How to Cut Roof Tiles

Roof Tiles, Slates & Shingles
how to
edge of tiled roof

Clay tiles have been commonly used in Britian since the Romans first set foot on our Island. It brought with it such a revolution that even today clay is still a hallmark on many roofs - serving to keep our homes warm and safe from the elements. However, in only the last few decades many other types of roof tile have emerged. Newer materials, more innovative and sustainably sourced including metal, concrete, slate and even plastic.

The increasing number options offers a far greater variety of freedom to your average homeowner and roofer. More choice in the styles, costs and practical features so as to really personalise your home but, of course, before you can install a tiled roof (new or old) you first need to know how to work with them. More specifically, to work around the design of your roof, you’ll need to know how to cut them.

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How to Cut Roof Tiles

How to Cut Clay Roof Tiles

This traditional material hasn’t stuck around for so long without a good reason. Often weighing between 30-65 kg per m2 they are durable, long-lasting and boast colours that are unlikely to fade or peel.

Cutting Clay, really like cutting anything, first requires a good examination. Primarily to determine the tiles thickness. If you are working with thinner tiles, you should only need a simple cutting knife with the ideal method being a ‘cut and snap’ approach. Make sure you have placed your tile on a secure surface and then, against a straight edge or some other measuring tool, run the blade across the tile - this is to ensure a neat and consistent cut. After this simply move the tile to the edge of the surface and snap along the line you’ve cut.

For thicker tiles you would likely have to employ a more specialise slate cutter or tile cropper. In these instances, it is integral that you follow the manufactures instructions and wear all appropriate safety gear. Place the tile into the cutter faced down and gentle pull on the handle to produce a clean break.

Finally, for instances in which you need to cut a particular shape into your tiles (to work around obstructions or other roof features) you may want to look at a pair of tin/aviation snips. After using either of the above methods to clear the bulk of the cutting area, finish up with the snips (check the metal section below if you are unsure which colour snips you need). Just remember to double check all your measurements and mark your cutting lines clearly.

How to Cut Concrete Roof Tiles

Concrete tile roofs offer much the same benefits as Clay, with a range of styles and colours to choose from. However, as you might expect, it can be a much heavier material. Naturally this makes it a bit more difficult to handle and cut, though the excellent durability is often worth the extra hassle.

Small-town tools are simply not going to do the job here. So, the first thing you’ll likely need is a wet saw, a tool that offers a constant stream of water to the blade and tile thus greatly limiting the risk of a breakage. Again, using your straight edge, mark the line that needs to be cut and then score it with a cutting knife or similar tool.

Make sure your saw is equipped with a diamond blade and then place your tile onto its platform. Next, connect the hose and ensure the saw is operating normally after which you can wet the blade and tile. After this it's simply a matter of cutting the tile in serval passes to ensure a clean break. Of course, make sure you are also wearing gloves and a mask while doing this.

How to Cut Slate Roof Tiles

An option often chosen for its incredible aesthetics; natural slate tiles also offer quiet a lot of versatility being suitable for a wide array of applications. Many buyers also consider slate a sound and sustainable investment with some able to last upwards of 100 hundred years.

As always, the first step when cutting slate is to mark and score your cutting line. It is best to do this on the underside of the tile with a pencil or grease pen and then score with a sharp-edged tool or even a dedicated tile scribe/scorer for greater precision.

Like clay, how you cut your slate will vary depending on its thickness. Thinner slate can be cut by hand using a pair of slate/tile cutters. Simply line them up with the scored line and cut as you would a piece of paper. Of course, for thicker slates you may have to upgrade to some more powerful tools such as an angle grinder or circular saw. In these cases, you MUST ensure that the slate is securely clamped to a workbench to prevent it from moving during the cut.

Regardless of which tool you are using it is important that work carefully and slowly, whether you are pushing the grinder along the slate or the slate across the saw’s blade. In both instances you will also want to make sure you are either outside or in a well-ventilated area as there will be a lot of dust and stray particles. As standard, also make sure you are wearing your googles, mask and gloves.

