Once all of your tiles are laid perfectly, it is time to route the plumbing or install the accents. That means you’ll need a tile drill bit capable of going through your tile materials without creating damage.
Can You Drill Tiles?
Do you want to drill a hole in the tile to mount a mirror, a toilet paper holder or a towel bar? With the right technique and procedure, you can drill tiles with a corded or cordless drill and carbide or diamond-tipped drill bit.
Theoretically, any drill bit can cut through the tile to create a positive result. The problem is that tile surfaces are hard and regular bits cannot penetrate. Generally, only two types of bits —carbide and diamond— are suitable for cutting through the material without a higher risk of causing damage.
Another problem is tile cracking. Harder materials such as glass are also brittle. Unless you use the right power drill, bit, and speed you are going to end up with a cracked tile.
But don’t worry, I have put together this guide to make sure that you are using the right tools and method to make your task easy.
Types of Drill Bits Used for Drilling Tiles
Tiles such as ceramic, granite, glass, marble, and porcelain tiles are very hard. You need special drill bits to work on such tough materials.
The two types of drill bits that can be used for drilling tiles are,
- Carbide drill bits
- Diamond-coated bits
You should choose either carbide-tip drills or diamond-tip products to complete your work. These selections provide the most potential benefits since both carbide and diamond are harder than the typical carbon steel or high-speed steel bits.
Benefits of Using Carbide Drills
Although carbide is not as durable as a diamond coating, it is more affordable. You get a clean, straight hole in no time, especially when working with porcelain tile.
Drilling through tile creates a hot bit. The carbide makes it more resistant to thermal changes that could deform the cutting edge.
The most unique benefit of carbide-tipped drills is that they’re reusable. Once the tip wears out, you can grind off the damaged or dull portion to resharpen it which will produce a fresh layer of cutting edge. That makes it a cost-effective option to use when installing items through the tile.
Advantages of Diamond Tip Bits
Diamond drill bits range in size from 20mm to 130mm, with depths as much as 300mm. A variety of sizes ensures that your work is accurate and secure.
A diamond drill bit is useful because it drills through heavy-duty materials. If it can go through concrete, it can get through a porcelain tile.
There is a reason why building contractors prefer a wet tile saw with a diamond blade over a tile cutter. Diamond is a very hard material and it can cut most of the materials. It drills a clean hole to minimize chipping and dust while working on tile, an essential advantage for glass and ceramics that get sharp. This trait prevents most chips and cracks.
Diamond drill bits operate with minimal noise. Although hearing protection is still necessary, your ears are less likely to be ringing when the work is complete.
How to Drill Tiles Correctly
The secret to a successful drilling experience on tile is to make an “X” out of painter’s or masking tape where you need to work.
This trick prevents the drill bit from slipping, reducing the risk of damage to the surrounding tile.
You’ll feel the bit grind as it pushes through the glazing. Keep going until you get through to the backing board. A hollow-wall fastener can be installed at that point to secure the accent or make space for the plumbing.
Before you start drilling into the tile, it is essential to know what materials you’re working with on a project. Glass, porcelain, ceramic, and more all have unique characteristics. You typically need a specialized bit for each one to ensure adequate penetration.
This fact applies to any stone tile products you might choose to install.
Once you know those facts, you can implement these additional steps to drill tiles correctly.
1. Have the correct bit and drill.
You cannot use a standard drill bit or a hammer drill for this task. Tile requires a carbide- or diamond-tipped masonry bit to create a precise result.
- Drill bit: Use a pointed carbide spade bit for ceramic tiles.
- Drill: Use a regular cordless drill. Never use a hammer drill since the impacts during the hammering action can cause damage to the tiles.
If you use a regular masonry bit, the drill will start drifting off from the X marked spot as soon as you start drilling. This may cause damage to your tile. The pointed spade bit helps you keep the drill at the spot and prevents it from moving all over the tiles.
Diamond bits are exceptionally durable, boring through the most robust surfaces without hesitation. Carbide spade bits are an affordable solution that won’t burn out like masonry bits do when completing a tile project.
Glass and porcelain tile almost always need a diamond-tip bit to create a successful cut.
2. Measure twice, mask, and mark the area.
Bits tend to slip on the tile’s surface when you first engage the drilling mechanism. Using masking tape to create a cross marking on the tile first, ensures there are fewer scratches or cracks that happen when working.
After measuring the installation area twice, use a wax pencil to mark the space you need to drill. The reason I said measure twice is, once you drill a tile at a wrong position it is nearly impossible to patch it without leaving a noticeable mark. So ensure that you are marking at the right spot.
If you have multiple processes to complete with similar measurements, a woodblock template can let you mark numerous items.
3. Start the drilling process at slow speed.
Start at a very slow speed (RPM) for better control. If needed, press and release the trigger of your cordless drill a couple of times. Once the tip is penetrated into the tile you can slowly increase the speed.
Tile can withstand a surprising amount of abuse. That makes the surface resistant to any drilling activities. It helps to take your time, work the bit naturally, and let it do the work.
Going full-speed ahead is rarely a positive choice. Overheating the bit or creating vibrations could damage the tile.
4. It helps to cool the drill bit.
Even when your drilling is low-and-slow, the bit will heat up after some work. It helps to keep a small sponge with cool water available to prevent overheating issues.
If you are working on the project solo, stop the drill to spray some water on the bit occasionally. Be careful not to put any moisture into the motorized components of the tool.
Some contractors prefer to keep a wet sponge underneath the drill while it’s working to catch tile dust. This method stops moisture from being on your floor or wall, creating a secondary advantage.
5. Change your bit at the correct time.
Drilling through the tile with a carbide- or diamond-tipped bit is beneficial. Sending that tool through the sheetrock or studs behind it is not. Boring through the wall can cause your anchor not to have enough leverage, causing the installation to be loose.
Once you feel that you’ve gotten through the tile, switch your bit to something more traditional such as a masonry bit to complete the task.
6. Pat yourself on the back.
After you finish drilling the pilot hole for your anchor through the tile and materials beyond, you’re ready to complete the project. Finish the installation using anchors and tile screws, based on the manufacturer’s instructions provided for the item getting added to your kitchen, bathroom, or another tiled area.
How to Use a Diamond Hole Saw to Drill Tiles
Diamond tipped bits or diamond hole saws need to operated slightly differently during the start of the hole making process. Unlike spade bit, there is no centering tip for this type of cutting tool.
You should plunge cut with a diamond hole saw to cut a hole in a tile.
Initially, You need to tilt your drill at an angle of approximately 45° and slowly penetrate into the tile. Once you have made sufficient depth, then you can position the drill square and continue to cut through.
Are You Ready to Start Drilling Tile?
The primary takeaway to consider is to be patient. When you need to drill holes through the tile, the work you’re doing is not a race. It works better when you take your time, move slowly, and keep a steady pace.
Please remember to keep everything cool when working. The most common reason for cracked tile when drilling is a dull, overheated bit.
As you practice this skill, your persistence will help you get better at it. There are no compromises with tile. If you use anything but a carbide- or diamond-tipped bit, your work is unlikely to reach the quality levels you desire.
Back to Contents
- Can You Drill Tiles?
- Types of Drill Bits Used for Drilling Tiles
- How to Drill Tiles Correctly