How to Drill Tiles

Tile ToolsAlthough tiles as a whole tend to be quite durable and resistant to damage, they are notoriously prone to splitting or cracking whenever you try to put a drill to one. Unfortunately at times tiles do need holes stuck into them from time to time, such as if you wish to attach a towel rack to a wall covered in bathroom tiles or if your kitchen tiles need hooks from which to hang pots and pans. Drilling holes into tiles takes practise and care, and hopefully this guide will show how.

First, always remember safety. Eye protection is a must. Although it shouldn’t happen if done right, sometimes stray tile fragments do ping off and may cause blindness if they hit somewhere unprotected and sensitive. Then ensure the surface of the tile is clean. This is to help ensure that the surface is completely flat and devoid of rogue smudges or stains that may upset the drill as it does its work. Also check that there isn’t any pre-existing cracks; these will split the tile open if you try to drill it. To further help with your drilling, lay down an X of masking tape over the area you wish to drill. This will stop your drill bit from slipping over the glazed surface of the tile by providing traction and also prevents the outer rim from chipping.

Once you and the tile are suitably prepared, prepare the drill. Insert a carbide-tipped masonry bit into a battery or corded power drill. If the hole you need to make is larger than ¼ of an inch, use a smaller carbide bit to make a pilot hole to follow through with a larger bit later. If you don’t, the large bit is liable to crack the tile. As you are drilling into your tiles, always make sure the bit is lubricated. Keep a cup of water on hand at all times. While drilling -- carefully -- with one hand, pour a steady trickle of water onto the rotating bit. To soak up spillage, place a towel around your working area.

As you drill through the tile, lower the speed and apply a modest pressure to the surface. Don’t force the bit through, let it do the work for you. If you force it too hard the drill can blow out and crack the backside. This makes the tile weaker, as well as creating a larger hole than necessary. Once the tile has been drilled, carefully do the same to the backing board onto which the tile shall be applied. You may use an ordinary drill for this purpose. Be careful not to damage the backing board. If it does get damaged, it will render the intended use of those holes a lot trickier than they need to be.

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