How drill ceramic tile: How to Drill Ceramic Tile (with Pictures)

How to Drill Into Tile

By

Lee Wallender

Lee Wallender

Lee has over two decades of hands-on experience remodeling, fixing, and improving homes, and has been providing home improvement advice for over 13 years.

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Editorial Process

Updated on 09/20/22

Reviewed by

Deane Biermeier

Reviewed by
Deane Biermeier

Deane Biermeier is an expert contractor with nearly 30 years of experience in all types of home repair, maintenance, and remodeling. He is a certified lead carpenter and also holds a certification from the EPA. Deane is a member of The Spruce’s Home Improvement Review Board.

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Project Overview

Drilling into tile is required in bathrooms for hanging towel bars or shelves, as well as for larger pieces like plumbing pipe stub-outs in tile surrounds. Tile is brittle, slippery, and can crack—qualities that make this a tricky project. If you find yourself avoiding drilling into tile, have no fear. As long as you use the right type of drill bit and take your time, you can successfully drill into tile.

Before You Begin

For drilling into tile, the right tools make all the difference. For small holes in tile, choose a spiral thread bit. For large holes, use a hole saw. With either version, choose a carbide tip for reliable, economical hole-drilling. Or use a diamond-tip for high-performance drilling and durability.

Spiral Thread Bit vs. Hole Saw

Holes in tile between 1/8-inch and 5/8-inch in diameter can be drilled with spiral thread bits. A spiral thread has a solid shank and it cores out the tile, pulverizing it into powder. Holes in tile between 3/4-inch and 4-inch in diameter should be drilled with a hole saw. A hole saw is circular and hollow in the middle. It cuts the perimeter of the hole but leaves the middle mostly intact yet removable.

Spiral-Thread Tile Bits

  • Towel rack

  • Soap dish

  • Shelf

  • Toilet paper holder

Hole Saw Tile Bits

Diamond-Tip vs.

Carbide-Tip Bits

All-purpose drill bits are mainly designed for drilling wood, metal, or plastic and should not be used for drilling tile. Instead, use either carbide-tip or diamond-tip drill bits for all types of tile. Diamond-tip drill bits are stronger and last longer than carbide-tip bits. Budget aside, diamond-tip drill bits are generally preferable and can drill ceramic, porcelain, granite, marble, and glass.

Carbide-tip drill bits cost significantly less than diamond-tip bits, making them a better value for occasional tile drilling. A set of four carbide-tip bits costs about the same as one diamond-tip bit. Carbide-tip drill bits are best for softer materials like ceramic tile. Diamond-tip bits are required for harder materials like porcelain, glass, and stone.

Tip

Use a rotary drill, not a hammer drill. Not only is a hammer drill unnecessary but its pounding action may crack the tile. If you have a hammer drill, switch it to rotary mode.

Safety Considerations

When using a hole saw to drill a hole in tile, equip the drill with its control handle to prevent injury to your hands and wrists. Wear safety glasses and a dust mask when drilling into tile.

Equipment / Tools

  • Rotary drill
  • Carbide- or diamond-tip drill bits
  • Carbide- or diamond-tip hole saw
  • Retractable starter bit (hole saw only)

Materials

  • Painter’s tape
  • Fresh water (bottle or sprayer)

How to Drill a Small Hole in Tile

  1. Shut Off Services Behind Tile

    Tiled walls often have plumbing pipes and electrical wires running through them, even in showers and tubs. Shut off power to the area at the electric service panel. If you suspect that there are pipes behind the walls, cut off the water by turning off the home’s water main.

  2. Find Stud Behind Tile

    Finding a stud behind a wall is easy with a stud finder. But with a tiled wall, the added layer of tile and mortar complicates the process.

    • Start with a conventional battery-powered dielectric constant (DC) stud finder as sometimes it will detect fasteners through the tile.
    • If the DC finder doesn’t work, try a rare earth magnet-based stud finder.
    • Use detective work. For example, when drilling into a shower surround that doesn’t reach the ceiling, you can find the studs in the upper (non-tile) portion of the shower. The studs likely will continue vertically down into the tiled area.
  3. Add Tape to Drill Location

    Drill bits have a tendency to skate around or wander when rotating on hard surfaces. Placing two layers of painter’s tape on the tile provides the drill bit with enough grip to carve out a slight depression in the tile. Though some bits are advertised as no-skate bits, it’s still a good idea to tape the area.

