Tile walls in bathrooms and kitchens are Totally Classic and on trend right now, but how do you drill into tiles without cracking them? Learn how to drill through tile to hang mirrors, towel hooks, and more!
There are some things I know I love to use over and over in design (hello, Carrara marble!)… and others that I don’t even realize I’m repeating until I look back over pictures of spaces. Countertop-to-ceiling wall tile (or floor to ceiling, for that matter) is one of those things.
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And in our recent renovation at Little Pax Ranch, we built out the former attic space, adding that bathroom with the black tub that you saw in the first image (what do you think of the sneak peek?!). In this nook-filled space, fully tiled walls just felt right.
Update: tour the full attic bath here.
The tricky thing, of course, is drilling through tile to hang mirrors, toilet paper holders, towel hooks, and other bathroom accessories. My diy home improvement partner in crime (aka my dad) and I worked out a pretty good little system now, though, so I thought I’d share a quick tutorial for you on how to drill into tile without breaking it. Wherever your tile – kitchen, bath, or bar – you can use this method to drill into tile backsplashes or walls, even if you’re not a professional.
Things to consider when drilling through tile
Generally speaking, the principles of hanging things in tile are the same as they would be for drywall: you want either to find studs or to use wall anchors to secure your screws. Most towel bars and hooks come with hanging hardware, which will work just fine with tile as long as you secure the screws properly with anchors.
The secret to drilling into tile without cracking it is two fold:
- Use carbide-tipped masonry drill bits for ceramic tile.
- Start your drill very carefully so that your carbide bit doesn’t bounce, jump, or wander, which can lead to a cracked tile. The best way I’ve found to do this is to prep the spot with a small rotary tool (since it is easier to control than a drill), but a piece of scrap wood can work in a pinch (get full tutorial with images below).
How to drill through tile
Materials needed to hang hooks, mirrors, or holders on tile
- Dremel rotary tool and cone-shaped grinder bit (optional)
- Scrap wood (if you don’t have a Dremel) and regular drill bits
- Masonry bits
Note: this tutorial is limited to ceramic tiles as the pictures show. Similar methods should work for another type of tile surface, but you will likely need diamond-tipped drill bits for porcelain tiles or glass tiles or natural stone tiles. Don’t worry, a diamond bit is not as expensive as it sounds. Also, whatever kind of tile you are using, I recommend practicing on a scrap piece before you begin on your wall!
And how about a very warm welcome for my dad, my new hand model? 😉
How to drill into ceramic tile without cracking tiles:
- Mark your holes
Determine where you want to drill (using the hardware provided with the item, if applicable), and mark the spot(s) on the tile surface with a permanent marker.
- Grind a start through the top layer of the tile
To provide a secure spot for your tile drill bit (so it won’t wander), grind a tiny mark into the glaze layer of the tile using a cone-shaped grinding bit on your Dremel (see image above) on a low speed. If you don’t have a Dremel, read on for an alternative method.
- Drill through the tile
Drilling into tile requires special drill bits. Using a carbide-tip bits sized for your plastic anchors, drill straight through the tile carefully. Be sure to apply steady pressure with patience (not too much pressure) so you don’t break your tile.
- Install the anchor
Gently tap the plastic anchor into the drill hole using a hammer. Again, gently, so as to not break the tile.
- Install the screws into the plastic anchor
If using provided hardware, be sure to install it with a level and tighten fully. If simply installing a screw (to hang a mirror, for example), drill in as far as needed, leaving the screw sticking out a bit out to hang wire or receive a sawtooth or d-ring hook.
- Secure the item
Whether it’s a mirror, a toilet paper holder, or a towel hook, install it over the anchor screws carefully and tighten any set screws to finish.
An alternative way to drill into tile
Don’t have a Dremel? No problem. Using a grinder to start your drill bit is my favorite way to ensure your drill doesn’t jump and potentially scratch or crack the surface of the tile when drilling tiles. The right tool is always helpful, but creating a little drill guide for yourself out of scrap wood will work in a pinch.
To do this, drill a hole all the way through a piece of scrap wood before you go to your tile. Then, once you’ve marked your spot on the tile, line up the hole you drilled in your scrap over the spot marked on the tile. Hold the scrap wood tightly against the wall and drill carefully and slowly through the hole in the scrap wood. This will keep your masonry drill bit vibrations from bouncing against the tile or wandering as it drills.
Some people have found that masking tape can help to hold tension on the surface at the drilling points and avoid cracking. I never needed to use masking tape, but that is another alternative if you are having trouble with the process. Remember, test on scrap before drilling into your wall!
FAQs for drilling through tile
Can you drill through grout?
What if the spot where you want to hang your mirror or hook is right on a grout line? No problem. You can follow these same steps to drill into tile or grout. Just clean up the grout debris with a wet sponge when you’re finished.
What’s the best drill bit for ceramic tile?
You need carbide-tipped drill bits, also called masonry bits, like these (usually marked for concrete, cement, ceramic tile, and more).
Can you hang heavy things on tile?
In my experience, things in tile just need to be secured the same as in drywall. Be sure to use a stud finder and proper screws, anchors (if there is no stud), and weight-bearing hardware.
Now go forth and feel free to tile away in kitchens, showers, bathrooms, and more to your heart’s content. 😉 And don’t forget to pin it!
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