Quartz countertops are incredibly popular in kitchens and bathrooms today. Made from ground natural quartz crystals combined with resins and pigments, quartz offers an attractive, low-maintenance, and durable surface. But despite its hardy properties, many homeowners wonder if you can drill into quartz at all. Below, we’ll explore everything you need to know about drilling into quartz countertops.
An Introduction to Quartz Countertops
Before diving into the specifics of drilling quartz, let’s review some basics about this engineered stone. Quartz countertops (often referred to as “engineered stone”) are made from approximately 90% ground quartz crystals combined with polymers and pigments. The polymers act as a binding agent while the pigments add color.
The quartz crystals come from abundant natural sources and are extremely durable. In fact, on the Mohs hardness scale, which measures the scratch resistance of minerals, quartz rates around 7 out of 10. That makes it harder than granite or marble.
When manufactured into slabs using intense heat and pressure, you get a non-porous, stain-resistant, and strong material that stands up well in kitchens. The resins fill in the spaces between the quartz particles, resulting in a very dense product.
Compared to natural stone, quartz requires very little maintenance. It does not need to be regularly sealed and you don’t have to worry about acidic foods like lemon or tomato sauce etching or staining the surface. It’s also resistant to chips, scratches, and cracks.
However, despite its hardness and durability, quartz is not completely indestructible. Keep reading to learn about drilling holes in quartz countertops.
Can You Successfully Drill Into Quartz?
The short answer is yes, you can drill into quartz countertops. However, there are a few important caveats to keep in mind:
- Quartz is very hard and dense. Standard drill bits tend to overheat and wear out quickly. Diamond-tipped drill bits are required.
- Special care must be taken to avoid cracking or chipping the quartz around drill holes. Going slowly and using water are key.
- Not all quartz products are created equal. Less expensive brands with more fillers and resins can be more prone to drilling damage.
- Drilling is best left to experienced professionals. DIY mistakes can easily ruin a countertop.
While quartz does not drill as smoothly as granite, soapstone, or marble, holes can be added successfully with the right tools, techniques, and precautions. Let’s look at this in more detail.
Why Drilling Quartz is Challenging
There are a few reasons why drilling into quartz countertops presents difficulties not found with other natural stone:
- The condensed quartz crystals which make up 90% of the material are extremely hard and abrasion-resistant. This causes significant wear on drill bits.
- While the quartz itself is hard, the overall engineered slab is prone to cracking and chipping around drill points due to its composite nature.
Resins and binders
- Adhesives and polymer resins used in production can gum up drill bits making smooth holes difficult. Cheaper quartz often has more fillers.
- The manufacturing process which compacts quartz under intense heat and pressure can create internal stresses that lead to cracking when drilling.
- Unlike natural stone, the composition of quartz slabs can vary across brands. Some types drill more smoothly than others.
Professional quartz fabricators understand these unique challenges and have specialized tools and methods to overcome them.
Best Practices for Drilling Into Quartz
While drilled quartz countertops are not advisable for DIYers, professionally trained installers can accomplish the task with specialized techniques and equipment. Here are some of their top tips:
Use diamond-tipped drill bits
- Carbide or masonry drill bits will not cut it, literally. Only diamond-tipped core drill bits will be hard enough to penetrate quartz without destroying the bit. Don’t skimp on cheap bits – invest in quality hardware.
Cut slowly and apply even pressure
- Let the diamonds do the work. Don’t force or rush the process. Excess pressure risks cracking the slab. Ease the bit through steadily and smoothly. Low RPMs are best.
- Secure the countertop slab thoroughly to limit any vibration. Use a drill press if possible. Handheld drills tend to vibrate and shake which can damage quartz around the hole. Go slowly.
- Water helps cool the drill bit and keep quartz dust from accumulating. This reduces friction and overheating. Either use a feed tube to drip water near the drill point or submerge the bit tip in a small container of water.
Clamp a backerboard
- Clamping a wood backerboard underneath the quartz helps prevent chips exploding through the bottom surface as the drill bit exits.
Check manufacturer guidelines
- Different quartz brands drill better than others. Following any specific tips from the manufacturer can help avoid problems. They may forbid drilling altogether.
Steps to Drill Into Quartz Countertops
Here is a simplified step-by-step overview of the quartz drilling process:
- Mark hole location accurately
- Secure slab to avoid vibration
- Attach a wood backerboard underneath
- Use diamond-tipped core drill bit compatible with quartz
- Drill slowly at low RPMs applying even pressure
- Use water to keep drill bit cool and lubricated
- Frequently remove dust with compressed air
- Check underside of countertop for any damage after drilling
- Smooth hole edges carefully with sandpaper if needed
Actual methods vary, but these general tips capture the essence of drilling quartz successfully. Don’t be tempted to try this yourself without prior experience.
Why Hiring a Professional is Recommended
Drilling holes in quartz countertops pushes DIY abilities to the limit. Without proper tools and skills, it is easy to damage the slab. Here are some reasons to leave quartz drilling to the experts:
- Diamond drill bits are expensive for a one-time job. Professionals already own the proper equipment.
- Cracked countertops are the most common drilling risk. Even small mistakes can ruin the entire slab.
- Drilling mistakes like oval holes, uneven edges, and chipping are hard to remedy. Replacing the whole countertop would be required.