  4. Mark Drill Location

    With a pen or pencil, mark the drill location directly on top of the tape.

  5. Cover Area Below Tile

    Tile dust is abrasive, so don’t let it fall on shower pans, bathtubs, or countertops. Tape sheet plastic on the floor below the drill area.

    Tip

    Tear off about 6 inches of painter’s tape, turn it adhesive-side up, and then stick it to the wall a few inches under the drill point. Form the tape into a slight curve. The tape will capture much of the tile dust.

  6. Start Drilling Slowly

    Turn the drill on low. Drill through the tape. Maintain the drill on low until it carves a shallow dimple in the tile.

  7. Increase Drill Speed

    Slowly increase the drill speed. Keep a steady pressure on the drill but do not press too hard. Stop frequently to let the drill bit cool down. Spray with a small amount of water to cool down the surface and control dust.

  8. Complete Hole in Tile

    Continue drilling the tile until the bit fully penetrates the tile. Slowly remove the drill bit to avoid cracking or scratching the tile.

    Tip

    The moment that the drill fully penetrates the tile, the drill may thrust forward and its chuck may impact the tile. Be ready for this and ease up on the pressure at the end.

How to Drill a Large Hole in Tile

  1. Shut Off Services

    As with drilling a small hole in tile, begin by shutting off electricity and water. Locate the studs and other obstructions that you’ll need to avoid.

  2. Chuck Hole Saw Into Drill

    Attach the hole saw to the drill and tightly chuck it in. The hole saw must have a center retractable starter bit. With some hole saws, the retractable starter bit is attached to the saw. On other models, the saw and the starter bit are separate and must be attached prior to chucking into the drill.

  3. Mark Drill Spot With Tape

    Apply a small square of tape to the center of the intended hole. Do not apply a large section of tape as you’ll want to monitor the progress of the hole saw on the tile.

  4. Press Drill Against Tile

    Press the hole saw’s retractable starter bit to the mark. Begin to drill. Drill until the pilot catches in the tile and digs out material.

  5. Press Hole Saw to Tile

    Keep the retractable starter bit in place in its starter hole. While the drill is rotating, continue to press down until the teeth of the hole saw contact the tile. Increase the speed of the drill. The hole saw should begin to dig out a shallow circle from the tile.

    Warning

    The drill must be rotating prior to the teeth of the hole saw coming into contact with tile.

  6. Stop and Add Water

    Every 30 seconds or so, stop the drill, brush away dust, and let the hole saw cool down. Spray the area with water to control dust and cool the work material.

  7. Complete Hole

    Continue to drill. Apply pressure evenly on the drill. As with drilling a small hole in tile, the drill has a tendency to fall into the wall cavity at the end. So, be prepared for this and hold back on the pressure when you feel the hole is nearly complete.

    Tip

    When tiling a shower or bathtub, you’ll most likely be drilling holes in the tile before the tile has been installed. Avoid cutting through the tile and down to a wood or concrete work surface. This can prematurely wear down the hole saw. Cut the tile over an open bucket or on top of a slab of Styrofoam.

When to Call a Professional

Drilling smaller holes in tile with a spiral-thread bit is simple and can be accomplished by most do-it-yourselfers with enough time and patience.

But drilling larger holes in tile with a hole saw can be tricky. Plus, when drilling a large hole in tile, it’s usually in the unforgiving environment of a shower or bathtub tile surround. You only have one chance to do it right. So, it may be worthwhile to hire a tile professional to drill large holes in tile.

Drilling Through Tile Can Be an Easy DIY

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Drilling through tile can be the most frightening part of a DIY project for many people. One wrong move and you crack the tile.

However, it doesn’t have to be scary. If you follow the recommended steps and go slowly, you can install your towel bars and bathroom accessories without fear.

Easy Steps For Drilling Through Tile

Tile requires some specific tools and techniques. We’ve got the process laid out so you’ll be drilling through tile like an expert. Of course, it pays to remember that even pros can make a mistake!

