Cutting tile is one of the challenges to laying it. Nearly every layout will have some cuts to make. If the room is square, level & plumb then it’s a lot easier, but often it’s not and the tile has to be cut to compensate for this. The more complicated cuts involve making notches to go around things like cabinets or outets. What if you need to make a hole in the tile?
There are several occasions when you need to make a hole in the middle of a tile. In my case, it involved the faucet/valve openings for the shower surround at my latest project. I was using larger 12″ tiles which increased my chances that the hole would land in the center of a tile.
The smaller opening where the faucet comes through is quite small. For this I’ve got a small 1 3/8″ carbide-tipped hole saw bit that inserts into my drill and allows me to drill holes through tile. Make sure that the hole will be covered up by the fixtures after it’s all finished. Most showerheads or sink valves will have a pipe escutcheon, which is a small cover that goes around the protruding pipe to cover the gap from the holes through the wall.
The more difficult hole was for the shower valve, which was around a 4″ square in the middle of the tile. The first step was to measure very carefully and mark the cut on the tile. Sometimes a wax pencil is good for this because it doesn’t wash off as easily while you’re cutting.
After marking, I needed to make a plunge cut using my wet saw. This is a little outside the design of my saw, but it can be done. My larger Felker saw, like many wet saws, has a tray that slides and moves the tile into the stationary blade. To do the plunge cut, I leaned the tile against the tray, but held it up so tht the blade would enter the middle of the tile like a plunge cut. You cannot cut all the way through, just cut until the cut is the width of your hole. I did this for all four sides and then flipped the tile over and finished cutting the hole out from the back.
This process worked great in my case. You can also make holes like this using a handheld tile saw. They look like a small circular saw, but they use a smaller carbide blade and are meant for tough tile cuts. Another option is to use a tile cutting blade in an angle grinder. This may be harder to control, but should get the job done.
I’m not sure I would try this with a smaller table-type wet saw without the sliding tray. I’m not sure how you could guide the blade to the right spot since it would be hidden underneath from view. However, if this is all you’ve got, it can probably be done with a little creativity and patience. Just be prepared for a ‘do-over’ or two…
Again, make sure to dry-fit the piece before you mortar and make sure that the trim or fixture will cover your hole, you don’t want to find out later that one of your stray cuts is exposed for all to see.