Unless you're tiling a small area like a splashback which you can restrict to whole tiles only, you'll need to cut your tiles to fit. You can choose from a whole range of hand and power tools to do this - some of which are easier to use than others. What you go for will depend on the size of the job and your budget.
Tools & materials required
For your comfort and protection, it's a good idea to wear knee pads when you're working on your floor. Please remember to keep sharp knives out of the way of children.
How to use a tile scribe to cut wall tiles
A tile scribe is the simplest and cheapest tool you can use to make straight cuts through tiles. It has a hardened tip which cuts them cleanly.
Top tip - File your tiles
A tile file is ideal for smoothing down rough edges from a cut tile. Hold it square on to the edge to get the best results.
Measure the gap you need to fill, and add your measurements to the tile. Then use a steel rule and chinagraph pencil (or a felt-tip pen) to mark a cutting line across it. Take care that your rule doesn't slip as you make your mark.
Hold the rule firmly and score along the line with the tile scribe in one stroke, using enough pressure to cut right through the glaze. Then put a pencil beneath the scored line and press down each side. You should then be able to snap the tile cleanly in two.
How to use a combined scorer/snapper for tiling walls
It's not always easy to snap tiles with a tile scribe. But a combined tile scorer/snapper does a really good job and you only need to use a little pressure to operate it.
Start by marking the tile you need to cut in the normal way. Then, using a steel rule as a guide, run the cutting wheel of the tool along the line - pressing down firmly to score the glaze.
Put the tile between the jaws of the tool and line up the scored line with the centre mark. Squeeze the handles and the tile will snap in two.
How to make curved cuts in wall tiles
There are lots of ways to make curved cuts in tiles, but one of the simplest is to use a tile saw. This has a round blade, which helps you change direction easily.
Take a piece of paper or card the same size as the tile, and cut it to the shape you need. Then lay it over the tile and mark the shape on the face.
Clamp your tile securely and cut along the line with a tile saw. Check the fit of the tile and make any adjustments with a tile file.
How to use a tile-cutting machine
This hard-wearing lever-action tool has a scorer and snapper with a sturdy bed, which supports the tile. Some also have a removable gauge for measuring the tiles, and even make an allowance for a grout gap and tapered cut. Tile-cutting machines aren't expensive and are pretty simple to use.
Mark the tile you want to cut and put it into the machine, lining up the mark with the tool's guide. Lower the handle to bring the scorer into contact with the tile, then press down and push the handle forward to score it.
Fit the tile into the slide of the handle, carefully aligning the scored mark with the guide. Then lower the handle until you can feel the snapper touch the underneath of the tile.
Press down firmly on the handle to snap the tile along the cutting line.
How to cut around pipes when you're tiling walls
If you're lucky, a pipe might fall on the joint line between two tiles. But if not, you'll have to split it on the pipe's centre-line and make cut-outs in each piece.
Start tiling the wall to one side of the pipe and just below it. Then, using another tile as a guide to ensure square lines, make pencil marks on the wall level with the top, bottom and both sides of the pipe.
Now transfer the marks to the tile for cutting, using a felt-tip pen or chinagraph pencil. Make sure you support the tile on tile spacers while you do this, otherwise the marks will be in the wrong place.
Using a try square or another tile, join up the lines across the tile. Where they cross, they'll form a square. Stand an off-cut of pipe (the same size as the wall pipe) in the square and draw around it. Then cut the tile in two, so the cut passes through the centre of the circle.
To remove waste from the two pieces of tile you could use a tile saw, a jigsaw fitted with a tile cutting blade or a rotary cutter. With the last two, choose a slow speed, hold the tool still and rotate the tile around the blade. Try to keep inside the marked line and use a tile file to make any adjustments. Alternatively, you could break away small pieces with a pair of tile nippers until the cut-outs are the size you need.
Check the fit of the two pieces of tile around the pipe. If all's well, put some adhesive on the back of each piece and stick them to the wall. You should find that the joint between the two pieces is virtually invisible, and you can easily fill any gaps around the pipe when you grout the tiles.
How to cut tiles to fit a window recess
As window recesses are narrow, you'll need to cut your tiles to fit all round them. Do this in a similar way as you would for external corners. After tiling the face of the wall, tile the head of the recess, then the sides and lastly the bottom.
If you're using glazed-edge tiles, you won't need corner trim. Tile the face of your wall up to the recess, then tile the recess - placing your tiles so they cover the edges of those on the face of the wall. It's best to work back towards the window frame.
Using corner trim
Tile the face of your wall, making sure the edges of the tiles are flush with the window recess. After that, fit lengths of corner trim around the recess so they're flush with the tile faces, and mitre the ends to make them neat. Then tile the recess, working back from the trim.