How to drill a hole in tile article information
For many home-improvers, this seemingly insurmountable problem deters many guys from even attempting this task — and that’s a massive shame. With a little preparation, care, and the right tools — anyone can learn how to drill through porcelain tile without cracking it.
And that, my drill-loving buddy, is my mission.
I consider it important to demonstrate that addressing wall tiles with a boring tool isn’t a labor of Hercules — saving you from either destroying your bathroom or kitchen, or having to pay for the services of a trade professional.
Time to get down to drilling tiles with confidence!
Why Is Drilling Holes In Tiles Difficult?
To be fair, it’s not that understanding how to drill tiles without cracking them is incredibly difficult — it’s just that it’s not as straightforward as most other boring projects.
If you’re addressing plastic, masonry, or timber — the job is relatively headache-free. Choose the right drill and bit, switch the tool on, drive into your target medium, and you have a hole. Crack open a beer, light a cigar, and show off your handiwork to your wife.
The issue with drilling tile without it cracking is the medium itself.
Typically, they come in three formats:
- Ceramic — the most common type.
- Porcelain — similar to ceramic but denser, shinier, and more expensive.
- Glass — typically used sparingly for decoration, and is seriously fragile.
These three forms of tile typically share one common characteristic — glazing. Ok, admittedly, you can get unglazed ceramics and raw clay quarry tiles, but these are only found in vintage homes or in houses for people going for a retro aesthetic. And, they’re easy to bore into.
Anyway, perhaps the first problem with knowing how to drill into tile wall is addressing the lustrous and glossy face. Sure, this outer sheen is easy to clean and effortlessly repels water — but it also makes it the enemy of your drill.
While nature abhors a vacuum, tiles detest drill bits. They can be so inherently slippy that trying to bore into them is akin to watching Bambi on ice. Not only is there a high likelihood of driving into the ceramic or porcelain in completely the wrong place, but an elevated risk of massive slippage and the drill boring into your hand or arm.
The second issue with comprehending how to drill through tile wall decoration is the structure of the tiles. Whether you’re attacking glass, ceramic, or porcelain — their integral physical build is similar — widely spaced atoms. I know you didn’t come here for a physics lesson — but it’s important.
In the most basic terms, tiles have low atom bonding with a large volume of air in between. This makes them seriously brittle — too much power or address at the wrong angle, and they will shatter, break, or crack.
In essence, the problem with drilling through bathroom tiles or kitchen tiles is that you have the perfect storm — a surface that doesn’t like drill bits and a material that will break if you try to penetrate it.
However, you’re not going to let this inanimate home decor beat you. All you need is the right weapons.
Why You Need to Know How To Drill Through Ceramic, Porcelain, and Glass Tiles
Fully understanding how to drill through tile elevates you to the echelons of an expert DIYer — and is a crucial weapon in your home improvement arsenal.
The ability to bore into this volatile wall medium allows you to create strong and reliable fixtures that are unlikely to fail — compared to suction cup fasteners.
While not an exhaustive list, comprehensive knowledge of how to drill glass tile, porcelain, and ceramic tile allows you to:
- Mount showers and showerheads.
- Attach extractor fans.
- Position towel rails.
- Install wall-mounted faucets.
- Fix soap trays.
- Fasten toothbrush holders.
- Hang shower rails.
- Connect power sockets.
- Bind kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
- Install in-built wall lighting.
To be honest, the possibilities are endless. Once you grasp how do you drill a hole in ceramic tile, you’re only limited by your imagination.
How To Drill Into Tile Without Cracking It — Your Essential Tools
Before we get down to the method of how do you cut a hole in ceramic tile — your primary consideration should be having the right tools for the job.
What Drill You Need for Drilling Tile?
First, you have two options — either a drill/driver or a hammer drill. Under NO circumstances even consider using a rotary machine, unless you want your kitchen or bathroom to look like a demolition site.
If you’re planning on drilling with a hammer unit check, double-check, and then check again that the hammer function is disengaged. If you don’t, your next Google search will be ‘How to Retile a Wall?’
What your drill/driver or hammer tool (hammer switched off) definitely requires is a variable speed function. You need to be able to step down the bit rapidity as much as possible — ideally, to around 300-400 rpm — you can then crank up the speed (a little) as you begin to bore.
My personal preference is a hammer drill, such as the DeWalt DCD985B, for one simple reason — they typically incorporate dual-handles. This increases the accuracy of boring, and helps to ensure you address the tile at 90 degrees — crucial for preventing cracking.
Best Drill Bit for Ceramic Tiles, Porcelain, and Glass Tiles
I’m often asked, do you need a special drill bit for tiles? And the answer is — yes, but it depends on your tile material.
