This post is for those asking themselves whether they should rent or buy a tile saw and then after making that decision, what type of wet saw to use for your tile project. Below are the answers to those questions and a little more. Please let me know if this helps you in your decision on which tile saw to buy.
Okay, you have decided to replace your carpet with ceramic tile. Or, perhaps you are feeling even more adventurous and plan to tile your entire bathroom. You can see it now; the floor in mosaic, walls in marble and shower floor in glass. This article focuses on tile tools so I’ll omit any discussion about tile selection, preparation and application. Will you need a tile saw? Should you rent one for the weekend? Should you just measure the pieces to be cut and take them to a tile shop to be cut? What about using a manual score and break cutter?
Over the years I have done a few tile jobs and think I can help you decide. My approach to any job is to do it right. I want a perfect job and I’m willing to put in the effort to do it right. I don’t want to spend a lot of money but if I need to buy something to get the job done I’ll do it. The answer is simple. So simple, you will spend the next few hours questioning the logic. Ready, here it is. You need a wet saw, manual tile cutter and tile nippers. And, depending on how many intricate rounded or 90 degree cuts the project dictates you will also want to buy few ceramic tile blades for your jig saw.
About now you are probably wondering why anyone simply doing one small bathroom or floor would want to invest in this equipment. Here’s why; these tools will simplify your life and provide a more finished looking product. Renting is an option if you know what you are doing. Otherwise, you will be in such a rush to finish and return the saw project quality will suffer. Instead, use some of the labor dollars you are saving by tackling this project and purchase yourself some low to medium level equipment. The cost of buying versus renting will be fairly close. Buying the best isn’t necessary for a couple of small do it yourself tile jobs. The low to mid range equipment provides clean straight cuts at a fraction of the price. This range of tool may not be quite as efficient or lasting but it will without a doubt outlast your needs. And more importantly, you can take your time and do the job right. Some times you may find yourself making several cuts to get that perfect fit.
Saw blades; a new saw, of any level, cuts tile like a dream. It’s time to replace the blade when you need to push instead of just guide the tile. Tile saws, also called wet saws use water to cool the blade as it cuts the tile. A reservoir holds the water and needs to be refilled often. Higher end saws may maintain a constant level in the reservoir while the entry level units require the user to manually check and fill the reservoir. Another main difference between inexpensive and high dollar wet saws is how the cut is performed. With low-end units you push the tile into the blade. The high dollar saws makes the cut by pulling the blade across a stationary tile. This method requires less effort and is more precise because the tile doesn’t move and the blade is pulled along fixed shaft. If you are familiar with radial arm saws then this should make sense. Another factor in selecting a tile saw is the size and thickness of the tile to be cut. As you might guess larger and or thicker tile requires larger more professional grade equipment to cut.
A few words on manual tile cutters, nippers, jig saw blades and maybe hole saws. Compared to a wet saw or the materials these are cheap and you will need them. Believe it or not, sometimes it faster and easier to make a straight cut with a manual tile cutter than using your wet saw. Nippers allow you to clean a cut or produce an odd shape. Jigsaw blades do a good job on the intricate cuts. Hole saws, as the name implies lets you cut a hole in the tile. Holes saws aren’t essential but if you have a pipe to tile around they produce a nice look. Otherwise, you cut the tile in two and cut a semi-circle in each half. This is a common method and looks good but it could look better.
Manual Tile Cutter
The final cut, if money is no object and you like cool tools the high dollar saw is probably the one for you. Otherwise, I recommend that entry level do-it-yourself tile setters purchasing whatever entry or mid level saw that fits the job at hand. Over purchasing is a waste. However, if you plan to become a professional tile setter then spring for the best tool you can afford. If not you will spend more time and effort than necessary finishing your jobs and repairing your equipment.