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How to drill ceramic

After an enormous effort you have put tiles on the wall and the room looks perfect. But now, you have to make a hole in a ceramic tile or several holes because you will need to put a towel holder, a shower curtain or some kind of hanger. A ceramic tile is hard and brittle, which makes it easy to damage both the tile and the drill bit. So you will need to patient, careful and slow.

Step 1 – Choose wisely

When drilling a holes in ceramic tiles first you will need to clean the surface and make sure that the tile is not cracked. The second thing is choosing the right drill bit. When you are drilling a ceramic tile on the wall two types of drill bits are recommended:

Carbide-tipped masonry drill bits which are designed for breaking through rock – hard surfaces and can be used effectively in this type of drilling;

Carbide-tipped masonry drill bit
Carbide-tipped masonry drill bit

and diamond – tipped drill bits which are even more durable and recommended for drilling through hard tile surface by many users (they are a bit expensive but will last longer than masonry bits). This is also applied when you are drilling a ceramic floor tiles.

When it comes to drilling a just ceramic tiles, beside these two, you can also use glass or tile bits which are shaped to reduce the risk of shattering brittle materials, they would also need to be carbide-tipped. As a last resort, you have the option of using high speed steel (HSS) bits, but you should know that these should wear down after one or two holes made in ceramic tiles.

ceramic drilling
glass or tile bits

If your trouble is drilling ceramic pots or ceramic vases I will just mention that diamond hole saw is highly recommended (also consider these when drilling ceramic plates), as well as ceramic and carbide-tipped masonry drill bits. Basically these types of drill bits are required for a proper hole in ceramic tiles.

Step 2 – Mark the point of impact

You need to know that the bit tends to skip around on the top surface rather than bite into the ceramic tile, so you will begin by marking an X over the tile on the spot that you intended to drill with a masking tape. The tape will give the bit necessary surface traction, reducing the chance of slipping. Next thing you need to do is to tap the drill bit lightly with a hammer, or with a nail on the spot which you will be drilling. If you have a marker pen, you can use that instead.

Step 3 – Let the drilling begin

You put the drill bit of your choosing into the place you will be drilling and make sure that the drill bit is straight! Be gentle but steady with your drilling action. When it comes to drilling ceramic pots, ceramic vases, or ceramic plates they can crack quite easily so it might be best to complete the hole in stages. For example, drill a small indentation then remove the drill and dampen the hole and the base of pot with water as this will prevent the pot from getting too hot and cracking. Repeat this process until the hole is completed. So you need to start slowly on a low speed and gradually increase the speed but do not apply the highest one. Keep a constant, firm pressure but not too much because you will break the ceramic tile. No matter what are you drilling, you will need to keep the tip of the drill bit lubricated in order to keep it from overheating, wearing down, or even breaking. The safest way to do this is to use water and cool the bit as you go. You can use a sponge with water, a hose or you can occasionally spray the tip of the drill bit with water. Just take your time.

Step 4 – Finishing the work

When you break through the tile, the pressure is off. Gently remove the drill bit from the hole and the masking tape. If you are drilling a hole in ceramic tiles on the wall the rest of the work should be smooth drilling to push through the wall board. Just switch to a regular drill bit and finish the job.

With patience, determination, and a little luck, hopefully you won’t be required to read on to find out how to remove and replace a broken ceramic tile.

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