Installing a backsplash is a great way to add visual interest and protection to your kitchen walls. But what happens when you need to make holes in your backsplash to mount things like sconces or shelves? Can you drill through backsplash tile? The short answer is yes, you can drill through most backsplash materials, but extra care needs to be taken. Here is a detailed guide on how to drill into backsplash tile.
What You Need To Drill Through Backsplash Tile
- Protective eyewear
- Dust mask
- Hammer drill
- Ceramic tile drill bits
- Marking tools
Tips For Drilling Through Tile
- Check the backsplash material – Porcelain, ceramic, glass, and natural stone tiles can all be drilled through, but composites and metals cannot.
- Use ceramic drill bits – Carbide tipped masonry drill bits specifically for tile are a must. They prevent cracking and chipping.
- Go slow – Work the drill on a low speed setting and let the drill bit do the work. Too much pressure causes cracks.
- Use water – Keeping the tile drill bit wet by dripping water acts as a coolant and lubricant.
- Mark the spot – Use painters tape or a marker to identify the exact spot for the hole.
- Use a center punch – A center or masonry punch helps guide the drill bit and prevent wandering.
- Drill from the front – Entry holes from the front of the tile prevents chipping on the back.
- Back up with tape – Applying masking or duct tape to the area being drilled further prevents potential cracking and chipping.
- Vacuum as you work – Continuously vacuuming up dust and debris helps improve visibility and reduces mess.
How To Drill Into Ceramic Tile
Ceramic tile is one of the most common backsplash materials. Follow these steps for clean hole drilling:
Step 1: Mark The Hole Location
Use a pencil or tape to indicate where the hole should be drilled. If drilling for a wall anchor, hold the anchor in place and mark at the screw hole.
Step 2: Optional – Place Tape Over The Spot
Applying masking or duct tape over where you will drill can prevent chipping on the entry side.
Step 3: Center Punch The Marked Spot
Use a masonry center punch and hammer to lightly tap a guide indent at the desired hole location.
Step 4: Attach The Ceramic Drill Bit
Select a ceramic drill bit 1/4″ larger than the anchor or screw. Attach the bit to a hammer drill on a low speed setting.
Step 5: Apply Water & Start Drilling
Have a cup or spray bottle of water handy. Lubricate and cool the bit by dripping and spraying water as you drill. Let the drill do the work.
Step 6: Drill Slowly Through The Tile
Maintain gentle pressure as the ceramic bit works its way through the tile. Drill until you break through to the back side.
Step 7: Vacuum & Clean The Hole
Use a vacuum to capture all dust and debris. Wipe both sides of the tile clean when finished.
How To Drill Into Porcelain Tile
Porcelain tile backsplashes provide a gorgeous glossy finish. But the dense material requires extra steps when drilling holes:
Step 1: Mark The Desired Hole Location
Use a permanent marker or painter’s tape to identify the exact spot for drilling on the porcelain.
Step 2: Place Duct Tape Over The Marked Spot
Duct tape prevents chipping and cracking as the drill bit exits the glazed surface.
Step 3: Make A Guide Indent With A Center Punch
Use a masonry center punch and hammer to create astarting guide for the drill bit.
Step 4: Use A Porcelain-Specific Drill Bit
Look for drill bits made specifically for porcelain. The tungsten carbide tips hold up better.
Step 5: Drill At A Low Speed With Water
Keep drill speed low and spray or drip water to lubricate and prevent overheating.
Step 6: Apply Light Pressure Until Breakthrough
Ease the drill through the dense porcelain. Don’t force the drill bit.
Step 7: Smooth Any Rough Tile Edges
Use a file or sandpaper to smooth any rough tile edges around the freshly drilled hole.
How To Drill Into Glass Tile
Glass tile adds brilliant color effects but requires a delicate touch when drilling:
Step 1: Stick Painter’s Tape Over The Desired Hole Location
Use painter’s tape to prevent splintering and cracking as the drill exits the glass tile.
Step 2: Use A Center Punch To Make A Starting Impression
Lightly tap a center punch on the tape to create a guide notch for the drill.
Step 3: Select A Diamond-Coated Glass & Tile Drill Bit
Look for drill bits specifically made for smooth edges in glass and tile. Diamond-coating is best.
Step 4: Start Drilling At A Low Speed With Water
Drill slowly through the glass while dripping water to keep friction low and prevent overheating.
Step 5: Use Very Light Pressure Until Breakthrough
Glass cracks easily under pressure. Ease up and let the drill do the work of cutting through the tile.
Step 6: Clear Away All Dust And Debris
Thoroughly vacuum up all dust and shards of glass from the hole drilling.
Step 7: Smooth Any Remaining Rough Edges
File or sand any rough remaining edges around the freshly drilled glass tile hole.
Drilling Into Natural Stone Tiles
Natural stone like marble, travertine, and granite require specialty drilling techniques:
Step 1: Select Stone-Specific Specialty Bits
Look for tungsten carbide or diamond-grit drill bits designed specifically for natural stone.
Step 2: Make A Guide Notch With A Center Punch
Use a center punch and hammer to create an indentation at the desired drill location.
Step 3: Use Low Speed And Constant Water
Drill on low speed while applying constant water to lubricate and prevent heat damage.
Step 4: Change Bits As They Wear Down
The tough mineral composition of stone tiles causes drill bits to wear down faster. Have fresh bits on hand.
Step 5: Drill Slowly And Let The Bit Cut
Applying too much pressure can crack stone tiles. Ease into the drilling and let the bit do the cutting.
Step 6: Vacuum Up All Dust
Make sure to thoroughly vacuum up all stone dust once the hole is drilled.
Step 7: Use A File To Smooth The Hole Edges
Filing and sanding smooths out the inherently rough edges around a drilled stone hole.
FAQs About Drilling Into Backsplash Tiles
Can you use a regular drill for backsplash tiles?
No, a hammer drill with masonry setting and tile drill bits must be used or else the tile will likely crack.
What speed should you drill backsplash tile?
Always use a low speed setting – usually around 600-800 RPM for ceramic and porcelain backsplash tiles.
How do you stop chipping when drilling tile?
Use painter’s tape over the hole location, drill slowly with light pressure, keep the drill bit wet, and vacuum constantly to prevent chipping.
Should you drill into tiles from the front or back?
Drilling in from the front helps prevent chips, cracks, and blowouts on the more visible backside of the tile.
What tile materials can’t be drilled into?
Metal, plastic composite, and very dense stones like quartzite are too hard for standard masonry bits. Use a diamond core bit for quartzite.
What size drill bit for backsplash?
For screws and anchors, use a drill bit 1/4″ larger than the hardware size to provide clearance. Most backsplash drilling uses 1/4″ or 3/8″ drill bits.
Drilling holes in backsplash tile is possible with the right tools, preparation, and techniques. Always use tile-specific hammer drill bits, go slow, keep the drill bit wet with water, and vacuum constantly when drilling into ceramic, porcelain, glass, and natural stone backsplashes. With proper precautions, virtually any backsplash material can be successfully drilled through without cracking or chipping. Just take it slow and let the drill do the hard work.