Another effective method of cutting floor tiles by way of using a power tool is with a hand held angle grinder. These are basically a powerful motor with a 90 degree angled gearbox attached to one end, to which a cutting or grinding disc is firmly attached wet grinder. They come in a variety of standard sizes which are adapted to hold cutting blades or discs from 4″ to 9″ inches in diameter, but for lightweight ease and agility for cutting tiles it is best to use either a 4-1/2″ inch or 5″ inch model.
Compared to the wet tile saw, they are a lot more dangerous to use and trickier to handle when cutting tiles, but they can be much cheaper to buy and more convenient to manage, especially for guys working out in the field. The necessity for water is not required so they are low maintenance, but they do create a hell of a lot of dust when used to cut masonry products, so it is always best to use these in either a well ventilated room, or better still, outdoors.
When using, safety equipment is a definite must. The cutting disc spins way faster than the wet tile saw, so there is more chance of the blade throwing debris around, therefore eye protection is essential. They also create much more noise so ear muffs or ear plugs should be used without question, and as for the dust emissions you should wear a respirator or dust mask of some description. Although, this dust being comprised of quite heavy particles, any item of cloth wrapped around the nose and mouth will filter out the harmful particles just as effectively. Don’t ever wear your ‘Sunday best’ clothing when using also, as after prolonged use there is a strong possibility that you will resemble ‘Casper the friendly ghost’.
There are predominantly four common types of discs which you can attach to the angle grinder for various applications. Two types are used for when working with metals, such as an abrasive grinding disc for grinding, and an abrasive steel-cutting disc for cutting. Both are reasonably inexpensive, disposable, and wear down in size through constant use, but should never be used for any other application other than metals, such as your tile transitions or subfloor mesh.
For the purpose of cutting floor tiles however, again there are two types of disc to choose from. Like the steel-cutting disc, there is also an abrasive stone-cutting disc which also displays the same properties, but in actual fact this is also suitable for cutting steel, as it is constructed to deal with the obstacle of cutting re-bar when unknowingly embedded in concrete. Two drawbacks of these abrasive discs though, is that not only do you have to change them more often because they wear down in diameter through use, but the depth of cut lessens as the diameter reduces in size.
To combat these factors, we then come to the most effective method of cutting floor tile and stone, which is the diamond cutting disc. These are more expensive than abrasive discs, but they will last a more considerable amount of time longer. They are basically a flat disc of durable steel construction with man-made diamond particles encrusted into the outside diameter, and are perfect for cutting through masonry even when embedded with steel reinforced bar. They should however never be used for cutting steel on its own, as this can not only be extremely dangerous, it can also cause premature damage to the disc. As an additional bonus though, these discs can work with wet tiles and stone, whereas water and any abrasive carborundum disposable disc does certainly not mix well.
Once you have your choice of disc, you’ll want to attach it to your angle grinder. This is simply done with a single center locking nut which is tightened by means of a special two-pin angle grinder wrench normally found to accompany the tool.
The disc sits over a thick collared washer which holds it central in place on the output shaft, then is held firmly by another thick washer-type locking nut which is tightened in a clockwise motion with the wrench. By pressing in a locking button attached to the gearbox, this prevents the shaft from spinning when tightening, but be careful not to over tighten as you may find it difficult to remove at a later stage. Because the disc spins in the same direction of the threads on the locking nut, this actually self-tightens the nut to some extent.
Another cautionary pointer when attaching any disc is to make sure it does not wobble and is fixed firmly in place. This can be caused by either having the incorrect disc fitted to the grinder due to the centre hole not resting on the collared washer correctly, or the locking nut has been attached the wrong way round. It can be screwed on both ways, and has a raised shoulder on one side which should be facing out when attaching cutting discs, but inwards with thicker grinding discs, so always check your configuration before powering up to begin cutting, otherwise expect a dangerous and sudden disintegration of your disc.
One final and very important safety tip when changing blades on your angle grinder is to ALWAYS remove the power supply. Never leave the tool plugged into the socket when swapping discs, as if you accidentally switch on the machine during changing, you could be looking at serious injury to your hands, or even an angle grinder wrench thrown in the face at speed.
To avoid this unfortunate mishap from ever happening, one simple tip is to attach the angle grinder wrench to the end of the power tool cord near the plug using a plastic cable tie or similar. That way you’ll find that you have to remove the plug from the socket before you can actually use the wrench. It’s the simplest of things that can save on a lot of unnecessary grief, and that rule of maintenance should apply to ALL electrical appliances regardless, for your own safety.