How To Drill Through Tiles Using the Right Drill Bits

How To Drill Through Tiles - UK Advice and Tips

One of the hardest drilling jobs, is trying to drill through tiles. It is really hard especially without breaking the tile. That is because the material itself is really tough, and yet it is also a very brittle material. So although you need to apply pressure, you simply can never afford to apply too much.

Some tiles are also shiny, and making the initial entry hole is also very difficult, due to the non grip surface. Tiles are made from slightly different materials, so let's have a look at those materials. Primarily they break down into two types which are ceramic and porcelain. By a long way these are the two most popular materials.

There are a few other materials such as limestone, slate, marble, granite and stone. All of these can be used to tile floors and walls. However the ones that most people will have to drill through are porcelain and ceramic.

What Are Ceramic Tiles?

These are simply made from clay which are then fired in a kiln. They are then finished with a glaze and are usually used on both walls and floors. They are only used internally, and not that suitable for external use. These are also available in a matt finish, a silk finish and even a high gloss.

In the UK these are used mainly on floors.

What Are Porcelain Tiles?

These types of tiles are used making clay dust and they are quite dense. These are OK to use outside as they are more resistant to water and damp. These porcelain tiles are much better for general commercial use than ceramic tiles. As they are tougher they are harder to cut, and also slightly harder to drill.

These are used mainly on walls in the UK

How To Properly Drill Through Tiles?

Now that we understand a little bit more about the types of tile, let's focus on drilling through them. In simple terms to be able to do that, you will need a drill and a special type of drilling bit.

The typical tasks are usually things like attaching a towel rail, a bathroom shelf, toilet roll holder, towel hooks, bathroom mirrors, towel warmers and other items in a kitchen.

Diamond Drill Bits

Carbide Drill Bits

Your drill will need to be powerful so don't attempt a tile job with a small drill. Ideally the drill bit you should use is a diamond drill bit, though you should be able to get away with a carbide tipped masonry drill. The carbide bits are cheaper than a diamond tipped bit.

We have shown those above. Typically a set of bits like this cost around £6-10. For porcelain tiles I would only recommend using diamond bits, as porcelain tiles are really hard.

You will also need some masking tape and pen to mark the holes. The masking tape prevents the drill bit from slipping on the shiny tiled surface.

Mark the Drilling Points - Check Twice

Joiners and carpenters have an old saying, measure twice and cut once. The same rule applies to drilling tiles. Mark and check twice before lifting your drill. If you don't want to get an ear bashing about a crooked accessory in your bathroom or kitchen, then follow these instructions carefully.

Carefully mark the points you will be drilling through before you begin. Hold the accessory against the wall and locate the points where it will be attached. When you know where each wall plug has to go, then work out the rough area. Place some masking tape over the area where the wall plugs will be inserted, once you have drilled the holes.

Get the accessory again, place it against the wall again. Now mark on to the masking tape, the exact centre of each hole using a pen. Be VERY precise as a few millimetres can knock the straightness off by quite a lot. If the item is heavy, get someone to hold it until you have very accurate centre points for your wall plugs.

Drill Time

I would recommend wearing safety glasses when drilling tile to avoid any chips getting into your eyes. Place the point of the drill on the exact mark that you have made on the tape. Start drilling very slowly and do not over force the drill. Allow the bit to do its work.

Make sure your drill is set to "drill mode" and not set on "hammer mode."

Your initial job is to create a small shallow hole. Once you get that done, then there is very little chance of the tile cracking. Do this for each hole that you have to drill. When you have finished doing that you should have a set of drilled shallow holes.

Please be advised the drill bit will get very HOT during this, so be careful you don't touch it. Also be careful if you are setting the drill down, as the hot bit will damage anything it touches.

You can now fully drill out each of the holes. Measure the length of your plug. Then drill holes big enough so as the plug can be easily tapped into the wall. I normally use a piece of electrician tape, to measure the length of the wall plug. I then mark this length against the drill bit, and wrap the tape around the bit. That way you know you are drilling the right depth.

My advice is to drill for about 10 seconds at a time. Then allow the drill bit to cool down (run it under the tap or dip it into a bowl of water. Continue drilling until you have a deep enough hole for your wall plug.

This is a slow process so you will need to be patient. Do not lean heavily on the drill as that will damage the bit, and may also cause you to slip. Take your time and let the bit do the work. When they have all been drilled make sure the wall plugs are in flush to the wall. Then remove the tape and wipe down the work area.

You can then attach your accessory and make any small adjustments.


Drilling both ceramic and porcelain tile is easy if you have the right tools. You then need to take your time, and also be patient. This is a slow job and one that needs a lot of accuracy. Make sure you have the right drill bit and a powerful enough drill to get the job done right.

About the author cordy

I am a retired construction worker and I also happen to love power tools. I have used hundreds over the years and offer my opinions on them here.

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