Specifying Waterjet Work

With the increasing popularity of waterjet design, it is critical
to know the key elements of the specification process.

by Richard Ward, P. E.

Stone World - December, 1996

waterjet-cut stonework

The waterjet-cut stonework at The Inn at Rapid City continues to the vertical surfaces.

In addition to marble, a waterjet can be used for intricate designs in granite

In addition to marble, a waterjet can be used for intricate designs in granite, as evidenced by this pattern at The Inn at Rapid City.

Remember to specify who is suppling the materials and how they are being shipped. If buying from a national outlet, it is often cheaper and easier to have the waterjet contractor collect the tiles from the local outlet. If color is not really critical, the waterjet contractor could be asked to procure the materials. However, the safest way to guarantee colors and the only way to ensure the field tile are the same, is to send the tile to the contractor. This is really easier than it may seem.

One should not place an order purely on cost, of course. Ensure the contractor selected is knowledgeable and experienced in cutting hard surface materials.


No longer is it an off-the-wall option to have waterjet cut designs in a project. In fact, in many contracts, waterjet cutting is specified and expected.   And never before has waterjet cutting been easier to procure.

Any fabrication shop, installer, interior designer or client now has the option of requesting waterjet cut designs in any form and shape by subcontracting to one of several companies located across the states specializing in every aspect of this work.

By simply faxing a sketch or concept to a waterjet specialist, it is possible to have top quality work delivered to your door. In many cases, work is shipped overnight, and with the methods of packing and crating used the designs will reach their destination in perfect condition.

Specify what you need

To ensure standards are met, the following guidelines will help:


Who is supplying the artwork? Most waterjet contractors offer comprehensive CAD/CAM facilities. This means all the contractor needs to supply is a sketch of the design desired. The clearer the description of the design, the easier it will be for the waterjet contractor to draw and process. Moreover, a clear description of a design will lower the cost for the client.

Specifications - materials

The type of material to be processed will determine the price quoted. As a rule, thicker materials cut slower than thinner, hence taking more time. Most waterjet contractors ultimately equate every job to the time it will take to cut; hence the longer the time, the greater the price.

The same can be said for the hardness of the materials. For example, granite can take 30%-50% longer to cut than marble. Hence, the same design could vary in price dramatically depending on the material being cut, with the lower costs being in marble, and the greatest in granite. When cutting porcelain, stresses are released in the material, and can result in cracking of the tiles. The cracks can often be eliminated by changing the order in which the design is cut, but on some occasions, are unavoidable. In this case, the only alternative will be to add joints to the design, breaking up the stresses prior to cracking.