Out of all of the construction jobs that you can DIY, cutting and laying tile is one of the hardest. You need special tools for every step, the tile itself is expensive, and you have to know exactly how to lay the thinset. But the hardest thing to do right without making mistakes is to cut the tile. Hiring a professional is always preferable if you can afford it. But if you’re feeling bold, learn how to cut and lay tile on your own.
How To Cut A Hole In Tile
Cutting tile isn’t easy at all. You can get a simple tile cutter for $20 or less that can cut straight lines in medium to small tile. But when it comes to cutting shapes, things get very tricky. You can use just any old cutter.
You need special cutters for cutting shapes or holes in the tile. Otherwise, you’ll break the tile or leave an ugly hole inches away from the object you’re cutting around. This is the fastest way to ruin your perfectly good project.
Types Of Tile
The type of tile that you choose matters. Especially if you have to cut that tile, which you will have to in most cases unless your room or shower is just the right size. Tiles come in all sizes, with most of them being square or with a 2:1 ratio.
There are many different materials of tiles. The two most common being porcelain and ceramic. It can be hard to choose between tile materials if you don’t know the pros and cons of each. Here are a few pointers to help you out.
- Ceramic – ceramic tile is probably the most common tile in America. It is durable, easy-to-clean, and can be put in any room. It also comes in both glazed and unglazed, so check both options out.
- Glass – glass tile is perfect for areas that can be difficult to clean as it won’t stain. But it is easy to break so it isn’t great for children who tend to drop things or are rough around the tile.
- Porcelain – porcelain tile is also very popular. It is similar to ceramic only it is made to look like natural materials like stone. It is more difficult to install than ceramic but is generally about the same all-around.
- Cement – cement tile isn’t very popular and is more like cement pavers than tiles. They require a lot of upkeep but can be highly customizable. So it is a middle-ground tile that is only for certain users.
- Marble – marble is gorgeous but expensive. That’s kind of a given. Natural marble only comes in certain patterns as well. Although you can get both ceramic and porcelain tile that looks like marble, only is cheaper.
- Granite – on countertops, granite is high-end. But in tiling, it is a cheaper alternative to some of the nicer tile options. It’s still pretty great, and natural, but the final result doesn’t look as fancy as marble.
- Limestone – limestone looks unique and is a natural stone. However, it is porous and isn’t great in moist areas. It will need heavily sealed regularly to last very long at all. This is why it isn’t very popular.
- Metal – metal is a relatively new material for tile. While it is durable in many cases, it can also dent fairly easily. Use it with caution to have some of the most beautiful and modern tile around.
- Resin – resin tile isn’t the most durable tile, but it is the most highly customizable. If you have a resin 3D printer, you can even print your very own tiles in your custom design and lay them yourself.
Buying A Tile Cutter
Buying a tile cutter is important if you plan on cutting holes in tiles. Even if you know how to cut holes in tile, you need a tile cutter. But knowing which one is right for your project isn’t easy for anyone.
These are simple cutters that cut straight lines in tiles are pretty easy to use. For a guide on tile cutters and the best ones that you can buy, check out this tile cutter buying guide. Or, simply buy any standard tile cutter from a trusted brand.
With a standard tile cutter, you simply place the tile under the cutter and score it with the scorer. Then, you press down to cut the tile on the scored line. It is easy to do and works with almost any kind of tile.
Hole Saw Kits
Because manual tile cutters only cut straight lines, you’ll need something else for round holes. One of the cheapest and most effective ways to cut holes in tile is with a hole saw kit. They are multipurpose and will serve you for years.
For a full guide on hole saw kits, check out this guide for tile on hole saw kits available online. Most of them come with everything you need aside from a drill, which you can purchase separately if you don’t have one already.
Cutting The Tile
Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. Let’s talk about how to actually cut the tile. When it comes to straight cuts, it’s pretty simple. But when it comes to holes, things get quite complicated. A hole cutter is your best option.
A hole cutter can cut perfectly round holes in tile in seconds. You choose your size and cut the hole just like it’s a hole punch. Only it normally uses a drill to cut these holes, which you probably already have on hand.
Cutting Holes With A Hole Saw Kit
The first thing you should do is measure the object you need to tile around. This is most often a showerhead or nozzle. But it can be plumbing or something else entirely. You need to measure it and make a copy of that shape on cardboard.
Then, you can start testing out the hole saw heads that you have. Find the one that is the closest in size, giving a tile bit extra room. After you choose a bit, it’s time to start cutting the tiles to fit.
If you only have one tile to cut, like if the hole is near the center of a tile, then you will drill straight through. But a better way to prevent breaks is to have two tiles cover the hole. If they meet in the middle, it’s easier to cut without breaking it.
You will need to lay something under the tile to steady it and protect the floor, drill bit, and the tile itself. This acts as a cushion for all three. Drywall does a great job of this. Then, putting a knee or hand on the tile, start drilling.
Push quite hard to keep the drill and tile steady and it should drill through in less than a second. That’s all there is to it. The hardest part aside from that is making sure the measurements are all correct and in place.
How To Lay Tile
If we’re getting ahead of you and you still want to know how to lay tile, then have no fear. We can briefly go over the steps in laying tile so you can feel comfortable when you start your first tiling project.
The first step in laying tile is making sure that there is a good subfloor for it. Or underlayment for some projects. There are many different types of shower boards and tile boards, so do your research to find out which one works for your project.
The first thing you will do after laying a subfloor is lay your thin-set. You won’t do this all together for two reasons. First of all, if you do all the thinset before laying any tile, you won’t be able to walk on your floor.
Laying The Tile
Now comes the tile-laying. You will lay your tile one or two at a time after you lay the thinset. It’s important that you remember to add spacers on every tile as you go. There should be at least two tile spacers on each side of the tile.
Grouting tile can be a hassle. While it isn’t as structurally important as thinset, it is what people will see and can be the difference in your project having a short or long life. So learn to apply it correctly.
For more info on tiling a shower and tub surround, this tile a shower guide is very useful and covers everything you need to know for your first project. Remember to buy all of the gear you need beforehand.
The Finished Project
Finally, you’re done! Although tiling isn’t easy, it’s one of the most rewarding projects you can do. Tile is a gorgeous way to add flooring to any room, put up a beautiful backsplash, or create an eye-catching shower!
So, go ahead and be bold! Get that project started and feel good about yourself whenever it’s done. But don’t forget to enjoy the process. Even if cutting tile feels like the end. Because it will be a masterpiece in the making.