There is no need at all to cut complicated circles or holes (God forbid) into tile. All you will be doing is notching a square section out of a tile–one tile only–and fitting it into place.
First, cut two parallel lines downward with a rod saw. A rod saw is a cheap saw, that can either be bought as a blade that fits into your own hacksaw or as a separate saw. If you’re trying to tile around the tub faucet with tiles no larger than 4″x4″, I recommend the hacksaw.
Next, you need a third line that connects the two previous lines, forming a square that you can knock out. This can go either of two ways. You can keep using your rod saw and just cut across. Or, if you’re tired of sawing, you can score the tile surface with a utility knife or tile cutter.
You need to do some precise measuring to make sure the square you’re cutting out will be covered by the faucet flange.
Deftly knock out that scored piece with a small hammer or handle off a screwdriver.
Fit the tile around the tub faucet hole.
The faucet flange or faucet itself should cover the hole.
Mosaic tile comes in sheets. Individual tessarae (the little individual tiles) are adhered to a strong fiber backing.
Because you’re dealing with such small tiles, you really aren’t cutting the tile itself: you’re cutting between the tile. That’s the great thing about mosaic. So, let’s review your options for cutting mosaic tile, all of the super-simple:
1. Cut Between Tiles in Mosaic Sheet
This is always the first thing you should try. Nine times out of ten, you can slice through the fiber backing and get a perfect (or perfect-enough) fit.
How to do this is to turn the mosaic tile sheet upside-down, and cut through the backing with a utility knife.
2. Cut Individual Mosaic Tiles with Nipper
If you just have a couple of individual tiles within the mosaic sheet to cut, then snap them apart with a tile nipper (or nibbler).
If you have to cut a sheet of mosaic diagonally, your only option is to use the snap cutter. Cutting the tiles apart (#1) will not work.
3. Cut a Row of Mosaic Tiles with a Snap Cuttter
Cut a line of mosaic tile by setting the sheet in your snap cutter. The tiles will wiggle around a bit and protest, but with a steady hand you can position them and snap them apart.
In fact, you’ll probably use not one, but several, of these tile cutting tools. Good thing is that, aside from the wet tile saw, these are all pretty cheap tools to buy.
Snap Tile Cutter
A snap tile cutter is an el cheapo tile cutting tool that you can get from any hardware store, costing you less than a night out at the movies. It has a glass cutter-like wheel that rolls along the top of the tile, scoring it. After the score, you push down on the snap tile cutter to break the tile in two.
Only makes straight cuts.
Cuts are not always perfectly clean.
Very cheap device to buy.
Easy to accidentally break tiles with this tool.
Wet Tile Saw
This is the Big Mama of tile cutting tools. Professional quality wet tile saws are very, very expensive–running in the thousands of dollars. But you can buy DIY-level wet saws for in the $200-$500 range that do a decent job.
Straight cuts only.
The continuous spray of water cools the tile and keeps dust down.
Uses a round blade, just like a circular saw.
Takes some practice–and many “test tiles” to get right
A Dremel tool is another way to make semi-circles and even full circles in soft tile.
This is a hand tool that lets you nibble away at the tile to make rounded cuts or remove sharp, excess points from the tile. Sometimes called a “tile nipper,” too. Given the low price, you should just buy one and have it on hand. No doubt you’ll find a need for it.
Make semi-circular cuts (but not complete holes).
Can be frustrating and slow to work with.
An alternate way to cut semi-circular holes. A thin, gritty blade that attaches to a hacksaw. The cheapest of the tile cutting tools out there, so it can’t hurt to pick one up and have it on hand.
Sometimes you need to run a pipe through ceramic tile. If you are accustomed to cutting tile, then you must be a veteran of many a broken tile. So, it may seem a hopeless job to cut a hole in a tile.
Sorry, we cannot whitewash this for you. Cutting holes in tile is a very exacting process. You need to make sure that you have a number of extra tiles on hand for this, because there is a good chance that you may end up breaking a tile or two before you get the perfect hole in the tile.
There are two main ways of cutting holes in tiles. The first method is a true method of cutting holes; the second method is a way of faking the process and still making it look good.
Cutting Hole in Tile with Drill
Use a strong cordless electric drill for this. Attach a carbide-tipped hole-cutter to your electric drill and slowly use it to score a circle on the face of the tile. This is not a fast process. Concentrate first on scoring the circle in the tile glazing; after that, concentrate on cutting into the tile itself.
Or – Cut Two Semi Circles to Form One Hole
A tile nipper is like a dull wire-cutter: it has 2 surfaces that slowly nibble away at the tile.
The second method of cutting a hole in a ceramic tile actually involves two tiles: one tile with a half circle cut into it, a second tile with another half circle cut into it.
Except in this case you do not use a hole-cutter. Score a half circle in the tile surface with a glass cutter, and then use a tile nipper to nibble away the half-circle. Repeat on the second tile, and then fit the two half-circle tiles together around the pipe or obstruction. This is a very effective method and results in fewer broken tiles.
Let’s be honest about it: making curved cuts in tile is not an easy thing to do. It is very time-intensive job, slow, frustrating, and the resultant product can often be ugly and unsatisfying. All that said, there is a bright lining in all of this.
Cut Tile Surface with Glass Cutter
Making curved cuts in tile is a two-step process. In the first step, you score a rough line with a glass cutter. The point is simply to dig out a rough line in the glazed surface of the tile which will help you cut a better line in your second step.
Tile Nipper to Nibble Away a Curve
The second step involves a cheap tool called a tile nipper. A tile nipper is nothing more than a pair of glorified pliers with a dull cutting surface on each jaw. You slowly nibble away at the waste part of the tile curve until you reach the line that you scored with the glass cutter.
If you attempt to cut away too much, too fast, then you are unpleasantly rewarded with broken tiles. So you learn to nibble away fingernail-sized pieces of the tile and no more. Sometimes you go a little too far, sometimes too little. As long as you are close to the line, you’re “in like Flynn.”
I would say that, depending on the sleeve you will be inserting atop (explained later), you can get within 1/4” of the line and still be good.
But the saving grace in all of this is the fact that any kind of curve (really, any kind of cut at all that you make in tile, curved or straight) is subsequently covered by some type of other material. For example, when you cut straight edges in tile and install the tiles along the wall, those cut edges are later covered by baseboards.
In the case of curved cuts in tiles, most likely you will be installing these tiles around pipes. You will have a sleeve that will go around the pipe, and this sleeve will come down and cover up the ragged, curved edge of the tile.