Tiling tool buying guide
Jennifer, Self-taught DIY enthusiast, Manchester10 guides
- Tracer point
- Tile-cutting machine
What are the essential tiler's tools?
Measuring and marking tools
Measuring tape, set square, spirit level or laser level, flat-leaded pencils or chalk lines, etc.
Mortar Preparation Tools
Mixing and/or measuring buckets and mortar, glue and sealant mixers - manual or electric.
Manual or electric tile cutting machines, hacksaws, handheld tile cutters, specialised drill bits, pliers, sanding blocks, etc.
More about essential tiling tools
After that, you'll need cutting tools - consider your available work surfaces and the different cutting tasks you'll have to do. Depending on the conclusions you draw, you can then choose between manual and electric tools!
Differences between manual and electric tiling kit
Hand tools: pliers and cutters
On the manual side of the fence, there's a broad choice of cutting tools: manual tile cutter, saw or cutting pliers. They can be a bind in terms of physical effort and time, however. Moreover, they're not really suitable for thicker tiles, such as floor tiles. Their use is limited to occasional minor tasks (touching up an existing tiled surface, for example) and wall tiling.
Electric tools: tile-cutting machine
On the electric side, there are only advantages:
- Saved time and effort;
- Suitability for different tile thicknesses.
How to choose your electric tile-cutting machine?
This is the most versatile cutting tool provided you choose one with an adjustable cutting board enabling cutting at an angle.
The machine cuts tiles via the abrasion of a bronze disc - designed for fine (e.g. earthenware) tiles, the disc diameter is generally between 100 and 230mm. A cobalt alternative - designed for all types of tiles - is available in the same size range. Cutting depth is up to 40mm or more. Curves are possible but generally require several separate cuts.
Thermal motor protection will prolong the life of your tile-cutting machine and avoid overheating to enable hours more work at a stretch.
Thermal motor protection
A water collector prevents splashes and heating the disc, giving a cleaner cut.
Tiltable cutting board
Manual tile cutters: advantages and disadvantages
They operate by a wheel and then lever action: a first pass defines the cut line - marking the tile - and then it's actually cut via a second lever movement.
As already noted, the manual cutter doesn't allow curved cuts and is limited in its allowable tile thickness.
The principal advantage: it doesn't use electricity and is very cheap to purchase.
For curved cuts, you'd also need to get hold of:
- A hacksaw and/or tungsten carbide tracer tip to mark out the desired shape (the tip digs a groove in the tile like a glass cutter and then a simple lever movement breaks the tile along the groove);
- Clipping pliers for trimming;
- A sanding block for finishing tile edges;
- Cutting pliers will do for very thin tiles.
The manual tile cutter, despite its lack of versatility, is still satisfactory for small jobs and thinner tiles - such as earthenware. The device's cutting board comes with an integrated set square for added ease of use. Anti-vibration and non-slip rollers are available on some models, providing improved stability when cutting.
Notwithstanding these plus points, if you've got a whole apartment to renovate you're better off with an electric tile cutter!
How do I drill into tile?
Cross spacers and glue comb: ideal for tiling
Cross spacers come in a variety of sizes - depending on the gap you want to leave between tiles. You can even get self-levelling versions - perfect if you're not sure your surface is completely flat.
This piece of kit lets you spread your grout uniformly, leaving the appropriate form of grooves: by and large, a U-shaped spreader is ideal for floors and a V-shaped for walls. Tooth spacing varies from 6 to 9mm depending on tile size.
6mm U-shaped spreaders are suitable for floor tiles with a surface area of 300cm² and 9mm for a surface area of 900cm². Beyond 300 cm², you're best double-grouting;
V-shaped spreader6mm V-shaped spreaders are suitable for wall tiles - under 100cm², single-grouted; over, double-grouted;
Half-moon spreaderHalf-moon spreaders are suitable for laying large tiles and let you avoid double-grouting on small surfaces (<900cm²);
E-shaped spreaderE-shaped spreaders are suitable for full grouting.
Personal and protective gear
Jennifer, Self-taught DIY enthusiast, Manchester 10 guides écrits
I didn’t receive any special training, I learned everything on the job as it came up. And what a joy it is to be able to do little jobs around the house that we love so much.That is, until the moment we decided to move and had to do everything; from the floor to the ceiling, from the kitchen to the bathroom...In short, you become as good as a pros.
So today, my friends don’t hesitate to call me when they need help. And when you dip your toe in, there’s no turning back. It’s a true passion that drives us to take on the challenges, to have an idea in mind and see it come alive with just a few tools. And a passion is even better when you can share it. So, whenever I can give you a little advice, it’s with great pleasure that I do it.
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