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How to Drill Through Tile: 5 Crucial Tips

How to Drill Through Tile: 5 Crucial Tips
November 22, 2021

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Tiles, especially those featuring an outer glaze, are susceptible to cracking, ruining the final finish of your wall or floor. Drilling through tiles without breaking them is more complex than drilling through wood. You need to understand the type of tile you’re drilling through. You also need to know how to create pressure to prevent drill bit slips. Finally, you must use a power drill with a specific drill bit to get the job done.

Tools You’ll Need:

Whether you need to insert hardware, run cables, or install a fixture, drilling into a perfectly tiled wall or floor is often necessary. However, with the right tools, you can get the job done fuss-free without damaging the surrounding tiles. Some of the tools you’ll need to get the job done like a pro include:

  • Masking tape
  • Variable speed electric drill
  • Carbide or diamond-tipped drill bit
  • Rag
  • Screw anchor
  • Screwdriver

If you need to drill through tiles before installation, or cut a tile to fit your layout, do not use a power drill, as the lack of structure behind the tile can lead to cracks. A professional tile cutter can help you get seamless cuts each time.

Step 1: Find Out What Types of Tiles You Have

There are typically three kinds of tiles: glazed ceramic, glass, and porcelain tiles. Ceramic tiles are the most common and found in most older homes. They take about 3-5 minutes to drill through and are the easiest to penetrate as they are highly porous. Glass tiles are often used as an accent in your design and cost more than ceramic. They are also more prone to cracking or splintering during the drilling process. Porcelain tiles may look similar to ceramic tiles but are harder to break through than ceramic tiles.

Step 2: Using the Right Drill Bit Prevents Damage

It’s critical to use the right drill bit for the type of tile and the right tile tools to prevent damage.

Use a carbide bit for ceramic tiles because a regular twist-drill bit can’t cut through the fire-hardened glaze. A diamond-tipped drill bit works well on glass and porcelain tiles. Even though a ¼ inch diamond-tip bit is almost double the price of a carbide bit, you’ll save money in ruined tiles and time. If you’re unsure of which bit to use, a diamond-tipped drill bit works well for tile types.

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Drilling holes in tile

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Step 3: Prepare the Surface Before Drilling

Triple check your measurements before drilling to avoid wastage. Once you’re sure about the measurements, stick painter’s tape in an “X” pattern (or a self-made stencil) to the wall area you’d like to drill. This helps you accurately mark the hole location while preventing slipping and tile scratches. Always use a level when installing 2-bracket mounting accessories like towel bars and paper holders. Aim to drill the holes toward the center of the tile because edges crack easier.

Step 4: Slow and Steady for Success

Fit the same size drill bit as the screw anchor. Dip the drill bit with cutting oil (a coolant used in metalworking) to lubricate and prevent overheating. Remember to remove any excess oil. Start drilling at the slowest speed (through the masking tape) to make sure you’ve lined up the hole correctly. Once you’re sure the hole is in the correct place, you can speed up the drill without running it at full speed. Apply steady pressure on medium speed to prevent overheating and drill bit damage.

Once the bit probes through the tile, you’ll notice less resistance. This is a sign that you can speed up the drill while backing off the pressure. If the tile is installed over drywall, change the bit to a drywall drill bit once you’ve broken through the tile.

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dowel in wall

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Step 5: Mounting the Hardware

Remove the masking tape and wipe the hole with a damp cloth to remove leftover debris and cutting oil. Insert the anchors and tap lightly with a hammer to set the anchor flush with the wall.

Insert the screw and hand twist a few times. Secure with a screwdriver until the screw is lined up with the wall.

Tips to Get the Job Done Right the First Time

You may not always have second chances; that's why you need to do things right the first time around.

Should you drill into the tile or grout?

Drilling into grout is risky and, if done incorrectly, it may crumble. You may end up cracking the tiles because grout isn’t as strong as tiles.

Should you use a masonry drill bit?

Tiles need specialty drill bits, and a masonry bit just won’t do. They’re not strong enough to penetrate tiles.

Do you need a hammer drill for tiles?

Don’t use a hammer drill setting, as the rapid pounding can crack the tiles.

Keep Your Tile in Pristine Condition with the Right Tools and Technique

Drilling holes in tiles is more than just picking up a drill and pushing a button. Extra care is needed to make sure you don’t crack your tiles, ruin your equipment, and waste time and money. For all your DIY tiling and masonry needs, contact Contractors Direct at 1-800-709-0002 or browse our online catalog.