Introduction: How to Drill a Clean Hole Through Tile - Porcelain, Clay, Glass, Hard Tile

There will be times when you are tiling that you will need to cut a hole through the tile to allow for plumbing or electrical wires. This is a very effective method for drilling through any type of tile using a drill and a carbide tile bit.


stlouisblues (author)2015-10-26

Adding written instructions would be appreciated as the video hasn't loaded after ten minutes.

patmac (author)2008-10-23

I, on the other hand, liked the video very much, and have tried for the longest time to drill through glass without success. I will try this method, it makes so much sense I don't know why I didn't think of it!

bmerritt5 (author)patmac2008-10-23

You do mean glass tile right? If you are talking about drilling through glass table tops or something like that, you can really only drill holes using this method through glass that is not tempered. If you try to drill through tempered glass - it will crack and splinter in a giant mess.

timc_fla (author)bmerritt52013-10-23

Not true. If you are careful and use proper technique, you can get about a 50% success rate at drilling tempered glass. However, you will forever have a stressed area in the glass that increases the likelyhood of it breaking. Not recommended, but possible if it absolutely needs to be done.

hey man...i've actually had success drilling holes in simple glass bottles by submerging them in water and using a stone dremel bit.   fyi.  :)

Were you making bongs or something mate? Just asking :)

bricabracwizard (author)patmac2010-10-26

Have you thought of using a diamond drill, they are circular like a hole cutter that you use for wood except the edges of the hole cutter for tiles and glass has a diamond sand paper edge which gives you a very clean hole of any size.

patmac (author)bricabracwizard2010-10-27

Thanks for the suggestion, I will certainly try this method.

timc_fla (author)2013-10-23

I see a huge issue with this and other instructions about drilling holes in ceramic tile or any tile not already installed and using oil for any purpose.

If you check with the manufacturer of the bit you will find that they recommend and give instructions for using water, not oil, 100% of the time.
The only other substances they recommend are turpentine and kerosene (very, very light oils).
I'm not even going to go into the obvious problems with using very flammable substances when using an electric tool in combination with the potential of high heat caused by excessive friction of a tool surrounded by any of these very flammable substances.
I can't even fathom why the manufacturer would recommend these substances, unless it is directed toward a commercial application with other controls in place to control any combustion that may take place. I can't even see why a professional would take a risk with these substances in this application.

The only exception to the use of just water is in commercial high speed drilling which uses water, water soluble synthetic coolant and mineral oil.
But that has nothing to do with this or other instuctables for tile, clay or glass.
Also, oil is specifically not recommended for diamond bits.

My major issue is having oil coming into contact with a ceramic tile and soaking into the ceramic body and subsequently dispersing into the ceramic body and potentially causing an adherence issue in the future.
If you doubt this, put just one drop of oil on the back of a ceramic tile and let it sit overnight. In the morning you will be amazed at how far the one drop dispersed and soaked into the ceramic.
Your thin-set or thick-set will not adhere to that spot and as the spot enlarges over time the adherence will be further compromised.

The keys to drilling succesfully are low speed and low pressure.
With low speed and low pressure you will never see temperatures at the drill bit that will cause excessive wear on the bit.

One caution, if you are using water, which you should, you should also be using an electric drill that is double insulated.

Another point, if your drill is reversible, make sure it is set to drill "<--" not reverse "-->", otherwise you will be there a very long time. It will still work, but the time will be greatly increased as will the temperature of the bit. It will most likely crack your tile. Yes, this advice is from experience.

mcarrell (author)2011-07-12

You can also just put a piece of masking tape where you want the hole? Mark the tape and drill through the tape.. It works for me every time! :) A bit faster than a putty mountain?

shuarose (author)2011-02-11

For an installed vertical tile, I used my kitchen injector full of water and slowly dribbled water onto the drill bit as I drilled (this takes a little coordination or some help).

Birch (author)2011-02-03

Just start your diamond bit on an angle, dry. Once you have a crescent moon cut in, that will guide your bit. Spray on water or use a wet sponge. Drill the hole at a slight angle to keep the bit from over heating. This will make your hole slightly larger than the bit, but this is not an EXACT science.

dchall8 (author)2008-10-15

Okay, this is why I hate video Instructables. It took you longer to set up your camera than it would have taken to write a real Instructable. And it takes longer to view it than it takes to write the Instructable. Since you didn't want to write it or take a few still shots, here is the narrative. Step 1: This is a technique for drilling holes in glass and ceramics. This technique only works on flat surfaces that can be held horizontal. Step 2: You need an electric or air drill, the ceramic drill bit of the right size, plumber's putty, and some oil. Step 3: Locate the hole in the tile. Step 4: Build a dam with the putty around the hole. Step 5: Put some oil inside the dam. Step 6: Drill the hole. Step 7: Remove the putty.

