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Using a Tile Cutter: Tips and Tricks

Installing ceramic tile may seem daunting, but it's actually a relatively simple process to master. With the right tools, such as a tile cutter, and a few helpful tips and tricks, you'll be handling the tricky installations of ceramic tile in no time.

Tackle Wall Niches and Other Openings

When tiling a wall that has a built-in niche, alcove, or window, start by measuring the dimensions of the area you'll have to work around. Then, find the center of your layout and mark it using chalk. Now, lay out your tiles using that central point as a reference. This will ensure that the tiles are evenly and attractively ''framing'' your niche. Cut any tiles around the perimeter with a tile cutter to fit the unique shape of your space. Finally, begin tiling the wall within the niche, going all the way to the corners.

Make Trim Tile Stand Out

If you are using tile trim for your backsplash or wall in your bathroom, you will want it to be raised higher than the field tile it sits next to. If it doesn't, cut a strip of backer board that's the size of your trim. ''Butter'' both sides of the backer board strip with thin-set, stick it to the wall, and set your trim over it. This should bring your trim out just enough for a dimensional look that's appealing to the eye.

Rent a Wet Saw, Don't Buy One

There are two ways to cut ceramic tile. First, you can use a tile cutter, which is a very easy-to-use and inexpensive tool. If you're just tiling a floor that doesn't require you to cut any tile, this is probably all you will need. If you're tiling a shower or other space with pipes, handles, a faucet, or corners, you'll probably need to use a wet saw. Fortunately, you may not have to buy one. Many home improvement centers will let you rent a wet saw, which will save you money and still allow you to complete your project as professionally as possible.

Cut Holes with This Trick

Here's a trick that takes a little patience but works quite well and doesn't require the use of a tile cutter. Draw the hole on your tile with a marker or grease pencil and use a 1/4-inch masonry bit to drill a series of holes that are very closely spaced around the circle. When you're done, use a hammer to very lightly tap the tile along the ring of holes. Tap inside the ring, and it will break free and leave you with a hole. It might be a little rough, but you can always cover it with a escutcheon plate.

Avoid Feeling Cornered

Tiling around corners doesn't have to be hard. If you are handy with an electric tile cutter equipped with a platform that will let you make mitered cuts, go for it. If not, you can neatly grout corners using a caulking tape applicator. This might take a little practice on some spare tile or pieces of wood, but you'll get the hang of it and it looks very nice. If your ceramic tiles have a glazed edge, you can overlap your corners so that one tile butts up over the other. The best and most simple way, however, is to use an L-shaped trim strip.

When tackling a ceramic tile project, these tips and tricks can help you handle tough situations like a pro. If you're still left with questions, try reading Daltile How-To articles. Plan your design, read and follow all directions on products, and let your inspiration flow. Your ceramic tile project will provide you many years of happiness.

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