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Super Handyman: Follow tile tips to make the cut

Ceramic tiles have been used in our homes for hundreds of years. That’s because they are tough and look great over long periods of time. They can be placed on a floor, but also can be used on walls and countertops. The hardest part of laying tile usually is cutting the tiles to fit around edges and other obstacles. Here are some tips on laying and cutting tiles to fit those special areas.

First of all, before you get started, keep in mind that laying larger tiles will mean the job will go faster. Smaller tiles now come in sheets, so they can go down just as fast as a larger tile.

Buy extra tiles in case you accidentally break some while working. Even if you don’t break a single tile, you may need to replace one at some point in the future.

Lay them out, unglued or dry, first. You can adjust the pattern in order to minimize the number of cuts you need to make.

Use a chalk line to keep your tile job straight as you work.

If you do need to make a series of cuts, a wet saw or tile saw will make those cuts quickly and without a lot of breakage. You can rent these locally for a fair price. Try to mark all of your cuts in advance so you can make them in one session. This will keep rental costs down. Straight cuts are fairly simple to do. If you need to make round cuts, it can be done by making a series of smaller cuts around the area; with a little practice, it will come out all right.

If you don’t want to use a wet saw, there are some smaller manual cutters.

Cutting out odd shapes also can be done with hand-held tile nippers. Sometimes scoring a tile with a glass cutter makes for a cleaner edge.

A rotary tool can cut and grind down the edges on odd-shaped pieces.

A drill also can be used, with a lot of practice, to cut holes in tiles. Place a piece of masking tape on the tile to help get your cut started.

It is possible that you could get the tile dealer to help you with some of these cuts. It’s always worth asking about.

You might want to use all of the above techniques for especially intricate cuts. Just take your time and you should get good results for a job you can be proud of.


Q: I’ve noticed that what I think is my air conditioner is dripping from a pipe located under my house’s eaves. It’s not doing any harm, but is this normal? – N.V.

A: As you probably already know, when your AC is running, it is removing moisture from the air, which collects on the coils inside the unit in your house. When the AC shuts off, this condensation thaws and drains into a pan, which is supposed to drain into your house drain. Most units have a back drain pan in case the first one clogs up, which will drain outside the house somewhere. Check to see if this is what is going on with your unit. If so, pour a little laundry bleach into the “primary” drain pan and see if this unclogs it. If so, the drip outside your house should stop.

Super HandyMom tip

I’m not much of a housekeeper, but I have a couple of ways to simplify things. I have a plastic caddy in which I keep all the basic cleaners, including a duster and some rags. Well, I created one for the cars, too. It has a few of the basic car cleaners and some rags. I can take it to the car and do a basic cleaning on each car in just a little bit of time. I’m going to make one for garden next!


We all know that most attic stairs leak air from your home into your attic. There are some good insulating covers you can buy, and we strongly suggest adding one if you don’t already have one. Owens Corning makes a supereasy one to install, and it’s reasonably priced, too. The Attic Stair Insulator II is 25½-by-54 inches, and it comes folded up in a small, lightweight package. There are no tools required to install it, and it’s Greenguard-certified, giving you an R-10 rating.

Check it out at your home center or hardware store or at