Benefits of having a tile saw
When it comes to cutting tile, there is virtually no replacement for having a good tile saw. Although tile saws resemble traditional circular saws, using a circular saw to cut tile will leave you with a pile of crumbled, marred tile – not to mention a badly damaged saw blade – thanks to the hardness and brittleness of this materials. A table saw uses a diamond blade rather than a traditional carbide blade in order to provide better durability when cutting through the tile. In addition to the different material, a diamond blade on a tile saw actually chips away at the tile rapidly rather than trying to slice through it as for wood and metal.
Plus, tile saws characteristically have a water bath beneath the saw blade that helps to keep the blade cool – an important aspect when cutting through lots of tiles. The water also serves to soak up dust so that the blade and your saw’s motor do not become clogged and overheat.
Where and how can you use your tile saw
Where you plan to use your tile saw is one of the main determining factors in what type of saw you will need. For contractors and professional tilers who are constantly working on large jobs, a stationary saw mounted on a stand or a bench offers the most power. However, these saws also typically require access to a steady supply of running water in order to keep them running coolly. On the other hand, handheld tile saws are a great choice if you are only working on a small project around your house or if portability is a paramount concern for you. Of course, portability comes at a price of power and convenience, since it also takes a lot of pre-cutting work to make sure that the small water reservoirs on these saws are filled and that they remain steady when cutting.
Tips on cutting tile with a tile saw
Tile worker cutting ceramic tiles with a table saw. Shallow depth of field with focus on hands and blade.
For first time tile saw users, there are a number of differences from traditional circular saws that can make them especially tricky to get a handle on. First, you need to decide if you need to use a manual dry tile cutter or a wet saw – most projects only require one or the other, although there may be instances in which you need both. If you only have small, straight cuts to make, a manual scoring tool will typically do the trick. With a little practice at running the scoring wheel over the cut a few times and then pressing down firmly to break the tile, you can make good, clean cuts relatively quickly. For larger jobs, though, you’ll want to use a wet saw.
Whenever using a wet tile saw, overspray is an issue. The best way to deal with this is to place a tent over the entire saw or, in enclosed spaces, to place a tarp behind the saw. You’ll also want to make sure that the blade is wetted before starting on any cuts to preserve the lifespan of your blade. When making cuts, be sure to feed the tile into the blade extremely slowly with two hands on the close end of the tile. The harder the tile material, the slower your feeding rate should be.
Safety is everything
Safety is a big concern with every saw, tile saws included. Like for any saw, you should be sure to wear appropriate clothing – like a sturdy apron – and eye protection to keep yourself safe from any flying saw debris. Ear protection is also a good idea to protect your hearing. While gloves are not strictly necessary, many people find that they help when working with tile because there are many sharp, rough edges that form. Safety boots are also worth considering if you will be working with heavy slabs of tile that could fall on your toes in an accident.
When feeding tile into the blade, be sure to keep your hands on the end of the tile closest to you to keep it steady and always leave plenty of space between your fingers and the blade.
Features that will help you to choose the best tile saw
Tile saws range from heavy-duty stationary saws to small and portable tile saws, so it’s important to understand the features that differentiate saws in order to find the right tool for your project. Here, we’ll cover some of the main features that differentiate tile saws and explain how they can affect a saw’s performance.
Tile saws range in size from massive stationary saws like the Lackmond Beast BEAST7CKIT saw to small, portable saws like the QEP 22650Q 650XT saw. There are important differences in usability between these saws, since the size is often reflective of motor power and the size of the water reservoir, but size can also be important simply for determining if the saw will fit in your garage or in the area where you’ll be working. For many people working at home, the cons of having a massive and powerful stationary saw outweigh the benefits of being able to transport a small, lightweight tile saw into the area where you will be laying the tile once it is cut.
Tile is an extremely hard and brittle material, which makes the power of your saw all the more important. A more powerful saw, like the 2.5-horsepower Chicago Electric 95385 tile saw, will be able to cut through thicker slabs of tile and make longer cuts without wearing down and overheating. While this might not be important for small tile jobs, for contractors working with large volumes of tile at a time it can make or break the saw.
