How to Cut a Circle in Tile

When it comes to dirty, four-letter words, I believe tile should be added to the list. Tile, especially porcelain tile can be difficult to work with and easy to break. It’s no wonder that many home craftsmen don’t feel comfortable working with it.

But, fear not, because working with tile doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Today, we’re going to tackle how to cut a circle in tile, so you can go into your next remodeling project with confidence.

What You’ll Need

Thankfully, learning how to cut a circle in tile doesn’t require a litany of extra tools. You may need to buy a bit or two for your drill. Outside of that, you’ll be able to complete this project with tools you already have available. You'll need:

Step I: Choosing the Proper Tool

For most jobs, a hole saw is an ideal tool to get the job done. A hole saw will cut a perfectly round hole to the exact size you need it. However, for cutting larger circles, a hole saw may not be a viable option.

There’s hole saw sets that provide you with different bits in the most popular sizes. But, if you don’t have one already and don’t plan on getting much use out of a set of hole saws, you can buy them individually, too.

You’ll want to figure out the circumference of the circle you need to cut, and then select an appropriately sized hole saw. If you need to cut a hole larger than 4”, you’re going to have a hard time finding an appropriately sized hole saw.

For larger holes, you’ll want to reach for your trusty angle grinder for the job.

Step II: Preparing to Cut

Now that you’ve decided on the best tool for your project, it’s time to get ready to make your cut.

If you’re going to be using a hole saw for this job, you can skip the majority of this step. But, if you’ll be cutting a larger hole, you’ll want to first trace the shape of the hole on the back side of your tile. A circle template or a french curve may also come in handy as you trace the hole.

Once you’ve traced the hole, you’re almost ready to begin cutting, and all that’s left to do is make sure you’re working safely. Take a moment to throw on gloves and safety goggles. You may also want to consider hearing protection if you’re working with the angle grinder.

Step III: Cutting the Hole

We’ll break this down into two sections, depending on which tool you’ll be using to cut.

Hole Saw

If you’re using a hole saw, the job is as easy as pie.

The first thing you’ll want to do is get the tile that you’re cutting nice and wet to reduce the friction and heat generated as you cut. An alternative to this is to dip your hole saw bit in some cooling oil before beginning the cut.

Next, set your drill to a low setting, and position the drill so that the bit in the middle of the hole saw is at the exact middle of where you’d like your circle to be cut. Grip the tile firmly with your free hand and very slowly begin drilling into the tile. Once the hole saw has begun to make its cut, you can speed the drill up.

If the bit is getting too hot, stop cutting and add some more water to the surface to help cool it down.

Angle Grinder

An angle grinder is an indispensable tool for so many projects, including cutting large circles in tile.

First, clamp the tile you’re going to be cutting firmly against your workbench. This will keep your tile in place so you can focus on cutting.

Turn your angle grinder on and prepare to make your first pass on the tile. Begin your cut at the position in the circle that’s most comfortable for you. As you cut, apply very little pressure to the grinder and allow the blade to do all the work.

Completing the cut will require several passes, and in this case, slow and steady wins the race. Don’t rush, take your time, and you’ll be able to produce a professional looking finished product each time.

Step IV: Cleaning Up

At this point, you should have a nice perfect circle in the middle of your tile, and all there’s left to do is clean up. I like to use a damp rag to remove any remaining ceramic dust from the front and back side of the tile.

If you used an angle grinder to cut your circle and your circle is less than perfect, you can use a tile file to round out any imperfections before moving on with your project.

Final Word

Learning how to cut a circle in tile can be harrowing work for the novice craftsman. While working with tile can be tedious and difficult, this job doesn’t have to be. As long as you follow the tips outlined above, you should be a tile-cutting pro in no time!

About Gus Donaldson

I built houses for over 30 years and recently retired. I've made lots of mistakes and hopefully teach you not to make the same ones. I still love to build and have a garage workshop that I use for hobby projects like the walnut bookshelf I made for my wife. I like to write and let people know that working with your hands and tools does not need to be intimidating.

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