How to Drill Through a Tile Without Breaking It Date – 7th August 2012 Copyright – Gasweld Pty Ltd You have recently tiled a wall or just have a tiled surface which needs some accessories such as a towel rack to be hung, and this requires you to drill through the tile. This is enough to make any qualified builder or skilled handyman slightly nervous as replacing a cracked tile can be a laborious task. Below is a guide on how to drill the holes you need to hang the rail, rack or whatever without breaking the tile.

1.Choose the correct drill bit – Understanding which drill bit is the correct drill bit to use, is crucial for this task as regular drill bits are not strong enough to drill through a hard surface like a tile. There are two drill bits which are recommended;

a.Carbide-tipped masonry drill bits. The carbide tip is designed for drilling into brick and concrete surfaces and therefore with care is effective for drilling through tiles without resulting in breakage or cracking.

b.Diamond tipped drilled bits and diamond tip core bits like those ones offered by Toolex. Whilst more expensive, the diamond tip is extremely durable, will generally not burn out as easily as masonry drill bit and is therefore recommended for drilling very hard types of tiles.

2.Breaking Through the Tile – As tiles are made to be strong and durable to withstand long term abuse this also makes them resistant to drilling. Therefore, the most challenging part of this task is actually drilling or breaking through the hardened, glazed outer surface without damaging the tile. Generally when you start to drill on such a hardened surface such as a tile, the drill bit will skip around the surface, rather than bit into it and bore through. However after measuring where you want to hang your accessory accurately follow these tips to help grab the tile;

a.Place an X of masking tape over the spot you want to drill, this will give the surface some traction and assist in the drill bit grabbing. Be sure to re-measure where your X of masking tape is to ensure you drill accurately.

b.You can also achieve the same effect described in 2a by scratching a X into the tile, however this doesn’t allow for inaccurate first round measurements and therefore can leave unsightly marks which may be visible long term.

3.Lubricate the Drill Bit - Ensure the drill bit is lubricated all times to stop it overheating or burning out. Water is a great way of lubricating a drill bit and ensuring it doesn’t overheat. So either rig up devise a hose system to deliver a constant trickle of water or pause during the task and spray the drill bit with water. The easiest way is to ask someone else to help you lubricate the drill bit so you don’t have to stop. Note only lubricate the drill bit and don’t apply water to the motor of the drill. 

4.Boring Through the Tile – Once you have actually broken through the tile, described in point 2, boring through is just a matter of being patient and continuing to bore through the tile until you drill through the entire tile. Remember hard surfaces like tiles can take some time to bore through and can’t be rushed. Speed is definitely not the answer to this step; it’s all about being patient and persistent. So start drilling slowly, on a low speed and then gradually increase the speed as appropriate, applying constant firm pressure but not too firm as you want to bore through the tile rather than break through the entire tile.  Again be sure to keep your drill bit lubricated with water whilst you are boring through the tile, as described in point 3.

Unfortunately getting the balance between boring, lubrication, speed and pressure right takes practice so just prepare, start slow and gently increase the speed and pressure as needed. Let the tile guide you.

5.Drilling Through the Backside of the Tile – Once you are through the tile the tricky part of this task should be over, as drilling though the backside of the tile into plaster board or the mounting surface should be relatively smooth in comparison to drilling through the tile. Avoid crashing through into the mounting surface such as plasterboard or timber by decreasing the speed of the drill and changing over to a regular drill. This will ensure the mounting surface isn’t blown apart and can hold wall anchors if necessary.

6.Inserting Wall Anchors (If Necessary) - If you are inserting wall anchors remember the portion of the anchor that sits in the tile should only be an unthreaded screw top, with the mounting surface behind the tile being relied on for anchoring, as expanding an anchor into the tile with a threaded screw may result in cracking.

7.Finishing the Task – The hole is now drilled into the tile, the wall anchor inserted (if necessary) and ready for hanging of your item such as a towel holder, rail or toothbrush or soap holder.