Porcelain tile has become a popular option, boasting scratch resistance and durability. While admirable, these qualities do complicate the process of drilling through porcelain. Drilling a hole in brand new tile can be nerve-wracking. You may be afraid to make a mistake and ruin your expensive tile, or to drill an unsightly hole. Drilling tile does not have to be scary because we’ve researched all the “how-to’s” to answer how to drill through porcelain tile.
When you’re drilling a hole through porcelain tile, adhering to a few simple rules will help to ensure success. Use the following steps as a guide:
- Collect your tools.
- Assess the drill site to ensure that conditions are safe for drilling.
- Measure and mark where the hole will go.
- Drill slowly, and be patient.
- Keep the tile cool by using water on porcelain.
These are the basics of drilling through porcelain tile. However, some specific tools and tips can help make your job easier. Read on to find a more in-depth discussion for details on how to do each step to drill porcelain tiles successfully.
1. Collect Your Tools
The tools that you use are crucial when it comes to successfully and efficiently drilling through porcelain tile. You will need:
- A drill; a battery-powered drill is ideal, especially if you will be working in a wet area.
- Drill bit.
- Sponge and water.
- Measuring tape.
- Marker or pencil.
What Is The Best Drill Bit For Porcelain Tile?
The very nature of porcelain tile makes it challenging to drill through because it is very dense and hard. For this reason, porcelain tiles require a particular drill bit. Traditional masonry drill bits (though they may be effective for regular ceramic tile) will skip, slide, and break if used for porcelain tile.
Look for either diamond-tipped drill bits or a bit specifically made for porcelain tile. Both of these options are slightly more expensive than other type bits, but are made for the job and will reduce the chances of breaking or damaging tiles during the drilling process.
2. Assess The Drill Site
If you are drilling through a tile installed on a wall, for instance, before you start the project first, determine what is behind your drilling site. Pipes or wires might be hidden behind your wall, so be sure to choose a spot that is safe to drill through. Use a stud finder to determine if there is a wooden stud nearby. A stud can be useful if you are drilling through the tile to install hardware.
3. Measure, And Mark Where The Hole Will Go
Carefully measure your project site and clearly mark where you want to drill the hole. Use masking tape t0 mark an ‘X,’ centering the drill site, and remeasure to make sure the location is exact. Masking tape not only helps designate your spot, but it also helps to increase surface tension when the drilling begins. The taped ‘X’ will reduce slippage and aid in creating a neater hole.
4. Drill Slowly, And Be Patient
Drilling through porcelain tile is not going to happen quickly. In fact, drilling too fast can result in overheating your bit and damaging or even breaking your tile. Take your time and plan on being there for a while, especially if multiple holes are needing drilling. Patient perseverance is key. Use consistent, firm pressure, but avoid pushing too hard as this can crack or chip the tile.
How Long Does It Take To Drill Through Porcelain Tile?
Expect to spend three to five minutes per hole, although it can take longer. Using the proper drill bit will help the process go faster and make the most efficient use of time. Don’t rush it; you will get through!
Tips To Keep The Drill From Jumping Around:
- As mentioned, use masking tape to mark the spot to help keep your drill focused on the drill site, instead of jumping around.
- Create and use a wooden template to keep your drill on track. To do this, use a regular drill bit to drill a hole through a piece of wood that is the same size as the diamond-tipped bit you will use for the tile. Use your free hand to press the template against the tile, or engage the help of someone else to do this while you drill through the template into the tile.
- Begin drilling at an angle, concentrating one edge of your drill bit to create a track or indentation. As the surface is penetrated, slowly lift your drill into an upright position for the remainder of the hole.
5. Keep The Tile Cool By Using Water On Porcelain
Should You Wet A Tile Before Drilling It?
Yes! Using water to drill through any tile is important, but especially with porcelain tile. As the drill bit and tile come into contact, vast amounts of friction are produced, and this generates lots of heat. Although diamond-tipped drill bits are tough, they are not invincible. Allowing the bit to overheat reduces the lifetime of the tool and lowers the quality of drilled holes. Several methods can be employed to keep your drill site moist and cool while drilling:
- If you are drilling through floor or countertop tile or if your tile is not yet installed, try using putty to create a small pool around your drill site to hold water. Fill this pool with a little bit of water that will continually cool your drill bit throughout the process.
- A spray bottle is a great tool to keep drill sites wet. Periodically mist the area around your drill hole with water.
- Consider using a sponge or wet cloth to wet down your drill bit and hole. You can even squeeze a little bit of water against the wall above your hole, and allow it to drip down and around the drill bit.
- A simple cup of water will also suffice. Occasionally dip your drill bit into the water to cool it off and remove any clinging particles of tile.
Whether you are installing new porcelain tile or drilling through existing, installed tile, you now have everything that you need to begin drilling confidently. If you would like more clarification on any of the previously discussed steps or prefer a visual on how to drill through porcelain tile, check out this instructional video:
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