Bathroom Accessories  – How do I Drill the Hard porcelain Tile?

Although some toilet accessories can be secured to the walls using adhesive caulk most need to be secured behind the wall using a drywall insert or toggle bolts. You can get a tile drill kit or buy a masonry bit to drill the tile……right? Until recently this was “the” way to install toilet room or bathroom accessories.  Here is a story regarding drilling tile that will make you throw up a little in your mouth then you’ll be glad you found this article because it can save you thousands.

How to drill porcelain tile?A plumbing contractor in our area had a niche for installing toilet room accessories (in some areas it is a labor issue. Plumbers claim the backing and installation of toilet room accessories.) Part of the installation process is drilling into drywall, wood, marble or tile to be able to brace the accessories. This contractor was asked by a large general contractor to install the accessories on a major hotel and convention center project. When it was all said and done the plumbing contractor figured there would be around 12,000 holes to drill. The contractor told us that a tile drill kit from the tile supplier or a diamond tipped masonry bit would normally do the trick. After the first few days their plumber burned through one bit every 4 holes. The bits were close to $50.00 each. Do we need to do any math?

After a few days, plenty of days for a learning pattern to emerge, no further productivity was realized. It was at this time that one of the owners went to his partner and said “this job is going to kill us with just the bits. I don’t even want to talk about the labor”. So they called up a couple of drill manufacturers gave them the parameters and they tried a couple of diamond tipped core bits. These were quite a bit better in fact the hole count per bit doubled…….8 to 10 holes per bit. You can imagine the despair. It was time to roll up the sleeves and figure out this dilemma. One of the office people went to the only place they knew to figure out really tough problems….Google.

After some deep digging they found a company out of California that made metal bond bits. Metal bonding is a process that brings the base metal to an elastic state, synthetic diamonds are then introduced to the metal and they are literally impregnated into the metal. Please pay special attention to “synthetic diamonds”, they are more uniform in structure than natural diamonds making them superior for this application. In speaking to this company they were told that these bits would have a much longer life if water was introduced to the process. This company made a “Water Swivel Connector” that when attached to a standard drill would allow water to run through the bit thereby cooling the process down. So a “Water Swivel Connector” was purchased and to say that the performance improved would be an insult. The amount of holes being cored per bit exploded to between 150 and 200 holes.

So the story ends here right? Not really, the company doing the coring was content with this kind of productivity but the pace was frantic. Ordering the bits became a pretty constant process usually getting an order in once a week. The contractor attempted to order multiple sizes one day and the manufacturer informed them that they had none in stock and the shipment they expected from Eastern Europe wasn’t expected for a couple weeks. The schedule for the hotel and convention center would not allow for this kind of delay. Liquidated damages would kick in if the schedule wasn’t kept. So the plumbing contractor went literally back to the drawing board. Digging further and further into the machining industry to try and uncover a company that made the right bits to core through almost diamond like porcelain tile. Finally a company was found that knew exactly what they were looking for in fact they were familiar with company out of California and did not hesitate to inform the contractor that their bits would likely double or triple the output of the other bits.

So the first bits arrived and were sent to the job site. The call from the field was one of despair, only 75 to 80 holes were drilled with these “new and improved bits”. Obviously a pretty strong phone call was made to the new company to tell them thanks but no thanks. The owner was extremely accommodating telling them that they “should have told him it was the real tough stuff”, he didn’t charge them for the bits that didn’t work well and sent them 4 of the super secret core bits.

Package received, bits sent to the job site. The ecstatic phone call received at the end of the day went something like this “Field Supervisor : hey (insert name for the office) were did you get these bits? Office : Don’t do this to me, why are you asking? let me guess they aren’t doing the job? Field Supervisor: Are you kidding me? A couple more orders and we’ll be done with the job. The first bit we used got 425 cores and the second 2 got 750 to 800 each. The guys are having a contest right now on who can get the most cores done in a day with one bit. Office : Yahoo, yahoo, yahoo.”

OK, so what do you need to make this piece of equipment? How do you put it together? Is there any advice that can be given as to how to drill the cores once the set ups are made? Yes to all of the above. Please see below for a detailed tutorial on how this product is made and used, complete with pictures and a demonstration video:

What Size Hole Do You Need? – This should be pretty simple to figure out. Look at the installation instructions. 1/4″, 3/8″ and 1/2″ are really popular sizes for shower doors grab bars etc.

How Do I Figure Out if I Need a Water Swivel Connector? – This whole set up is relatively expensive, but you could literally buy one with a couple bits and never not buy another bit for years. We recommend you buy the water swivel connector but the bits can be run dry or with some water applied manually however you are seriously limiting the life of the bit by roughly 65% to 70%.

What Size Drill Can I Use?

What Do I Hook Up to the Water Swivel Connector to Get Water to the Bit? – You can go to any of the big box stores and look in the garden section. Look for a pump up pressure garden sprayer. Next find tubing to go from the sprayer to a gas cock valve.

Now I’ve Got Everything Together How in the Heck do I Use it? – Obviously mark your holes out correctly. We recommend marking the holes on a piece of masking tape or duct tape. This gives you a reference point and you don’t have to put a black mark on the tile. Pump up the pressurized sprayer, and crack the valve slightly. We suggest you work with the valve before using it to drill so you know how much water will come out. You want the water to come out in a drip.

Are There Any Pointers You Can Give on Drilling? Yep…although these are technically high speed bits, we’ve found that they work best on porcelain at around half speed. Place the bit on the tile at a 45 degree angle and begin drilling slowly to create a half moon. This is to minimize the chances of the bit jumping out of the started hole and scoring a line across the tile. When the hole is started you can walk the bit up straight and begin drilling at a faster pace. Make sure the water is coming from around the hole in a drip.

Any More Pointers? – Yes, you can drill about 3 to 4 holes before pieces of the tile clog up the core bit and it needs to be cleared. You have to back the bit off the water swivel and poke the cores out. Reinstall the bit and repeat.

Thanks for reading. Just so you have an idea of how many of these you can get done in a day. The record for 1 day is 423. So if you can get more have at it, but this tool is a real time saver. You can use these types of bits on many different surface materials. For more information on this set up/product and ordering instructions please leave a message in our contact information.

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