Q&A / 

Holes in Ceramic Tile and No Shower Water

Shower Head

This orange plastic disc inside a shower head can clog with ease and the water pressure drops like a rock. (C) Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Holes in Ceramic Tile

Question #1: Tim, how in the heck do you drill a simple hole into ceramic tile? I’ve been trying to do it for the past half hour and nothing is happening except the drill bit is getting red hot. I just grabbed my husband’s cordless drill and put a bit into it. Is it the drill? I’m trying to install a few plastic anchors and am getting very frustrated. Charlotte M., Morgan Hill, CA

Not too long ago I heard a saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” All I have to do is look back in time just forty-five years ago to get an idea of the vast depths of my own ignorance about all things having to do with building. You may be like Charlotte and you’ve not yet been exposed to enough challenges to know what tools to use when and how to use them.

The first thing that comes to mind is the drill bit. Charlotte may have grabbed the wrong one. A drill bit used for wood or metal is not going to do much to drill into ceramic tile. You need a special drill bit that’s got a carbide tip.

It’s important to realize not all ceramic tile is the same. They come in a wide range of hardnesses. You can run into trouble fast if you’re trying to drill into porcelain tile. This tile is some of the hardest out there because of its high silica content and the high temperatures used to transform the soft clay into the hard tile.

Ceramic tile is often glazed. This glaze is just a very thin layer of glass. A wood or metal drill bit will not penetrate glass. Carbide is harder than glass and it will grind its way through.

Not wanting to assume anything, you also need to make sure the drill is in forward, not reverse. Believe me, I’ve seen people try to drill holes with the drill running backward wondering why nothing is happening.

Another key point is you need to use a slower speed when drilling through ceramic tile. High speeds create too much friction too fast and elevate the drill tip speed. This can dull the carbide bit quickly.

Do not use a hammer drill setting when drilling tile. This rapid pounding will crack the tile in almost all cases. Keep nice steady pressure on the drill and before you know it, you’ll have created your hole.

Large-diameter holes can be created in ceramic tile using diamond-tipped hole saws. These are quite affordable and most have adapters to fit your normal drill.

I’ve got several great videos for you at my AsktheBuilder.com website showing how you and I would drill ceramic tile if you invited me over to your home. Just go to: https://www.askthebuilder.com/drilling-ceramic-tile/

drilling ceramic tile red tape on wall

Drilling ceramic tile requires a sharp carbide or diamond drill bit, a slow drill speed and a steady hand. © 2017 Tim Carter

No Shower Water

Question #2: Tim, I know you’ve got the answer. All of a sudden the water pressure in my shower has dropped. It’s fine in my bathroom sink and all other places, except that I have noticed the flow at my kitchen sink is getting worse. It takes forever to rinse the soap from my long hair. What might be the problem and is this a DIY project? Janey M., Clearwater, FL

Low water pressure in showers is a more common problem now than it used to be when I was growing up. A few decades ago government officials enacted laws to try to conserve water. Little did they know the secondary effects of these laws would be millions of frustrated homeowners.

Plumbing fixture manufacturers had to install flow restrictors inside shower heads and other faucets to comply with the new laws. These tiny discs have all sorts of different designs, but one thing they share in common are screens or small holes to limit the flow of water.

Small pieces of sediment and gunk in the water start to clog these holes one at a time and soon the flow of water is much reduced. Fortunately, you can remove these flow restrictors and clean them out. You can also remove your shower head and soak it in warm white vinegar for a few hours in case hard water deposits are clogging the tiny outlet holes in the head.

Many of my neighbors here in New Hampshire have well water and they take out the restrictors and throw them away. People on wells don’t waste water. Every drop is recycled instantly because for every gallon of water that flows from the house into their septic tank, a gallon of water flows from the septic tank back into the ground to recharge the local aquifer.

I’ve got great DIY videos showing how to remove a shower head and clean out the flow restrictors. Go to: https://www.askthebuilder.com/low-shower-head-water-pressure/

low shower head water pressure

At the bottom of this shower head inlet is a small plastic disk. It has small holes that can readily clog with sediment. When this happens, the water flow can be reduced to a trickle. PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Carter

Column 1253


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