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I've read multiple instructions on mounting a shower rod in bathroom tile, however I've spent much longer than the internet suggests it should take to drill through my tile. I drilled for about 50 minutes on two holes that are not yet finished--one is about 60% through and the other is 80% through.

Is this normal? I have used both a masonry bit and a tile bit. I've tried low speed, high speed, wobbling it around, pushing hard, pushing soft, but at this rate it'll take almost two hours of drilling to do both sides.

Any thoughts on what I'm doing wrong?

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    There is something wrong here; you should be able to prick the tile glaze with an awl and drill through with a simple masonry bit in a short amount of time. Can you tell us the age of the installation? Is it a special type of tile? Are you trying to drill just deep enough for a plastic or lead anchor, or are you trying to drill all the through the tile and the substrate? – Jimmy Fix-it Oct 20 '14 at 3:27
  • The tile is new in a new house, about two months old. Some recent googling uncovered similar problems on porcelain tiles, maybe I have those? I don't know the difference – Chris Mendez Oct 20 '14 at 13:52
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    You are running the drill too fast, that ruins the bit edge so it doesn't cut. Get a new bit and drill at slower speed. Follow the steps from the answer by Hightower. – HasH_BrowN Oct 21 '14 at 16:40
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    I am facing the same problem where I am using bosch glass and tile bit as well as using diamond bit. I'm not sure if 20V cordless drill machine has enough power to drill into the tile. It has taken me more than 1 hour for 2 holes and still 2 more to go. – Sulabh Jain May 28 '16 at 20:09
  • @SulabhJain I used a corded drill after failing with a cordless, but supposedly slow is better? – Chris Mendez May 28 '16 at 23:02

11 Answers 11

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Check your Tile bit to see if you have melted the edge. normally it should feel nice and sharp against your finger. Hopefully you have a nice drill (generally battery operated may be a little on the light side).

What I do, is get a straw filled with water, or a spray bottle, and get a helper to either "pipette" or spray water onto the hole while you drill.

Second, keep the drill at slow speed - high torque, pushing hard onto the tile. You should hear it biting into the tile, As soon as you go too fast and see the tile or bit-tip going red, you have probably destroyed the bit (this is especially true for ceramic tiles)

third. as you suggested, some bits actually like it when you move the drill in an orbital fashion. I find that it cuts well on some of my bits.

So basically, if you are keeping the cut surface nice and wet (cool), and you have a sharp bit, you are doing everything right.

I have previously bought diamond bits like these with very little success. (i think you need to go for name brands here)

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These are the regular tile bits which I speak of. (and I am sure the ones you describe)

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  • I was using these bits -- youtu.be/3kEpZWGgJks and I noticed on the reviews some similar "takes too long" type comments. I'm wondering if I melted the bits by running it too fast, I'll check when I get home. – Chris Mendez Oct 20 '14 at 13:48
  • A good answer, nice to see you point out the melting of the bit edge by running the drill too fast. +1 – HasH_BrowN Oct 21 '14 at 16:35
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Purchase a 4pc. Ryobi glass and tile bit set which has 1/4 and 5/16 bits. Purchase #10-12 (blue)( 1/4 drill bit) or 14-16 (green)(5/16 drill bit) drywall anchors with screws, enough for how many holes you need to drill. Tape the tile with masking tape where your holes need to be, mark the tape and drill thru the tape. This will keep the drill from walking on you. Start slowly at first until drill bit begins to dimple in the tile then you can speed up. Takes about 30 secs. Drive anchors into holes and mount rod. I have been in the home repair business 47yrs. Works every time.

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I have been in the tile business all my working life. The hardness of porcelain tile can be aggravating when drilling. When drilling 1/4" holes I found that investing in 1/8" arrowhead carbide tipped bits is the best thing I have done. Drilling a small hole first is the key. I use a heavy drill at less than medium speed (not with the hammer function) and spraying denatured alcohol on it as I drill. Periodically pull it out and spray in the hole. I use the alcohol because it dries fast and doesn't saturate unfilled joints below. Each hole takes about 3-5 minutes. After the pilot hole is drilled I switch to regular 3/16" carbide tipped masonry bits, also spaying as I proceed, then finish with a 1/4" bit. If I have 8 holes to drill I will normally use two arrowhead bits. The other bits last much longer because they are not doing as much work.

