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How to Drill Tiles... Without Breaking Them

How to Drill Tiles... Without Breaking Them

Date: January 26th, 2018 CTD Tiles

Would you like to attach a towel rail, toilet paper holder or other fixture to a tiled wall? If your bathroom has tiled walls, you’ll need to drill through them to attach items like hooks, towel warmers and some mirrors.

Drilling through tiles is a challenging process. Ceramic tiles are extremely strong and can resist even a relatively hard drill bit. At the same time, it has little tensile strength, making it easy to crack a ceramic tile if you don’t drill carefully.

Luckily, it’s possible to drill through your bathroom or kitchen tiles without any unwanted cracks or damage. Read on to learn how to drill through tiles without breaking them, as well as the specific items you’ll need.

Collage picture of drilling tools and accessories

You’ll need the following items:

Drilling through a ceramic bathroom tile isn’t as easy as drilling through wood or other soft materials. You’ll need a power drill with a carbide or diamond drill bit, since a standard drill bit just isn’t solid enough to cut through most tiles.

Most of the time, you’ll get the best results from a diamond drill bit. A carbide drill bit will be able to cut through most tiles, but the final appearance of the hole might not be as clean and precise.

As well as a power drill and appropriate drill bit, you’ll need some masking tape to note the correct drilling locations on the wall, a spirit level to line up multiple spots for drilling and a pen or pencil to mark each location.

Start by marking the drilling points

Nothing looks worse than a towel rail or mirror at an odd angle. To make sure your bathroom accessories are attached straight on the wall, you’ll need to mark each of the points you’ll be drilling before you begin.

Start by holding the accessory against the wall. Once you’ve worked out where each plug will enter the wall, place some masking tape over the rough location. Hold the bathroom accessory up against the wall again and mark the location of each hole.

You’ll need mark each point’s position precisely, as even a millimetre or two could result in the accessory not fitting properly. The easiest way to get precise markings is to mark the wall through the pre-cut holes in the bathroom accessory.

Once you’ve marked each point with a dot, draw a small cross on each location so that you can drill accurately. If you’re worried about hanging your item at an odd angle, you can check the line between the two points using a spirit level.

Picture of tile drilling with guide

Now, it’s time to start drilling

Once you’ve marked the location of each hole, it’s time to start drilling. If your drill has a guide plate – a small plastic or rubber guide made of anti-slip material – make sure you hold over the point you’ll be drilling to prevent letting the drill slip.

Before you start drilling, clean up your work area to make sure there’s no risk of you slipping. Wear safety glasses and a mask while you drill, as chips from the tile could come into contact with your face if you make a mistake while drilling.

Place the drill bit inside the guide plate and gently start drilling into the tile. Use the drill for two to three seconds to create a shallow hole in the tile surface. Once you’ve done this, cool down the drill bit using cold or lukewarm water.

If you’re drilling several holes – for example, two holes to hang a towel rail – you can repeat this process for the other hole. It’s best to drill a shallow hole in each of your drilling points before you start drilling deeper into each hole.

Return to your first hole and drill into the tile, applying a normal amount of pressure to the drill. You should drill for five to eight seconds into each hole – after this point, the drill bit will become too hot to continue.

Drill for five to eight seconds, then wet the drill bit using cool water. The drill bit will be extremely hot after five to eight seconds of use, so avoid touching it directly with your hands. You can use a running tap or hose to easily cool the drill bit.

Once you've cooled the drill bit, repeat the process and drill into the tile for five to eight seconds. Cool the drill bit and continue. It will take several minutes for you to drill each hole – be patient and don’t rush, as you could damage the drill bit.

Clean the tiles and attach the accessory

Once you’ve finished drilling each hole, it’s time to clean the tile surface. Remove the masking tape and wipe away any dust on the tile using a wet cloth. At this point, you can attach the bathroom accessory, provided the holes are the correct depth.

Drilling through tiles might seem difficult, but it’s relatively easy if you work slowly and use the correct equipment. Be patient and ensure your drill bit remains as cool as possible throughout the process and you’ll rarely, if ever, crack any tiles.

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