1. What kind of tile do you have?

Knowing the type of tile material you are working with is critical. Understanding a bit about materials in your newly tiled bathroom is key so that you can choose the right tools and drill bits.

Certain kinds of tile require specific drill bits. Pay attention to the recommendations so that you’ll have success when drilling your tile.

  • Porcelain tile is harder than ceramic. So when considering how to drill through porcelain tile, you’ll have to push harder to break through. You’ll also need special drill bits that can get through the glaze as well as the porcelain. The same holds true for stone tiles too.
  • Ceramic tiles are not quite as hard but they are indeed slippery. When drilling through glazed ceramic tile, you’ll need the right tile drill bit and a few tips to keep the drill from sliding on the surface of regular ceramic tile.
  • Glass tiles are also challenging due to their slippery surface. Glass tile material is also more susceptible to scratches and blemishes if the drill bit slides.

2. Use the correct drill bit

Before you start drilling, it’s critical to choose the right tile drill bit. You’ll want to use brand new bits too. A used bit — or the wrong drill bit — can mean tile cracking. Older bits can be less efficient and are far more likely to damage the tile.

Also, never use regular drill bits for tile — they’re just not strong enough.

The proper types for tile drill bits are diamond-tipped drill bits or carbide-tipped drill bits.

Diamond-tipped drill bits are certainly more expensive. Of course, they are also super durable. You can depend on this drill bit to get through hard tiles. These are good for porcelain tiles and they don’t burn out as easily as carbide bits.

Carbide-tipped drill bits are the most common type used to drill through tiles. This type is best for regular ceramic tiles and natural stone tiles, but not for porcelain tiles. Carbide-tipped bits just aren’t as strong as a diamond-tipped drill bit.

3. Gather up the proper tools

In addition to the proper bits, you need a single power tool: a good power drill. You’ll also want to have these things on hand, including the correct protective equipment.

  • Masking tape
  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • Marker
  • Sponge or cloth
  • Dust mask
  • Safety goggles
  • Latex safety gloves

4. Measure and mark the hole locations

If this isn’t your first time drilling tile, then you already know it’s a slippery challenge keeping the drill bit in the right place.

Before you start drilling, you can make things easier and a little more stable. Try this trick: Use masking tape on the tile surface where you want to make the holes.

Measure the spots for the drilling points and mark the locations with an X. The masking tape will create some tension when you start drilling and it’s just enough to keep the drill bit from slipping.

You’ll also want to use a level to make sure that the marks on the masking tape are properly located. No one wants a crooked tile bar!

If you have to drill more than one hole, you can also make a template out of a piece of wood. Just drill a hole in the wood that’s the same size as your drill bit.

Then, hold it in place as a guide for the drill. It’s also possible to buy commercial drill guides, which might be a good choice if you’re going to be doing a lot of DIY projects.

By the way, the same construction rule of thumb for cutting also goes for drilling tiles. Measure twice, cut/drill once!

5. Drill the tile

The moment of truth! When the holes are marked and measured, it’s time to drill. The first and most important piece of advice is to take your time and go slowly. The tiles are tough so it’s easy to go all out right away and drill fast. But, that’s the quickest way to damaged tile.

In fact, tile drill bit speed is the key factor. The best way to start is to drill slowly on low speed. Trying to drill through tiles is not at all like drilling holes in wood.

Go too hard or fast and you can overheat the drill bit and create vibrations that are enough to crack or damage the tile.

Once you start drilling slowly, you’ll want to add some pressure gradually. Too much pressure all at once will break and crack the tile.

After you successfully drill through the glazed surface of the tile, you can drill a bit faster. You can also add a little pressure to get through the rest of the tile to the wall.

When you reach the wall surface behind the tile, maintain the slow drill speed to keep the wall intact. You want your wall anchor to sit properly in the hole. Also, many experts recommend changing to a regular drill bit once you reach the wall.

6. Keep the drill bit cool

Drilling through tile is a little different in that you need to keep the drill bit cool. As it makes its way through the tile, it gets hot and can overheat.

Also, carbide drill bits will stop when they overheat, but diamond bits will still work as long as you cool them.

There are a few options for ways to do this.