- Proper training gives installers the experience to recognize and avoid potential drilling issues. DIYers often learn the hard way.
- Potential wrist or hand injury from drill torque and breaking through the underside is possible if inexperienced.
While drilling a simple hole may seem easy enough, the margin of error with quartz is small. Leave this work to the experts. If you invest in high-quality quartz, don’t damage it trying to drill holes yourself. Hire a professional fabricator you trust.
Common Reasons for Drilling Into Quartz
People don’t drill into their countertops just for fun. There are several practical reasons you may need to cut holes in a quartz surface:
Sink holes – Opening up holes to install an undermount sink is a common need. The sink is dropped in from above and secured underneath with silicone/epoxy. Exact hole dimensions are required.
Faucet holes – Drilling holes for faucets, soap dispensers, and filtered water faucets may be necessary if the quartz does not come pre-drilled. Matching the fixture hole sizes is crucial.
Bolting to cabinets – Holes may be drilled through quartz countertops to accommodate bolts to secure the slab to the underlying cabinets for stability and support.
Plumbing cut-outs – Openings created to allow plumbing runs for undercounter appliances like garbage disposals must be cut very precisely to avoid leaks.
Electrical wiring – Sometimes holes are needed to run wires for lighting, outlets, charging stations, etc. Cords can also be threaded through to devices above the counter.
Installing hardware – To mount hardware like towel bars, hooks, slides, and tracks, holes will need to be drilled into the quartz.
Quartz should come factory cut-to-fit for sinks and cooktops. If not, professionals can cut the necessary openings.
Alternatives to Cutting Holes in Quartz
If at all possible, opt for a quartz countertop that comes pre-sized and pre-drilled from the manufacturer. This avoids modifications. If drilling becomes mandatory, discuss placement carefully. Relocating plumbing or sinks may be simpler than drilling solid quartz.
Here are some other ways to avoid putting holes in quartz:
- Select a sink and faucet that fit existing countertop cut-outs and holes
- Adjust the position of under-cabinet appliances to align with openings
- Use surface-mounted hardware like cabinets and towel bars that don’t require drilling
- Run plumbing and wiring through walls, floor, or underneath cabinets instead
- Install an above-counter water filtration system that needs no faucet hole
- Opt for vessels sinks or sinks with wall-mounted faucets that require no countertop holes
- Consider solid-surface acrylic or wood countertops that drill easier if holes seem inevitable
Taking the time to creatively conceal infrastructure without drilling quartz will pay off. Sometimes the path of least resistance is planning ahead to avoid drilling woes entirely.
Cost to Drill Into Quartz Countertops
If you do opt to drill into quartz, professional fabricators typically charge around $200 per hole on average. The exact price to drill quartz varies significantly based on:
- Number of holes needed
- Hole size and depth
- Countertop thickness
- Added complexity like side splashes
- Skill and reputation of the fabricator
- Local labor rates
High-end installers with top credentials, specialized tools, and premium skills may charge upwards of $500 per hole in complicated situations. On the other end of the spectrum, basic holes from less-qualified drillers could potentially cost $75-100 each.
Keep in mind that ruining the slab from inept drilling is a real possibility, so this is not the time to bargain shop for the cheapest deal. Get quotes from reputable professionals only. Also factor in potential costs to replace the entire countertop if mistakes occur. Doing it right the first time is wise.
FAQs About Drilling Into Quartz
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about the process of drilling into quartz:
Can I drill into quartz myself?
It is not advisable. Without proper tools and experience, the likelihood of cracking or chipping the quartz is very high. The potential cost of damaging the countertop makes hiring a pro the smarter choice.
What tools do I need to drill quartz?
Only diamond-tipped core drill bits will cut through quartz successfully. Carbide and masonry bits will damage and wear out rapidly. Using a drill press with water feed is best.
How long does it take to drill a hole in quartz?
With diamond bits and proper technique, expect drilling rates around 1 inch per minute. Small holes may take only a few minutes but large openings could take over an hour to cut. Patience pays off.
Can any quartz be drilled?
Most can be drilled but some brands and colors are more prone to cracking than others. White quartz with fewer pigments often drills the best. Check with your fabricator. Drilling is not always advisable or guaranteed.
Do I need to seal around quartz holes after drilling?
It depends on the adhesive used for securing sinks/fixtures. With quality silicone or epoxy, sealing is not necessary. Grout, caulk, or sealant may be required in some cases to prevent moisture penetration.
Drilling holes in quartz countertops is a task best left to skilled professionals. With care, precision, and the proper methods, quartz can be drilled successfully. Just make sure to get experienced specialists to take on the job.
Although durable, drilling into quartz countertops brings unique challenges. The extreme hardness requires diamond-tipped bits, slow speeds, and a gentle touch to avoid cracks and chips. For anything beyond basic holes, it pays to hire professional quartz fabricators to complete the work properly.
While it may be tempting to drill quartz yourself, mistakes by inexperienced DIYers can lead to damaged countertops. You don’t want to replace the whole slab due to an improperly drilled hole. Take your time, get expert advice, and consider alternatives before cutting into quartz.
With specialized tools and proper precautions, quartz countertops can be drilled when necessary. But for best results minimizing mistakes leave this delicate job to trained installers only. If hiring a professional, be sure to see examples of their work and check reviews to find a reputable quartz fabricator in your area.