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How to Drill Holes in Tiles

Drilling various sized holes in tiles is easy when you have the correct knowledge & equipment. This article will explain how to drill holes in ceramic, porcelain and other types of tiles and the equipment required to do so.

Buy this complete set for various sized holes in tiles here.

Introduction

How To Drill Holes In Tiles

In this example we will be drilling 2 x holes in ceramic tiles to slide over the hot and cold pipework for a new shower valve (15mm copper pipes at 150mm centres).

This is an alternative to cutting the tile vertically (splitting it into 3 parts in this example) and nibbling away the tile at the 2 points where the holes would be. This DIY type approach gives a poor finish aesthetically (looks poor) and functionally (more prone to water ingress).

Before beginning, the water supply to the pipework is isolated so that any temporary stop-ends can be removed, ensuring we only need to drill the smallest holes necessary to clear the 15mm copper pipework. This will ensure that none of the holes are visible once we fit the shower.

Step 1

Tiling Around A Bath With Ceramic TilesHow To Drill Holes In Tiles

Tile the wall as usual until you have completed all the rows up to and including the row beneath the tile you need to drill the holes in, in order to allow it to slide over the protruding pipework.

Accurate drilling of holes in tiles depends on 2 things:
1. Accurate marking of hole centres.
2. Accurate drilling of holes versus these hole centre marks.

Step 2

Marking Out For Drilling Holes In Wall Tiles

In order to drill the holes in the correct locations it is 1st necessary to mark the two pipe centres on the tile, which will be the centres of the holes to be drilled.

Firstly, the vertical marks are made with a sharpie marker pen using a set square. These are set 150mm apart in this example as we know the 2 pipes protruding from the wall need to be at 150mm centres. In this example the tile layout was centred on this pipework so we only need to measure out 75mm each way from the tile centre.

PS
Mark longer crosshair lines at this point than you think you will need – they will wipe off later and will make aligning the drill bit easier at step 7 below.

Step 3

Marking Out For Drilling Holes In Ceramic Tiles

Next, the horizontal marks are made by positioning the tile as shown above and marking the tile. It is also possible to measure up from top of the tile below to the pipe centre and then subtracting the width of the grout line (2mm in this example) Either method is acceptable.

Once marked, the measurement is transferred across to the other vertical line to ensure the 2 holes are set at the same height.

Hole Centres Marked For Tile Drilling

After performing these 2 steps, you will have the 2 hole centres marked and ready for drilling.

Step 4

Equipment Needed For Drilling Holes In Tiles

You will need:

Step 5

Preparing To Drill Tiles

Place the tile to be drilled onto a suitable flat surface, with clearance underneath the holes being drilled so that the drill bit does not contact the surface underneath the tile. This could blunt the drill bit and will definitely ruin your floor.

I often jack it up on spare tiles as shown.

Step 6

Now we need to select the appropriate sized diamond coated holesaw for the application.

In this instance we need to drill a hole for a 15mm pipe with a little bit of clearance all the way round. This is to allow for adjustment of the shower pipework if required and to compensate for any innacuracies in or marking out or drilling.

Diamond Coated Holesaw

In this case, I will be using a 20mm diamond coated holesaw to drill the hole in the tile. These are the only type of drill bits to use when drilling any holes larger thatn 10mm into tiles, ceramic or otherwise.

As these drill bits do not have a pointed end, they need some form of guide to start them off on the tile. If you try to drill with these drill bits without a guide 2 things WILL happen:

1. They will skid all over the smooth glazed surface of the tile, scratching it to pieces.
2. You will not be able to drill accurately (in relation to your carefully marked hole centres)

Holesaw Guide For Drilling Tiles

I use an adjustable guide as shown in the pictures for a couple of reasons:

1. it is adjustable so it works with all my different sized holesaws
2. it has a suction pad which holds it firmly to the tiles when drilling – this increases accuracy and makes the job easier as it frees up a hand.
3. It has 4x bearings which allow you to drill at precisely 90° to the tile surface

Buy this complete set for various sized holes in tiles here.

Step 7

Securing Tile Holesaw In ClampSecuring Tile Holesaw In ClampSecuring Tile Holesaw In Clamp

The drill bit is clamped securely into the drill guide by tightening the retaining screws as shown above.

Step 8

Fitting A Drill Guide With A Suction Cup To A TileFitting A Drill Guide With A Suction Cup To A Tile

The clamp (with drill bit wedged in position) is then placed onto the tile so that the drill lines up with the marks previously made on the tile. This is done by looking down past the drill bit onto the marks on the tile.

When in the correct place, the suction cup is engaged by pushing the clamping lever on the holesaw guide down as shown above. This will hold the guide in place providing the suction cup is on the tile surface in its entirety.

Step 9

At this stage the clamp can be opened up by loosening off the 2 retaining screws. This will allow the drill bit to be removed and placed into the drill. The drill and bit can then be placed back into position and the clamp tightened back up.

Drilling Tiles

Alternatively, you can just tighten the drill chuck onto the drill bit as shown above whilst leaving the drill bit in the guide.

Step 10

You are now ready to drill!

Set your drill / driver to drill (not on hammer action for those of you using a combi drill or on any torque settings for those with a drill driver) and slowly start drilling with one hand.

Drilling Tiles

Use your other hand spray the holesaw with water as you drill to keep the drill bit cool – this will prolong the life of the drill bit and keep dust to a minimum.

Do not put excessive pressure on the drill – let the diamond coated core bit do the work. Thin ceramic tiles will take less time to drill through than thicker, harder porcelain tiles. Be patient.

Top tip
Ensure there is nothing under the hole being drilled that could be damaged as the drill bit bursts through the underside of the tile. Applying too much pressure can also cause the tile to crack at this crucial ‘breakthrough’ point.

Step 11

Clamping Drill GuideClamping Drill Guide

Once one hole is drilled, remove the guide by releasing the clamping lever as shown above.

Step 12

Cleaning Up Tile HolesRemoving Core Debris When Drilling Tiles

Clean up the drilled hole with the towel and remove the piece of tile that is wedged in the core bit by poking an old small screwdriver through the hole in the side or back of the holesaw.
This has to be done after drilling every hole.

Step 13

Repeat the procedure with the other hole, ensuring that the tile is clean (iso that the suction cup of the guide can stick.)

Removing Tile Drilling Guide

You may note that once the diamond coated holesaw has located itself within its own groove, the tile guide can be removed.

Accurate Tile Drilling

The guides most important purpose is that of starting off the hole in the correct location as can be seen above.

This ensures that the pipe will slide perfectly over the pipes measured and marked in steps 2 & 3 above.

Step 14

Finished Tile After Drilling

The finished tile is then cleaned up and carefully slid over the pipes to check that it fits correctly, before applying a suitable tile adhesive and fixing it in place permanently.

Tiled Bathroom By Professional Bathroom Fitter In Leeds

The tiles at either side and above can be fitted immediately.

Buy this complete set for various sized holes in tiles here.

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