IamTheMomo (author)dchall82010-12-12

Thanks, dchall8! I think your easy-peasy instructions are quite sufficient and the video was overly long, but for the rank amateur who has no experience with power tools, it will suffice quite nicely. For myself, I copied your instructions to Notepad and saved it under Home DIY Instructions. I'll probably just use my sewing machine oil rather that buying a whole bottle of something I'll never use again - because I don't HAVE air tools! If I ever have to drill vertically, I'll use bmerritt5s instructions on pump sprayers, and um, doesn't it seem logical that if I could use water vertically, I could also use it horizontally? It would dissipate heat faster than oil, I imagine, because it is obviously less viscous.

LOZMAC (author)2010-12-09

For goodness sake dchaII8, your being a little intolerant aren't you? As a newbie dumbie at instructabless, finding a video of how to do something is a lot more encouraging than reading it. Also the comments clarify things well. I found the whole page gave me the info I needed and along with the masking tape idea, i was successful in drilling through a a very scary 300mm by 300mm tile splashback.

roadieflip (author)2010-01-20

I  worked as an electrician for the first 10 years of my working life, and I have put in many showers in already decorated bathrooms.  I have used a simple masonry drill bit without the hammer setting to drill holes in glazed tiles, and in those ten years, I have not broken a single tile...

I just don't see the point of taking such a long time to do something that takes no longer than changing to a different drill bit. does seem over-careful, but you have to hand it to him:  this WOULD be probably the SAFEST way you could possibly get this job done.   i usually do it your way, though, with a piece of masking tape placed where i'm going to drill to help prevent chipping a bit....another method, when i'm REALLY feeling careful, is to use a stone dremel bit...

moo of the cow (author)2009-08-28

would this work with a glass bottle ????

hey man....i used to drill holes in glass bottles with a dremel's stone bit and i would submerge the bottle in water while i did it....worked like a charm every time....i'd suggest that route, if you have a dremel available. 

and-reas (author)2009-12-04

great vid, want to do this with a bottle. Or should I then use the drill that's more like a circle which grinds the glass?   

iamtoats (author)2008-11-07

Do you think this would on a mirror too?

hazellr (author)iamtoats2009-02-20

YES our kits drill mirrors, as well as glass, aquariums, and of course granite, porcelain, travertine, marble, pottery, ceramics up to 30mm thick

chalky (author)2008-10-14

Great job! but what's the reason you can only use air-tool-oil?

bmerritt5 (author)chalky2008-10-16

I recommend the use of air-tool-oil because it is a clear, low friction oil. It will transfer heat well, and will not stain any tile or grout.

mylady_t (author)bmerritt52008-10-22

Thank you so very much for posting this. You don't know how many clay tiles and pots I have cracked or chipped using different techniques. Soaking unglazed clay in cold water for quite some time helps, but I still get chips on the back side, even with the carbite drill bit. I am gooing to get some air tool oil, have plumbers putty, and give my new 12v lithium ion drill a work out. Thank you!

bmerritt5 (author)mylady_t2008-10-23

Glad I can help out! Happy drilling!

NE-Phil (author)2008-10-15

Nicely done but how about drilling holes in tile when it's on a vertical wall? Obviously the putty and oil would not work. I spent hours drilling four simple holes for a towel bar holder awhile back. Any suggestions there?

bmerritt5 (author)NE-Phil2008-10-16

Thank you for your comment. This is a common problem. If you have to drill holes on a vertical wall that is already installed, I still recommend that you use a carbide tile bit or a diamond core drill bit, but that you spray water onto your bit while drilling to keep it cool. I have seen expensive systems in tile stores for pumping water onto the bit, but all they really are is a handheld pump sprayer that you can find in the garden center of Home Depot, Lowe's, K-Mart, or any hardware store. Just fill the pump sprayer up with water, prime it, and run a clear tube up to the drill bit - and spray while drilling. If you can, get someone to spray while you drill - it makes it easier to manage. Here is a link to some pump sprayers at Home Depot that work great - I bought the cheap one :

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