While it’s always a good idea to use the right tool for the job, the case may be that you don’t have access to a wet tile saw for whatever reason. This may lead you to wonder whether or not your miter saw is capable of cutting tile.
Miter saws are able to cut tile in small quantities when fitted with the appropriate blade. The blade attachment must be either diamond or carbide with a turbo rim or segmented rim design. Turbo and segmented rim blades contain gaps that release heat into the surrounding air, which is essential when cutting tile.
Cutting tile with a miter saw comes with quite a few risks. Here, I cover the safety precautions you need to undertake, as well as a step-by-step guide on how to cut tile the right way. But first, some essential information on tile-cutting blades.
The two important features of tile-cutting miter saw blades
Traditionally, miter saws are used for working with wood or sometimes metal. However, through modern innovation, blades have been created that are able to cut an increasing variety of materials.
In order to dry-cut safely, you must first select a diamond or carbide blade, which has been specially designed for dry-cutting.
Use diamond or carbide blades
Though the miter saw is not the ideal power tool for cutting tile, it’s perfectly capable of doing the job if a diamond or carbide blade manufactured for dry use is installed. You should only cut dry with a blade that has been specifically designed for dry cutting by the manufacturer.
Diamond and carbide blades for dry cutting are usually different from blades used for wet cutting. Continuous rim blades for wet tile saws have been designed so that a flow of water is constantly cooling the blade during operation.
If a diamond blade is used dry or with insufficient amounts of water, the blade can overheat and become damaged. Even worse, the segment on the blade might even break free, causing it to fly out. Obviously, this would have serious consequences for both the user and others nearby.
Use turbo rim or segmented rim blades
When purchasing a diamond or carbide blade for dry cutting, you must buy one that has either a turbo rim or a segmented rim. Both turbo rim and segmented rim blades have gaps that ensure the heat is dissipated into the surrounding air.
When installing the blade into your miter saw, you must make sure that it’s fitted in the correct direction. If you make the mistake of fitting the blade so that it turns backward, the blade will wear out prematurely.
Dry-cutting tile will result in a lot of dust, so it’s a good idea to connect a wet/dry vac to the miter saw’s vacuum port to stop the problem of excessive dust. If you don’t have a wet/dry vac, you should be able to use a standard household vacuum.
While miter saws are perfectly able to cut tile, there are a number of potential issues that could arise if the correct technique is not carried out.
Risk of danger
When you’re cutting tile with a miter saw, make sure to keep your fingers well clear of the blade when holding it in place. Never attempt a cut if your fingers are within a couple of inches of the blade.
Wet tile saws fitted with diamond blades will not cut your fingers, whereas dry-cutting diamond blades will. If you’re unable to hold the tile down at a safe enough distance, you must make use of a wet tile saw.
Blade overheating and shattering
Overheating is a very real concern when dry-cutting tile. Even when using the correct blade, excessive heat will be generated during the cutting process that can damage the blade. As a result, the operation can be extremely dangerous if the correct technique is not used.
Because dry-cutting uses air to cool the blade instead of water, it’s important to only carry out intermittent and shallow cutting so that the air is able to flow around the blade, cooling it sufficiently.
Never carry out continual cutting without allowing the blade to cool. After each cut, release the pressure on the blade and allow it to cool by running the blade freely at full speed.
Performing shallow cuts is best in order to avoid the problem of the blade overheating. If you need to make a deep cut, make sure to complete the task by making several more shallow cuts (step cuts) at a time.
Never force the blade but allow it to cut at its own speed. This will ensure that the blade doesn’t overheat and become damaged.
Blade shattering is also something that you should be aware of. While it is unlikely to happen if you’re only cutting a few tiles, it’s a real possibility if you’re going to be dry-cutting tile all day long.
Because of the amount of dust that is created when dry-cutting tile, it’s vitally important to wear additional face protection. A good-quality filter mask should also be used to stop you from breathing in the dust.
Dust may also cause problems with your miter saw. The fine dust particles are the perfect fit for getting in clogging up your motor windings.
Although it would probably take several months’ use to cause lasting damage, it wouldn’t take very long at all for the dust to burn out the motor if you were continually dry-cutting tile.
If you have access to a chop saw, then its enclosed housing makes it a far more suitable option for continual dry-cutting as the motor is protected from flying dust.
Dedicated tile saws allow you to feed the blade horizontally, which results in a highly accurate cut. Unfortunately, there is a real chance of your miter saw coming down on the tile in a pinching motion, which definitely sacrifices accuracy.
How to cut tile with a miter saw
In order to properly carry out straight cuts, angle cuts, and square cuts (or any cut apart from circular cuts), you will need the following equipment:
What you’ll need
- Safety glasses
- Ear plugs
- Tape measure
- Diamond or carbide blade
- Miter saw
How to make straight cuts
- Carefully mark the face of the tile where you need to cut using a pencil and tape measure.
- Place the tile directly onto the miter saw tray and hold it firmly in place.
- Squeeze the miter saw’s trigger and gently pull the blade downward onto the tile.
How to make angle cuts
- Begin by loosening the adjustment bolts on the miter saw to angle the blade.
- Use the miter saw gauge to set the appropriate angle blade percentage you need or use the marks on your tile as a guide.
- You should now angle the blade left or right for angle cuts on the face. For edge miters, angle the blade up or down to the left.
How to make square cuts
- Make square cut-outs using the drop feature of the blade. Begin by marking the back of the tile and then place it face down on the tray.
- Mark the cut-out on the back of the tile and place it face down on the tray.
- Holding the tile securely in place, pull the blade downward onto the tile where you’ve made your marks. Turn the tile as needed in order to cut all edges of the cut-out.
- Hit the cut-out lightly with your knuckle until it falls out.
Note: Because the blade is rounded and angles upward slightly within the notches of the cut, it’s best to cut slightly beyond your marks for backside cut-outs. Push the blade down into the tile a minimum of 1/8 inch (3mm) beyond the marks for backside cuts.