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dont use any of the diy junk people are mentioning up above - its all overpriced and slower than molasses in january. use these:

http://oceandiamondtools.com/Core-Bit-Wet-Blue-Photo.html

they chuck up on a variable speed grinder (5/8-11 stub) and are used with regular wetting. a 6mm hole like what you are probably doing will take about 20 seconds in regular porcelain, 30 seconds in stone porcelain and about 1 minute in granite. the cores cost about $20 and will do a few hundred holes if you take care of the bit and make sure its kept wet and cool when cutting

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After a reasonable amount of experimenting and one entirely mangled bit, the following worked best to drill though what i can best describe as synthetic slate/stone tile ~12mm thick. (i.e. NOT a thin, glazed bathroom wall tile)

First - corded drill, non-hammer setting with a carbide tip, tile drill bit (looks like an arrowhead) to get a small ~3mm deep indentation in the tile surface. Reasonable pressure on the drill but make sure you cool the bit every 30 seconds or so. (i did this by dunking the tip into a tiny cup of water and it worked fine)

Once you've got a reasonable pilot hole/indentation, switch to a carbide tip masonry drill bit, on hammer action. Start very slowly and don't apply too much pressure early on or you risk cracking the tile. Keep the drill stable or have the bit go wandering across the tile.

Start with a small diameter hole. Widen once that's completed, using a masonry drill bit in NON hammer action.

I had 24 holes to drill in total - the first 2 took about 30 mins each using non-hammer action all the way with only tile bits and i ruined the first tile bit entirely.

Switching to the above method, i was getting each hole done in about 2 mins. No cracked tiles, no scratches on the surface and the new bits still look in good shape.

Loads of good answers above and i'm sure many folks with far more experience than myself will say never to use hammer action on tile of any sort. Nonetheless, hopefully this helps someone else in the same situation as me who doesn't fancy spending an entire weekend drilling.

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I install these items professionally in commercial buildings. Hammer drills with sds bits are the way to go. Just be careful not to crack the tile.

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I fit shower screens for a living and drill over 1000 holes a year in bathrooms mainly 6mm and 8mm. My advice for good results is be careful where you spend your $$$.

As a trade I spend 2 to 3 dollars for each spear head tile and glass bit or more like $7 for DIY home owners. These bits do 50-75% of the tiles I encounter and last around 10 holes. For usage I recommend SLOW about as slow as a good 18v cordless will go in 2nd but fast enough not to grip and stop working up to medium speed. Only use light pressure and don't wet the hole it stops the cutting. Wet the bit or rotate your bits. Stop if tile gets hot. Dont wobble keep bit straight. Should take 10 to 45 seconds per hole.

Then there is the diamond o bits. Pay as much as you can and get one that as a grind stone. I have one per size and they last upwards of a year. Get ones that have straight through holes as side exit get blocked very easy. Use nail and hammer out of drill to clean out. For usage start on 45 degree to create cutting edge then straighten once there is grip. Medium speed decent pressure to hard. Spray hole and bit with water consistently throughout drilling and cooling. Can take 2 to 5 minutes.

Tiles are like glass, chipped edges from masonry hammer bits equal less strength.

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I have used glass bits, which may be the same as a tile bit, with great success. 30-60 seconds per hole. Sometimes the bit would get too hot and melt the solder or brazing that holds the point in place which would then do bad things, that's where dipping the bit in water comes into play. Not letting the bit get to hot is a big issue, whether the point fails or not, it affects the quality of the bit and how well the hole drills. Slow and steady works pretty good here.

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I ended up using diamond hole drill bits like the ones shown in Hightower's answer. Not sure why it was so difficult but I've read that tiles have varying degrees of hardness. The diamond bit cut much faster than the pointed glass/tile bit.

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    You should check his answer as correct and up-vote it. Not post an answer to your own question and check that. 😞 – ArchonOSX Dec 10 '15 at 12:10
  • @ArchonOSX he mentioned them but downplayed their usefulness, instead recommending the others. That didn't work for me, so why would I check it? – Chris Mendez Dec 10 '15 at 12:13
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I had the same problem, use an old bit to make a pilot hole, the go with a Lenox diamond tip hole bit and a corded drill because it takes about a minute per hole.also spray water in hole as you go

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I used high speed steel drill bit for piloting through the tile glaze and then used the masonry bit to drive through right at the end. its all about patience. you have to lubricate the drill bit consistently and I did that by myself with a recycled dish washing liquid bottle (500ml) with a hole in the bottle cap. Took me an hr but drilled through both holes pretty well.

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