How to Drill Through Tile (Porcelain & Ceramic)
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A lot of people worry about drilling through tile. Rightly so, it’s difficult. For an amateur, it might seem like any drill would instantly shatter a tile. If you cut corners or make a mistake, you could be replacing at least one tile and still have no drilled hole. Learning the proper technique on how to drill through tile is key to save making costly mistakes.
There are a number of ways to drill a hole into a tile. I use one of two methods, depending on what kind of tiling I’m working with. Before you know what is the correct technique for you, you’ll need to know what kind of tiles you will be drilling into.
When you know these two techniques, you’ll never worry about drilling through tile again. True be told, it’s easy. Tiles seem a lot more fragile than they are. Using the correct technique, drill bits, and a few other household materials will take the fear out of drilling into tiles.
How to Drill Through Tile
Gathering your equipment
Regardless of what kind of tile you will be drilling through, there are some key things you will need. Here’s a quick list of essential items for drilling into any kind of tile:
- A tile to drill through
- A drill
- Dust sheet
- Appropriate safety gear like goggles and a dust mask
That’s a fairly short list of requirements. As your tiles are already stuck to a wall, there isn’t a great deal of preparation you have to do.
But, depending on the kind of tile you’re working on, you will need a special drill bit. If you are planning to drill into a ceramic tile you will also need:
- Electrical tape (or anything tape)
- A punch
- A carbide tip drill bit
If your tiles are made of porcelain, you will need to get:
- A lubricant like water
- A diamond hole drill bit
Now you know what you need, you will need to know how it works. Take your drill and the appropriate drill bits for a test drive. You don’t want to start a job without testing out and understanding the equipment first.
Just like preparing your equipment is important, preparing a safe working space is important too. You need to understand how your equipment works and how you make sure you are safe when using it.
Thankfully, your tiles are quite thin. They don’t tend to spit out a lot of dust, which means you’re less likely to breathe in something harmful. But you should always wear a dust mask as both ceramics and porcelain contain silica.
Silica can get into your lungs and cause serious and long-term problems. Proper self-care during your career will reduce the chances of developing long-term problems in later life.
As your tiles will be stuck to a wall, you also shouldn’t have to worry about getting pieces thrown towards your eyes. You shouldn’t, but it might happen. Because you’re using power tools, you should be wearing eye protection. Take care of your eyes and you can prolong your career.
How To Drill Through Porcelain Tiles
Porcelain is tough. Really tough. This means it can be difficult to start drilling. Thankfully, we have our handy diamond hole drill bits to make the job easier.
If you don’t use these, you’re more likely to waste energy trying to pressure the drill bit in. Also, you’re more likely to splinter the tile. Failing to properly prepare will waste time, money, and resources. Don’t do it.
Despite its toughness, it’s actually easier to drill into porcelain. All you need is the correct drill bit. When you have that, you just need to good drilling technique and you’re away.
Drilling into a tile is easy with these 6 steps.
- Attach the diamond hole drill bit. Make sure it’s secure. A gentle press on the trigger will show you if it is good to go. Spinning the drill too quickly at this stage will cause the drill to spin off the tile, potentially damaging it.
- Mark the area that you want to drill with a pen or pencil. As you’re drilling into porcelain, a pen will work much better. Porcelain tiles can be wiped clean easily, so don’t worry about leaving nasty stains.
- Apply a lubricant to where you want to drill and the drill bit head. You will have to do this throughout the process, so make sure you have plenty of lubricants to hand. This stops the drill from heating up the tile too much and causing it to split.
- Slowly start to drill into the tile. You don’t want the drill to be barely spinning, but you don’t want it at full speed. Slow, steady drilling with a moderate amount of pressure will give you the best start with porcelain.
- As the drill works through the porcelain, apply additional lubricant. When it is lubricated and you are sure the tile and drill are cool, you can begin to increase speed. Keep the temperature down to stop the tile from expanding and cracking. If it is already attached to a wall, it has nowhere to expand to. You’re just asking for cracks.
- As you break through to the other side of the tile, bring your drill to a stop and pull it out of the hole. Then you have a clean hole in your tile and you can get on with your next task.
And that’s it. Getting the best finish on a porcelain tile means one thing – the right drill bit. If you have a drill bit that is not designed to drill into hard materials, there are only bad outcomes.
Cracked tiles. Broken drill bits. If you’re really unlucky, you could even break your drill altogether. Proper preparation makes you a better worker who doesn’t need to keep paying for new equipment!
