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How to Cut Tile With an Angle Grinder

Bert spent 25 years working as a home-improvement and residential construction contractor in central Florida.

Sometimes round cuts are unavoidable.

Sometimes round cuts are unavoidable.

An angle grinder is an essential part of every tile setter's tool chest. Often the setter uses a wet saw for straight and L-shaped cuts and an angle grinder for the custom cuts that pop up along the way, such as the tile surrounding a floor drain. An angle grinder, sometimes called a side grinder, equipped with a diamond-studded blade cuts ceramic tile without breaking or chipping its glazed surface.

Although an angle grinder equipped with the correct diamond blade will make any cut, that does not necessarily make it the correct tool for the job. A wet saw makes consistent cuts with a perfect edge. A manual cutter makes straight break cuts. A tile setter uses handheld nippers to remove small chips and slivers. An angle grinder excels at making odd shaped and small cuts.

The metal grinding wheel on the left works great at knocking rust off a piece of iron. Unfortunately it will not cut tile like the diamond-studded masonry blade on the right will.

The metal grinding wheel on the left works great at knocking rust off a piece of iron. Unfortunately it will not cut tile like the diamond-studded masonry blade on the right will.

Choose the Correct Angle Grinder Blade

When it comes to cutting tile, the blade truly matters. A tile-cutting blade uses tiny diamond chips along its edge to grind and cut through porcelain and ceramic tile. Better quality blades tend to last longer and cut quicker than the inferior models because they contain more diamonds. A masonry-style diamond blade also works on tile. This type of diamond blade utilizes a serrated dust channels along its edge to whisk away concrete dust. Masonry blades cut soft tile well, however the dust channels tend to chip the tile's glazing when grinding curves or if used aggressively. Cutting, grinding or sanding disks designed for metal or wood will not work on tile. A blade's size should match the grinder it is used on.

The blade's brass bushing hugs the grinder's arbor.

The blade's brass bushing hugs the grinder's arbor.

Install the Blade on the Angle Grinder

Place a tile-cutting blade on the side grinder's arbor with the blade's directional arrow matching the tool's directional arrow. A blade installed with a backward rotation still cuts tile. However, when used this way the blade sheds diamonds quickly and its lifespan quickly diminishes.

Verify the blade's brass arbor bushing centers the blade on the grinder's arbor. The bushing keeps the blade centered on the arbor. Hand tighten the arbor nut. Engage the tool's blade locking feature, then finish tightening the nut with the grinder's spanner wrench.

Use a speed square and pencil to layout the cut. Notice the X marks on the unwanted pieces. This comes in handy when making multiple cuts.

Use a speed square and pencil to layout the cut. Notice the X marks on the unwanted pieces. This comes in handy when making multiple cuts.

Plan the Cut

A craftsman envisions the finished product while laying out project. Simple adjustments sometimes eliminate sliver or angle cuts. Unfortunately even with the best layout custom cuts occasionally happen. When this happens, make all relevant measurements and transfer them to a tile. Use a speed square and pencil to draw simple cuts, such as straight or angled, on the tile's glazed surface. Plan complicated cuts, such as curves and holes, on both the finished and unfinished sides. Keep in mind the reverse layout is a mirror image of the final cut. Make the curved portion of the reverse layout slightly smaller, leaving room for the blade's arc to cut threw the tile without making the visible part of the cut too large. These cuts often require a rough cut on the back and a finish trim from the glazed surface.

Simple Cut Instructions

  1. Put on safety glasses, ear protection and a dust mask.
  2. Hold the angle grinder firmly in one hand and turn it on. Let the motor reach full speed. If the blade vibrates violently, quickly turn off the angle grinder. Remove the blade retaining nut and verify the blade or brass ring remains in centered on the arbor.
  3. With the angle grinder at full speed, gently touch the blade against the line on the tile and apply moderate pressure. Score the pencil line until it cuts a 1/16-inch deep groove. Repeat this for any additional cuts on the same piece. Premature breaks sometimes follow the score lines.
  4. Continually move the angle grinder back and forth until the blade works through the tile. Never allow the blade to remain in one spot. Keeping the blade in one spot overheats the blade, causing the blade to dull. Complete the cut using the score mark as a guide.
  5. Grind away any rough edges with the side of the blade. It sometimes helps to do this while holding the angle grinder at a slight angle so the blade works from the unfinished side toward the glaze.
Break complicated cuts down into several smaller easy cuts.

Break complicated cuts down into several smaller easy cuts.

Complicated Cut Instructions

Score a 1/16-inch deep outline of the cut on the tile's glazed surface with the angle grinder. Remove as many large unwanted easy cuts as possible. Often it is easier to break complicated cuts down into several small easy cuts and trims. This should leave the indents and curves. Flip the tile over to verify the layout lines roughly match the inside of the score mark and adjust as necessary. Make the cut. This leaves the cutout slightly smaller than the finished product. Shave the unfinished tile of the tile edge until the cut fits. Test the cut before installing.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2022 Bert Holopaw