How to Polish the Sides of Tiles

Natural stone tiles benefit from polished edges in visible areas.
Natural stone tiles benefit from polished edges in visible areas. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Natural stone tiles such as marble, granite, slate and travertine are sold in a variety of formats, ranging from tumbled to honed and polished. In all cases, however, only the tops of the pieces are finished, while the edges remain rough and unpolished. If you are looking to create your own bullnose edging or to just polish the edges of exposed pieces down, such as on the edge of a countertop, a natural stone polishing machine from your local home improvement store is all you need to finish your tile installations to your specifications.

Things You'll Need

  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mask
  • Variable-speed angle grinder with accompanying discs or pads
  • Granite clamps
  • Towel

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Put on your safety gear. Clamp your tiles down to your work space if you are working with uninstalled tiles, or use the polishing pads and machine directly on the edges of installed tiles without the clamps.

Start with a 50-grit pad and attach it to the grinder. Select the lowest speed on the adjustment knob. Hold the machine firmly in both hands and pull the trigger.

Press the pad against the edge of the granite and move it slowly across the edge you wish polished. Make at least two passes down the edge, one in each direction. Apply even pressure and do not allow the pad to rest in one place for too long or it will grind out a divot in the edge.

Turn the machine off and change out for the next higher grit pad. Repeat the polishing process with this pad, then move to the next higher grit pad. Work your way up until you reach a 3,000-grit pad.

Check the edge to see if you want to go any further. Wipe it down with a damp towel to see the level of polish. If you desire a higher level of polish, change out to a higher grit pad and go up to 5,000-grit for a smoother finish.

Tips & Warnings

  • Home improvement stores sell and rent granite polishing kits, which include an angle grinder along with an assortment of polishing pads. You can also use a stand-alone angle grinder and purchase polishing pad batches on their own. There are numerous types of pads and discs sold, in both dry and wet format, and they all work in the same fashion.
  • Keep in mind that only natural stone tiles would require their edges to be polished; glazed ceramic and porcelain already have glazing on the edges, and they also come with available bullnose material.
  • Wear safety gear when working with power tools.
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