Tiling Tools

Whether you are a professional or have a DIY tiling project, you will need the correct equipment. A good set of tools, coupled with your skills, will ensure a high standard of work. Modern tiling tools ensure professionals and amateur DIY enthusiasts are able to achieve great results. The important thing is to purchase only good quality tools; cheap equipment invariably results in inferior work.

It is almost inevitable that you will have to cut and shape tiles at some point and there is a wide range of hand and power tools available to help you do this. The most popular hand tools for cutting and shaping tiles include the following:

  • Tile cutters: Tiles often have to be cut to fit and this is done with the help of a tile cutter. Tile cutters are available in a wide range of designs, but often use what is known as a ‘scribe wheel’. The scribe wheel is pulled across the glazed surface of the tile that is to be cut. Next, a ‘breaking arm’ is pushed down, which splits the tile along the scored line. Tile cutters are the quickest and most reliable method of cutting tiles.
  • Tile scribe: These tools are used to score the tile’s glazed surface. To ensure the score line is straight it should be used against an edge, which is also straight. The tile is then broken along the scoreline. Usually, tile scribes have a tip made out of tungsten carbide, which is strong enough to cut through the glaze.
  • Tile nippers: These are small tools that are used to snip away small or irregular pieces from the tile, ensuring a smooth edge.
  • Tile handsaw: This tool is designed to enable you to quickly cut away irregular shapes on the tiles. You should always cut on the tiles glazed side and the cut is made on the down stroke. The tile handsaw consists of a specially designed frame, which holds a blade capable of cutting tiles. The space between the back of the saw’s frame and the blade is large enough for quite large tiles to be sawn.
  • Tile file: This hand tool is used for smoothing rough edges and shaping tiles. This is slow, precise work and should be used only on small areas.
  • Profile gauge: This handy tool will help you cut awkward shapes in tiles. It is versatile and can also be used for woodworking.

For bigger jobs, where a number of tiles have to be cut and shaped, power tools are more suitable. The big advantage of using a powered tile saw is that it will enable you to save a great deal of time when cutting a large number of tiles in a straight line. These machines are also useful when cutting thick tiles, such as those used for flooring.

The cutting process will make the blade very hot, but it is kept cool with an inbuilt water tank or tray, which pumps water onto the blade. The blades used on power tile saws tend to be expensive and are generally intended for use on specific types of tiles. It is therefore essential that you use the right type of blade, depending on the material being cut. For anyone thinking of purchasing a tile power saw, the following points should be taken into account:

  • Safety features: The tile power saw should have an adjustable guide fence and a blade guard. It should also incorporate a waterproof switch and overload protection. A water tank, to cool the blade, should also be incorporated into the tool. In order to cut as efficiently as possible, a diamond blade should be fitted.
  • Power: Tile saws are electrically powered, so when buying one it is best to select a model with the highest wattage possible. The more powerful it is the better it will be able to cut through tough and thick tiles. Remember, if you purchase a 110v AC tile saw you will need a step-down transformer to use with a domestic electric mains supply.
  • Table size: The size of the table needs to be big enough to accommodate the tile on both sides of the cutting edge. A tiltable table will be useful in certain circumstances.

As well as being cut, tiles sometimes need to be drilled. There is a range of tools and implements enabling tilers to carry out these tasks.

  • Tile drill: When drilling tiles, carbide-tips need to be used. They are fairly versatile and can be used with a hand drill or variable-speed power drill. Masonry bits can also be used to drill ceramic tiles, but when drilling, the speed needs to be slow and the hammer action switched off.
  • Hole-cutter: You do not have to use a drill to make a hole in a tile. Instead you can carry out the task with a hole-cutter. These tools range from 12 mm to 100 mm diameter and have a diamond cutting edge. It is best to lubricate the hole-cutter with water before and during use. When operating this tool, either the tile should be held secure or the cutter must be firmly clamped in a drill stand.

There are also tools to apply grout and adhesives and tools to make the job easier.

  • Grout spreader: This tool spreads grout into the spaces between the tiles. The flexible squeegee style head enables the grout to be spread without damaging the tiles.
  • Grout rake: This device has a narrow blade, which enables you to remove old grout, leaving space to apply the new grout.
  • Tile trowel: This tool is used to spread tile adhesive onto the wall. It is ideal for use when a large number of tiles need to be fixed.
  • Spirit level: Although a spirit level is essential when tiling, it isn’t necessary to buy one specially to do the job. For example, the Multi-tool from Suretile incorporates a 360° bubble levelling guide.
  • ‘J-HOOK’ Tile lifter/adjuster: a simple tool for making minor adjustments to uneven tiles. It can also be used for removing drill cores from drill bits.
  • Spacers: These are essential in order to get even spacing between your tiles. There are many sizes available but the most common are probably 2mm for walls and 4mm for floors. Spacers are usually quite small and fiddly to use and they’re wasteful. But there is a new type of spacer now available called the ‘Uniplug’ spacer. It’s much bigger than normal spacers and easier to handle. Also, it’s fully re-usable and, when used horizontally, it will space and align your tiles round corners.

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