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A guide to drilling through tiles without breaking them

Tiling is a hugely popular DIY project to do, and while laying down tiles is relatively simple, what happens if you want to install a toilet paper roll in your bathroom? Or a mirror? Or a towel rack? You’ll need to make a hole in a couple of your tiles, which isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Tile Drill

Tiles are hard so they will resist drilling, but they also lack tensile strength, so will break easily, especially when you combine them with a drill. You don’t want to break any of your tiles, especially if they are old and difficult to replace, so here’s a handy guide to make sure you don’t.

Required equipment:

  • Electric drill

  • Carbide or diamond tipped drill bit

  • Water

  • Safety glasses

  • Mask

  • Pencil

  • Masking tape

  • Wall anchors

  • Spare tiles

  • Tiles

Prep your drill and the tile surface

Fit the carbide or diamond drill bit to your electric drill. The regular tip is not sharp enough to get through the glazed surface most ceramic tiles have and will likely just shake it about a bit and break it. Carbide and diamond tipped drill bits are designed to drill through rock with ease, with diamond being the more expensive but longer lasting of the two.

The most risky bit of the drilling process is when the spinning drill bit touches the outer surface, so let’s just avoid that altogether by putting masking tape over the the drill site. The masking tape gives the drillbit some much needed traction when it hits the tile and stops it skipping about on the surface. Measure where you are drilling and mark the spot with an X.

Drilling through

Put your safety glasses and mask on, there’s going to be some dust and debris blown about. If you are drilling the tiles before laying them, elevate the tiles on something (I often use spare tiles) so that the drill will not touch anything when it comes through the back of the tile. Start drilling, but don’t rush it – drilling tiles is not about speed, it's about patience and care.

Keep a strong grip on the drill and push firmly. If you are drilling through tiles that are already on your wall, be careful not go quickly through the tile into the wall, go gently to avoid blowing apart the back wall and making it difficult for wall anchors to thread into it.

Drill bits should be kept lubricated and cooled as you work (cool it every 5 to 8 seconds), so you should spray water at it as you are drilling – this is where it is handy to have someone to help, but if you don’t, just pause periodically to give the drill bit a spray. Note: do not spray any part of the drill other than the drill bit.

Finishing

Once you are through the other side, take care not yank the drill out, remove it carefully to avoid cracking the tile. If you’re drilling a tile on wall, then you can put the anchors in, using the back wall as the bit to grip into. Remove the masking tape from the tile and clean away the dust with a wet cloth.

It’s a relatively simple process to drill through tile and not something you should be intimidated by. As long as you use the right drill bit, use some masking tape and take things slowly, things should turn out fine.

Genesis Drill Bits 

Here at Tile Town we supply a range of Genesis Drill Bits, designed specifically for drilling through tiles.

https://www.tiletown.co.uk/en/trade-diamond-drill-bits

https://www.tiletown.co.uk/en/diamond-hole-saw

https://www.tiletown.co.uk/en/dry-diamond-drill-bits