Many home improvement enthusiasts already know how to cut holes in tile. They typically use a tile saw for extensive projects; however, tile saws are a specialist piece of equipment. Unless you’re planning to do a lot of tile work, you’re not going to want the cost of buying or renting a unit.
There are ways to cut holes in tile with the tools you may already have in your workshop. It can take a fair amount of patience. Make a few practice runs on old tiles to make sure you have the technique right before you move onto the real thing.
Step 1 - Cutting Small Holes
If you only need to cut a small hole, you can do it with your regular drill. You’ll need to use a masonry drill bit, which should be either carbide-tipped or diamond-tipped. It shouldn't matter if the tile is glazed or not.
On the back of the tile, measure and mark where you want your hole. Using a sponge, thoroughly wet the area where you’ll be drilling. Ensure the tile isn’t on a surface that can be damaged when you drill through and make sure the tile is well supported by using a clamp to keep it in place. As you drill, use a spray bottle to keep wetting the tip of the bit. This will ensure a better, cleaner cut and should help prevent burn marks on the tile itself.
Step 2 - Drilling Larger Holes
All too often you’ll need a much bigger hole in the tile. On the unglazed side of the tile, mark the position and size of the hole as well as the position in the center of the hole. Start by drilling a hole in the center, just as you would with a small hole. It should be as least 0.25-inches in diameter and big enough to insert the blade of a hacksaw. This will need to be a carbide rod blade.
Put the blade in the hole and then attach it to your hacksaw. The tile needs to be firmly clamped. Slowly saw out to the line marking the edge of the hole, then gradually saw around the entire perimeter of the hole. You need to take special care on the final strokes to complete the hole since this is when tiles are most likely to crack. Using the hacksaw will give a clean edge to the hole.
Step 3 - Multiple Tiles
When you have a hole that’s so big that it involves more than 1 tile (meaning that it’s likely to actually involve 4 tiles to incorporate 1 large hole), then you’ll need to remove an arc from each tile. In this case, it’s important to lay things out carefully first before you mark the unglazed side of the tile. Make a diagram and number the tiles on the back so you’ll know which tiles go where when you lay them.
Score each part of the arc with a tile knife. Now make cuts in each tile perpendicular to the arc. You’ll need to make a number of cuts, each about 0.25-inches apart. When you’ve done this, use a pair of tile nippers to snip off the part of the tile within the arc. You might need to use the nippers more than once to make a clean edge to the hole.