Manual vs Electric Tile Cutters

Which should you choose in 2024?

Tile cutting is probably the most important aspect of any tile installation project, with two main types of cutters available: manual and electric tile cutters.

Both have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, the choice between them ultimately depends on the specific job and material being used.

When choosing between an electric or manual tile cutter, it's important to consider the size and scope of your tile installation project, as well as your own skill level and experience.

There are plenty of variations but in summary -  Electric tile cutters, (sometimes referred to as a 'Wet Saw'), are great all-rounders but might chip somewhat and make a mess whereas Manual tile cutters are fast and reliable but can't do everything.

Professional tilers often will own several of both.


Manual Tile Cutters

Manual Tile Cutter Pros:
  • Conveniently powered by hand so can be used just about anywhere very quickly
  • Will cut virtually all kinds of ceramic tiles, most porcelain and most glass
  • Make precise and repetitive cuts with ease
  • Very fast
  • Very portable and clean
  • Reasonably quiet in operation
  • Easy to cut dead straight lines with no chipping
  • Long lasting inexpensive scoring wheels
  • Very reliable and dependable with few complicated parts
  • Easy to set up, put away, transport and store
  • Require hardly any maintenance or special cleaning
  • Relativity affordable compared to the equivalent electric cutter of the same cutting length
Manual Tile Cutter Cons:
  • Rely on the user's strength to break tiles plus skill and technique to make accurate cuts
  • Depending on the material, can sometimes break inconsistently leading to unexpected wastage
  • In nearly every single case, can't cut any kind of stone
  • Most manual tile cutters do not perform well on tiles with thickness above 10mm, top of the range models can go up to 20mm but is not guaranteed
  • Only good at cutting straight lines, you might see some demo's at shows cutting curves but is not precise or consistent
  • Cutters with capacity above 1 metre can weigh more than expected
  • You are limited to the maximum cut length of the machine
  • Visibility of the cutting line is not as good on models with a single rail
  • A large heavy duty tile cutter will be cumbersome for tiling a small area like a kitchen splash-back etc.

Electric Tile Cutters

Electric Tile Cutter Pros:
  • Require very little physical effort to cut - Usually powered by mains electricity but can be battery / cordless
  • Cut virtually all kinds of tiles and stone plus more including difficult materials like porcelain, granite and glass
  • Make precise and delicate cuts with ease
  • Most have adjustable cutting depths and angles
  • Able to cut much thicker material
  • Can cut irregular shapes like 'L shapes' and cut outs in the centre of a tile
  • Flat bed style electric cutters affectively have no maximum gutting length, providing you can support the tile somehow
  • Generally electric tile cutters can do it all
Electric Tile Cutter Cons:
  • It is not always practical to get power to the machine near to where it is needed
  • Generally cooled by water which can be messy, often requiring being set up outside
  • Depending on the material and diamond wheel, some amount of chipping can occur
  • Slower - takes longer to cut
  • Can be difficult to keep cuts perfectly straight
  • Often quite noisy which can impact when or where the cutter can be used
  • Cutting wheels are more expensive
  • Large capacity electric cutters can be very cumbersome, heavy and difficult to transport plus bulky to store when not in use
  • Setting up and putting away cutter is a lot of trouble if only a few cuts required
  • Proper cleaning down after use required which can be messy and time consuming
  • Often difficult to adjust or maintain and difficult to diagnose if start cutting out of square
  • Can be made of several hundred parts potentially leading to long term reliability issues depending on quality of manufacture
  • If mains powered, have to decide to purchase 240v or 110v