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Tool Guide for Cutting Tile & Stone

Tile Nipper & Hole Saw

Many tile jobs will eventually need circular or curved cuts, especially if you are doing a kitchen or a bathroom. Cutouts for drains, shower heads, sinks, toilet bases, and other pipe outlets are all circular by nature. While it can seem daunting to make these cuts, there are few tools and techniques that will help to easily accomplish these types of cuts.

Tile Nipper

Circular Cuts

A tile nipper, similar to a pair of scissors or pliers, is used to remove to small amounts of material from tile and are very commonly used to make curved cuts in ceramic tile. While just a tile saw can be used, it requires more cutting, adds wear and tear to the blade, and is messier than using tile nippers. To create a curved cut using tile nippers, first mark the line for the cut. Next, use the tile nipper to bite away the excess material. For a concave curved cut, start nipping from the middle, and for a convex curved cut, begin at the outer edge. Be sure to always wear safety glasses because it is common for pieces of tile to go flying when using tile nippers.

Notched & Irregular Cuts

A tile nipper allows for tile to be fitted around odd or irregular shapes, and while better suited for circular cuts, it can also be used when there is only a couple of tiles to notch. To make a irregular cut, use the same technique as for circular or curved cuts. First, mark the line to be cut and then use the tile nipper to remove the excess material. When using tile nippers, it is important to nip small amounts of material at a time because nipping too large of pieces can result in breaking the tile.

With the score and nip method, the tile can be notched. However, using the tile nipper for these types of notches typically results in cuts that are not clean. While these unclean cuts are not ideal for a creating a finished look, they can be used around pipe fittings and other receptacles that will have a decorative plate over them.


1. Before you begin nipping the tile, first mark the cut with a wax pencil. Next, ]use a scoring wheel to score the mark. This will help the tile nipper snap the tile off at the scored line rather than having the tile break off past it.

2. Take your time and make small nips. Working too fast and taking large nips increases the risk of breaking the tile past the marked line. If this happens, you'll need to start over with a new tile or settle for the uneven cut.

3. After finishing nipping the tile, use sand paper or a rubbing stone to finish smoothing the edges of the tile. This is an important step for creating a smooth and even finish, especially if it is going to be an exposed edge. Be careful as newly nipped edges can also be very sharp.

4. Tile nippers are best suited for curved cuts but can used for notched cuts if needed. For straight cuts, use a tile snap cutter, tile saw, or carbide pencil.

Hole Saw

Circular Cuts

If you're tiling a bathroom or kitchen, you'll more than likely need to a make circular hole cut in the tile to accommodate items like pipes for a faucet or shower head. With a drill and a carbide-tipped hole saw attachment, you can drill through ceramic and softer tile materials like marble. For hard materials like porcelain and granite, a diamond-tipped hole saw can be used. Both types of hole saws feature a metal cylinder with saw teeth around the top edge.

Before beginning, make sure the tile is in a secure position to prevent the tile from spinning or slipping as you drill. The tile can either be placed on a non-slip material such as rubber or neoprene, or it can be gently secured with clamps. Instead of drawing a circle for the pipe or marking the sides, it is often easier to mark a cross in the center of the pipe location as a guide. With many hole saws, it is typical to use a pilot bit with the hole saw as a guide. However, with tile, it is common for the pilot bit to crack tile, so you may opt to not use it.

Instead of just drilling the tile, one technique is to first take a dry sponge and drill a hole out of it. Now wet the sponge plug and put it inside the hole saw bit. This will help to keep the hole saw cool as you drill, and you won't need to stop every few seconds to dip the hole saw in water. However, you will still need to re-wet sponge every so often, but it will allow you to concentrate more on the drilling than worrying about keeping everything cool.

Next, take a 2x4 and drill a hole that is slightly larger than the hole saw bit you will be using for the tile. Center the hole from the 2x4 over the marked hole on the tile. The 2x4 will not only serve as a guide, but will also allow you to put even pressure across the face of the tile. Without the even pressure, the tile becomes more prone to cracking.

With the hole saw bit inside the 2x4 hole, start to drill very slowly. Be sure to press down on the 2x4 as you drill so that pressure is applied evenly across the tile, stabilizing it. As you drill, let the bit do the work by using gentle, even pressure and not pressing down hard on the drill. You want the bit to just fit snugly against the tile as you drill but don't press down too hard as it will cause overheating and excessive noise.

As you drill, instead of drilling straight down, slowly move the handle from side to side. This will create a slightly larger hole as you drill, which will help to release pressure as the bit gets deeper into the tile. Remember to keep everything cool and eliminate vibration as much as possible for a crack-free tile.

Tool Guide for Cutting Tile & Stone

Tile Snap Cutter & Carbide-Tipped Pencil
Tile Nipper & Hole Saw
Tile Saw