Effectively understanding how to drill through tiles without cracking them means selecting the optimum boring head, in brief:
Carbide-tipped tile drill bits — reduce the risk of shattering porcelain and glass tiles.
Diamond-tipped bits — harder on the wallet than carbide, but are ideal for glass and hard ceramics.
Standard masonry bits — only use on ceramic, they may crack porcelain and will wreck glass.
For a complete guide to drill bits and their uses, check out my Types of Drill Bits 101.
Inexpensive, yet can make knowing how to drill a hole through tile much safer, and reduces the risk of damage to you and/or your tiles.
Making an ‘X’ with masking tape at the point of bit address increases bit traction — preventing the boring head from slipping as you begin to drive (slowly) into the tile.
No guide to drilling holes in porcelain tiles, ceramic tiles, and glass tiles would be complete without mentioning safety equipment.
At the very minimum, I recommend safety glasses to shield against flying tile chips, industrial gloves in the unlikely event of slippage, and a respiratory mask to protect you against airborne silica dust.
Know How To Drill Into Ceramic Tile Without Breaking It — Everything You Need
With your correct drill and the best tile drill bit — there are just a few more items to locate before you take on your wall project:
- Hammer drill or drill/driver.
- Black whiteboard marker.
- Extension cable (if the drill isn’t cordless).
- Suitable bit.
- Safety equipment.
- Masking tape.
- Small hammer.
- Bradawl or punch.
- Water in a spray bottle.
- Damp cloth or sponge.
- Liquid soap.
How Do You Drill Into Tiles — Step-By-Step Guide
Time to get down to business! Here’s the ultimate guide to grasping how to drill through tile without cracking.
Preparing the Area for Drilling Through Tile
- Ensure your work area is hazard-free. As tiles are often in wet environments — such as above shower trays or bathtubs — check everything is dry. You don’t want to be slipping while wielding your power tool.
- Investigate the area for pipes or electrical wiring. Tiles can hide plumbing and power cables — use a DIY metal detector to ensure no hazards are lurking behind the drilling area.
- Before you start drilling into bathroom tiles or kitchen tiles, clean the target area with liquid soap and water to remove any surface grease and oil. Then dry thoroughly.
- Once cleaned, check for any existing cracks. You can take all the precautions you want when drilling into glass tiles or ceramic tiles — but if there’s existent damage, boring into the material will only exacerbate the situation. Instead, you need to replace the tile.
- Make a small dot with the whiteboard marker on the area to be drilled. Cover this dot with a masking tape cross — the tape adds traction while still allowing you to see the exact boring spot beneath.
Preparing Your Drill for Drilling Through Porcelain Tiles and Glass and Ceramic
- Ensure your bit is securely positioned in the chuck — there’s little point knowing how to drill a large hole in ceramic tile if the boring head is loose.
- If you’re utilizing an extension cable with a corded drill, check that it’s sufficiently rated for the amperage of your unit and that its snake-like length isn’t a tripping or strangulation hazard.
- Should you be planning on drilling through porcelain, glass, or ceramic with a cordless drill — check that your cell is charged.
Starting to Drill — How To Drill Into Tiles Without Cracking Them
- Don your protective gear. Gently (and I mean gently) tap the bradawl with a hammer at the point on the tile where you wish to drill. This will create a small pilot hole that will help secure the bit.
- Time to get to the real action — the drilling! How do you drill through tile? The key is SLOWLY!
- Set your machine to a high-torque and low speed setting, position the bit into your pilot hole, ensure it’s at 90-degrees to the tile surface, and delicately squeeze the trigger.
- One of the most important concepts to grasp when learning how to drill into porcelain tile without breaking it is patience — this isn’t a job that can be rushed. Gently apply pressure through the bit onto the tile until you hear the carbide or diamond tip addressing the base material.Be careful if you’re using diamond bits that are fragile and can be easily damaged by rapid boring. My recommendation is not to exceed 600 rpm on 0.5-inch or below — and no more than 450 rpm for 0.5 to one-inch examples.
- Every 15-20 seconds, dampen the drilling area and bit with water spray to keep temperatures to a minimum. Excessive heat can damage the boring head, scorch the tile, or even shatter it.
- Once you’ve reached a depth of around three-sixteenths of an inch, you can gradually increase the speed — but to no more than 650 rpm. Or, if you require a larger hole, you can now switch to a larger diameter bit.
- After two or three minutes, you should have penetrated through the ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile and reached the backing board, drywall, plaster, timber, or brick beneath. You can then switch to a standard bit suitable for this material — ensuring it’s the same diameter as your tile cutter.
- Proceed to drill until you’ve reached the required depth for your anchor — ensuring you keep the bit horizontal to prevent enlarging the tile hole and to shield against cracking.
