Drill through tile or grout?

albryantMay 24, 2012

I need to mark the position of our towel bar and shower slide arm for mounting on our subway tile shower. I have read conflicting advice regarding the best way to drill - through the grout or through the tile?

What's the most recommended GW method?

Here's the wall that will hold the combination towel bar/shelf:

Here's the shelf:

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It's a lot easier to drill through the grout.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 1:39PM
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Times three.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 2:23PM
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I agree with terriks that it's generally easier to drill through the grout. I've drilled through grout to install a hand shower holder. And I've drilled directly through floor tile to install a pedestal sink. The former was much easier. Either way, I would recommend using a good quality wall anchor to hold up your shelf or make certain it's backed by a stud.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 2:23PM
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I would just add that you'll want to think carefully about where you decide to install your shelf because, with its projection from the wall, I'd be concerned about bumping into it.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 2:33PM
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Thanks everyone. I hadn't even considered that the pedestal sink will also need to be anchored to the hex tile floor.

The shelf doesn't really project much more than the old style ceramic towel bar that was in the old shower, believe it or not. I first saw a photo of this shelf in cassidyhome's renovation a few years back:

The have been discontinued by American Standard and we bought it direct for $23.00! The original price was $168 or something. We actually bought two - one for over the toilet as well. Definitely the cheapest thing in the bathroom at this point :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Cassidyhome's towel bar shelf

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 2:40PM
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I'm at work, but I just noticed in our restroom here hte walls are covered in subway tile and the hinges for the stall doors are screwed in through the grout. I looked around and the other fixtures on the tile are also attached at the grout lines. Not sure if that's the best way, but it's the consistent way they did it here. :)

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 4:41PM
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I have porcelain tile, which is very hard compared to ceramic and I drilled through the grout. BUT, I went through 6 bits for 6 holes, the bits were the ones with arrowhead shaped tips. The tile was much harder than the grout and what was happening is that the blades of the tip would bang against the tile and break. I was concerned that the tile would chip during this process but luckily it didn't. My grout lines were thin and I had to drill holes large enough so that I had to remove tile as well as grout; the bit was larger than the grout line. I went very slowly but still, maybe my technique was poor.

I'm just a DIY'er so I can't offer authoritative advice; just this experience I had.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 9:47PM
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firstly you will most likely be drilling both wall and groutlines depending on exactly where you position them.
every shelf like that I have put up has required 2 holes per side 1 1/2 inch apart vertically to help with the leverage issue of the weight of the shelf alone there is a hole in the center but thats not where anchors go. Thats to line you up on your crosshairs for placement. By using this single center hole for anchor you are displacing the leverage from the bottom edge to center generally 1" and cutting the weight it would take to peal it out by about half.
the leverage should be diplaced from bottom edge of fixture to the top hole in peelout senerio at 1 3/4 inches you need to use both holes.
drill with low speed the best, spraybottle for water optional, if you dont use water to cool tip, when it starts glowing and the weld holding the tip on the shank melts, its time for a new one LOL

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 11:48PM
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I went very slowly but still, maybe my technique was poor.

A hammerdrill's a beautiful thing!! I don't know where I'd be without my Bosch Bulldog!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 11:59PM
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If this is truly wall tile. It is much softer than floor tile. I would buy the approptite bit. Ive used the arrowhead shaped bits many times. Masonary bits work too. I always choose the field in this situation.
Also,HD has a bit that will drill through floor tile.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 1:38AM
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While we do have a hammer drill, the contractor or plumber are actually installing the fixtures. I was just trying to figure out the height we wanted them mounted. I wanted to make sure if we should go through grout or tile to line it up at the best height for that position.

I thought they'd. E installed yesterday but they weren't. I'm hoping today's the day.

Thanks for the advice!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 7:45AM
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I should also say I have had minimal success using the arrowhead shaped bits. I have had great success with diamond tile core bits. And as others mentioned, you do want to keep the bit wet. I should mention that the tile I have used has all been floor tile. The slate/quartzite floor tile where I installed the pedestal sink was a lot easier than drilling holes in porcelain floor tile. I haven't ever used a hammer drill (great tip, thanks Bill!) since I accidentally burned mine out mixing thinset. Oops.

You mentioned your pedestal sink. Perhaps you already know this, but just in case, don't forget to install a horizontal brace between the studs (2x4 or 2x6 or something) to carry the load of the sink. The pedestal itself does not carry as much weight as the bolts into the wall.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 10:19AM
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Thanks Prickleypear. Yes, they did install blocking behind the new drywall to anchor the sink. There won't be tile on the wall, just wood wainscoting, so I hadn't worried about that, but I did forget there is a place to anchor the base on the tile floor.

I realize I've hired them to take care of all this, but I'm a control freak and just want to be educated about the proper way just in case there's a difference of opinion ;)

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 11:02AM
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I drilled many holes through hard porcelain tile for 2 bathrooms recently - needed holes for all the copper rough-in pipes and rains and wall hung vanity, etc.. I had to drill 6- 3/4" holes, 3- 1 1/2" holes and over a dozen 1/4" and 3/8" holes.

What I found worked fastest was Rigid Diamond bits made for drilling granite & porcelain tile. The bits are about $20-40 at HD, but they worked really well. I also kept a spray bottle of water nearby and every once and a while I would spray the spot on the tile while drilling. and I was using a regular 18v battery drill. there are probably other brands of diamond bits that will work well too. but the ones I got from HD were fine. For glass tiles though, I use the spade shaped bit.

Also - if you don't want your bit to wander, you can use a spring punch to pop a tiny starter hole mark- make sure to back off the spring a lot for ceramic tile or else it will break the tile with the great force.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 5:08AM
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I would say the opinion of the one that gives you your warranty is the only opinion that is really relevent.
When homeowners start telling me I am doing something the wrong way I very quickly let them know I will do it any way that they want me to, and explain what I am doing, and why I choose to do it that way. This explaination used, I ask them if they want me to procede my way, or do it thiers.
If they want me to do it in a way that I am not comforatable with, I walk out to the truck and get my change scope of work sheets. Simply writing on the carbon copysheets that the homeowner requests I do something thier way, against my better judgement and that with thier signature I am only hired labor for that aspect of the job, and they are assuming all risks/warrantys/liabilitys incrued of the decisions to do something by what means they wish.
I have never had anyone sign that sheet. They have all decided that whatever I thought was great for them.
You hired someone to do this job, because you trusted they knew how. Mark the height that you want the shelf, it does not matter if its in the grout or field. if they are pro. you need not worry. they have drilled 100's of holes in tile, and groutlines. if they are not, they should not be there at all, and you should not only question how they drill the hole but every other aspect of thier work. Opinions on how to do something will vary. Thier warranty covers thier opinion.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 7:49PM
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Good point.

So long as they stay within industry standards. many who don't-- I'd rather lose the warranty and know it's done right, than HAVE the warranty, and then the bozo not honor it, anyway, because he KNOWS that he screwed up and it's gonna cost him big.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 11:58PM
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