Installing screws into a tile backsplash can seem daunting, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be a straightforward process. Being able to securely fasten items to your backsplash opens up a wide range of possibilities for displaying decorative items, mounting functional hardware, or adding additional storage. Follow this comprehensive guide to learn everything you need to know about how to screw into tile backsplashes.
Selecting the Proper Fasteners
Choosing the right type of screw is the first critical step for a secure installation. Here are the best options for fastening into tile:
Screws specifically designed for masonry and tile are engineered to bore into the hard surface and create a tight hold. The coarse threads on masonry screws provide excellent gripping power. Look for screws labeled as suitable for tile, brick, or masonry.
Ceramic Tile Screws
These specialized screws are made to drill through the tile and grip into the material behind it. The screws have an extra wide head to distribute force and prevent cracking. Self-tapping ceramic tile screws allow driving into the backing material without pre-drilling.
Plastic Wall Anchors
For lighter duty applications, plastic sleeve anchors that expand behind the tile can provide adequate holding strength. However, plastic anchors are more prone to pulling out under heavy loads.
Screws for Backerboard
If the tile is installed over cement backerboard, standard backerboard screws can be used. Predrill appropriately sized clearance holes through the tile and drive screws directly into the backerboard.
In most cases, masonry screws or ceramic tile screws specifically engineered for tile provide the best results.
Determining Required Screw Length
Choosing screws of the proper length is also essential. Measure the thickness of the tile, then add a minimum of 1 1/4″ to penetrate through to the backing material. Here are some typical tile and backerboard thicknesses:
- Ceramic tile – 1/4″ to 3/8″ thick
- Porcelain tile – 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick
- Mosaic tile sheets – 1/4″ to 3/8″ thick
- Cement backerboard – 1/2″ or 5/8″ thick
So for example, if you have 1/4″ ceramic tile on 1/2″ backerboard, choose screws that are at least 1 3/4″ long (1/4″ + 1/2″ + 1 1/4″). Allowing adequate penetration depth provides maximum holding strength.
Drilling Clearance Holes
Drilling proper clearance holes through the tile is one of the most important steps in the process:
- Prevent cracking – Holes relieve pressure and prevent stress cracks as screws are driven.
- Proper pilot hole size – Clearance holes should be slightly wider than the screw diameter. A close fit ensures the screws bite into the backing material.
- Masonry drill bit – Use a carbide-tipped masonry bit the same diameter as the clearance hole. Apply light pressure and let the drill do the work.
- Perpendicular angle – Drill straight down to allow the screw to seat flush with the tile.
- Backerboard drilling – With backerboard, drill clearance holes through both the tile and backerboard.
Taking the time to drill appropriate clearance holes will lead to secure screws free of cracked tiles.
Choosing a Drill Type
Selecting the right drill for the job will make the installation process smoother. Here are some tips:
- Cordless drill – Providing portable power, a cordless drill with an adjustable clutch is ideal for driving screws. Choose a 18V+ model for the best torque.
- Hammer drill – When drilling into masonry materials, a hammer drill provides impact action to bore holes. Use an SDS-type masonry bit.
- Right angle drill – For installing screws in hard-to-reach corner areas, a right angle drill with a masonry bit is extremely useful.
Having the necessary drills on hand will give you the versatility to address any screwing scenario.
Securing Into Studs
When possible, the most secure method is to locate wall studs behind the tile and screw directly into the wood. Here are some tips:
- Use a stud finder suitable for tile to detect stud locations. Electronic, magnetic, and inspection camera stud finders can work through tile.
- Alternatively, carefully drill small pilot holes to locate studs if unable to use a stud finder on tile.
- Use the proper length wood screws once you’ve located the studs.
- Predrill clearance holes through the tile into the stud before driving the screws.
Though more time consuming, hitting studs provides maximum strength for heavy items.
Using Wall Anchors
In areas without accessible studs, fasten screws into the backing material using anchors designed for the specific material:
For drywall behind tile, use plastic sleeve anchors or toggle bolts, which compress behind the drywall for a secure hold. Predrill appropriately sized holes.
Molly and Sleeve Anchors
If fastening into concrete or brick behind the tile, molly or sleeve anchors create a tight grasp when driven into predrilled holes.
Hollow Wall Anchors
For hollow wall areas, specialized toggle bolts or hollow wall anchors provide strong anchoring behind the tile surface.
Matching the anchor type to the wall material is key for proper installation and strength.
Avoiding Potential Issues
Be aware of a few potential problems to avoid headaches down the road:
- Cracked tiles – Always predrill clearance holes to prevent cracking tile as screws are tightened.
- Stripped screws – Applying too much torque or improper pilot holes can lead to stripped screws that won’t hold.
- Pullout strength – Allow adequate penetration into the backing material. Insufficient depth leads to pullout failures.
- Loose anchors – Only use anchors designed for tile backsplashes to prevent spinning and loosening over time.
- Unsightly holes – Positioning carefully before drilling helps prevent unnecessary or unattractive holes in visible areas.
With careful planning and following secure methods, these issues can be prevented for a long-lasting installation.
Installing to Tile Backsplash FAQs
Still have some lingering questions about properly fastening items to your tile backsplash? Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
What kind of screw should I use for ceramic tile?
Look for screws specifically designed for ceramic tile, such as ceramic tile screws or masonry screws. These provide the best grip and reduce cracking. Self-tapping screws allow driving without pre-drilling the backing.
How do I anchor to hollow tile?
For hollow tile, use toggle bolts designed for hollow materials. Drill a clearance hole through the tile, then the toggle bolt compresses upon itself as tightened to provide anchoring.
What is the best way to secure items to porcelain tile?
Porcelain tile is extremely hard, so predrilling is a must. Masonry screws or ceramic tile screws are recommended. Be sure to drill pilot holes through the tile into the backing material.
Can I use drywall anchors in tile?
Drywall anchors alone do not provide robust anchoring for tile. Use specialized tile screws or hollow wall anchors to secure into the backing behind tile for strength.
My tile is just glued on drywall. What fasteners should I use?
With glued tile, opt for hollow wall anchors that expand behind the drywall. Just be sure to precisely predrill clearance holes through the tile to avoid cracking.
How do I screw into small mosaic tiles?
Use a carbide-tipped bit to carefully drill pilot holes through the center of mosaic tiles, then drive in masonry screws. Avoid the grout lines to prevent cracking. Go slow and easy.
Can I screw into the grout between tiles?
No, grout should never be used for anchoring. It does not have adequate strength. Always drill through the tile and anchor into the solid backing.
Following the proper techniques and using the right fasteners for your specific tile installation will lead to many years of securely mounted accessories or storage on your backsplash. Just take it slow and steady. With the right preparation, you can confidently screw into tile backsplashes in your home.
Installing screws into a tile backsplash provides a great way to mount hardware, decorative items, or storage solutions. By using the proper screws, drilling appropriate pilot holes, and anchoring into solid backing material, you can securely fasten items without damaging the tile. Masonry screws, ceramic tile screws, and hollow wall anchors designed for tile provide the strength needed for a long-lasting installation. With careful planning to hit studs or use suitable anchors, and by predrilling all holes, you can avoid cracked tiles or stripped screws. Follow the recommendations in this guide and you can screw into your tile backsplash with confidence. Just take your time, use the right tools, and select reliable fasteners made for tile.