Best Tile Saw
Cutting tile poses special challenges. Not only is this material extremely hard and abrasive which destroys normal saw blades easily, but it’s extremely brittle giving it a tendency to break and chip in unwanted ways. Because of this, special saws are required with special blades designed just for cutting tile.
Typically, diamond blades are used to cut tile which consist of diamond dust glued to a metal saw blade. There are also some abrasive blades used for cutting tile but they’re usually used when cutting tile with saws other than actual tile saws.
While most tile saws are stationary, there are some manufacturers who also provide handheld saws but these are mostly used for touchup work rather than cutting full tiles. They’re not as maneuverable as regular handheld saws such as circular saws, due to the need for a water bottle to cool the blade.
Before looking at the tile saws we've selected, we recommend taking a moment to look at our tile saw buyer's guide below which will help you choose from the variety of models available.
Best Tabletop Tile Saw:
If you’re planning on laying a lot of ceramic tile on your floor, you may want to consider buying a tile saw. While rather an expensive investment, the ease of making complex and accurate cuts in both wall and floor tile makes it worthwhile.
Tile saws come in two basic models. There’s under table models which are something like a table saw where instead of moving the saw blade, like on an overhead model, the tile is placed on a platform which glides on rails. Then there’s overhead models which function like a radial arm saw; some of the higher-end models have the capability to make plunge cuts.
The most expensive part of either of these systems is the diamond blade. To keep it cool and remove dust, they all have a pump to run a constant spray of water into the cut.
What makes the difference between the big dogs in this category and the puppies? Here’s s few important specs to look at:
Motor size – The stronger the motor, the faster a cut you can make without bogging the saw down.
Blade capacity – On a radial arm saw, blade capacity affects how thick a piece of wood you can cut. Here, we’re talking about material that will be a maximum of 3/8 of an inch thick. However, blade size affects what percentage of the blade revolution is making contact with the tile you’re cutting. This means larger blades will last longer.
Length of cut – There’s usually two specs for this, the “length of cut” and “diagonally cuts” which tell you the largest tile you can cut at a 45 degree angle. This is important for the obvious reason of how big a tile you can cut.
Other than those specs, you want to be looking at how rugged a saw is built. These models are designed to be portable, completely self-contained units to be taken from one job site to another. At the same time, rugged manufacture is going to have a lot to do with how long the unit works without any problems. The good news is when these machines do have issues, their manufacturers have ready stocks of parts and downloadable diagrams.
Lackmond produces the only tile saw with both a LED work light and a laser guide for the saw blade. This saw comes equipped with a 2.4 HP motor, which provides plenty of power for whatever you need to cut. Read Full Review
For a big saw at a little less of a price, take a look at the QEP 30-inch Professional Bridge Saw. This unit gives you lots of size for the money. While not as heavy-duty as the MK Diamond unit, it’s still an overhead model, with the saw blade moving, instead of the material you are cutting. Read Full Review
This is one of the many models MK Diamond produces. I picked this particular model for its ease of use. Although it comes with a 10-inch cutting blade, it can also accommodate 6-inch and 8-inch versions as well. Read Full Review
Bosch makes one of the most popular tile saws on the market. This saw has an over-sized tray for minimizing over-spray, along with a rubberized table for secure positioning of the tile. Read Full Review
Best Handheld Tile Saw:
Most tile cutting is done with stationary tile saws or tile breakers but there are always a few cases where a handheld tile saw is necessary, especially for small repair jobs or adjusting a cut to fit around something. While those cuts may be able to be made on a stationary tile saw, being able to use a worthwhile handheld tile saw can save you time.
The big problem in trying to use a handheld tile saw is in keeping the blade cool. All saw and cutting blades heat up from the friction of cutting through materials; the harder the material being cut, the more friction and heat produced. To dissipate this heat, tile saws are typically water cooled and doing that on a handheld saw is challenging to say the least.
That’s not to say that these saws aren’t water cooled as four out of five of these picks are. Two of them use gravity feed water bottles and the other two are fed off a hose. Of course, that causes the problem of disposing of the water, unless the water can spill onto the floor without causing problems.
The bottle-fed cooling systems are mounted on cordless saws, for maximum portability and flexibility. Without having to fight with power cords and water hoses, the saw can be taken anywhere, even where water and power sources aren’t available. The corded units, which use a water hose instead of a bottle, can provide more water to the blade for better cooling and longer blade life.
In all cases, these are circular saws, using a diamond blade. The blade is much smaller than a typical circular saw used for cutting wood. Blade sizes range from 3-3/8” at the low end, through 4-3/8” at the high end. However, blade size really isn’t much of an issue, as these are intended for cutting through tile, which is usually only 1/4” thick. Regardless of what anyone says, the major advantage a larger blade provides is the ability to cut through thicker material.
Since the major purpose of buying a handheld tile saw is portability, there is a real advantage in buying the cordless models (especially the C.R. Lawrence saw) as they provide the greatest portability. None of the other saws, even the Ryobi cordless, provide as small a profile, making it possible to cut in the tightest spaces.
