Drilling Holes in Tiles or Glass

Drilling holes in tiles or glass is not for the fainthearted but with patience, care and knowledge it is possible. We have a few tips here for making holes in glass and tiles without having to do the drilling for those who are unwilling to risk it.

Preventing Drill Bit Slippage

Put a cross of masking tape on the area where the hole is to be drilled and mark the exact centre of the hole on the tape. This will help to stop the drill bit slipping when you begin the hole.

Use the right drill bit. Both tile and glass drill bits are shaped like spears. Note that some are designed to do both jobs so make sure you know what you have bought.

Drilling Technique

If at all possible use a pillar drill or drill on a stand; this will significantly increase your chances of success. Make a ring of plasticine or blue-tac around the hole. Fill this well with a lubricant like water, paraffin or white spirit.

Drill slowly, lifting the bit up then down again frequently to allow the lubricant to flow into the hole and cool the piece. If you are drilling by hand, don’t lift the drill bit for the first time until you are sure that the hole has started.

If you are drilling a mirror, start from the back, the silvered side, then as soon as a pinhole appears in the front turn the piece over and complete the hole from the front. This will reduce the chance of shards flaking off on the front of the mirror around the edges of the hole.

Drilling Tiles in Situ

If you need to drill a hole in a tile that is already on a wall, you will have to skip the plasticine well step. Just take care and drill steadily and carefully, stopping frequently and dipping the drill bit in water to cool it down once the hole is under way.

Do not try to drill glass when it’s in place, like a window pane in a frame. It will instantly shatter.

Avoiding Drilling in Glass

There is an easy way round the problem of drilling a hole in glass and that is to take it to a glazier or glass supplier and get them to do it for you. It shouldn’t cost much, certainly less than a replacement pane of glass if you break it while trying to do it yourself. And it saves the cost of buying the specialist glass drill bit too.

You’ll have to extract the glass from wherever it is mounted to take it to the glazier or glass supplier. But then you’d have to do that anyway if you were to do it yourself so that’s no extra hardship.

Cheating at Drilling Holes in Ceramic Tiles

This isn’t as much of a cheat as the one above for drilling holes in glass. If you have a steady hand and a good quality tile cutter you can make a hole by cutting the tile then reassembling it.

Start by marking the location of the hole then snap the tile cleanly across a line that passes through that point. Then snap the two pieces across lines at 90 degrees to the first cut, leaving you with four pieces.

Nibble Away

Using a tile nibbler, a hand tool that cuts the edge off tiles, cut off the corners of the two smaller pieces that correspond to the hole location. Test assemble the tile to make sure you’d done it right. There should now be a diamond shaped hole in the middle of the four pieces.

Reassemble the tile on the wall or other surface. If you take care and press the tile together tightly while gluing it back together the cut lines should be almost invisible.