Making a hole in a porcelain tile is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult drilling jobs to get right. I agree that it is not as painful as drilling through a glass pane, but it comes very close.
You probably think about having the walls of your bathroom covered with porcelain tiles or have done it already, but now you found out that you need a small hole to put up a towel holder on. Drilling such a small hole in porcelain is not so hard, don’t worry. If you follow the instructions in this guide correctly you won’t end up with any cracked and ugly looking tiles.
If you need a larger hole, for example, to put a pipe through, it might prove a tad more difficult, but don’t despair: we will handle that together as well!
So first let’s see what equipment you will be needing for this job.

Drill bits

There are three types of bits used for this: masonry bits, tile bits and diamond tipped bits. This job can be done with any of

Diamond-tipped bits

For those not familiar with this type of bits, they are really covered in diamonds. Mind you, those are not the shining, blue diamonds you are probably imagining, the ones used here are industrial made and black in color. You can actually see them if you look closely on the bit, they are really small, only a little bit larger than sand grains. And although they are really small in size and don’t look as much, it is actually one of the hardest materials known to men, perfect for drilling through hard material like porcelain.

Tile bits

Drilling into tile is as you found out pretty tricky. That is why there is a category of bits on the market being manufactured and marketed only for drilling tiles. These bits can be coated in diamond or a special type of steel. A bonus of these bits is that they will create a really nice looking hole. The downside is that while they are suitable for drilling tiles, you probably won’t be using them for anything else, so purchasing them can prove to be quite uneconomical.

That said if you can’t get your hands on either of those, you can still use masonry bits. I did just fine with them when I was drilling a hole through some porcelain so it is not impossible, just a tad harder and it will take longer.

I personally used these and am really satisfied. They won’t break your bank and are of really high quality. Last time I was drilling through a ceramic tile I finally decided to buy a quality set of bits. A job that would have taken me at least an hour before was done in a couple of minutes and I was pleasantly surprised to learn I only used a small portion of the diamond coating. From then I recommend them to all who ask me for my opinion (and to many who don’t.) But there are probably many sets out there that are just as good, I just know that these are high quality for sure.
Good practices

Try to use water or another coolant

When drilling hard materials there is a lot of heat being genarated. You need to get rid of it or it will destroy your drilling bit, making it unusable.
This is done by constantly spraying the drilled area with water, alcohol or a specific coolant.
Go small

When you first begin the job, it is advised to start with as small a bit as you can. Really, the smaller the better. This has two advanteges: the drill will only be removing a small portion of the material, so it will be easier to do it, and you will break the first layer nicely for your bigger drill.
In an ideal case, you want to move from your smallest-diameter bit through all your larger ones and just finish the hole with the biggest one (the one with the same diameter as you want the hole to have.) Well, that will usually not happen but I would advise to atleast use one small bit to start the hole and then move to your final bit.

Slow and steady

This will come to you once you do it yourself, but slow and steady wins the race in this case. Never just jam your drill to the spot you want to be drilled and go full out! The drill will heat up and turn red almost instantly and as soon as that happens it is done, the drill bit is finished and unusable.
Instead of this press the bit to the drilling spot with medium pressure and let it revolve slowly, feeling the material being removed with every revoltion. Once you have broken the surface, you can increase the speed.

Pressure

Never try to drill with the use of heavy force as is usually the practice with softer materials such as bricks. This will only lead to damage of the tile and your despair. Use only such an amount of pressure that will keep the drilling bit engaged.

The practice

Now you know what to expect and how to handle yourself when drilling through a hard tile. What I suggest is to put a stripe of masking tape on the place where you intend to drill through. This will not only hold the tile together so it won’t break as easily when you use too much pressure, but it will also prevent the drilling bit from slipping and when it does slip you probably won’t cause any damage to the tile itself.

Summary

After reading this you should be ready to handle the task put before you. To summarize: first, you will need a good drilling bit, preferably with a diamond tipped head. I suggest one above which has worked great for me, you can either choose to purchase a whole set or just a single bit, whatever you prefer. Just remember that you can get this job done with a simple masonry bit, no need for anything fancy (although the recommended bits only cost a couple of bucks and make the job REALLY easier.) Start with a smallest diameter bit you have and work your way up, also remember to go slow before you break through the hardest first layer. Use a coolant like water or alcohol the whole time, it will make the drilling easier and there won’t be any risk of breaking your gear. If you liked this article be sure to check the rest of them or read our power tools reviews so you don’t blow your money on a subpar model.