Cutting & Drilling
When it comes to getting a piece of tiling to fit correctly when
doing the work yourself, a skilled approach to tile cutting and drilling
is one that is very important in achieving the professional result you
are looking for in the finished product. Smooth and efficient cutting
and drilling contribute to the overall effect of the finish and also
play a vital role in ensuring that the tiles fit correctly in the
positions and patterns that make up the required design. In particular,
in spaces where there are irregular shapes or tight corners, cutting and
drilling tiles can be an intricate process. For this reason, many
people leave this aspect of the task to professionals in the field.
However, many do it yourself enthusiasts find that with the right tools,
it is possible to achieve a great tiling effect themselves.
Choosing the right equipment
The first step in cutting or drilling tiles is to ascertain the sort of equipment that you need to do the job efficiently. If you are not already familiar with this equipment, you should take steps to make sure that you know how to use it, including any specific safety instructions to do with either the tool or the type of tile that you are working on. This is an important part of getting the whole job right, because using the wrong sort of tool in a particular situation can both ruin the tile and at the same time put the safety of the DIY enthusiast in some danger.
For example, tile saws and tile cutters can be roughly divided into two main categories, the wet saw and the dry saw. The wet variety includes a mechanism for keeping the cutting edge damp, which reduces the chances of damage to the tile and also cools the cutting device, which can become hot if you are cutting through hard material, such as stone or ceramics.
Snap or rail cutters
Starting at the simple end of the spectrum, snap cutters are manual tools that can be used for simple tile cutting jobs where there is little need for a polished final edge on the tile. This might be the case, for example, when the cut edge of the tile will be hidden from view or placed against a wall. Snap cutters are operated manually, so it is a good idea to practise the technique of cutting before tackling an expensive tiling operation. In addition, different sizes of tile require different sizes of manual cutters, so make sure that you have the right cutter for the tiles that are being used. For small, simple, non-stone cutting jobs, however, the simple snap or rail cutters might prove to be a worthwhile alternative to more complex machinery.
Wet saws - handheld
Handheld wet saws for tile cutting are a versatile choice of equipment for more complicated or bigger tiling jobs. Some models make it possible to carry out either a wet or a dry cutting process and both cordless and corded options are available on the market. Handheld wet saws also provide an advantage over manual snap cutters in that they can tackle a wider range of materials and with the wet cut finish, can be used for speciality cutting jobs and for tile edges that require a polished look. In particular, if tiles are heavy or otherwise difficult to lift or manoeuvre, the handheld cutting tool is useful because it can be taken to the tile, rather than requiring work on a tabletop.
Wet saws - tabletop
A less versatile, but potentially more powerful cut can be achieved with a table top wet saw, which is similar in style to the table top tools used for cutting wood. As the cutting edge is in a fixed place, the wetting mechanism is reliable and cuts out most flying particles, as well as providing an efficient cooling aspect. Some practice is necessary in order to achieve a smooth cut, as pushing a tile across the tabletop can cause some movement, due to friction. In addition, working with the line of sight is also something that may need some experience. However, as a powerful workshop tool for tile cutting on a regular basis or with tough materials, a table top wet saw is a useful piece of equipment for many regular do it yourself enthusiasts.
Wet saws - overhead motor
The overhead motor type of wet saw is a more complicated piece of machinery and assembling the tool also takes some time and skill. However, for regular precision work, an overhead wet saw offers an advantage in that it enables a greater level of control over the position and movement of the tile being cut, which ensures that a high degree of precision is possible. Often, the water for the wet saw has to be pumped to the tool, but the combination of a rail system and a visible blade make the actual cutting work easier to achieve.
If the tiling work requires drilling, as well as cutting, a normal drill can be used for the job, but it is important to ensure that the drill bit is the correct one for the job at hand. Tiles can be prone to shattering under the pressure of drilling and a carbide tip, used at low speed, may be one of the best options for drilling through, for example, ceramic tiles. When it comes to drilling holes out for pipes etc, a core drill is best and these are usually diamond tipped. Expensive breakages can be avoided by using good quality drill bits.
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