  • Use a wet sponge. By holding a wet sponge under the drill bit, you can keep it cool. It also has the added benefit of catching some of the tile dust. If you’re working solo and can’t hold it against the tile whilst drilling, choose another option.
  • Spray water on it. It also works to stop drilling periodically and spray some water on the drill bit. Just be sure to keep water away from the power drill motor.
  • Commercial spray systems to keep bits cool are available if you’re going to be doing a lot of tile drilling.

7. Clean up the tiles

You’ve marked and made the holes. But, before you attach your toilet paper holders or towel bars, be sure to clean the tile. Drilling tile is a dusty business!

Remove any masking tape that you used. With a wet cloth, wipe down the tile to clean off any dust particles or debris that came from the drilling. Finally, insert your wall anchors or plugs and attach the bathroom accessory.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What tile is the hardest to drill?

Porcelain tiles are the hardest tile surfaces. The manufacturing process makes porcelain as hard as stone. It also has a higher silica content than ceramic tile, however, which also makes it brittle. That’s why you can’t use tile cutters for porcelain.

What’s the best drill bit for tiles?

You’ll need different drill bits for different tiles. Carbide-tipped masonry bits work best for standard ceramic tile. The best drill bits to drill through porcelain tile or glass tile are diamond-tipped bits.

Diamond tips help the bit get through the tough surface of the tile without cracking. That is if you drill slowly and properly. The diamond tip style is also good for ceramics, but is not necessary.

How to drill through porcelain tile without cracking?

The best way to drill through tile is to always use a low speed and start slowly. You never want to go too fast or hard on tile, because you can crack it and overheat the drill bit.

Recommendations are to ruin the drill at 100-200 RPMs. This speed will help you bore through the tile without creating strong vibrations that can crack the tile.

It also helps avoid overheating. You’ll also want to use a fresh, new diamond-tipped drill bit.

Why does the drill bit smoke and get hot?

Drilling too fast will create enough friction to make the drill bit smoke and the drill overheat.

Avoid this by being sure to drill slow and by keeping the drill bit cool. You can either occasionally dab it with a wet sponge, spray some water on it or dip it in some cutting oil.

Can I use a hammer drill for drilling into tile?

No! You should never use hammer drills for tile. It is also called a percussion drill or impact drill. While it’s used mainly for drilling hard materials, it is not used for drilling tile.

The hammer drill motion will crack any kind of tile. It might work for brick and stone, but certainly not for tile.

How do you prevent scratching tile?

To prevent scratching your tile, always use light pressure when drilling. Pushing down too hard can make the drill bit slip and make a big scratch on the tile surface.

Using some masking tape or duct tape on the tile where you’re drilling can help prevent slippage. It also adds a bit of protection against scratching.

What about drilling through travertine tile?

Travertine is a natural stone that is part of the limestone family. The soft, porous stone is easy to drill with masonry bits.

The exception is when it has a polished, glazed surface, which makes it harder to drill. In those cases, a diamond tip is the best bet.

Drilling through a ceramic tile: Conclusion

For sure, drilling through a ceramic tile shower to install an accessory can be nerve-wracking. Do it incorrectly and you’ll end up having to replace some cracked tiles.

That said, it’s not a difficult process to drill tiles. You just need the right tools and some patience to know how to drill through tile without cracking it.

If you’ve never done it before, it doesn’t hurt to clamp a spare tile to some wood and practice!

How to accurately drill tiles

November 29, 2021

5658 views

Reading time: 8 minutes

  • Drilling holes in ceramic tiles: what might be required?
  • How to drill through ceramic tiles
  • Drilling tiles with a drill
  • Can I drill through ceramic tiles with the
  • screwdriver?

  • How to drill tiles with a rotary hammer
  • How to drill ceramic tiles
  • How to make a large hole in ceramic tiles
  • How to drill ceramic tiles without cracks
  • Conclusion

Why drill ceramic tiles? There are a lot of options: hang something, fix it, install a socket or pipe. Do not count on a suspended object to cover up flaws. First, unless it’s a large painting or closet, sloppy work will still be visible. Secondly, with the wrong tools, even hard porcelain stoneware can crack, fall off or scratch you with a sharp edge. We understand the nuances of how to drill a hole quickly and efficiently.

Drilling holes in ceramic tiles: what might be required?

