How to Drill Into Tile

proper tools to drill tile

If you're new to DIY projects that require the use of power tools, but you want to do a couple of projects that require you to drill through tile, you might have a few concerns. Learning how to drill into tile takes practice, but it's easy enough to explain, so you can begin to learn.

When You Need to Drill Tile

After you've finished cutting tile and installing it, it isn't uncommon to need to drill holes for some finish features. Some common examples are:

In each of these cases, you need to be very careful not to damage your finished tile product.

We'll walk through the process of drilling through tile. 

​​Challenges with Drilling Tile

​One of the biggest frustrations people encounter when drilling tile is chipping or breaking the tile. Tile is hard and brittle, so it's important you have the tools that will minimize the risk of breaking or chipping when drilling. Don't start drilling your tile until you check over your equipment and make sure it's properly suited for the task

Before you dive into the drilling process, its important to review some of the challenges that the process can bring:

  • ​​Tile is relatively easy to break when drilling into it
  • ​Because a tile's surface is so hard, it is easy for your drill hole "wander" and not end up in a precise location
  • You must use the correct blade, or you'll ruin both your blade and the tile

Try to avoid drilling around the tile grout area, as that can cause stability issues with the tile over the long run.

how to drill tile

Using the Right Tools

To start learning how to drill into tile, you will need to have a few items. Its safe to say that you probably already have tile. Beyond that, you'll need a vice for holding the tile in place if you're trying to drill into tile that is not secured, and a few other materials for measuring your placement.

Aside from the power drill, you must also use a carbide-tipped steel masonry bit. This will reduce the risk of shattering. When you are learning how to cut a hole in tile that is slippery, such as a tiled wall in a bathroom, you need to get rid of this slipperiness. First, place masking tape on the tile, write an X on the tape, and then drill through the tape.

proper tools to drill tile

Safety Equipment

People often think it won't happen to them. But, the reality is that accidents happen, especially when you are just learning how to drill through tile. Protect your eyes from any shards of ceramic that might break off and be thrown toward your face.

It's also advisable to have equipment, such as puncture-resistant gloves, a broom, and a dustpan, to clean up tile in case you do break one when first learning how to drill ceramic tile.

The Process for How to Drill Into Tile

1. Measure and Mark

As always, to ensure that what you will be hanging is both level and placed properly, you will want to measure before you decide how to cut a hole in the tile.

Use a tape measure and mark with a marker the exact place you will need to place your holes. 

From there, you can place the tape in an X pattern and mark the exact spot where you marked your hole on the tile. The masking tape helps to keep your drill bit from slipping and wandering.

2. Gently Tap a Small Hole

Once your tape is in place in an X pattern, you're ready to start making your hole. Use a hammer to lightly tap the drill bit into the tile.

A drill bit can skip around the surface of the tile. That’s why a small hole for the bit to rest in when you start using the drill is important.

3. Drill the Tile

Before you start drilling, lets review a few items regarding speed and pressure to use. This is how you prevent cracking or breaking your tile!

Drill Speed and Pressure

Using too much speed on your drill will likely result in cracked tile. Too much force can also crack the tile.

To avoid this, you will need to set your drill to go at a slow speed and use only medium amount of downward pressure, as more pressure will cause difficulties with backside blowout. It will likely take at least a few minutes to drill through each piece of tile.

Drill Bit Selection

​As mentioned above, you will want to opt for a carbide-tipped masonry drill bit for drilling into porcelain or ceramic tile.

you must know the proper drill speed and pressure to avoid cracks on tile

​Reducing Heat Build-up

The friction caused by the metal of the bit rubbing against the hard surface of the tile makes a lot of heat. This heat will wear down your bit faster. It can also make your tile more prone to cracking. To reduce this heat, there are a couple of methods that you can use, with the most common being water cooling.

Water for Cooling

Using water is the most cost-efficient and simple method to reduce the heat on your drill bit. You can either use a small hose and hold it over your drilling point, or you can have someone with a spray bottle constantly spraying the area.

Either way, you should gently lift the bit slowly away from the hole a couple of times a minute. This will allow the water to penetrate toward the tip of the drill bit where the heat is greatest.

4. Penetrate the Backing Board

If you are trying to figure out how to drill a hole in tile that has already been installed on a wall, you will need to drill through the backing board as well. This board is used as a surface to apply the tile.

When you reach the backing board, you can continue to use the drill bit you used to penetrate the tile, or you can use a regular drill bit.

​Tackle Other Problems Which May Occur

Most often, when people want to know how to drill a hole in tile, it is usually to install some sort of item, such as a shelf or towel rack. ​Hopefully you won't run into problems, but in some cases you might end up with a chipped or broken tile.

In cases when there was a pre-existing cracked tile, you might need to replace the tile before you decide how to drill into tile. Also, there might be times when you want to know how to drill ceramic tile for another project, such as a craft project.

​Speaking of old tile, you might not have that challenge, but a different one: old, chipped grout. Fixing tile grout isn't hard, but it is vital to keeping the tile set in place over the long run. And it will look a lot better. If you have this problem, it might be worth tackling at the same time.

In these cases, you might need something to hold the tile in place, but you will still want to use the same type of drill bit when you are choosing how to drill through tile.

Conclusion

​Learning how to drill into tile takes a little practice, and in the beginning, you will likely have a few mishaps. But as time goes on, and you gain more experience, and you will become more efficient and accurate at how to cut a hole in tile.

Take your time in the beginning and learn good habits. Whether adding features to your newly tiled bathtub, shower, or kitchen, learning this skill will allow you to finish the project off with some useful and nice features. 

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