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Old 11-26-2013, 03:43 AM   #1
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Cutting hole for outlet in tile


I'm tiling the backsplash in my kitchen with 16" x 16" tiles. One of the outlets ends up being 2.5" from the left edge of the tile, and 3.5" up from the bottom. I drew the outlet on the tile, and decided to cut the vertical lines first. I'm using an angle grinder with a masonry cutting wheel (hey, it's what I've got). I cut the one on the left first, then started on the vertical line to the right. As I was cutting, the tile cracked where my first vertical cut was, from top to bottom. Needless to say, I was not happy.

Now, the tile was simply clamped to the side of a workbench, so the end was hanging out in free space (done so I didn't cut up my bench).

Should I clamp it to a scrap piece of wood to provide support, cutting down into the wood as necessary?

Should I use another tool/approach/technique?

Should I take it to a shop, and for $75 (per hour), have them cut out the hole?

Do something else?!?

Your advice is greatly appreciated!

Richard

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Old 11-26-2013, 06:13 AM   #2
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Cutting hole for outlet in tile


You need a diamond wheel and water---the tile will get hot and crack if you don't.

I use a shallow plastic pan and set the tile into that--with sand or tile drops in the bottom--add water until the tile is just covered---

Be sure the machine is plugged into a GFCI outlet.

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Old 12-17-2013, 11:17 PM   #3
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Cutting hole for outlet in tile


oh'mike, thanks for the advice -- it worked!

Some feedback for others who might want to try this ...

I had 16" tile, so finding a shallow pan big enough was tough. I ended up using the lid from a large plastic storage chest. The tile just fit. If I hadn't been able to find a suitable pan, I probably would have "made" one. I would have arranged cinder blocks or 2x4s to form a shallow trough, and laid a plastic bag or sheeting over it to hold the water.

Don't ignore the word "shallow". Trying to do this at the bottom of a relatively deep well (i.e., the chest itself, rather than the chest lid) is tough -- you don't have the room necessary to maneuver the angle grinder. Yeah, it'll contain the water, but the cuts will be difficult, and you'll probably short out the angle grinder from all the water splashing on it (and no, you can't cover the angle grinder in plastic because it needs airflow to stay cool).

I didn't have any sand, so I used a scrap board underneath the tile. The board wanted to float, but the tile's weight held it done. To speak the obvious, you do need something underneath the tile, both to support the tile while you cut and to keep from cutting through the shallow pan.

I had to play with the level of the water. Too little, and the angle grinder just blew (literally!) the water away. Too much, and the angle grinder got doused with water.

Even if the water is "just right", the angle grinder tossed water quite a distance (imagine a rooster tail of water 10 feet long -- I kid you not on the distance -- and 4 feet high and you get the idea). Just making 3 cuts, I went through 3+ gallons of water; again, no exaggeration. Since I had to do this inside the house (too long a story for this post), I put plastic all over the place, and threw down copious numbers of towels. I also placed a box covered with plastic in the direction the angle grinder threw the water, and this helped (altho there still was a lot of water splashed about).

I echo oh'mike's recommendation to plug into a GFCI. You have no idea the profusion of water until you experience it.

Here's some additional tips:
  • Take your time. I'd only do this for a few cuts, but since you're doing only a few, relax and take whatever time you need.
  • I saw flashes of heat, despite my best efforts. Keep moving the grinding wheel all along the cut, rather than keeping it in one spot. And again, take your time. If you see flashes, remember you can stop cutting for several seconds to allow things to cool down.
  • Rotate the tile as necessary to keep the water blasting in only one direction.
  • Remember that when doing your cuts, once you've cut through to the back, you can turn the tile over and cut from there. Keep flipping the tile over as necessary so that you minimize the amount of "overshoot" needed to get the full length of the cut that you need. Also, remember that you can err vis-a-vis the overshoot much more so on the back, since (obviously) no one will see the overshoot there.
I'll post pics of the backsplash when I get it finished -- it looks nice, thanks to oh'mike!

Richard
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Old 12-18-2013, 05:41 AM   #4
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Cutting hole for outlet in tile


I'm glad that worked for you----Mike----
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Old 12-18-2013, 07:51 AM   #5
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Cutting hole for outlet in tile


For $75/hr, and a job that should take about 10 minutes, I think I would have gone to the shop :-) But anyway, thanks for the feedback.
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Old 12-18-2013, 10:18 AM   #6
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Cutting hole for outlet in tile


Harbor Freight sells a five pack of diamond wheels that fit a Dremmel for about $5. Worked pretty good when I had to cut into some full body porcelain tile, using the pan of water trick.

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