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How do I cut mosaic tiles to create a backsplash?

Backsplash

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Hi there,

I have a backsplash project to do and I’m not sure how to cut the tiles. I've done some tiling before, but not with this type of tiles. I need to cut a sheet of small stone or ceramic and glass pieces. They are only about half  an inch wide and they are various lengths, between two- and five-inches. I purchased a small wet tile saw and now I need advice on how I should cut them when I come to the end of the wall or a smaller surface area. Should I remove the strips from the mesh and cut them one by one, or should I try to run the sheet of tile strips together on the saw?

I have also purchased an upgrade to the blade. It's a Norton wet saw blade. I’m not sure whether it will cut the glass strips, but I hope so! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

—Rick

Hi Rick,

The issue with cutting those little mosaic tiles isn’t so much the composition of the tile, but of the mesh itself. Your saw will do an okay job of cutting the glass tiles (although a glass specific blade would be better), but if the mesh gets wet, the glue will start to let go almost immediately, and holding on to those loose little tiles while trying to cut is near impossible.

There are two main ways I’ve approached these type of cuts, each with its own merits. The first—and simplest—way is to mark the tiles and then cut them with a couple of different types of hand cutters. For the stone, ceramic or porcelain tiles, use standard tile nippers. For the glass tiles, switch over to a wheeled glass mosaic tile cutter. The wheeled cutter looks similar to a set of standard nippers and works almost the same, but is able to cut the glass more cleanly.

Because your saw’s blade is mounted under the table like a tablesaw, we need to take a bit of a creative approach, but it’s not too tough. Pick up a few extra, larger tiles while you are at the store (or use any old ceramic floor or wall tiles you may have kicking around), which will be used as sacrificial carriers for the mosaic sheets.

Place your sheet on the back side of a sacrificial tile and wrap the whole thing with blue painters tape. The tape does two things: First off, it keeps the tiles from moving around during the cut; additionally, it protects the mesh from the water. While it will still get slightly damp at the cut, it shouldn’t be enough to affect the glue.

Once this is done, mark your cuts on the tape (you should be able to see a clear outline of the mosaic through the tape), and run the entire assembly through the saw, cutting both the mosaic and the sacrificial tile at the same time.

A note for anyone with an overhead adjustable head saw: You can use this method as well. However, instead of using sacrificial tiles, you could also tape your tiles to a scrap of plywood and use that as a carrier. Be sure to raise the blade just enough that you barely touch the surface of the wood.

Ryan Shervill

Ryan Shervill is a field editor and contributor to Outdoor Canada, as well as an avid hunter and shooter. He is also Canadian Home Workshop’s online Ask a Pro and contributing editor.


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