Let’s list all the possible cases when drilling ceramic tiles is really necessary and highlight those goals that can be achieved without a drill.

To drill the tiles:

  1. To make a hole for installing dowels and hang cabinets, posters or shelves.
  2. To prepare a large gap for a pipe, faucet or outlet.
  3. To connect a new appliance – a washing machine or dishwasher, for example.

Drilling the tiles is not necessary if:

  1. You want to hang a picture. For this, there are special self-adhesive hooks.
  2. You need to hang something else not very heavy on the wall – a mirror, a frame, a small shelf. A good double-sided tape will not violate the integrity of the ceramic surface and will allow you to safely outweigh the item, if necessary. It is important to take into account the weight of the object and observe safety precautions: for example, do not hang a mirror over the bed.

How to drill through ceramic tiles

There are a lot of options. Some are good for making a neat little dowel hole, others are for cutting tiles for utility installations. The arsenal of a home master will always come in handy:

  • electric drills,
  • hand drills,
  • screwdrivers,
  • perforators.

To cut tiles over a larger area, a grinder, a tile cutter, a glass cutter will come in handy: we talk more about these tools in the article “How to cut porcelain stoneware and ceramic tiles at home”.

The choice of tool depends on the area of ​​work and the hardness of the material: keep in mind that the glaze on the tile makes the process difficult, but the tile made of baked clay without glaze is easier to break through. For drilling high-quality holes in ceramic tiles, it is better to use a cordless or corded screwdriver, the upper speed limit of which is 800–1000 rpm. A hand drill, for example, will not allow you to drill a hole in a large area, since such a device cannot work at high speeds.

To make a quality hole in ceramic tiles, choosing the right drill is especially important – we will talk about it below. Remember about safety: in no case should you work with broken or blunt tools, choose inappropriate and dangerous options like a saw and a hammer.

Drilling tiles with a drill

An electric drill is suitable for drilling a small hole. A big plus: it is in almost every household. The procedure is as follows:

  • First of all, make sure that the ceramic tiles you are drilling are firmly attached to the wall and will not crack. To do this, tap on it and listen: if the sound is deaf, everything is in order.
  • Make a label. The point drawn with a marker may not be enough, it is better to mark the place with paper tape. At the same time, it will prevent the drill from slipping when drilling.
  • You will have to make sure that the drill does not slip. Sometimes a conductor is used for this – a thick plate of steel or wood with templates of different diameters. You can make this one yourself.
  • Make sure the drill is set to hammer mode to avoid splitting the tiles.
  • Start drilling at 90 degrees and at minimum speed. Gradually, the speed can be increased.
  • It is important to remove dust immediately so that it does not interfere with drilling. It is better to ask an assistant to stand next to the handheld vacuum cleaner.
  • Having reached the base, it is better to change the drill for one that suits the wall material – concrete, wood, and so on. The second drill must not be larger than the first, otherwise damage is inevitable.
  • If you need to drill a ceramic tile that is not glued to the wall, it is worth laying it on a flat surface.

Is it possible to drill ceramic tiles with a screwdriver

Many corded and cordless screwdrivers work in drill mode, so they can drill a hole in ceramic tiles. The method has several disadvantages:

  • there may not be enough charge for drilling,
  • screwdriver will not be able to drill through concrete and hard bricks. It will cope with tiles on foam block or drywall, but something more powerful is needed for a solid wall.
  • The

  • drill will most likely need to be cooled down periodically.

How to drill tiles with a rotary hammer

A rotary hammer comes in handy when a hole has already been made in ceramic tiles and you need to drill a solid wall under it. He is very likely to split or damage the tile: too powerful a tool. Even if the process goes smoothly at the first stage, at the “exit” the perforator drill can literally crumble porcelain stoneware. However, experienced builders sometimes work out neatly: we do not advise a home master to take risks.

Which drill bit to use in ceramic tiles

The choice of drill bit is critical when drilling into hard material such as tiles. Some are suitable for small holes, others are easier to make large. Not everyone can handle the pressure. And, of course, the selected drill should not be rusty and blunt.

Why is the wrong choice dangerous? In the best case, you use the drill once and throw it away. At worst, get hurt by cracked ceramic tiles while drilling.

