The Best Tile Saws in 2019
There’s no real replacement for a tile saw in the home. These abrasive powerhouses can make quick work of tile, porcelain, and even stone during the course of their lifetime. For most people, the question is how to find the best tile saw since they’re a relatively common tool.
If you’ve been looking to make sure that you’ve got the right one for your needs then you’ve come to the right place. Check out our top pick and then read on and see if you can’t find the right saw for your own needs.
An excellent option for home use that will last for years to come, the Porter-Cable PCE980 combines form, function, and price into a cohesive package that makes it our top pick for the home DIYer. If you need to cut tile, masonry, or stone at home then this one is exactly what you’re looking for.
In This Article:
- 1 Top Pick
- 2 The 5 Top-Rated Tile Saws
- 3 Who Needs a Tile Saw?
- 4 How We Selected the Tile Saws
- 5 How We Tested the Tile Saws
- 6 Top 5 Tile Saws
- 7 Cutting to the Heart of the Matter
- 8 The Basic Piece of Tile Saw Maintenance That Most Forget
- 9 Tile Saw FAQ
- 10 Making the Cut… in Tile
The 5 Top-Rated Tile Saws
|Best Overall Tile Saw for Home Use||PORTER-CABLE PCE980|
|Best Tile Saw for Splash Control||SKIL 3550-02|
|Best Contractor Tile Saw||DEWALT D24000S|
|Best Budget Tile Saw||QEP 22650Q 650XT|
|The One Job Wonder||WEN 71745|
Who Needs a Tile Saw?
Almost everyone will find a use for a tile saw over the course of a home’s lifespan. The question is whether you need a dedicated saw or if a simple tile cutter is best for you.
For the most part, the expense of a middle-of-the-line tile saw isn’t that bad. If you’re even thinking about approaching a dedicated tile job, say re-finishing a bathroom floor, you should look into making sure you’ve got one around.
Other people have found a use for them as a cheap alternative to lapidary saws. While the kerf of the blade is quite a bit wider than you’ll find on a dedicated rock saw they’re a much cheaper way for a hobbyist to slice slabs compared to specialized trim saws. Just don’t expect too much of them and know that the blades will wear quite quickly during use.
Chances are if you’re here then you’re looking for a wet tile saw to ensure a much smoother time working a tile job. If you only need to cut a couple of tiles for a quick fix, however, you may want to think about saving some money by taking a look at the tile cutter we noted above.
How We Selected the Tile Saws
During this round of our reviews, we decided to call a few tile specialists to see what they recommended for home-usage. Their opinions varied quite a bit, contractors get attached to their tools after all, but we cross-referenced with online reviews before purchase and settled on twelve different saws of which five made the final cut for our recommendations.
While we were choosing the saws we took the following into account as well.
Overall Build Quality
All but one of our finalists are very solid items. The last one we can only recommend due to its extremely low price in comparison to the other saws and the fact that it actually worked surprisingly well throughout the testing process.
Tile saws see a lot of abuse in the field so they need to be built tough. Think about it: you’re cutting through an extremely hard substance at a decent rate of speed and chances are you’re not going to slow down long enough to clean them out in between each use even though you really should.
Build quality is always a huge factor in tools, however, and that means we spent a good, long time taking a look at the overall construction before we even began to test the saws out.
The blades used for tile are quite a bit different than those used for cutting wood or even metal. Instead of relying on teeth, the blade is either formed from an abrasive material or the metal is impregnated with something like diamond to allow you to cut through even the hardest materials.
Blade size is mostly a factor for those who want to cut rocks or masonry, where an 8” or larger blade is quite desirable. A 6” blade will work through almost any tile quite easily.
However, there’s a hidden factor: due to the abrasive nature of the blades even a couple inches of difference will allow a blade to last much longer. Tile blades generally aren’t cheap, and if they are then it’s a good indicator the blade will have an extremely limited lifespan over time.
We initially considered the power of the saws, but in practice, we found that the blades and arbor make far more of a difference than the amperage of the saw. This can be safely ignored for the average home DIY-type, remember that tile saws cut through abrasive action rather than by chipping material like a standard saw blade.
The majority of tile saws will have some form of water reservoir to enable them to cut smoothly. Indeed, we didn’t even consider any of the few dry saws available due to complications with the dust and blade life. You’re better off with a manual score-and-strike style cutter if you’re scared of a bit of mud.
However, the reservoir size recommended amount of water, and ease of cleaning out the basin after several cuts all made a huge difference in how well we rated the saw during our testing.
