 90 degrees, the same tile is 16.97 inches on the diagonal. That cut can’t be made on a 14-inch cutter.

Expert Tip
A kitchen counter or island is a stable surface for cutting, compared to a table that could shift.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert

You also need to consider the tile thickness the machine is capable of cutting. It’s often 1/2”, and that’s enough for a wide variety of ceramic and porcelain tiles, but with so many different types available, you need to check. Pro-grade tile cutters increase this to 5/8” – a small, but sometimes vital difference.

Features

  • While the cutter wheel is a comparatively small component, it’s clearly very important. On budget tile cutters, it’s not always clear what material has been used, but most wheels are tungsten carbide. Better ones are coated with titanium, which makes them harder and longer-lasting (though you do pay a little extra).
  • The bed of the tile cutter is invariably coated with rubber which helps prevent the tile from sliding around while you score it. The underside of the breaker bar may also be rubberized to prevent it from marking the tiles. It’s not always necessary, as an aluminum breaker bar is unlikely to mark the glazed surface of most ceramics – or porcelain, which is even harder.
  • At the budget end, tile cutter bases are fabricated steel. Higher quality models are cast aluminum, which is more stable and won’t rust. The wider the base, the easier it is to be accurate.
  • With most tile cutters, you pull the cutting wheel towards you. A few are designed to be pushed away. In many ways, this is a matter of personal preference, though the push type is considered better for tiles with an uneven surface. If the tile is heavily contoured, a tile saw is recommended.
  • You will always have a horizontal ruler at the top end of the tile cutter. You may not have an angle guide. For accurate work, they’re well worth a little extra cost.
  • Some high-end tile cutters have extendable ‘wings’ that flip out to support large tiles. This stops them from falling off and breaking when you snap them. This is particularly useful when making diagonal cuts because the outside corners are the most fragile.
  • It’s nice if a case is supplied, but they’re usually only found with high-end tile cutters.
Expert Tip
Smooth, even scoring yields cleaner, more even cuts. Do not apply excessive pressure. This will cause cracks and wasted tiles
BestReviews  Home Improvement and DIY Expert

Best tile cutter prices

Inexpensive

You’ll find entry-level tile cutters with a 14” capacity for as little as $30. They’re fine for occasional DIY tasks, though they may struggle with harder porcelain tiles. For another $10 or $15 you’ll get similar 20” versions.

Mid-range

Around $100 will buy you a good all-around model with a 24-inch capacity and a tungsten carbide cutting wheel. Most homeowners will find this kind of tool adequate for their needs.

Expensive

If you’re going to be doing large areas of floor or wall, it’s worth choosing a pro tool. However, you will need to invest between $250 and $550.

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Expert Tip
Change blades when you see the quality of the cut diminish.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert

Tile cutting tips and tricks

  • Tile cutters are great for straight lines, but in nearly every tile job, there are awkward corners to deal with. A pair of tile nippers is the answer, so you can ‘nip’ off little odd-shaped pieces.
  • A little practice goes a long way. Take a tile and make several cuts of different widths. Make sure to use firm, even pressure all the way along the cut. There are a number of videos online that show the proper technique. Reading the manufacturer’s guidelines is also important because apparently minor differences between cutters can have a big impact on getting it right. Many user complaints can be attributed to ignoring instructions.
  • If the score line starts to look jagged or the surface chips, the cutting wheel probably needs changing.
  • If you’re working on floors, think about getting yourself some knee pads. You’ll be surprised how quickly kneeling down can become uncomfortable.
  • Tile cutters are very safe, but we still recommend wearing eye protection in case tiny shards break off. A lightweight dust mask is also a good idea, especially if you’re working in a confined space.
Expert Tip
Investing in a more expensive tool can give you an edge over your project. Selling it after your project is complete gives your wallet a boost.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert
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Even pros break a few tiles and make occasional errors with measuring. When you’re ordering tiles, make sure you allow for some waste. Ten percent is considered a healthy margin. Even if you don’t use them all, you’ll have spares if installed tiles get damaged later.

FAQ

Q: Do tile cutters come with legs or stands?

A: No. If you’re tiling a floor, you probably want the cutter beside you on the floor anyway – it will be a nuisance to keep getting up and down. For walls, the opposite is true, and it’s tempting to use any old table to place it on. That’s fine, as long as it’s sturdy. It needs to support your weight as you score the tile. If it wobbles, it will affect your accuracy and lead to more waste. A folding workbench is a convenient and very versatile solution.

Q: Can these tile cutters cut holes in tile?

A: In the past we’ve seen models with circle-cutting attachments, but we weren’t able to find any during our recent research. The favored method now seems to be either diamond hole saws (which aren’t as expensive as that sounds), or multitools such as the Dremel – which are particularly good at cutting unusual shapes.

Q: Does a tile cutter need regular maintenance?

A: Yes, but there’s very little to it. Tile dust is quite abrasive, so wipe down the tile cutter after use with a damp cloth or wash with soapy water. Let it dry, then give the guide rails and any joints a very light spray of WD-40 or similar oil so they work smoothly.

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