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Tips & Articles

How to Cut Natural Stone Tiles

Natural stone tiles are an excellent highlight for backsplash areas, countertops or bathroom decoration and are perfect for kitchen and entryway floors and outdoor projects due to their texture, durability and aesthetic values. Installing such tiles is not a very easy job, however it is not impossible if you follow the main rules and steps on how to lay natural stone tiles and if you approach each activity with patience and pay attention to the details. One of the tricky stages is cutting and shaping the stone to fit your space or design. So if you are wondering how to cut natural stone tiles the answer is quite simple – with the proper tools. Below you can find what is suitable for handling these hard and at the same time easily breakable tiles.  


The Ultimate Tool 

As natural stone tiles are harder than ceramic or porcelain tiles the usual tools used for cutting tiles, such as tile cutter or tile snips are not very appropriate since you will need a lot of pressure to be able to snap them. The most appropriate tool for cutting natural stone is the wet saw with a diamond encrusted blade. Water is essential for the cutting since it lubricates the blade and cools it down keeping it from overheating. The diamond blade is the best option for a blade since it cuts natural stone cleanly and is suitable for all types of stone – marble, granite, slate, travertine, limestone, etc. There are some principles that need to be followed when using a wet saw.  

  • The first and most important is that you need to push the tile through the saw slowly and gently, without exercising unnecessary pressure. If you try to push it too fast this may cause the blade to bind up, which can result in cracking the tile or breaking the blade and even damaging the saw because of overheating.  
  • If possible use the wet saw outside or put it far away from the walls or furniture as the water splashes and may stain the nearby objects.  
  • Make sure that the cable and the socket are at a reasonable distance from the wet saw because we all know that water and electricity do not combine well. Therefore try avoiding water splashes towards the electricity supply. 
  • Last but not least always wear proper protective clothing that includes goggles, gloves and suitable clothes (choose something old, but not baggy, or intended only for work as you will get wet from the water in the wet saw).  

If you are laying natural stone tiles in your bathroom or kitchen you will need to make holes in them for faucets or pipes to go through. Diamond is again the keyword to look for when choosing the tool. Diamond drill bit and diamond hole saw will help you make the holes you need. Just don't forget to use enough water to prevent the drill from overheating. If you need to shape or smooth edges the gadget you need is a wet grinder.  


Other Options 

If you do not feel comfortable using an electric wet saw and especially if you need to cut or shape only a handful of tiles you can try and use some of the traditional tile cutting tools. Just keep in mind that natural stone is much denser and harder than ceramic or porcelain tiles or glass, with which you may have some experience. Here is a list of which hand tools you can use and for what purpose: 

  • Hacksaw. You can cut a natural stone tile with a manual hacksaw, in case you need to cut 1 or 2 tiles. Choose one that has tungsten carbide teeth as the traditional steel blades will not be able to cut through the hard natural stone. Mark the line using a pencil and straightedge and then score it with a sharp utility knife. Then use the hacksaw and cut slowly and carefully along the line. Don't forget to put on goggles as the cutting will cause a lot of dust. After the cut you can smooth the rough edges with a sanding stone or sandpaper. 
  • Hammer and chisel. Using these tools to cut natural stone tiles is quite difficult task and the result is a tile with quite rough and imperfect edges. Such tiles are more suitable for decorating your garden walkway rather than for indoor use. In order to snap the tile into two you first need to score it with a carbide-tipped pencil and a straightedge. Then position the chisel over the center of the line and tap the chisel with the hammer.  
  • Tile cutter. A manual tile cutter may be used to cut natural stone tiles only if it has tungsten carbide blades. Such a tool can be rented instead of purchased if you are not planning more home improvements that include cutting natural stone tiles. Follow closely the instructions on how to position the tile in order to have a good and clean cut. 
  • Tile nippers. You can use them mainly to cut the edges of stone tiles if you need them, for example, to fit around a pipe. Beware that you need quite a firm grip and squeeze to be able to cut natural stone. In order to smooth the cut edge you can use grinding stone or sandpaper.  


Protective Clothing 

No matter what kind of repair work you are doing, you always need some kind of protective clothing. When it comes to cutting natural stone tiles you should keep in mind that there will be a lot of water splashes from the wet saw and dust in case of using manual hacksaw. There is always a danger of small particles entering your nasal cavity or eyes so it is a must to wear goggles and a protective mask. Always put gloves to protect your hands. Choose clothes that are not too baggy so that there is no danger that they will get caught by the blade. Remove all the jewelry as it can also be damaged from the tools or get dirty from the water and dust. 


Useful Tips 

As a wrap up you can find 5 very useful tips that can help you in your natural stone tile cutting project: 

  1. Always push the natural stone tile very slowly through the cutter. 
  2. Practice first with some old or unnecessary pieces before you start cutting. 
  3. Always make your final cut with the finish side up.  
  4. With marble, as it is quite hard and easy to break, you can make a small notch on the back side as a starter and then turn the tile and proceed further.  
  5. If you don't have the proper equipment and you need to cut only a few tiles it will be wiser and cheaper to turn to a local tiling contractor who deals with natural stone to do the job for you. 

Using the proper tools will guarantee precise cutting and shaping and respectively faster and easier installation of the tiles afterwards. Always use tools that are designed to work with natural stone and follow strictly the manufacturer's instructions and if you are in doubt better ask a professional to do the job, though with some practice and perseverance we are sure you would be able to do it yourself as well. Here, you can find a good video that practically shows how to cut natural stone tiles.  

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