The other big factor is splatter. While you’re going to get some no matter what’s going on we found the design of some saws made less of a mess than others even when the water level was correct. Cheaper saws tended to spit a lot more mud over time.
Ease of cleaning was the big factor when it came to water however, as some saws are simply a pain to clean. If it’s hard to get to the basin to clean it… well, it’s a lot easier to skip on maintenance and clogging the abrasive on a blade is a great way to both slow down your cuts and shorten the lifespan of your tile blade.
We’ll cover blade types and how to determine which is ideal for you after the reviews, but for now, let’s dive into our testing.
How We Tested the Tile Saws
For testing purposes, we used a fresh DeWalt tile blade with a continuous rim. Blades make an enormous difference in cutting with a tile saw, so testing the cheaper saws with the relatively worthless blades they came with would have reflected unfairly on them.
We ran the following tests on each of the saws which we brought into the shop to test:
- Run Test-We allowed the saws to run with a properly filled reservoir until the blade quit spitting water. While not quite as accurate as the splatter test, it did let us know how well the blade kept water during use, as well as allowing us to examine them over the course of an average of thirty minutes or so for wobbles or other problems which can occur with any spinning type of blade. We also checked for vibration, which can cause a saw to move if there’s no weight on it.
- Cutting Test-During this phase of testing we used the saws on a few different materials to see how well they cut in practice. Measuring speed proved to be impractical as you can really push a saw and risk burning the blade prematurely. Instead, we measured the precision of the cut with a speed square afterwards. Each saw was used to make a half dozen cuts in tile and masonry, followed by a single cut of an agate slab.
- Splatter Test-After cutting we allowed the saws to run for some time to see just how much they sent flying around the room. For the most part, the saws performed similarly but our favorites tended to make less of a mess with the mud. Keep in mind no wet tile saw is going to be completely clean.
- Ease of Use-After cleaning we brought in someone who’d never used a tile saw before from our pool of reviewers and let them have at it. Those which were easier to use got higher marks from us.
- Portability-We also tried carrying the saws around like you would on a job site just to see how easily portable they were.
In the end, we ended up with four saws that got top marks from us and a budget version that barely cost more than a manual tile cutter. The latter doesn’t really compare to the others but at the time of our testing, it came in at a huge chunk cheaper than any others on our list.
The tile saws broke down as follows:
- The PORTER-CABLE PCE980 was our favorite of the lot, coming in with smooth power and a precise surface that allows for angled cuts while not being a bank breaker in cost.
- For those concerned with mess, the splatter guard on the SKIL 3550-02 makes it an excellent choice but it’s not as well-built as most of our favorites.
- For professionals, we recommend the much more expensive DEWALT D24000S which has an impressive capacity and comes with a great, solid stand to allow you to stand while making your cuts without needing a bench.
- Meanwhile, the QEP 22650Q 650XT was a cheaper saw, and it shows, but of the budget options we looked at it was undoubtedly the best. It’s a solid saw and suitable for quite a few cuts but may not be the best choice for those planning on heavy use.
- Lastly, the WEN 71745 was a cheap saw at the time of our purchase. Being the least expensive by a wide margin shows in use, but it’s suitable for the occasional repair or for those who are only planning on slicing the occasional stone for lapidary work.
Having tested all of the saws we cleaned up the workshop and sat down to make sure we brought you only the best.
Top 5 Tile Saws
Each of the following has their own strengths and weaknesses, but in the end, we found that for the most part, the blade made the most difference in the actual cut. The sole exceptions to these are the saws that largely have a plastic body, as they tend to vibrate out of place but it’s easily fixed by applying downward pressure on the body of the saw.
So, without further ado, it’s time to dig in and show you what we found.
Best Overall Tile Saw for Home Use
At A Glance:
- Blade Size: 7”
- RPM: 2850
- Overall Weight: 32lbs
The Porter-Cable PCE980 is a fantastic wet saw for those who need an around the house saw. The RPMs run just about right and when it comes down to it only our recommendation for professionals really beat it out during testing.
Coming in with a 7” blade and a fantastic, smooth surface that makes slicing down the tile a breeze it was a fun tool to work with. The lack of bevel was a bit concerning to our expert but he also noted it’s pretty rare that someone cutting at home will bother to bevel tile for a super snug fit even if the option is available.
Unfortunately, this one is a bit of a water slinger which was the biggest negative that we could find about it. It performed quite well, but grab some glasses and an old shirt because things are going to get muddy during operation even when it’s filled just right.