How to Cut Metal Roof Tiles

Metal may not be the first material to come to mind when you think of roof tiles. However, clever designers out there have found a way to make use of metal’s long-lasting and cost-effective properties whilst mimicking the aesthetic of more traditional tiles. Some tiles are even available made of copper – for a beautiful, shinning finish.

Metal roof tiles are cut in similar fashion to much of the above, using a lot of the same tools. As you might guess tin/aviation snips are particularly useful for cutting metal though it is important to understand what their different colours can mean.

Typically, you’ll find them in either red, yellow or green. Very simply, this denotes what direction they are designed to cut in. Red cuts left, green cut right and yellow can cut either direction. When using them to cut curves or corners this information will become incredibly important, as you may need to use multiple different snips to achieve your desired look.

For larger projects (or thicker tiles) you could also use an angle grinder with a metal cutting disc. As mentioned above, make sure you are wearing all appropriate PPE and working outside when cutting with this power tool. Again, measure and mark your metal and only cut once it is secured onto a workbench.

How to Cut Plastic Roof Tiles

A modern newcomer to the world of roofing, synthetic plastic tiles are favoured for their incredibly light weight. They are easier to transport and handle making for a much safer alternative to heavier concrete or clay.

Another great thing about synthetics is that they are typically a breeze to cut. For straight cuts, the best tool for the job is a standard tile guillotine or shingle cutter. Exact use may differ depending on your model, but the premise remains largely the same. Measure and mark your tile, place against the guide (if your tool has one) and then lower the cutting arm for a clean shear. A similar result can also be achieved with a utility knife and straight edge, though we would only recommend this method if you have a small number of tiles to cut.

In projects where you required a curved or otherwise irregular finish to your tiles, a Jigsaw make for a fantastic solution. This tool offers a clean cut though, like other powered tools, should be used only after your tile has been secured to a workbench or other flat surface. Make sure when you are cutting that the portion marked is hanging off the edge of the surface, so you don’t accidently cut though whatever is below the tile.

How to Cut Felt Shingles

Available in a wide array of colours, felt shingles can make for an excellent choice of finish for your roof. They are installed in an overlapping fashion, helping to protecting the roofs structure from water ingress and other harmful debris. Many shingles today are actually also fire rated as well as resistant to rot and UV.

When shingling a roof, you’ll find that (depending on the size of the project) you may need quite a few strips cut down to size. In cases like this, a circular saw can be used to great effect in trimming stacks of shingles. When doing this make sure that the stack is neat, without any strips sticking out. You will also need to secure them well, to make sure they don’t move during the cut. Measure and mark your line as normal, ensure your saw is equipped with a strong-tipped blade and then cut. We would suggest doing this as quick, cleanly and safely as possible to ensure consistency across your shingles.

For single strips, in cases where you need to work around obstructions in your roof, you can switch out to a utility knife with a hooked blade. This type of blade will be less likely to dull after only a few cuts and allow for quicker trims.

How to Cut Fibre Cement Roof Tiles

Fibre cement slate tiles are quickly growing into an industry favourite being easy to handle and install whilst still providing the homeowner with a stunning finish. They are resistant to rot, rust, most chemical attacks and offer a life span similar to that of concrete or clay – if not longer.

As with Synthetic tiles, Fibre Cement can actually be very easy to cut. More often than not all you will need are simple hand tools such as a guillotine or tile cutter. For the thinner pieces of fibre cement, it is also possible to simply clamp to a work bench, score them against a straight edge (multiple times along the same line) and then snap them against the end of a flat surface.

Of course, an angle grinder with a diamond tipped blade also does the job perfectly well. Though bear in mind this process is liable to spit up a fair amount of dust, so always make sure you wear your mask, gloves and eye-protection as well as work in a well-ventilated area.

Any More Questions About Cutting Roof Tiles?

We know that buying roof tiles for your project can be a hassle, let alone having to worry about cutting and installing them. Fortunately, our award-winning team is here to help. Simple give us a call of 01295 565 565 or talk to us via our online chat.

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