Installing a tile backsplash can add style and protection to your kitchen walls. But once the tile is up, you may find yourself needing to drill into it to mount hardware or fixtures. Many homeowners wonder – can you drill into tile without damaging it? The answer is yes, with the right tools and technique.
Why Would You Need to Drill Into a Tile Backsplash?
There are a few common reasons you may need to drill into a tile backsplash:
- To install mounting hardware for hanging pots, pans, utensils, and towels
- To mount an electrical outlet or switch
- To install fixtures like a soap dispenser, shelves, or a light fixture
- To run new plumbing or electrical lines
So while tiling may seem like the final step for your backsplash, you may still need access behind the tile for installation and repairs down the road. With care and patience, you can drill into tile without cracking or breaking it.
Can All Tile Materials Be Drilled Into?
The drillability of tile depends on the material:
- Ceramic and porcelain – The two most common types of tile can be drilled into using carbide drill bits and low speeds.
- Natural stone – Marble, granite, and other stone tiles require diamond core drill bits. Extra care must be taken to prevent cracking.
- Glass – It is possible to drill into glass tile. However, due to the risk of cracking, many experts recommend cutting holes with a glass saw instead.
In general, glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles are the easiest to drill into using standard masonry drill bits. Unglazed, natural stone, and glass tiles require diamond drill bits to avoid cracking.
What Kind of Drill Bit Do You Need for Tile?
To successfully drill holes in tile without damaging it, you need the right drill bit:
- Ceramic/porcelain – Use a carbide tipped masonry drill bit for smooth drilling.
- Natural stone – Use a diamond core drill bit to prevent cracking.
- Glass – Carbide or diamond bits can be used but cutting with a glass saw is safest.
Make sure to match the size of the drill bit to the size of the hole you need. Using a bit that is too small could cause chipping or cracking around the hole.
How to Drill Into Tile Without Breaking It
Follow these steps for clean, damage-free holes when drilling into tile:
1. Mark the Location
Use a pencil or tape to indicate where the hole needs to be drilled. If drilling into a corner, make corner relief cuts first with a rotary tool.
2. Use Painter’s Tape for Protection
Apply painter’s tape around the drilling area to help reduce chipping. The extra layer can help minimize stress cracks.
3. Drill with Low Speed
Drill on the lowest speed setting. High speeds can overheat the tile and cause cracks or burns.
4. Apply Light Pressure
Let the drill do the work. Applying too much pressure can cause the drill bit to bind and crack the tile.
5. Drill from Both Sides for Clean Holes
For clean through holes, drill from the front halfway, then flip and finish from the back.
6. Smooth Rough Edges
Use a file or sandpaper to smooth any rough edges around the hole. Remove tape and clean debris.
Tips for Drilling Into Tile
- Use water or tile cooling spray to keep the tile temperature low when drilling.
- For larger holes, use a hole saw bit attached to a drill.
- Place a piece of scrap wood beneath the tile to prevent drill bit breakthrough damage.
- When drilling vertically into a backsplash, use a right angle drill attachment for easier access.
- Always use the proper drill speed for the tile material to avoid cracking.
Can You Drill Into Grout Between Tiles?
It is possible but not recommended to drill into grout. Grout is much softer than tile and can crack easily. The best method is to drill into the center of a tile, rather than on a grout line.
If you must drill into grout, take extra precautions:
- Use painter’s tape over the grout line for stability.
- Drill at an extremely low speed to avoid cracking at the grout/tile boundary.
- Minimize lateral force on the drill to prevent chipping the grout or tile edges.
Drilling into grout should be avoided if possible, as it has a high risk of damaging tile. Centering the hole over a tile provides the most secure drilling surface.
Common Problems When Drilling Tile
Drilling holes in tile is not foolproof, even with the right methods. Here are some common problems and how to avoid them:
- Chipping – Reduce drilling speed, use steady light pressure, and place tape around the hole location.
- Cracked tile – The tile material may be too delicate for drilling based on the drill bit used. Upgrade to a diamond core bit.
- Uneven holes – Ensure the drill is perpendicular to the tile, and drill halfway from each side for pass-through holes.
- Burn marks – Drilling at too high of speed can create heat that damages the tile surface.
Patience and the proper drilling techniques will minimize the chances of ruining the tile when you need to drill into it. Always test on a spare piece of tile first.
Drilling into a tile backsplash is possible for most ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone tiles. The keys are using the right drill bit for the material, drilling at low speeds, minimizing pressure, and taking precautions like taping around the hole location. While drilling into grout should be avoided, centered holes over tiles create the best opportunity for a clean installation. With care and preparation, holes can be drilled into tile backsplashes to mount hardware and fixtures without damaging the tile.
FAQ About Drilling Into Tile Backsplashes
Can you use a regular drill bit on tile?
No, regular drill bits are prone to slipping on hard surfaces like tile. This can damage both the tile and the bit. Specialized masonry bits or diamond core bits are required for clean drilling into tile materials.
What size drill bit for tile backsplash?
Most mounting hardware requires smaller diameter holes. Typically 3/16 inch or smaller drill bits are ideal for installing hooks, racks, or other backsplash hardware. Match the size to the hardware specs.
How deep do you drill into tile for screws?
For securing screws into a tile backsplash, drill holes approximately 1/4 inch deeper than the screw length. This allows the end of the screw to fully embed into the wall material behind the tile.
Can you drill through glass tile?
It is possible but very risky. Glass tile can shatter if not drilled at very low speeds. For best results, glass tile backsplashes should be cut with a specialized glass saw when holes or openings are required.
Should you use water when drilling tile?
Yes, water is highly recommended when drilling into tile. Combining low drill speeds with water cooling prevents overheating, which could lead to cracks or burns in the tile surface.
How do you drill vertically into a tile backsplash?
Use a right angle drill adapter for easier access to vertical backsplash surfaces. This allows you to drill comfortably parallel to the wall rather than reaching overhead. Low speed and light pressure are still crucial.
Can you drill through porcelain tile?
Porcelain is very drillable using carbide tipped masonry bits. The dense, ceramic material can withstand the pressure and heat of drilling with proper precautions. Just take care to prevent edge chipping.
How do you drill a large hole in tile?
For holes over 1/2 inch in diameter, use a hole saw kit. Attach a ceramic or diamond grit hole saw bit to your drill. Take precautions to keep the tile cool and drill at a low speed to avoid cracking.
Drilling into tile backsplashes allows you to mount hardware and fixtures to customize your space. With the proper drill bits and techniques, tiles can be safely drilled without incurring damage. Just remember to take it slow and steady.