How To Drill Through Ceramic Tiles
Ceramics are a little different. They are softer than porcelain for a start. You still can’t use a standard metal drill bit to break through them, but you don’t need a diamond-headed one either. Using the equipment we listed above, you will be able to break through ceramic tiles easily.
Because ceramic tiles are less hard, they are also more likely to break. We want to give them extra support. Using sticky tape can give your tiles plenty of support. The tape will stop them from cracking and give you clean, professional finishes. Just what we’re looking for.
Here are our 7 easy steps for drilling into ceramics.
- Put the correct drill bit into your drill. A carbide tip drill bit is perfect for this as it is designed to pierce tough materials. Make sure that it doesn’t fall out when you spin your drill and get ready to start the job.
- Place tape over your desired drill spot. You want to do this in an X-shape so that there are two pieces of tape over the soon-to-be hole. This will give you support and stop it from cracking.
- Mark where you want to drill into the tile with a pen. You could use a pencil, but the tape can be difficult to write on with pencils.
- On the mark, use a punch to make an initial dent. This breaks the first layer on the tile so it is easier to start drilling. You’ll also want to use a hammer to actually punch into the tile.
- On your punch mark, start to drill. You want a moderate amount of pressure and a slow drill speed, to begin with.
- As you break through the tape and the top layer of the tile, you can speed up the drill. Do not apply heavy pressure to the drill as this can snap the bit.
- When you break through the tile, you can stop the drill and pull it out of the hole.
Job done! If you have followed these 7 easy steps, you should be able to peel the tape away now with no problems. There should be no cracks as the tape supported the tile during the drilling.
- Leaning heavily on your drill makes it more likely that you will snap the drill bit or tile. You don’t need tons of pressure on the tile, just enough to keep the bit straight.
- You will need to put a plug into the tile for any fitting you want to put in. When the plug is mostly into the hole, use a flat chisel to knock off the end that sticks out of the wall.
- If you need to drill a particularly wide hole into a tile, drill a small hole first. Going straight for the wider drill bits will increase your chances of getting a crack or split. Take your time and the quality of the job will speak for itself.
- Try to drill as close to the center of a tile as you can. If you drill near the edge of a tile, it’s easier to crack them. Drilling on the grouting line could even leave you with 2 cracked tiles. It is a nightmare situation for a workman or woman who only wanted to put one hole into a tile.
I’ve only looked at 2 different materials in this how to drill through tile guide, but these skills will help you out a lot in the long run. Even if you are not working with porcelain or ceramics, you can apply these skills. Drilling into a hard material tile? Diamond drill bit. Drilling into a softer material? Carbide drill bit.
Patience and proper preparation are key. There’s no need to rush these jobs as they don’t take very long anyway. When done correctly, each drilling only takes a matter of seconds. Spending a few moments applying tape or dousing your drill with lubricant can stop a 10-second job from turning into a retiling job.
Get to know your drill as well as you can. There should be separate settings on the drill head for different levels of power (especially if it is a newer model). Make sure you’re not using a hammer drill setting as that will blast through your tiles. Proper control is key to working with tiles.
Can You Drill Through Tile?
Yes, but you need to be careful. Know your drill and know the kind of tile you are working with. You need an appropriate drill bit to avoid shattering the tile and turning a short job into an afternoon of retiling.
If you are drilling through a porcelain tile, you need a diamond head drill bit. Ceramics, on the other hand, need a carbide drill bit. They’re not expensive, so there’s no excuse for not owning them.
Can Drilling Tile Be Dangerous?
Actually drilling into tile is rarely dangerous, but the dust they give off is. Tile dust (regardless of the material the tile is made out of) can contain silica. This can be really bad news for your lungs.
Wear a dust mask and protect your body. You will be thankful in the long run.
Can I Drill Into Tiles Without Breaking Them?
Yes. They might look fragile, but tiles can take a lot of punishment. Good technique and good equipment will reduce your chances of shattering a tile. Steady pressure, slow drill speed, and the correct drill bits. Those are the first steps to professionally drilling into tiles.
Can I Drill Multiple Holes Into One Tile?
You can, but each separate hole increases the chances of a crack. Try to spread the drill holes across different tiles for your fixture.
If you really can’t use different tiles, try to use supports to stop the tile from cracking. A piece of tape can work really well as it holds the tile in place as you drill. Also, try to keep the size of the drill holes small – this will put less pressure on the tile itself.
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