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If you’re looking to install floating shelves on a tile wall, it requires the use of anchors to keep things sturdy and safe. Here’s how.

The floating shelves in the laundry room are now painted and finished! They’re everything I wanted: wide, solid, long… and not at all chunky. That last part seems to be one of the hardest-to-find elements when it comes to floating shelves, so I’ll have a tutorial ready for you on Monday with the full play-by-play and final photos (I’m waiting on the last coat of paint to cure before putting anything on top of them, & then I can take photos).

I’m excited to start loading them up and putting them to use, but there’s one very important part that I thought could use its own bit of instruction before the full how-I-built-them tutorial: installing shelves that have (at least) one part belonging to a tile wall, but without a stud (aka, using wall anchors).

Using wall anchors on a tiled wall for sturdy floating shelves

how to drill through tile and install wall anchors

The tile wall behind the washer and dryer in my laundry room did not have studs in the right spot that would allow me to secure the first cleat for the shelves to sit on.

new things in the laundry room

And since these shelves were going to be long, wide, and preferably thin, I knew that getting this piece secure would be crucial to the shelf’s ability to support and distribute weight. Here are the details!

Materials needed:

The important things to remember about drilling through tile are these two main points:

  • Slow & steady is the name of the game; be patient!
  • Be absolutely certain that’s where you want the hole; there isn’t any room for error!

And one more thing: it’s really not that scary! Sure, you may not want to make a mistake, but I promise you that you’re probably building it up in your head more than it will amount to be.

With all the work I put into tiling the back wall of the laundry room, the last thing I wanted to do was drill in the wrong spot or worse, crack the tile by putting too much pressure on the bit. To get started, I measured out two spots on the shelf support (a 1×2) where I’d predrilled holes and then measured the same on the wall. I used painter’s tape to mark a level line in both places for where the shelf supports would go. The painter’s tape was actually thicker than the support, so I used a level and a scrap piece of wood of the same thickness to make sure I was marking each spot correctly and lining them up to the other level lines I’d made on the wall.

measuring block on tile

Be sure your holes are LEVEL! I know I said it already… but it’s worth repeating :)

With your holes marked on the tape, you’re now ready to take the plunge and drill the first hole. Load a spray bottle with water and put a paper towel beneath your work to catch drips (if you don’t want it dripping all the way down the wall, consider taping both ends of a folded-up piece of paper towel a few inches lower to the wall… it will soak up the water as you go!). It’s also recommended to wear a dust mask (tile dust isn’t awesome on the lungs) as well as protect your floors below your work; tile dust will leave scratches.

The drill bit should say on the package that it’s okay for use on tile, and specifically the kind of tile you’re drilling through (some might be okay for multiple types, but I spotted one tile bit that said not to use on ceramic, so I had to keep looking) … these are available in the hardware section of your local Blue or Orange and specially packaged/labeled separate from the usual bit sets. Also pay attention to the size of the bit… some multi-packs will include various hole sizes, but since you’re also using a wall anchor here, be sure that they all match up for the same use (for example, a 5/16″ bit was mentioned on the package of the 5/8″ wall anchor, so I knew which drill bit to buy).

cobra blue wall anchor

Using the proper bit, begin drilling the first hole; go very slow and then pick up a little speed when the drill bit starts to gain traction in the hole created. The friction will cause the bit to get very hot and may even smoke, so use the spray bottle of water to cool things down as you go. Drill… spray… drill… spray. And so on.

drilling into tile

The tile dust and water will create some dirty sludge that you’ll need to clean off of the bit before drilling the next hole.

tile sludge

When finished creating all holes, peel off the painter’s tape and clean up any remaining sludge from the wall.

how to drill into tile for wall anchors

The wall anchors I bought also came with its own drill bit, which I found that I did have to use even after doing all of this with the specialized bit. The hole for the anchors was just a smidge too tight, and I didn’t want to risk the anchor breaking the tile when I tapped it into the wall; luckily the second bit for the anchors etched away just a small sliver more (it did chip the edge of the hole in the tile though, so I was glad to have used the other bit first), and the anchors popped in with a few light taps of a rubber mallet.

tile anchors

With the anchors in place, you can now add the first shelf supports on the tile wall and continue on with the rest of the shelf installation. When screwing into the anchor, be sure to screw all the way in so that the little wings of the anchor expand (for some reason these anchors appear to have bad reviews with some retailers, but I had zero issues).

laundry room floating shelf frames

That’s enough for this post, but I’m very happy that these shelves are finally done and ready for a supporting role (ha) in the rest of the laundry room makeover. The full floating shelf DIY will be up next week!

More from this laundry room makeover:

Want to see how everything looks now? Check out these other posts!


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13 Comments

  1. Wow! I had no idea that it is possible to make such shelves myself! I moved in a new house last month and I should renovate so many things here. I want such shelves but I thought that I should spend a lot of money on them. I know what is my next project thanks to you! Thank you a lot for sharing!

  2. These look like they’re coming along fantastically! I’m definitely needing so more shelves in my home – thanks for these instructions so I can maybe renovate some of my rooms too!

  3. Excellent advice! Good explanation of how to drill into tile without breaking it. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I’m lovin’ it! I actually just read like three of your posts today. So that means you better keep writing more, because I am going through these like they’re going out of style.

  5. Any final pics from this project? I’m thinking of doing the same (tiling and floating shelves in my kitchen. Would love to see the final result (shelves installed). You are inspiring! Thanks!

  6. I’m wanting to build shelves similar but stain them instead for my kitchen. They would be true floating shelves though, do you think they would be sturdy enough to put dishes on if yours weren’t supported to the wall in the corner?

    1. I really can’t say for certain (since I haven’t done it myself), but the purpose of wall anchors is to hold the weight they’re rated for. For dishes and a lack of other walls to add support, I’d definitely look to screw into studs as much as I can and I might try out hidden shelf rods that are meant to add more strength but conceal within the shelf (like these). Lots of luck!

  7. Thank you so much for all the helpful tips about using the tape and the kind of clean up to expect. This information is VERY helpful!!!