Porcelain is a common material for bathroom tiles and floors. It is a man-made stone that is harder than ceramic because it has a higher silica content and is fired hotter. The intense firing that makes porcelain so hard also makes it somewhat fragile. Like glass, it will easily shatter. To drill it effectively, you have to avoid sharp blows, heat build-up from friction and scratches from wandering drill bits.
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Use the Right Drill
Use a variable-speed drill bit to drill porcelain. This will allow you to regulate the speed of the bit so it doesn't overheat. Tim Carter of Ask the Builder recommends using it at the lowest possible speed, about 100 to 200 revolutions per minute. Fit the drill with a brand new a diamond-tipped masonry bit. A regular wood-boring bit will overheat before it makes a dent in porcelain, even at the lowest drill speed. Never use a hammer drill. Although the cyclical impacts make boring through concrete easier, they will shatter porcelain tiles.
Lay on Tape Before You Drill
Porcelain is so hard that it is difficult to make the first indentation with the bit, no matter how fast the drill is running. The result is that the bit can wander over the surface of the tile and scratch it, or the hole you drill is slightly off-centre. You can avoid this by laying duct tape over the tile before you drill. Mark the hole on the tape, then drill directly through it. The bit won't wander, and you will avoid chipping the tile around the edges of the hole.
Don't try to force the bit by applying too much pressure. Duct tape won't stop the bit from slipping and creating an ugly scratch if you press too hard. Excessive force will also cause the bit to quickly overheat. The bit will heat up somewhat even when you use moderate pressure, so keep a small bucket of water nearby, and dip it frequently whenever it starts to smoke. If you don't do this, heat build-up will wear out the bit, and it may also crack the tile.
Making Larger Holes
You can drill larger holes in porcelain tile with a diamond-tipped hole saw. This saw has a pilot bit in the centre that drills a smaller hole first. Lay on duct tape before you drill the smaller hole, then remove it before the hole saw makes contact with the porcelain. Otherwise, the tape will gum up the teeth of the saw. If you need to make holes in tiles that haven't yet been installed, your best bet might be to take them to a shop that works with tiles and granite. They will have the right-sized saw for any hole you need to have cut.
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