Unlike traditional circular saws, which typically come with carbide-tipped blades, tile saws come with diamond-tipped blades. These blades are more durable when cutting through the hard, brittle material that is tile. Plus, the teeth on these blades are designed not for slicing through the material you are cutting, as on a circular saw, but rather for rapidly chipping away at the tile.
The blade size is an important consideration for three reasons. First, it will determine how much momentum the saw blade carries with it – a larger blade, like the 10-inch blades found on the Dewalt D24000S and Chicago Electric 95385 saws, spinning at a higher rotation rate will have more momentum and thus will be able to cut through thicker, harder tile with less difficulty. The second reason to consider blade size is that it will determine the maximum depth of cut that your saw is capable of – a larger diameter blade will typically have a larger maximum depth of cut. Third, a larger blade actually has more time in each rotation before it comes in contact with the tile again, giving it more time to cool. Although this might seem minuscule, it can make a big difference in the longevity of the blade.
One of the things that manufacturers can do to make their blades more versatile is allowing you to change the blade out for a blade of a smaller diameter. Although this is not likely to be a feature that you use regularly, it can make a big difference when you need to make small, precise cuts in tile.
Depth of cut
The depth of cut describes the maximum thickness of tile that a blade is able to cut through. Since tile saws depend on water cooling from a tray beneath the tile, it is not advisable to cut through a slab of tile longer than the maximum rated depth of cut. The depth of cut is typically related to blade diameter, which is why the Dewalt D24000S and Chicago Electric 95385 saws have the largest depths of cut out of the tile saws we reviewed.
Rip and diagonal cut capacity
The rip capacity of a tile saw is determined by the maximum distance from the saw blade to the fence when it is placed at its further extension. Thus, the rip capacity describes the widest section of tile that you can cut, which can be an important consideration if you are planning to lay large slabs of tile rather than small squares.
There are two main ways in which tiles saws provide water to the blade. The first method uses a reservoir of water with a pump attached to it, which pumps water to and away from the blade so that you are continuously adding cool water. This is a great option when you do not have a continuous water supply available, but this method requires that you keep a close eye on the water reservoir and refill it after every set of cuts. The second method uses a continuous hose line running to and away from the water basin in the tile saw. This is extremely convenient and efficient but does require access to a steady supply of running water.
The weight of the saw is another factor affecting its portability since, as you might expect, heavier saws like the models from Dewalt D24000S and Chicago Electric 95385 will be hard to move around and even more difficult to move to upstairs work sites. However, these heavier saws can also be more stable, especially since they are mounted on work stands.
One of the major advantages to a tile saw’s versatility is the ability to make beveled, or angled cuts. While some high-end saws will allow you to make cuts at any angle between zero and, for example, 45 degrees, other saws, like the Chicago Electric 95385, has specific bevel angles – in this case, 22.5 and 45 degrees.
The arbor is the shaft that the saw blade is mounted on. In general, it is best to choose a tile saw that uses a standard 5/8-inch diameter arbor since there is the largest selection of blades of all diameters for this arbor size when it comes time to replace your saw blade.
As you might expect, accuracy is extremely important when making cuts in any material – not just tile. The accuracy of a tile saw depends on everything from the precision of the fencing and blade to the tightness of all the bolts in the saw. The best way to check whether a tile saw makes accurate cuts is to consult user reviews since contractors and hobbyists alike will note if a tile saw is not accurate.
The voltage that a tile saw draws is typically a reflection of the size of the motor. Importantly, all of the tile saws that we reviewed can run on standard 120-volt outlets and do not require 240-volt shop outlets.
A tile saw is a significant investment in your toolkit, so you want to be sure that the saw you are buying will last for years to come. Most manufacturers offer some length of warranty on their saws to provide peace of mind with your purchase, although these warranties range from only 90 days for the Chicago Electric 95385 saw to three years for the Dewalt D24000S saw.
Feel free to add something you think is important and relevant, and please mention some of the products reviewed as examples in the buying guide, where appropriate.