- Knowing how to drill into tile is one thing, understanding how to withdraw the bit is another. Don’t lose patience now, or you could undo all your hard work. Completely stop the drill rotation, and gently pull the bit horizontally from the newly created hole — ensuring you don’t angle the drill. If it sticks, push back in a little again and withdraw.
- Clean down the working area with soap and water to remove tile and backing material debris. Stand back and admire your handiwork, you now know how to drill into tile without cracking it!
Want a more visual explanation of how to drill a hole into tile? If so, check out this video:
If the instructions are adhered to and it’s perfectly done, you’ll end up with a fine hole out of this fragile material. If otherwise, you may end up cracking your glass.
I hope you enjoyed reading the article and you fully understand how to drill a hole in glass. If you found my how-to guide useful, feel free to share it among your circle of handymen.
How To Drill Through a Ceramic Tile Without Cracking It FAQs
Below are the most common questions regarding how to drill a hole in ceramic tile.
Q: What Is the Best Drill Bit for Porcelain Tile?
One of the most crucial aspects of how to drill through porcelain tile is using the correct drill bit. Ideally, utilize a carbide bit, or if your budget is sufficiently large, a diamond bit.
Q: What Is the Best Drill Bit for Ceramic Tile?
Using the correct bit in your drill is one of the simplest ways to ensure you know how to drill into ceramic tile without breaking it effectively. You can fit a standard masonry bit — as long as you proceed slowly and steadily — although a more expensive carbide bit will reduce the risk of cracking.
Q: How To Drill Into Shower Tile?
Follow the above guide to ensure you drill into the tile without cracking or breaking it. However, in shower areas, take the additional precautions of;
- Ensuring both the wall tiles and shower tray are free from moisture.
- The shower is switched off.
- Checking that there are no hidden pipes or wiring behind the tiles.
Q: How To Drill Into Marble Tile?
Drilling marble tiles follow the standard procedure of any tile drilling as outlined above. However, due to the dense nature of this medium, you’ll need either a carbide or diamond-tipped bit.
Q: How To Drill Into Tile Backsplash?
Ensure there are no pipes behind the backsplash leading to the faucet or directing wastewater away from the basin. Check that the area is free from moisture, and then use the above guide to learn how do you drill a hole in tile without cracking it.
Q: How To Drill Into Glass Tile?
Drilling through glass tiles follows the same method as how to drill into ceramic tile — although it’s crucial that you use a diamond-tipped bit to prevent cracking or breaking.
Q: How To Drill Into Bathroom Tiles?
Knowing how to drill through bathroom tiles allows you to mount shower heads, towel rails, and shower curtain hangers without resorting to unreliable suction cups. Always ensure that the area is free from moisture and there are no pipes or electrical wiring lurking behind the wall — then follow the above guidelines on how to drill through ceramic tile.
Q: How To Drill Into Ceramic Pottery?
While the procedure is the same as my guide to how do you drill through ceramic tile, you need to take extra precautions. As the surface is typically rounded, it can be challenging to make the bit gain any traction on the glaze.
It’s, therefore, necessary to build up five or six layers of masking tape to increase friction and drill extremely slowly.
Q: How Do I Drill Through Tile On the Roof?
Carefully! Firstly you need to consider what drill bits you require. Personally, I’d opt for a standard masonry or carbide-tipped bit.
Secondly, when thinking about how to drill into tiles on the roof — respect the material. Typically made from terracotta or slate, they are seriously brittle so require an extremely slow boring rpm rate — especially if the tiles are old and weatherworn.
Thirdly, you will be working at a high level — so ideally utilize a cordless drill to prevent mains-cable hazards.
Q: How To Drill Through Floor Tile?
If you know how to drill into tile floor, you can complete projects such as anchoring cabinets, creating soakaways, and erecting internal pillars. While the process is the same as for how to drill through tile on walls — check that there is no sub-ground plumbing, electrical wiring, or propane piping.
Another aspect to consider when considering how to drill into tile floor is the address angle — as you will typically be drilling vertically instead of the usual horizontal method. It can therefore be advisable to use a drill clamp to ensure the boring tool is stable.
Q: What Are the Best Drill Bits for Ceramic Tiles?
For unglazed tiles, you can use a standard masonry bit — for glazed ceramics, use either a carbide-tipped or diamond bit.
Q: Do I Need Special Drill Bits for Tiles?
For porcelain and glass tiles, use either carbide or diamond-tipped bits. For ceramics, especially unglazed, you can utilize a standard masonry bit.
Q: What Kind of Drill Bit for Porcelain Tiles?
The pivotal aspect of how to drill into porcelain tile is to utilize the perfect bit — ideally a carbide or diamond-tipped example.