It’s Possible to Drill Into Tile and Here’s How

Many home improvement projects come with a healthy dose of fright, especially when you’re talking about drilling into surfaces other than wood. Tile is one of those materials better left alone once it’s in place. Because of its fragile nature, tile can crack or break if TLC isn’t part of the process. 

If you’re thinking of installing a shelf or two on a tile wall, but aren’t sure how to go about it, the following guide will help. The thought of drilling into tile might be scary but doing so is surprisingly easier than you think. 

Find the Studs

Anytime you hang shelves on the wall, you should be anchoring them into studs rather than the drywall itself. This adds strength to the shelf, allowing you to place almost anything you want on the shelf without fear it will fall off the wall. 

Depending on the type of tile on your wall, you may be able to use a stud finder to locate the studs. In some instances, however, the tile may be too thick for the stud finder to work properly. In this case, you’ll need to rely on some givens in construction: studs are often placed in corners, around windows and doors, and beside outlets. You can also open your cabinets and find where they are screwed to the wall to locate studs. 

Make Your Marks

Drilling into tile isn’t a quick process so it’s important you know exactly where to drill. Measure and mark where the holes are to go. Make sure you’re happy with their placement (read: are they level? Are you happy with the height?), before beginning. Painter’s tape works great for marking the placement of the holes. 

Begin Drilling Carefully

As we said before, drilling into tile isn’t a quick process. Patience, and a light hand, are virtues here, so don’t try to rush the process. 

Hopefully, you bought drill bits designed for the type of tile you’ll be drilling. Regardless of the drill bit, however, you’ll need to keep it cool as you drill. Some bits come with a contraption designed to cool the bit as you drill, but if not, you’ll need a cup of cold water close by to place the bit in every so often to cool it off. This will keep the bit from failing and keep tile dust to a minimum. 

Place the drill bit to one of the previously marked places on the tile and slowly begin drilling. Using a smaller bit to create a pilot hole is recommended. Drill slowly and stop every 20 seconds or so to cool the bit in the water. Remember, it could take up to five minutes to drill just one hole. It’s better to take your time rather than having to replace broken tiles because you were impatient or exerted too much pressure. 

Hang the Shelves

Once all the holes are drilled, simply hang the shelves as you normally would. Just be careful not to scratch or otherwise damage the tile behind them. If you’ve done it correctly, the shelves should rest flat against the tile. 

The idea of drilling into tile is scary, but if you exercise patience and use the right equipment, you can do it without much hassle at all.