The C.R. Lawrence cordless saw has a lot going for it, starting with the fact it's actually a Makita cordless modified for tile cutting. This is the smallest handheld tile saw, which makes it ideal for tight spots and plunge cutting. Read Full Review
DeWalt's tile saw is a more traditional circular saw, with the addition of a water line. It runs at 13,000 RPM for fast cutting. The lock-on button saves your fingers from getting tired on long cuts. Read Full Review
Hitachi is making a statement by calling their handheld saw a masonry saw, meaning they feel it's heavy-duty enough to handle much more than just cutting tile. I believe it because this saw comes with sealing bearings and motor armature help ensure long service life. Read Full Review
MK Diamond produces a wide range of tile saws and their handheld unit is a dry saw only. Similar in design to Skil's unit, it might have been made by them. Read Full Review
QEP is one of the largest manufacturers of tile saws, with an extensive lineup. If you don't use one all the time, this is a great bargain. Read Full Review
Best Tile Saw Buyer's Guide
Tile saws are specialty saws, designed specifically for cutting ceramic tile. These saws look like a standard circular saw that has been mounted over a sliding table with a large water pan underneath. However, while the saw head itself looks like a circular saw, this is where the similarities end.
Tile cutting blades used in tile saws are diamond blades, the same as are used for stone and concrete. These blades create a cut by rapidly chipping at the material rather than what is normally considered cutting. To give longer life to the saw blade, it is continually cooled by a stream of water. The same water also prevents the dust from building up in the blade, helping to keep it cutting efficiently.
Since water is used in the saw, it’s necessary to seal the bearings and electronics to prevent the water from getting into the body of the saw where it can cause damage as well as against tile dust as which can destroy seals and bearings.
Most tile cutting is done with stationary saws, whether stand-mounted or bench-mounted. That’s because these larger saws make it easier to provide the water stream to the saw blade. While there are several designs for these, the most common design has the saw table moving past a stationary overhead circular saw blade. The tile is laid on the saw table and cut by the blade.
It is theoretically possible to cut tile without a tile saw, using a table saw or radial arm saw with a special fiber blade which I’ve done myself. However, it’s extremely slow and the blades don’t last as long due to the lack of cooling provided to the blade.
Plunge cutting of tile is tricky, but both stationary and hand-held saws are designed with this in mind. It’s not uncommon to have to plunge cut tiles for the installation of light switches and electrical outlets. To accommodate this, most tile saws are designed with some plunge capability. A tile saw without plunge capability severely limits what the user can do with the saw.
Stationary (Tabletop) vs. Handheld Tile Saws
The vast majority of tile saws are stationary saws, intended to be used on a stand or sitting on a table or workbench. This saw design allows it to circulate water efficiently, reduce water consumption, as well as cut down on the resulting mess. Stationary saws make it much easier to cut a straight line, as the saw blade is stationary and the tile is on a sliding table.
Handheld tile saws look a lot like a small, modified circular saw. Typical blade sizes are 4" and 4.5". These saws really aren't designed for major cutting, as the water bottle holds a limited amount of water. However, when small cuts need to be made, cleaning up a tile, or notching it to go around something, a handheld saw works well.
Typically, handheld tile saws are only used by professional installers who do enough volume to warrant a second saw. That mostly means situations where they are working as a team doing large projects. Most projects can be handled just as well with a single stationary saw.
What to Look for in a Tile Saw
Most tile saws look pretty much alike, making it hard to select between them. However, there are some differences which should be considered. Some of these might limit the work you can do, especially if you’re thinking of using tiles which are larger than standard.
As with most saws, the bigger the motor, the better. A lot of friction is produced when cutting tile, so it’s important to have a motor which can overcome that friction. If the saw has a smaller motor, it will cause you to cut slower, so that the saw doesn't bog down.
Keep in mind that pushing material through the saw too quickly will reduce saw blade life. Considering the cost of these blades, reducing their life by overheating them would be a considerable waste of money.
Blade size wouldn't seem to matter much on a saw that is cutting thin material, but it actually makes a difference. The major difference isn't in the capacity of the saw, but rather in the life of the blades. Larger blades have less in contact with the tile, allowing them more time to cool on every revolution. This in turn helps to extend the blades service life.
When we are talking about the saw's capacity, we're talking about the size of tile it can cut. The largest common size for tile is 16” square, although some types of tiles can be larger. Most stationary tile saws provide a 24” cutting stroke, ensuring that they can cut these tiles, even at a 45 degree angle. A few larger tile saws exist with capacities up to 36”.
If all you’re ever going to cut is standard sized floor or wall tile, then a standard size stationary tile saw will be sufficient. However, there are some applications such as cutting stone which require a larger capacity. If you do that type of work, you may want to look at larger saws.
Cutting Architectural Stone
The same saws used for cutting tile can also be used for cutting stone architectural cladding. This is commonly used in commercial buildings, to give the appearance of having a stone wall or column. In reality, the stone is only 1/4” thick, mounted onto a wood column with a special mounting system. Since glazed clay tile and stone cladding are almost the same thing with the same cutting requirements, tile saws can also be used for that purpose.