That said, the light weight also lent it to be easily moved around which is a plus for those who don’t want to have to walk from the garage and back between cuts. The moderate price tag belies some serious quality in this case and some of our other tools really had to stretch.
Best Tile Saw for Splash Control
At A Glance:
- Blade Size: 7”
- RPM: 3600
- Overall Weight: 24lbs
This is a lightweight unit with a seemingly undersized motor, but we quickly found it to be a fast favorite. The higher RPM makes up for it, although you may need to be a bit more careful than you would be with a slower saw.
It’s extremely portable, being one of the lightest of the saws which we put through the paces and we found that the Hydro-Lock system kept the saw from dripping while it was being moved. It also has an excellent splash guard which made it one of the least messy saws to run out of the five we picked.
The addition of a table extension is also nice for those who are planning on cutting bigger tile. There weren’t any glaring problems with the saw other than the relatively mediocre build-quality which is common with SKIL’s tools.
The splash protection was the coolest part to our eyes, however. When not cutting this saw simply doesn’t throw water, we ended up turning it off after ten minutes of run time with only a few small dribbles of water. This is accomplished with a rubber gasket and to our eyes, it’s the main draw of the saw although you should keep in mind it’ll still throw a bit of water during cutting.
Best Contractor Tile Saw
DEWALT D24000SAt A Glance:
- Blade Size: 10”
- RPM: 4200
- Overall Weight: 53.6lbs
Best Budget Tile Saw
QEP 22650Q 650XT
At A Glance:
- Blade Size: 7”
- RPM: 3600
- Overall Weight: 7lbs
We ended up reviewing two extremely cheap tile saws and this was the best of the lot. Still, in the sub-100 range, it’s sturdy enough that it’ll make it through a few jobs, but you’ll want to throw away the included blade… it’s trash.
That said, this lightweight, plastic-framed saw is easy to transport, easy to use, and makes a great way to do a room or two around the house without the heavy investment in a high-end tile saw. Just keep the jobs small and you’ll be fine.
This is not a professional-grade saw by any means. It’s an off-brand, cheap saw that’s balanced well and makes smooth cuts. It’s a great way to make sure you have tile cutting capabilities in your workshop and it’s small enough most people won’t have any trouble finding a place to put it.
The best part of this particular tile saw is simply the fact that it works, it works well, and it’s pretty well-built overall without getting into ultra-cheap saws. It still vibrates and moves a bit, so either brace it or apply downward pressure during your cutting for the best results.
The One Job Wonder
At A Glance:
- Blade Size: 4.5”
- RPM: 5000
- Overall Weight: 12lbs
We’ll be upfront here: the WEN 71745 is not a great saw. It’s serviceable, however, and will cut clean lines but the overall quality falls far beneath the other options on our list including the budget option.
Here’s the thing though: not everyone needs to do a full job and saws costing a couple hundred dollars aren’t appealing if you just need to repair a cracked tile in the kitchen or part of a backsplash. That’s where this saw shines.
Coming in at extremely cheap while still making clean cuts is a big bonus for those who just need to make the occasional cut. Frankly, we don’t know if we’d trust it beyond doing one room or so and if you want a saw that’s built to last one of the other four are the way to go.
But if you just need to cut the occasional tile and forget about the saw the rest of the time this little beastie does wonders. In a departure from our normal MO we realized that often someone will only need to cut one or two tiles and might not want to use a manual tile cutter… and this one barely costs more than a tile cutter anyways.
Cutting to the Heart of the Matter
When it comes down to it, tile saws are a lot different from any other saw out there. While the process is technically the same as using a standard saw blade in a material like wood or metal when you really get down to it there’s a big difference.
Most tile saws these days come standard with a continuous rim diamond blade in the appropriate size. Since diamond is harder than virtually any other material this allows for smooth cutting of things that you wouldn’t be able to touch with even the best steel saw blade.
They work by abrading a line in the workpiece.
Because of things like kerf size(or the width of the blade) and blade quality are paramount. Diamond blades go bad in one of two ways: the diamonds “burn” when the saw overheats or the abrasive becomes clogged.
You can avoid the former by always working with a sufficient quantity of water and the latter by regularly using a dressing block on the blade to clear out anything which is clogging the rim and make sure the cutting edge remains even.
Your blade is the heart of your saw, a better blade means quicker, cleaner cuts and a longer lifespan. We recommend never skimping on blades but if you’re in the position to pick up a tile saw we strongly recommend picking up a good blade as well.
Brands like DeWalt and Widow are best. This is one case where going cheap is just going to end up costing you more money.
