How to Drill into Tile
If you are an avid home renovator, the chances are that you will have to drill into tile one way or another. For even the most seasoned contractors, however, this task can be daunting.
Even if you have the proper tools, cutting or drilling tile is not an easy job. This is especially true if you want to preserve the materials you are working with.
So, the question is: how do you drill into tile without breaking it?
To safely drill through tile without breaking it, know what you are working with, purchase the proper tools, and work slowly and steadily.
Know Your Materials
Before you think about drilling through your newly installed tiles, it is important to know what they are made of. For example, tiles that are are porcelain or natural stone are much more tough compared to ceramic ones.
With thicker, tougher tiles, you will have to put out a bit more effort in order to break through to the other side with your drill. In addition to extra force, you will also need to use a specialised drill bit that can penetrate both the glaze and body material of the tile itself.
Get Your Tools
Of course you will need a power drill to get started drilling tile, however it is also equally important that you have a drill bit as well.
Be sure to never use an old or very worn drill bit. Old bits will not cut through tile as efficiently as new ones will.
Be sure to opt for either a carbide tipped or diamond tipped drill bits. While diamond tipped drill bits are considerably more expensive than carbide tipped bits are, they will last you longer and be more cost effective in the long run. Diamond tipped drill bits can stand up to even the hardest types of tiles.
Diamond tipped drill bits are also required for boring holes into harder materials such as porcelain.
If you plan to do a lot of drilling into tile, a diamond tipped bill will be a better investment. If you just need to drill a few holes, a carbide tipped bit will prove to be plenty serviceable if you are using it against ceramic or other glazed tiles.
It is also a good idea to invest in a pair of safety goggles and a dust mask before drilling through tiles. Lots of dust and debris can result from drilling into tile.
Measure and Mark
Before you begin to actually drill into the tile, it is necessary to measure and mark the areas that you will be working with.
Glaze on tiles makes it difficult to keep the drill bit steady during operation. It is important to find a way to have the bit grip onto something while you drill.
Once you determine where you will drill, place some masking tape over the mark to create some tension for your drill bit. Make your measurements again and mark where you need to drill over the masking tape. Using this technique will allow you to drill into the tile without slipping and possibly damaging or cracking the tile in the process.
If you have several hole to drill in a row, consider creating a template with a block of wood.
Bore a hole through the wood that will be the same size as the drill bit you will use on the tile. Next, place this over the area you will drill into on the tile and use the hole in the wood as a guide for the drill bit.
You can also purchase drill guides to increase accuracy and reduce the chances of tiles breaking. These guides are made from plastic casing that attaches to the tile and then are drilled through.
Drilling Through the Tiles
Once you have finished all of your preparation, you are ready to start drilling. You may be tempted to start drilling fast and hard, however it is best to start slow and steady. Drilling fast can overheat the drill bit and create vibrations that can break the tile.
Once you are sure that you have penetrated the top layer of tile glaze gradually increase your speed and pressure to drill through the tile and into the wall. Once you have gone through the tile, keep applying pressure steadily until you hit the wall.
One tip to keep in mind while drilling through tile is to keep your drill bits cool. This is very easy. Simply keep a wet sponge near by and dab your bits with it every now and then to prevent them from overheating and cracking the tile.
If you would rather purchase an attachment for keeping drill bits cool, you can buy a spray system that has an integrated bit that it keeps cool while the drill is being used.
An integrated drill bit cooling system is especially useful when using carbide tipped drill bits because they will stop as soon as they get too hot. Diamond tipped bits will keep working even when they heat up as long as you keep cooling them down every now and then.
Match the Drill Bit to the Material
Another aspect of drilling tile that is important to keep in mind is to change your drill bit to suit the substrate you are penetrating. Keep this in mind once you have successfully drilled through a piece of tile without it breaking.
If there is concrete or stone behind the tile, be sure to use a masonry drill bit. If there is wood or fibre board behind the tile, you can get away with using a standard drill bit.
Although it is unlikely that metal or alloys will be behind the tile, if it is, you should use a high speed steel drill bit.
Now you know everything you need to know to get started drilling into tile without it cracking or breaking. The most important thing is to set up everything properly before you get going. Make your measurements, ensure you have the proper drill and bits, and drill slowly and steadily.