If you find your next tile project is going to require cutting more than a few tiles, having a tile saw available will help you save time and achieve professional looking results. Tiles with consistent, clean cuts will lay together better and fit snuggly against a wall or in a corner. Whether you have a small or large tile project, you can find a tile saw that fits your needs and budget. Different types of tile saws include handheld tile saws, table top tile saws, and overhead rail saws.
Handheld Tile Saws
Handheld tile saws are great for when portability and maneuverability are important factors when purchasing a new tile saw. These saws are similar to circular saws but have a hose connection or an on-board water container for cooling the blade. They are available in both corded and cordless models.
Because handheld tile saws are brought to material (vs. bringing the material to the saw), they are ideal for cutting large or heavy pieces of tile that may be difficult to cut on other types of tile saws. They use smaller blades, however, are not suited for deep cuts on thick material. Specialty cuts including miter cuts and rounded cuts can be performed, but the quality of the cut will depend on the skill and dexterity of the user. Some specialty cuts may be easier and more precisely performed with a handheld tile saw.
Before cutting, the material should be measured and marked. Additionally, smaller pieces will need to be clamped or secured. While wet cutting is typically used, dry cutting can also be performed but will create large amounts of dust and require wearing a dust mask.
Fixed Tray Tile Saws
Similar to table saws used for cutting wood,
fixed tray tile saws rely on the material being pushed across the table and through the diamond cutting blade. The diamond blade is mounted below the table, in a water reservoir. As the blade spins, the water cools and lubricates the blade. The water will also help to reduce dust and debris particles.
To maintain consistency, a fence allows the user to align the tile in the correct position. Once the fence is set, each tile can then easily be aligned for consistent cuts each time. Additionally, since clamps aren’t required, larger quantities can be cut quickly and efficiently.
Fixed tray tile saws are smaller and less expensive than sliding tray tile saws, making them great for most household projects and simple tiling jobs. A lightweight and compact design makes them portable and easily handled by one person. Additionally, these saws are easy to setup and can be placed on any stable surface.
Horsepower typically ranges from 1/3 hp to 3/4 hp with blade diameters that range from 4-1/2 inches to 7 inches. For many DIY home projects, a 7 inch blade will prove to be sufficient. These saws are generally ideal for cutting tile no larger than 12 inches square and 1 inch to 1-1/2 inches thick, depending on a saw’s particular specifications. A miter attachment can help assist with specialty cuts.
Sliding Tray Tile Saws
professional and higher quality cuts, look for a wet tile saw with a sliding tray and overhead motor. Instead of pushing the tile directly across to the blade, the tile is placed on tray fitted with rollers. The tray is then pushed to the cutting wheel where the blade cuts the tile from above. With the cutting wheel positioned above the tile, it is often easier to visually line the tile up correctly for precision cuts.
As with other wet tile saws, a sliding tray tile saw requires the use of water during operation in order to cool and the blade and material and reduce dust and debris. Heat buildup can cause the tile to break easily as well as cause damage to the blade or motor. There are both pump and pumpless models available.
To supply water to the blade, wet tile saws with a pump recirculate and filter the water in the water pan or on-board container. As the water gets dirty from use with dust and debris, the water pan will need to be cleaned. The water pan will likely need to be cleaned occasionally throughout the work day. Water pans with the plug on the bottom will be the easiest to drain.
A pumpless design requires a constant connection and flow from a water source, such as a water faucet. While the pumpless design allows for clean water to be constantly supplied, it also greatly limits the mobility of the saw by requiring a water source to always be nearby. Additionally, a bucket is necessary for the waste water, which will need to be emptied as it becomes full.
Regardless of the water delivery system, the saw’s performance specifications need to match with the material and types of cuts you will be doing. For example, if you will be cutting stone and tile that is particularly thick, 3 inches or more, you will want to make sure to get a saw with a powerful, high torque motor that can handle that depth of cut.
You will also need to take into account the length of cut and diagonal cut that you will be performing. A tile saw with a larger conveyor cart will help to support larger tiles for easier cuts. Also, if you will need to be making specialty cuts, look for a saw that has the capability to do plunge cuts and miter cuts. Additional features that you may want to consider is the ability to use different size blades and profile wheels.
Overhead Rail Tile Saws
For the professional that needs a heavy duty saw, overhead rail saws offer the precision, power, and capacity for consistent cuts and high productivity on large pieces of tile and stone. While some of the most expensive tile saws available, apart from large industrial / commercial grade saws, they offer the most accurate and precise cuts. For commercial and industrial applications, large scale bridge saws are available.
The motor and blade are positioned on an overhead beam that extends the length of the saw. To perform a cut, the tile remains stationary on the cutting surface as the cutting head travels overhead on a roller-bearing carriage. The cutting head is then brought down to the material, performing a cut.
The size of the cutting table along with no side restrictions allows for the accommodation of large tile and stone pieces. Many are capable of performing rips cuts of 30 inches or more and diagonal cuts of 22 inches or more. While some smaller models aren’t necessarily designed to handle extra large pieces, they still feature precision cutting power. For depth of cuts of 2 inches or more, look for an overhead rail saw with the horsepower and blade capacity to perform those cuts.
Since the tile remains in a fixed position, overhead rails saws often produce the smoothest and most accurate cuts. Many will also have special features including ability to perform plunge cuts and miter cuts, use different size blades, and use profiling wheels. With miter cuts and plunge cuts, square holes and internal corners can easily be performed. As with other wet tile saws, these saws also have a water delivery system to keep the blade cool and suppress dust.