how to: drill into tile

When I moved into my apartment, oh, well over a year ago, there were no towel racks in the bathroom. The walls in that room are floor-to-ceiling tile, so installing a rack would involve drilling into the tile, which is probably why no one had bothered to do it till now. But it’s so crazy–how can you live without towel racks? I know for a fact that a family of four lived in my apartment for several years, and for the life of me I can’t imagine where they put all their towels. It must have been a nightmare. How did they ever survive?

Well, all of that was about to change, I vowed over a year ago. I certainly couldn’t survive for any length of time without a respectable place to hang my towel! Shortly after moving in, I purchased a nice shiny towel rack so I could end this nightmare once and for all. I got the rack home, opened up the box, and then I stared at it for like a year. Paralyzed by tile-drilling fear.

Seriously, how was I going to hang that thing? I had visions of gnarly cracks shooting out in all directions from giant mangled holes, mocking me every time I entered the room. And there would be no one to blame but myself.

I did some research online and asked around, and basically everything I read and heard told me that I should fear drilling into tiles, because it’s hard, and because it’s very likely you’ll crack a tile, and you might even break your drill, and apparently it is a very, very scary thing. I believed all the fear-mongering for quite some time, but the other day I finally got sick of tripping over the towel rack box so I decided to give it a go.

What do you know, it was crazy easy and the whole thing went off without a hitch. Drilling into tile–there is nothing to fear! So if you need to hang a towel rack in your bathroom or a even a knife rack on your kitchen back splash, or any kind of thing onto any kind of tile, you can do it. Here’s how I did it.

The important tools you’ll need are your power drill, a spray bottle filled with water and–this is the most crucial thing–the right kind of drill bit. My research told me I could use a masonry bit, but the masonry bit did not work for me. So after some trial and error, I found this to be the best type of bit to use.

This carbide-tipped glass & tile bit was a dream. Its pointy tip penetrated the surface of the tile straight away, with no slipping or sliding, and no cracking whatsoever.

OK so here’s what you do. Figure out where you need to drill your hole, and make an X over that spot with two pieces of masking tape. (The tape will help prevent the drill bit from slipping on the tile.)

Then, with your special bit loaded in your drill, just start drilling away, with the drill on a low speed and without applying a lot of pressure. Just let the drill do the work, don’t try to force it. Now, meanwhile, start spraying the tip of the bit with the water, just a little squirt every few seconds. This will help cool the drill bit, which would otherwise get super hot from all the friction.

It will take a while to drill one hole–like at least a few minutes. It will be boring and you’ll think you’re getting nowhere and your hand might even get tired, but just be patient; you’ll be able to see the bit slowly making its way into the tile. At first you’ll just be penetrating the glazed surface of the tile, and then after that you’ll be through to the interior of the tile, which is more of a terra cotta color. That’s how you know you’re getting somewhere! Just keep drilling and spraying till you’re all the way through, and then you’ll go through whatever is behind your tile (drywall or whatever). And then you’re IN!

Here’s how your holes will look–gorgeous! No cracks! Rejoice!

Next you’ll probably want to use plastic anchors (you can’t just drive a screw into tile since the screw needs something to grip on to). Most likely all of this will come with your towel rack or whatever you’re hanging, so just check your instructions. My towel rack came with the screws and anchors, and it told me exactly what size drill bit to use for the enclosed hardware.

Then you screw the mounting brackets into the plastic anchors (this is the mounting thingie that goes with my towel rack; the chrome rack pops onto this piece).

Pop the rack onto the brackets, and there’s nothing left to do but take a shower.

Seriously, this was an easy job that took maybe an hour and was so not worth procrastinating for a year. So if you’ve got things you want to hang in tile, I say to you: just do it!

PS: How do you like my new shower curtain? It’s this one from Urban Outfitters.

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  • kage

    You’re the woman! I would have been so scared too. Our apt. had no racks, lights or tp rolls (new condo). I couldn’t bring myself (my handyman that is) to drill for tp AND a towel rack, so our tp stands are free standing, and I don’t mind it at all. I ALSO got a free standing towel rack in addition to the towel rack drilled in the tile for when I have guests and need 4 towels hanging and to store kleenex/tp/soap refills. Kind of like this: Maybe that’s what the family used???
    Anyway, good for you. It would have taken me a long time to actually do it too.

  • Richard M.

    Pro job! I’ve never seen such big, tall tiles as those (4″ x 12″? – less grout to clean – cool!). Nice rack – elegant. Your shower curtain’s bold zig-zag pattern has, to me, a strong nautical feel; apropos when you’re dripping wet and singing sea shanties perhaps. Speaking of bold, I went searching for a pic of the curtain I got at Kohl’s (no longer available) when I ran into this – YOW! If only it were pink, right? Oh, nice sculptured towel too!

  • Trish

    Thanks HEAPS, Brett! I’ve been in just the same position for a few years–towel holder still in the box, and all! Maybe I’ll try it now. . . .

  • christina

    You’re so brave! I’ve had the towel rack, the drill and the two “diamond” tipped drill bits the Home D guys was happy to sell me– for over a year– but I was convinced the tile would still crack. Then I convinced myself maybe I didn’t need the rack after all… you’ve inspired me!

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