How to drill into ceramic tiles

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Drilling into tiles guide

If you’ve been struggling to drill through your tiles and you’re now getting told off for breaking tiles, this is the guide for you.

Tools for the job:

1. Diamond bit or carbide-tipped glass or tile bit.

2. Drill.

3. Masking tape.

4. Safety glasses.

5. Glass of water or small hose.

Drilling into a ceramic tile can be a daunting task. Patience and the correct tools are needed to take care not to crack or shatter the tile. The best drill bit needs to be used to ensure no damage occurs to the tile or the drill bit. Following the below steps will give you the best chance of success!

Step by step guide

1. Clean and inspect the tile surface. Clean the tile to ensure it is free of any grease or debris. This will allow you to thoroughly inspect the tile for any signs of pre-existing damage or cracks. If it is damaged, do not attempt to drill into the tile- replace it before you continue.

2. Choose the correct drill bit. A usual steel bit may shatter the tile, to help you find the correct drill bit for the task, use the following guidelines:

  • Carbide-tipped glass or tile bits are shaped to minimise the risk of splintering ceramic tiles.
  • For extra hard tiles such as porcelain, opt for the more expensive diamond tipped bits as they are more durable.
  • If these drill bits are unobtainable, or you are in a bit of a bind, you can use high speed steel (HSS) bits. However, these will wear down after only 1-2 holes.
  • For larger holes or plumbing installations, use a hole saw bit made from glass or diamond tip. Ensure that the central pilot bit is made from the same.

3. Wear safety goggles or glasses. It is very important to ensure your eyes are protected in case the tile does splinter or crack. Safety first!Image result for tile drilling

4. Mark the area with masking tape. Mark the area with an X shape, crossing the tape at the centre of where you wish to drill the hole. This not only reduces the chance of slipping and gives the drill more traction, it also reduces the risk of damages the outside of the hole.

5. Before drilling, place the drill bit on the hole site and tap lightly with a hammer. Due to the tiles slippery surface, a drill bit may slide or jump. Making a pilot hole to steady before drilling is always a good idea. Remember to tap gently to avoid damage. If you're using a solid drill bit larger than  1 ⁄ 4  inch (0.6 cm), it is a good idea to drill a pilot hole with a smaller bit first.

6. Drill slowly. Allow the drill to do the work and drill slowly at a low speed. Do not push too hard as this will crack the surface. It is usual for this processes to take 3-4 minutes. Drill no faster than 600 rpm for diamond bits below ½ inch (1.25 cm), or 450 rpm for bits from ½ to 1 inch (1.25—2.5 cm).

7. Cool with water throughout the process. Friction from drilling tiles generates a lot of heat, which can scorch the drill bit or crack the tile. In order to protect both the tile and the drill bit, use a hose or water bottle to provide a constant trickle of water.

Remember- your drill bit should never feel more than warm. If it is hot, stop and cool with water before continuing.

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