How to Drill Tiles... Without Breaking Them

Date: January 26th, 2018 CTD Tiles | Tags: how to drill into tile, drill bit for tiles

Watch our video explaining how to drill into tile successfully, without breakages to your newly fitted kitchen or bathroom.

Preserve your tiles with expert advice on where and how to drill into tile and feel confident to add to those finishing touches to your DIY project. In the video below, Marcrist’s Application Engineer, Bernie, will show us the methods best used for drilling through both ceramic and porcelain tiles.

There are various reasons for drilling tiles such as fitting towel rails, toilet paper holders or toothbrush holders. For this you will need specialist drill bits that are designed for both types of tiles, the most common types of tiles are ceramic and porcelain, porcelain being the tougher of the two materials to drill.

For a written explanation see below for our 6 simple steps which explain how to drill into tile, including:

Learn to drill into tile step-by-step

Banner showing tiles being drilled

Would you like to install those all-important finishing touches to your newly tiled bathroom or kitchen? A statement mirror, shiny new shelving, coordinating bathroom accessories? Drilling through tiles can be more complex than at first glance as they are extremely strong and have little tensile strength, making them prone to cracking if you’re not careful.

Luckily it’s possible to drill through tiles without any unwanted cracks or damage. In this blog we’ll discuss methods best used for drilling through both ceramic and porcelain tiles and what equipment you’ll need for doing so.

Power Drill
Specialist Drill Bit
Multi Material Drill Bit
Spirit Level
Marker Pen
Wet Sponge or Cloth
Dust Mask
Safety Goggles

Step: 1

Check your tile material

Before you think about drilling through your dream tiles, it’s essential to find out exactly what material you’ll be drilling. The most common types of tiles are ceramic and porcelain - porcelain being the tougher of the two materials to drill - and each require specialist drill bits designed for that tile type.

Step: 2

Make sure you have suitable equipment to hand

Drilling through tiles isn’t as easy as drilling through wood or other soft material, therefore you’ll need a power drill with a specialist carbide-tipped or diamond-tipped drill bit.

Diamond-tipped drill bits are more expensive but will withstand the rigours of drilling very hard surfaces such as porcelain tiles and won’t burn out as quickly as other drill bits. Carbide-tipped drill bits are more cost effective and useful for ceramic tile drilling, but are not suitable for porcelain.

Ensure your drill bit isn’t worn out or damaged as it will likely damage the surface of the tile whilst drilling.

Aside from a power drill and appropriate drill bits, you will need masking tape or a drill guide to note the correct drilling locations, a spirit level to line up multiple spots for drilling and a marker pen. It’s also advisable to wear safety goggles and a dust mask to protect yourself from the dust particles that will go into the air when you’re drilling.

Marking drilling points with a spirit level

Step: 3

Mark your drilling points

Nothing looks worse than a towel rail or mirror at an odd angle. To make sure your accessories are attached straight, you’ll need to mark each of the points you’ll be drilling before you begin. Using masking tape will provide some tension on the surface of the tile to help the drill bit grip and not skid around on the surface.

Hold the accessory against the wall and 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 to mark each point’s position precisely, as even a millimeter 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.

Alternatively, measure the distance between the holes you need to drill for your fixing, then mark the holes on the tile in the area you wish to drill.

Once you’ve marked each point with a dot, draw a small cross on each location so that you can drill accurately. Use your spirit level to ensure the holes are level and accurate before you begin to drill. If this is your first time drilling tiles, you may wish to use a specialist drill guide instead of masking tape. Drill guides can be attached to the surface of the tile, to increase accuracy when drilling.

The last bit of prep involves making sure you have a clean working area and that you are wearing the correct protective equipment including goggles and face mask.

Drilling Holes

Step: 4

Start Drilling

Once you have selected the correct drill bit for the material it is time to start drilling. To prevent the overheating of the drill bit and to prevent creating vibrations that may crack the tile, take things slowly and start on a low speed, applying even pressure.

Make sure your power drill is in rotary mode, if you’re unsure, see the video for a breif explanation or check your specific drill manual.

In the video, Bernie uses the Marcrist CD850 for ceramic drilling and the Marcrist PG750X for porcelain drilling. For drilling the material behind the tile Bernie uses the MM850, we will explain why it is important to use a multi-material drill bit later in step 5. All of our specialist drill bits can be purchased at your local store.

Place the drill bit inside the drill guide or in line with the marked drill point and gently begin to drill into the tile. After 2-3 seconds you will have made a shallow hole in the tile, at this point the drill bit will be able to grip the tile well. You can now remove the drill guide if you’ve used one and begin to drill deeper until you have drilled through the tile.

It’s important to keep your drill bit cool during the drilling process to prevent it from overheating and getting damaged. Simply use a wet sponge and occasionally dab the drill bit to cool it down, being careful not to expose the motorized section of the drill to water. Carbide tipped drill bits will stop as soon as they get too hot and need to be kept cool throughout. Diamond tipped drill bits will continue to work even when they heat, as long as you allow them to cool down periodically.

Step: 5

Swap to a multi material drill bit

When you feel the drill bit go through the tile you must stop drilling and then swap to a multi-material drill bit before you drill through wall / brick / tile backer board. Why is this important? Swapping to a multi-material drill bit ensures you do not damage the tile drill bit which would make drilling further holes much more difficult, it would reduce the lifetime of the tile drill bit and increase the likelihood of damaged or cracked tiles. Also it is important to ensure you do not drill the tile with a multi material drill bit as this will most likely lead to damaged or broken tiles.

After swapping to the multi-material drill bit you can continue to drill into the hole, this will then drill and clear the material behind the tile which will ensure when inserting fixing plugs into the holes they will sit flush and level with the tile which in turn provides a secure fixing and an aesthetically pleasing finished project.

If you’re drilling several holes, 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 and don’t forget to swap drill bits after drilling through the tile!

Step: 6

Clean up and attach your accessory

Once you’ve finished drilling, it’s time to clean the tile surface. If you’ve used masking tape rather than a drill guide, remove this and wipe away any dust on the tile using a wet cloth. You can then insert fixing plugs into the holes and attach your accessory!

We always recommend the use of a professional tradesperson when drilling through tiles and fitting accessories.

Visit your local CTD tile showroom where we have a wide range of tile drilling tools and accessories available, alongside helpful knowledgeable staff on hand to help with any queries.

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