Easy to Follow Guide on Drilling into a Tile Backsplash to Install Floating Shelves

series of pictures showing the steps to hanging floating shelves on a tile backsplash

Drilling Through Wall Tile to Install Floating Shelves [DIY Step-by-Step Guide]

After finally finishing the install of my floating kitchen shelves, I wanted to share some details about what worked and what I’d do differently next time. 

Like, knowing where the studs are. And hanging the shelves before the tile backsplash. Just to name a few!

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Just a friendly reminder: This tutorial and any opinions or recommendations are genuinely mine, but this is not a substitute for consulting a professional. I also use affiliate links to earn a commission.

Installing Floating Shelves Over a Tile Backsplash Without Studs

If you made the same mistake I did, and tiled first and now don’t know where your studs are, I’m so glad you found this! 

Because friend, I managed to drill through my tile backsplash without cracking a single tile. And in the end, even without the studs, my floating shelves are hanging securely.

Was this a bit intimidating, you bet! But is it totally do able? Also, a yes! 

With this step-by-step guide (and one key tool), you’ll be drilling through wall tile to install floating shelves like it’s no big deal.

I’m taking what I learned from my install and sharing it with you here! 

Let’s get to it.

Step 1: Plan and Measure Your Shelf Layout

Before even thinking about drilling into tile, I had to figure out my shelf layout. Things like, how high, how many, how long, should they go around the corner? It’s a lot to think about.

After weeks of pondering different shelf configurations, I finally landed on a layout that maximized storage yet still maintained style. 

I went with two longer shelves high on my largest wall to the right of the sink. One smaller shelf on either side of the range hood. And then one even smaller shelf in an awkward spot to the left of the sink.

painters tape showing the layout for floating shelves on a tile backsplash

After you get through this tutorial, and before you do anything else, go back and read up on figuring out the best floating shelf size and layout for your kitchen space.

And then you’re going to want to find the most ideal floating shelf height above the counter and spacing between shelves. Because once you start drilling into your backsplash, there’s no going back!

Step 2: Mark Your Drilling Spots

If only it were as simple, and x marks the spot! This step is also time-consuming, but it is totally necessary when preparing to drill into tile. A few factors made this a little tricky. And there are a few things I learned you want to watch for when deciding where to drill.

First, the bracket is smaller than the shelf, and when you measure, you have to account for this difference, or else you’ll wind up with your shelf in a different spot than you planned. It’s slight, but enough that I know I’d be bothered.

Next, the two rods that support the shelf are not connected! See below for reference. That meant to have a level shelf; we had to make sure the measurements of both pieces were spot on.

floating shelf bracket attached to a tile backsplash

After carefully measuring, and re-measuring, we marked the tile with a pencil.

tile marked where to drill to hang a floating shelf bracket

A few tips: If at all possible, place the hole away from the edge of a tile. As you can see that didn’t work out with my backsplash, and luckily the tile didn’t crack.

Also, you can apply a strip of painters’ tape to help keep the drill from slipping while drilling. Again, I didn’t do this. Although you can see I have painters’ tape on the wall, we ended up going one row lower than laid out.

Step 3: Test The Layout

I did a test fit by holding the shelf up to see how everything looked based on my measurements. Hence, why I ended up going one row lower than planned (which is why you see the holes below the painter’s tape.) I noticed they looked too high based on the original layout once the actual shelf was up.

Another thing I was looking at was the smaller detail of how well the shelf lined up with the grout lines of each tile. Not every tile was perfectly level, so I was looking to make sure nothing looked too crooked. You know how it goes in an older home; nothing is level! 

I have a seriously keen eye, and I can spot when something is ever so slightly off. If anything were off, it would bug the heck out of me forever and ever.

That’s why patience and checking our work were important for this project. Sometimes, you have to find what looks best, but may not be truly exact according to the measurements. 

If you’ve been following my DIY journey, you know I sometimes just go for it. But this was not one of these types of jobs! Accuracy is key to level floating shelves.

Step 4: Pre-Drill

The time has come! Drilling a hole in your tile backsplash, yikes!

Before starting, we placed a towel on the countertop directly under where we were drilling. This helped to cut down on the dust.

Going slowly, we pre-drilled for the bracket.

special bit for drilling into a tile backsplash

Step 5: Drill, Baby, Drill

Not so fast! Do you have the right drill bit for your tile material? The trick to drilling into tile is using a particular tile bit, and I’ve linked the drill bit we used here. 

It’s on the pricier side, but I would not have dilled into my tile backsplash without it. And in the end, it was totally worth it. Not a single tile cracked!

backsplash tile drilled for hanging floating shelves

Another thing we did was take breaks to prevent overheating and cracking the tile. And, we did not use hammer mode because the bit directions specifically said not to.

Step 6: Insert Anchors

Now that the hard part was behind us, we could finally breathe! The rest of this install is pretty straight forward and no different than most other hanging projects. 

Since I did not know where my studs were located in my backsplash, I opted to use anchors. This did require slightly larger holes in the tile, but I wasn’t taking any chances with these shelves coming off the wall.

Step 7: Attach Bracket and Shelf

Lastly, using screws we attached the bracket to the wall.

internal mount floating shelf bracket attached to a tile backsplash

We ensured the shelf was secure as possible and on all the way by pushing it all the way back. And of course, checked for level one more time!

floating shelf installed on a tile backsplash
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My Floating Shelf Install Mistake

Before realizing I needed to know where the studs were located, I had tiled my entire backsplash. I wanted floating shelves, but I made this decision after the fact.

I felt pretty apprehensive about these shelves actually staying on the wall without knowing where the studs were. But not enough so that I didn’t go for it anyway!

One way to avoid this is to consider hanging the shelves first and then tiling around them. The benefit of doing it this way is that it does not need the particular drill bit; however, it requires more tile cuts. 

At the very least, don’t forget to mark where your studs are before tiling! Although I’m confident in how secure these shelves are, the idea of something floating on the wall attached to a stud makes me feel better. 

About This Internal Mount Floating Shelf Bracket

installing an internal mount kitchen floating shelf bracket on a tile backsplash

This shelf bracket helped to ease my fears about the shelves ripping out of the wall. I also really liked sleek everything looked with the bracket is hidden inside the shelf. This style bracket makes these truly floating shelves.

This type of bracket has a flat back portion that attaches to the wall and a rod portion (sometimes called a peg) of the bracket that inserts and conceals inside the shelf. If you’re a visual person, look at the image above.

What I liked about this bracket was that it was made specifically for this shelf. It was included and shipped inside the shelf, so I knew it would be a snug fit. 

I researched, and you can buy this type of internal mount bracket just about anywhere. And you can also DIY your own. I was too consumed and worried about drilling into the tile to try anything like this. But it doesn’t look very difficult.

If you’re looking for more on drilling into tile, and making your own floating shelf bracet, over at Young House Love, they have an awesome diy tutorial. And funny enough, they also had made the same mistake and were unsure of where their studs were. 

Honestly, drilling into wall tile to install floating shelves without knowing where the studs were was much easier than expected.

We took our time with this one, and within a few hours, these beauties were hanging proudly and securely! 

My kitchen reno is so close to being done, and it feels incredible to see everything coming together. Last on the to-do list is decorating floating shelves, so let’s get to that now.

Hey Friend!

project planner pack

Every successful DIY project starts with a plan. That’s why I created the Project Planner Pack.

It’s everything you need to complete your project on time and on budget.

Unleash your creativity with a click, download your Planner Pack and start your DIY journey today!

furniture flipping // diy projects // home renovations // modern farmhouse decorating ideas