What are the drills for porcelain stoneware? For a small dowel hole, these options are best.

  • Diamond coated tubular drills. They cost a lot, but thanks to the diamond chips on the cutting part, they are able to pass through the hardest materials, including porcelain stoneware.
  • Carbide tip lance drills. The maximum diameter of this is 12 mm. The hard tip, due to the special sharpening, enters the ceramic surface without damaging it. The adaptation is not eternal: after a few holes, the quality of drilling will inevitably fall.
  • Carbide-tipped twist drills. Designed for drilling concrete and stone, but can also easily cope with ceramic tiles. Be careful: so that it does not slip, the surface must be “nailed” – carve a hole, a small indentation, with a light hammer blow on the drill. Operate at minimum speed.

How to choose a drill? Diamond ones are several times more expensive, so buy them only if the amount of drilling work to be done is large. Most often, in order to hang a locker, one spear-shaped tip is enough for you.

How to make a large hole in ceramic tiles

To install a socket or pipe, you will need a larger hole, which a simple drill may not be able to cope with. You will need a special tool: a diamond crown or a ballerina.

As a last resort, if there is no way to use tools specially designed for drilling large areas, you will have to cut a hole in the ceramic tile around the perimeter with a small diameter drill or grinder with a diamond blade. But we do not recommend doing this if you do not have experience.

Drilling in ceramics with a diamond bit

This bit is similar to those used for drilling in wood, but made of a harder material.

A big plus: guarantees a clean-edged hole in ceramic tiles, which is important if you are laying pipes. They will break through anything: tiles, ceramics, porcelain stoneware, porcelain, tempered glass, reinforced concrete. They will last a long time.

Minus: heats up during the process, so it needs to be watered. It costs a lot: a crown with victorious teeth will be a cheaper alternative. True, with it the edges will not be so smooth.

Drill bit sequence:

  1. Put a mark where you want to make a hole, stick masking tape in the center so that the drill does not slip.
  2. Start at low speed. Hold the crown perpendicular and do not press too hard.
  3. Moisten the tiles while drilling to avoid overheating and prolong the life of the diamond bit. At the same time, this way you will wash off the dust.

How to drill with a ballerina on tiles

Ballerina is a lance-shaped drill on a bracket. A big plus: the diameter can be adjusted, and the tool itself is inexpensive.

Procedure for working with a ballerina:

  1. Extend the bracket to the required length along the radius of the hole. Don’t forget to mark the center before drilling.
  2. Install the drill according to the mark. Start drilling slowly and carefully. Keep the ballerina straight, do not let it deviate.
  3. Wet the tile surface to remove dust and cool the tool.

How to drill ceramic tiles without cracks

I would like to drill ceramic tiles accurately, but it is not always possible. Here are the main mistakes of the home master:

  1. Big impact force. They didn’t turn off the impact mode in the drill, took a powerful hammer drill, or overdid it when punching.
  2. Drilling at the joint. Or even worse: at the crossroads of joints. It’s so easy to damage four tiles at once.
  3. Wrong drill. A dull tool is not suitable for jewelry work.
  4. Errors during operation. For example, too high RPMs increase the risk of cracking. And an overheated drill or screwdriver quickly becomes dull and damages the ceramic surface.

Here are some tips:

  • Choose a place in the center, 15-50 mm from the edge.
  • Use a power tool with a low RPM when drilling. Not a single porcelain tile can withstand sharp pressure and heating.
  • Remember to cool the drill bit and remove dust with a vacuum cleaner or water.

Conclusion

Things to remember:

  • Make sure you really need to drill before you start.
  • Estimate the hardness of the tiles in advance. If you have a spare, practice on a tile that is not glued to the wall.
  • Select the appropriate tool. If in doubt, consult a specialist.
  • Apply masking tape to prevent slipping when drilling. It’s good if someone will help you with your work.
  • Work slowly, periodically cool the surface with water.
  • Attitude is as important as a firm hand: don’t drill a hole in ceramic tiles if you’re not feeling well or are very worried.

Author: LASSELSBERGER Group

The material is informational in nature and is not an instruction. Please consult a repair specialist

Which drill bit is used to drill ceramic tiles?

How to drill ceramic tiles?