The Basic Piece of Tile Saw Maintenance That Most Forget
For those who don’t work with their saws on a daily basis, tile saws have a little piece of maintenance that people often forget.
And it will make all of the difference in the end.
Here’s the thing: you need to drain the water and clear debris when you’re done with the saw.
One cut. A dozen cuts. It doesn’t matter, the wastewater should be disposed of as soon as you’re sure the job is done and you should then clean out as much of the debris as possible. That debris will collect the next time you fill the reservoir and eventually clog the blade badly.
It only takes a few minutes, if you’re having trouble with the mud then paper towels are a great way to collect the debris.
On the off chance, you do leave debris inside despite our admonition… clean it before you fill it next time. The effects of cumulative debris on your blade are debilitating and it will eventually lead to chipping the workpiece and generally destroying your blade.
Just keep it clean and even a cheap saw will last much, much longer and cut much better.
Tile Saw FAQ
It’s that time again: we’ve anticipated some questions, gathered some from our reviewers, and we’re here to answer them for you. If you’ve got any more questions, drop us a line in the comments and we’ll see what we can do about fitting your answer into our FAQ section.
Q: Can I run my tile saw dry?
A: You can but it’s not recommended. And by not recommended we mean you’ll be purchasing a new blade after only a few cuts as the diamonds in the abrasive surface overheat and “cook-off” leaving you with a nice and smooth rim that’s not going to do a dang thing against even the softest of ceramic tiles.
Q: Are tile saws dangerous?
A: We don’t recommend jamming your hand in the blade, but compared to the big boys like a table saw they’re relatively harmless. You’d have to purposefully contact the blade for an extended period before it does anything more than rip off the top two layers of skin. The larger danger comes from chipping materials like porcelain and glass which can leave at a high rate of speed if you try to force the saw rather than let it “feed itself.” Safety goggles are a must in this case.
Q: Can I use a lapidary blade in a tile saw?
A: Maybe. The biggest difference between these blades is the fact that lapidary blades tend to have an extremely thin kerf which may not fit properly depending on the saw that you’ve chosen. If you’re cutting up stone regularly you may be better off investing in a cheap trim saw. The other problem is that these thin kerfed blades heat quickly, which is why most commercially available lapidary saws use oil as a coolant instead of water.
Q: Will a tile saw cut hard stones like agates?
A: They absolutely will and they’re a common substitute in the homes of amateur lapidarists who can’t afford the $400+ price tag on a new trim saw. Those used are generally on the cheaper side of things since a good tile saw and a used trim saw are generally on par in terms of pricing. The main problem for most isn’t whether or not the saw will cut, it has to do with the thicker kerf of a tile saw which removes more material and makes them dicey to use on expensive stones. You’ll need to watch the heat as well.
Q: What about glass?
A: Tile saws are an excellent option for cutting glass. Sitting at a 7 on the Mohs scale any sort of diamond, continuous rim blade will make short work of the material. Just be mindful of chipping and be sure to wear safety glasses.
Q: When should I use a sintered blade?
A: We’ve talked a lot about continuous rim blades, but sintered blades are also available. These have small gaps which allow for more cooling but also make a rougher cut. For the most part, sintered blades are going to be used for cutting bricks or concrete rather than your usual tile since the rougher edge will matter much less.
Q: How long will a tile saw blade last?
A: Theoretically even the cheapest blades should last for around twelve hours of cutting time. In practice, every misstep along the way reduces the lifespan of a blade and most amateurs apply too much pressure while cutting. If you maintain good coolant levels and let the blade “feed” itself you should be able to get quite a bit of use out of a blade before it needs to be changed and a dressing block will help extend the life. Keep it cool and don’t put pressure for the best results.
Q: Which brand of tile saw blade stands out?
A: While we used DeWalt blades in our testing that was simply because they were moderately priced and readily available in a variety of sizes with virtually identical construction. Every professional we spoke to on the matter recommended Black Widow branded blades, insisting they cut cleaner, last longer, and are generally a superior option to anything on the market. In practice for the home DIY-type… just don’t go with a random nameless blade and you’ll do fine.
Making the Cut… in Tile
Finding the best tile saw wasn’t nearly as hard as we thought. While they vary a bit a solidly constructed saw will last for decades, even if the blades won’t. We made sure to find something for everyone, regardless of what they might be doing, whether you need a solid tile saw for work or just something to make a few slices.
The real question is why you don’t have one in the garage right now. Pick up a great one today and get cutting!