How to Cut Ceiling Tiles: All You Need to Know

Written by Milan Jara on 26th Jul 2022

Ceiling Tiles

Want to learn how to cut ceiling tiles? The method of cutting any tile, regardless of material, is similar. The main difference is in using the proper tools.

Did you know you can cut ceiling tiles using basic hand tools without hiring a professional? Each tile is cut with a different instrument, with the most popular being a carpet knife, utility knife, drywall saw, and tin snips. These are the most efficient tools to use when you are doing a job yourself. However, there are power tools for various situations as well. We’ll teach you how to cut ceiling tiles.

Power tools, in this case, while perhaps quicker, are optional. When you mark each ceiling tile for cutting, a drywaller’s T-square or framing square will help you get those perfect angles. The framing square also provides a guide to scoring the tiles and cutting them using a knife.

Required Items

  • Plywood scrap
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Gloves
  • Framing square or T-square
  • Carpet knife
  • Pencil compass
  • Rotary tool with a multipurpose bit/circle guide
  • Hole saw
  • Portable drill
  • Utility knife
  • Marker
  • Drywall saw
  • Tin snips
  • 3/8” drill bit

Cutting Acoustic Tile

Cutting Acoustic Tile

Surface mount and drop ceiling acoustic tiles are best cut using a carpet knife. You can also use a standard utility knife, but carpet knives will cut cleanly and deeper. It is advisable to wear a pair of thin gloves while working with this type of tile to keep your tiles clean and protect your hands from handling the rough tile texture.

1. Mark Your Cutting Line

Place a piece of plywood or something similar on the work surface to protect it from any cuts from the blade of the knife. Measure the width across the tile. Then, make light pencil marks at the bottom and top edge of the drop ceiling tile.

2. Make Your Cut

Put a framing square or T-square on the tile. Make sure the edge of the tool is aligned with the marks. Holding the square firmly using one hand, score the tile very carefully using a carpet knife. Begin by running the blade of the knife along the square’s edge. Repeat the cut with one or two passes until the tile is completely cut through.

3. Create a Circular Cut-Out (As Required)

You can get circular cutouts in your ceiling tiles by using a rotary tool, hole saw, or carpet knife. Begin by marking the hole’s center on the face of your tile.

If you are using a carpet knife:

  1. Draw the circle of your hole size using your pencil compass. Pivot the compass around your marked center point.
  2. Cut along the circle you just made using your knife. Begin with a shallow score and go progressively deeper until your tile is fully cut.

If you are using a rotary tool:

  1. Use a multipurpose cutting bit. Attach the circle guide to your saw.
  2. Adjust the circle guide to your desired diameter for the hole.
  3. Tilt your tool back. Align the point of your circle to guide your center mark.
  4. Turn on the tool. Gently tilt it down, so your blade cuts into your tile. Once your tool is upright, pivot it and guide it around your center point, completing the cut.

With a hole saw:

  1. Attach your desired size of the hole saw to your portable drill.
  2. Place the center bit on your marked center point. Hold the drill upright.
  3. Turn on the drill. Push your saw into your tile to complete your cut.

Cutting Drop Ceiling Tiles

Suspended ceiling tiles that aren’t acoustic can be cut like drywall. Use a utility knife and square for making straight cuts. Use drywall saws for curves and holes and rotary tools to make circular cut-outs.

1. Mark Your Cutting Line

Place your tile face-up on the work surface. Measure across your tile. Make light pencil marks at the bottom and top edge of your tile.

2. Score the Cut

Put your framing square or T-square on the tile. Align the edge with your marks. Hold your square in place firmly using one hand. Make a single, deep score along the square’s edge with your utility knife.

3. Complete Your Cut

Move your tile so your scored line aligns with the edge of your work surface. The waste should be overhanging the edge. Your score line needs to be facing up. Firmly press down on the waste. This will snap the tile along your scored line. Tilt the tile on the edge. Cut through the tile's back paper along the crease to complete the cut.

The tile should then be laid flat. Trim any peaks in the tile’s drywall core along the cut edge. Hold the knife parallel, if necessary, to the cut edge.

4. Creating a Circular Cut Out

Circular Cut Out

To do this, use a rotary tool or drywall saw. Begin by marking the center of your hole on the tile’s face.

Using a drywall saw/rotary tool:

  1. Draw your circle with a pencil compass. Pivot your compass around your center point.
  2. Place the saw blade point on the circle's edge. Tap the butt of your saw to place the point through your tile. Cut it on the face side.
  3. Saw along your created line to complete your cut-out.

Cutting Tin Ceiling Tiles

These types of tiles are easily cut with aviation or tin snips. Long cut snips provide faster cuts, but standard snips will also work well. Wear leather gloves to protect your hands from the jagged, sharp metal edges.

1. Mark Your Cutting Line

On the work surface, put the tile face down. Measure across, marking the top and bottom edges with a permanent marker. Put a T-square or framing square on your marks. Then, draw a straight cutting line using the marker with the square as your guide.

2. Cut Your Tile

Use the tin snips to cut along your marked line. Put the good piece (what you are keeping) in your free hand. The tile should be bent upwards gently while cutting to allow the snips to cut straight along the cutting line.

3. Create a Circular Cut if Necessary

For light fixtures, mark the center of your circle. You can draw the circle to the necessary size by using a compass. Trace the line with your pencil or use a marker for improved visibility if needed. Drill a ⅜” starter hole inside the circular outline with a drill and ⅜” bit.

The circle can be cut with tin snips by beginning and ending at your starter hole.

Learning how to cut ceiling tiles, for the most part, is similar no matter what type of tile you are cutting. The main difference is what tools you use to make the cuts. To create that perfect cut, use your T-square or framing square as your guide.

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