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How To Use A Wet Saw To Cut Tile (For Beginners!)

Thinking about DIYing your own tile job? Good for you! Learn everything you need to know about using a wet saw, from what type of tile saw you need to how to smooth the edges after cutting. This is the ultimate guide to cutting tiles with a wet saw!

When it comes to tile projects, several homeowners opt to hire it out. Whether it is fear of trying something new (or messing it up) or the sheer amount of new tools you need to buy before starting your first tile project.

But if you’re here reading this post about how to use a wet saw to cut tile, you’ve either decided to try tiling yourself or you’re thinking about it. So GO YOU!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Image of tiles being cut with a wet saw outdoors.

What is a wet tile saw?

A wet tile saw is a stationary saw that looks something like a small table saw, but it incorporates water that runs over the cutting platform, blade, and tiles.

The water on the wet tile saw allows the tile and blade to stay cool while the cutting happens. Since the blade has to do a lot of work to cut through something hard and dense, like tile, there is a lot of friction that occurs and without water, the blade will have a tendency to heat up quickly and begin to smoke!

Cutting Tiles FAQs

Do I need a wet saw?

This really depends on the job. This question is usually best answered by the manufacturer’s recommendations on the material you are using. Get whatever the material asks for.

Is a wet saw or tile cutter better?

Again this also depends on the material you are using. Different types of tile may require different cutting methods.

Why is water used when cutting tiles?

This keeps the saw cool and provides a cleaner cut on the tile. When cutting tiles, you want to go slow and steady. The water from the wet saw prevents heat from ruining the diamond saw blade.

Where do you put the water in a wet saw?

Most wet tile saws will have a basin to catch and pump water back up to the top of the tile saw. Other tile saws will have a hose at the tile of the tile saw.

Can you use a wet saw without water?

Yes, you can dry cut certain materials using the wet saw. Just be sure to check the material manufacturer’s instructions to see what is recommended.

What type of blade do you use in a wet saw to cut tile?

A wet tile saw uses a diamond blade, which does not have teeth as a traditional blade does. There are wet or wet/dry tile saws that you can buy at any big box home improvement store.

How often should the blade be changed in a tile saw?

You can attempt to sharpen the blade again but usually when you notice more chipping on your material or the blade just cuts noticeably slower than when you put the new blade on.

Do you cut tile face up or face down?

This depends on how your saw cuts the tile. If the blade cuts from the top leave the tile facing up. If it cuts from the bottom then leave the tile face down. Keep in mind the first side that the blade meets the tile will be the smoothest because there is less for the blade to “push” through.

Can I get away with buying a cheap tile saw?

You may be tempted to buy a cheap tile saw if you only need to use it for one small project, however, it’s worth it to invest in something a little better than the cheapest tile saw. With a bigger tile saw, you’ll get a larger platform / workspace, a hose that keeps the water circulating, and a bigger blade.

Read more about why we regretted buying a cheap tile saw here.

What type of tile saw is right for you?

When you are shopping for a tile saw, you should consider is the size of your project. Buying an appropriately sized tile saw for the job is important.

For example, if you are tiling a small backsplash or tile floor entryway you can get away with using a small wet tile saw or even a tile cutter.

If you are tackling a large room or entire bathroom floor then it’s often better to get a bigger wet tile saw with a table that moves into the saw.

A larger tile saw will keep your cuts crisp and limit sanding and smoothing, which has to be done by hand. Larger wet tile saws often come with tables to help move and store the saw more easily as well.

Alternatives to wet tile saws

Don’t think a wet tile saw is right for you? Here are some other options:

  • Snap tile cutter (aka manual tile cutter) – a small tool that looks similar to a paper cutter that uses a small wheel to score the tile where you need to cut and then snaps along the scored line.
    • Pros – It is inexpensive and works well for ceramic tiles and small jobs with straight cuts.
    • Cons – The cuts can be rougher than using a tile saw, don’t work on thick floor tiles, stone/porcelain, or small tiles, angeled or more detailed cuts are hard.
  • Angle grinder – small handheld power tool that operates with a small rotating blade on the front. You can use a diamond blade attached to an angle grinder to cut tile if needed.
    • Pros – Small tool that you may already have in your workshop, great for curved cuts or cutting out shapes.
    • Cons – Takes a lot longer than a tile saw and is harder to maintain a straight line since it is handheld. Not any cheaper than buying a tile saw.

How To Use A Tile Saw – Step by Step Guide

Supplies needed for cutting tiles:

  • Wet Tile Saw
  • Wet Tile Saw Blade
  • Extension cord
  • Tile Sanding Stone
  • Carpenter Pencil
  • Tape Measure
  • Garden Hose

Before you start using your wet tile saw

The most important thing you can do is prepare the area where you’ll be cutting your tile.

Your wet tile saw combines a lot of things that normally don’t go well together: water, electricity, and a fast-moving diamond blade. This requires your full undivided attention.

The work area you chose needs to be clear of obstructions so you can fully focus on operating your wet tile saw safely.

Because using a wet tile saw is usually pretty messy, we typically opt to use it outside, if the weather permits.

