Step 1: Know Your Materials
To successfully drill through tile, you need the right drill bit. Which bit you should use depends on what type of tile you have.
First of all, you can set all of your standard drill bits off to the side. They’re not strong enough to handle this project.
Carbide-tipped bits should work if you have ceramic tiles. These drill bits are designed for masonry work, but they go through ceramic, too.
Ceramic isn’t the strongest type of tile, though. If you have porcelain, glass or natural stone tiles, you’re going to need to take things up a notch. These tile materials are denser, so they require bits with more penetration power.
Diamond-tipped drill bits are the ones to choose. They cost a little more than carbide ones, but their extra strength and durability will make them worth the price.
It can be tricky to tell ceramic and porcelain tile apart. If you aren’t sure which you have, err on the side of caution by purchasing diamond-tipped bits.
Also, no matter which bit style you need, always start this project with brand-new drill bits. Otherwise, you risk using dull ones that aren’t up to the challenge.
Step 2: Mark the Spot
The more carefully you measure, the better. Putting your hole in the wrong place could be disastrous. To make sure your project is the best it can be, measure your materials meticulously and check your work multiple times.
Place a piece of masking tape in the general area where you plan to drill. Then, take your measurements, and mark the precise spot on the tape. Not only does tape offer an easy writing surface, but it also lends some traction for a spinning drill bit.
Step 3: Understand How to Drill Through Tile
Don’t jump into speedy drilling as soon as you have the location marked. Rather, take the process one step at a time.
Here’s the No. 1 tip for drilling through tile: stay slow and steady. Load up on patience before you begin. Rushing could cause your bit to slip off the mark, or it could break the tile. It may also cause the bit to overheat.
Instead, keep the drill at a low speed. Maintain firm pressure on the drill, but don’t force the bit in.
It can take a while for the drill to penetrate the tile’s glazed surface. Remember, keep calm and be patient. Once you finally make it through the top layer, you can take the drill speed up to medium while maintaining a consistent amount of pressure on the drill.
Step 4: Cool Down the Drill
As you drill through a tough tile, overheating can be a concern. Keeping the drill bit wet can be the solution.
With a free hand — or a partner’s hand — you can sponge cool water onto the bit as you drill. Spritzing it with a spray bottle is another option.
Some people find it handy to have a friend hold a damp sponge right under the drill bit. The cool water will take care of the temperature issue. The sponge will also grab onto a lot of the tile dust that’s produced during drilling. This can speed up your clean-up process at the end of the project.
Step 5: Drill Through the Substrate
Eventually, you should notice a change in the feel of the drill. That’s a sign that you’ve made it all the way through the tile.
You’re not yet in the clear. The hole needs to continue through the substrate layer as well. There may be drywall, cement board or another surface behind your tile.
Some experts recommend replacing your specialty drill bit with a different one at this point. Swap it out for one that’s better suited to that particular material. For example, carbide-tipped bits are sufficient for cement board, so there’s no reason to keep using a diamond-tipped one. For wallboard, drywall bits should suffice.
Whether you stick with the same bit or switch the one you’re using, maintain your slow, steady speed and pressure. If you speed up too much, you risk losing control and damaging the substrate surface.
Step 6: Insert the Anchor
One of the most common reasons to drill through tile is so you can insert a screw on which to hang an accessory, such as a towel bar. Sliding a plastic wall anchor into the hole you just drilled will provide the support that’s needed for your screw.
Alligator anchors are a smart choice when working with tile. They have an outer rim that can help keep moisture out of the hole. Be sure to pay attention to the specs on the anchors so that you buy ones that match the diameter and weight rating that you need.
If possible, slide the anchor in by hand. Gently pounding it with a rubber mallet is another option, but take care not to damage the tile.
Once the anchor has been placed, you can finish up your project by inserting a tile screw.
Now take a look at your completed work. You learned how to drill through tile, and you did it well!