The Best Tool for Cutting a Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Adding a tile backsplash is a great way to dress up a kitchen. Often when doing a simple tile backsplash, some cuts are needed to get the tile around switches and receptacles. There are a few options and methods for doing these small cuts that don’t necessarily involve expensive or fancy equipment. Chances are you probably have at least one of the tools needed for cutting ceramic tile.

Before we start, it’s important to note that we have our favorite methods. We’ll start with those and also include other ways you might get the job done. Also—when cutting backsplash, we make certain assumptions. The first is that you only need to make cross cuts for tile at corners and the ends of the run. The second assumption is that any longer rip cuts should be up against the bottom of your wall cabinets. That gives you some “grace” for cuts that might not be ruler-straight.

We also address some tips at the end of this article for compromises we think work to ensure a good-looking job overall regardless of your budget.

Manual Tile Cutter or Snap Cutter

manual tile snap cutter

For Pros, we expect nothing short of ruler-straight. For homeowners, however, we understand that you may need to use what you have to get the job completed. A great compromise is the manual tile cutter or snap cutter. These tools prove an easy way to put straight cuts on tile. You can even make diagonal cuts. Really, the size of the tool determines the maximum length of cut.

Cut a Ceramic Tile Backsplash with a Wet Tile Saw

Ridgid R4041S 8" Wet Tile Saw

The Pro way is to use a diamond wheel wet saw like the Ridgid wet tile saw. Or you may opt for something like the iQ Power Tools dry cut tile saw. This is the more expensive way to go but also makes the cleanest and dust-free cuts. If you have a lot of cutting to do, a wet saw is the preferred method. If one of these types of saws is out of your budget, you can usually rent one from a local equipment rental store.

Angle Grinder with Diamond Wheel

angle grinder with diamond wheel

The next option is to buy a diamond cutting wheel for a small size angle grinder. These blades cut dry, so there is a little bit of dust created. They can make quick and convenient cuts. This is one of my favorite methods for getting the job done quickly. This also serves as a great way to quickly make curved cuts or corner cuts if and when needed.

Dry-Cut Tile Saw

iQ228 Cyclone 7-inch dry cut tile saw

The dry-cut tile saw quickly rose to the top of our list of “favorite tools” for cutting any tile. Price remains the only real downside as only one company, IQ Power Tools, makes this type of saw. For professionals, we feel it’s worth every penny. For more casual use, a dry-cut tile saw could prove a bit cost-prohibitive—particularly for cutting a ceramic tile backsplash.

Interestingly, for smaller jobs, the IQ Power Tools 7-inch tile saw offers similar dry-cutting performance. It does so with a smaller capacity and lower price point which makes it more appealing to those on a tighter budget.

Jigsaw with Diamond Blade

Possibly the oddest method for cutting ceramic tile is to use a jigsaw with a diamond blade. This type of jigsaw blade allows for fairly quick straight and curved cuts in ceramic tile. Make sure to put some masking tape on the bottom of the shoe of the jigsaw so the metal doesn’t scratch the delicate tile surface. Set the jigsaw to medium speed and be sure to turn off the orbital action if your jigsaw has it.

Possibly the biggest issue with this method is securing the tile. You need to make sure you have both the clearance and leverage to make your cuts. In the end, however, this works in a pinch and may save you from buying a specialized tool if you just need to make a few cuts.

Handheld Snap-Cutters

handheld ceramic tile cutter

A handheld snap-cutter uses a small diamond blade to score tile and then snap it for a relatively clean cut. You really only want to use these with ceramic tile as porcelain typically doesn’t play well with a simple handheld score-and-snap. The advantages of this tool include its small footprint, ease of use, and inexpensive price.

We have our clear favorites—such as the dry-cut tile saw—however, budgets and needs vary. If you only need to make a few straight cuts or have just a single job, a manual snap-cutter should work wonders. We prefer the sliding rails model over the handheld since you can use it on porcelain tile as well. Larger versions even allow cuts in large tile up to 18-inches or more. You can also make diagonal cuts, though those may prove troublesome in larger tile sizes.

Also remember you can clean up your tile edges—particularly sharp ones—with a stone. You can pick these up at your local hardware store or home improvement warehouse or even online at Amazon.

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