Work area for using a wet saw indoors for cutting tiles.
If you need to use the wet tile saw indoors, be sure to cover surrounding walls and flooring with heavy-duty plastic

If you must use a wet tile saw indoors, cover the walls and flooring with heavy-duty plastic and have lots of towels nearby because it will get messy and it will get wet.

Measuring tiles with a measuring tape sitting on table with wet saw.

Getting ready to cut with a wet tile saw

With your area prepped and a wet tile saw in place, you can start by filling the basin with water using a garden hose.

There are usually marks for max and min fill in the basin of the saw. Start with the water filled to the max level because the tile will absorb some and water will splash during the cutting.

Make sure your pump is placed in the correct part of your water basin. This is different for every tile saw, so check your manufacturer’s instructions.

Next, plug in your machine and turn it on. The water should begin circulating. Wait until the water covers the blade before starting to cut tiles.

If you have a moving table, test the movement a couple of times before you have a tile on board to make sure it is smooth and nothing is preventing the table from moving.

View of cutting tiles with a wet saw showing water spray.

Cutting with your wet tile saw

Cutting the tiles is relatively straightforward. Depending on your specific tile saw, you will either move your tile into the blade using your hands or the table will move into the blade with the tile on it.

There are a few tricks to cutting with a wet tile saw to prevent chipping, which is always a concern.

First, mark your tile where you want it cut using a pen or line it up with a tape measure. Do this on both sides of the tile.

To prevent the end of the cut from blowing out and chipping, flip the tile over and cut a small notch on your marked line. Flip the tile back over and start cutting face-up from the opposite side of the notch.

Always be aware of how fast you cut your tile. Cutting slow is always better than too fast. Slower usually will prevent a lot of chipping and will give the blade time to make the cut.

If you push too fast your saw could overheat, which will lead to chips and make your blade dull. Slow and steady wins when using a wet tile saw.

Operating your wet tile saw

Over the course of your project, you’ll notice that the saw splashes a lot of the water and the tiles soak it up.

Be sure to keep an eye on your water basin and maintain proper water levels. If the water gets too low, you risk the saw overheating, which will cause cuts will chip out.

Do your best to have a trash can nearby and make sure trash cuts are put in the trash. Keep the work area clean and free of debris.

You’ll get tired and lose a bit of focus when you are cutting a lot of tiles at once so it’s important to keep an eye on your workspace to make sure it is staying clean.

Close up image of tiles after cutting with a wet saw that shows chipped edges that can be sanded with a sanding block.
If your tile edge chips out, you can smooth with a sanding block

Sanding and smoothing tiles edges after cutting

Inevitably while using your wet tile saw some tiles will chip and require a bit of sanding to look their best.

If you notice A LOT of chipping:

  • Try slowing down while you’re cutting
  • Clean the blade and water basin
  • Change the saw blade, which may have become too dull

You may also notice that the edges of the tile can become very sharp after cutting with a tile saw or tile cutters, which is another reason you may want to consider sanding to smooth out your tile edges after cutting.

You may think…”I need to sand my tiles, so I need sandpaper”. Nope! Sandpaper on the tile edges won’t be helpful. They will just rip and break because sandpaper isn’t durable enough for sanding tile. You need a tile sanding block, which is sometimes referred to as a rubbing stone or sanding stone.

The process of fixing the chipped edges of your tiles is relatively easy. Just take the chipped edge of your tile and rub a tile sanding block on it.

You’ll notice the block has different shades. This just means the grit is more coarse than the other side and should be labeled on the packaging your sanding block came in.

For rougher cuts, like chips and jagged tile edges – start with the coarse side of the sanding block and then move on to the finer side. For other purposes, like smoothing sharp edges, you can simply use the finer side of the sanding block on your tile edges.

Man sanding edges of tile with a sanding block.

Using a wet tile saw can be intimidating for many beginners, but with a little bit of practice, I guarantee that you’ll feel more comfortable. By following along with these tips for cutting tiles, you’ll be able to tackle your first tile project with a wet tile saw.

Do you have any more questions about using a wet saw?

Let us know in the comments below!

Tips for Using a Wet Saw

Tips for Using a Wet Saw

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Intermediate
Estimated Cost: $100

DIYing tile? These tips will help you use a wet saw successfully every time!

Materials

  • Tile

Tools

  • Wet Tile Saw
  • Wet Tile Saw Blade
  • Extension cord
  • Tile Sanding Stone
  • Carpenter Pencil
  • Tape Measure
  • Garden Hose

Instructions

  1. Prepare your area before using your wet saw. Make sure it is clear of obstructions so you can fully focus on operating your wet tile saw safely.
  2. Fill the basin with water. Plug in the machine and turn it on.
  3. Depending on your wet saw, you will either move your tile into the blade using your hands or the table will move into the blade with tile on it.
  4. To minimize chipping, mark your tile on both sides, flip the tile over and cut a small notch on your marked line. Flip the tile back over and start cutting face-up from the opposite side of the notch.
  5. Cutting tile slow is always better than too fast, cutting slower will prevent a lot of chipping and will give the blade time to cut.
  6. Be sure to keep an eye on your water basin and maintain proper water levels.
  7. Sanding and smoothing may be needed, use a sanding block for this not sandpaper.

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