Porcelain tiles are growing in popularity in both the domestic andcommercial market. Producers are now able to replicate a range ofnatural stones, finishes and designs but with the additional benefit ofbeing durable, strong and easy to clean.
Current production methods canproduce porcelain to resemble Marble, Slate, Limestone, Granite,Travertine and Quartzite.The main reasons to choose porcelain are set out below:1) Larger tiles can now be produced up to 2mx2m to provide anelegant uncluttered finish with simple lines and a contemporary andspacious feeling.2) Wet rooms and showers are perfect for porcelain because it is impervious to water penetration.3) It is highly resistant to chipping and scratching and lasts formany many years. The tile is a homogenous mix so damage just blends in.4) It is frost resistant so may be used outdoors. In colder countries it is the external material of choice.5) Once installed it is very low maintenance, easy to clean,resistant to mold grown, stains and bleaching and does not need sealing.6) It is even stronger than granite. Granite is considered thebenchmark when comparing very hard stone. Porcelain is 25% strongerthan granite.Tilers and plumbers report installation difficulties because untilnow there has been genuine difficulty drilling porcelain tiles. Sometilers and plumbers avoid jobs using porcelain fearing the cost ofbreaking the material, the perceived complexity of installation, largersizes plus the cost of cutting it. Cutting material such as granite or porcelain is in fact not thatdifficult. Providing of course that it is only in a straight line. Forexample a cheap tile cutter with a decent diamond blade is able to cutporcelain fairly easily. The problem starts when trying to drill orbore holes into it. Putting holes into porcelain stone has until nowbeen a bit of a dark art...There are now two methods to cut holes which are described below1) Drilling rigs: In this method the hole is cut using an electricdrill fitted with equipment consisting of a pilot drill bit, an arborand a diamond crown . Prior to making the hole the installer selectsthe correct sized crown. He attaches a pilot drill into the center plusan arbor connected to a source of water. The arbor, the crown and thepilot are fitted into the chuck of the drill. To make the hole the rigis then placed at the drilling site. Water is switched on to feed thepilot. The pilot first bores a small hole into the material and oncecomplete the crown follows through. The pilot drill locks the crown inplace from the inside while it bores the hole into the tile.2) Drilling kits: In this method the hole is cut with an electricdrill and a diamond crown. Prior to making the hole The installerselects the correct sized crown and locks it into the drill chuck. Heselects a drill guide containing a range of pre-formed holes. To makethe hole he pushes the drill plate onto the material. The crown isplaced into one of the pre-formed holes. The guide plate locks thecrown in place externally while it bores the hole into the tile.
Both methods embrace similar priciples to bore the hole. For exampleeach uses a crown fitted with diamonds to do the cutting work. Eachuses a method to steady the crown and of course they both need water.But its here the similarities end . In fact the system which holds thecrown internally has some obvious disadvantages over the externalmethod.There are about ten major disadvantages:1) Pilot drills cost money to buy and money to replace. They wearout and must be replaced and paid for. Pilots cost about £20 plus2) Pilots are only made of carbide not diamond so must continuously be kept cool. They also have a short life.3) To cool the pilot a special rig or "arbor" must be attached tofeed water continuously. Arbors add cost to the initial purchase price.4) To supply the water to the arbor a special pressurized dispensermust be used which adds further cost to the initial purchase price.5) To be able to be fitted together the component parts must be ofsturdy construction and precision machined again adding to the initialpurchase price.6) Spraying water constantly onto the material is wasteful.7) Spraying water constantly is messy. And a problem for sites still under construction and not yet water tight.8) The extra energy involved in creating a pilot hole is wasteful and an unnecessary additional operational step.9) Drilling a small pilot hole into a tile may accidentally pierceunseen electrical cables or water pipes hiding behind the drillingsurface.10) The initial outlay for the kit may be a barrier to purchase. And once purchased attractive to thieves.In contrast the drilling kit does away with all of the drilling rigs disadvantages.And finallyThe good news is that drilling porcelain is now easy. Along the waythere have been two surprising extra benefits. The first is the kitsare able to drill softer tiles and in fact they actually do it reallyrather well. When using diamond on soft tile the results are nearinstant and the drill never wears out. The other exciting benefit isthat the results are perfect. Holes are now so neat that many tilersprefer using diamond kits for all their tile drilling.We should not assume porcelain will be with us forever. It may justbe a passing trend. We don't know. But one thing must be obvious."Perfect holes" will never go out of fashion!Perhaps then the real legacy will be perfect holes formed with diamonds as the byproduct of the porcelain tile era.