How To Drill Into Concrete Effectively 

By  Enda McLarnon

If you are faced with drilling into concrete for the first time, then this article should really help you out. Even if you have tried this before with little success, this should also be of some use. Concrete, brick, or mortar are tough materials and concrete is harder and tougher to get through than normal cement, mortar or brick.

Before you even contemplate getting your drill out, we think it is a good idea to understand what you are up against. Below we have briefly explained the differences between brick, cement, mortar and concrete.

Concrete vs Brick vs Mortar/Cement

What Is Brick Made From?

Most bricks that we see everyday are made mostly from clay, which is the pressed into blocks, and heated up in a kiln to make them hard. Other elements are added to them such as shale and hydrated silicates, some iron and sand. From a drilling perspective, they are usually fairly easy to drill through. They are used for building mainly and are easy broken as you may already know.

What Is Cement?

Cement is basically a fine mineral powder and when you add water it becomes a paste like substance that can act as a binding agent. Depending on how cement is actually made it has different uses such as under water constructions, for setting posts and many other uses. This is relatively easy to drill through.

Almost always cement will have something added to it before it is used. In most cases that will be sand and water. it is then known as mortar.

What Is Mortar?

Mortar contains as its main ingredient cement and then has lime added, or may also use masonry cement and sand. It is mainly used for structural purposes such as binding bricks together in a wall. It is actually pretty easy to drill through, and much easier than brick.

Because of that it does not make as strong a place to drill holes to attach something to. It will always be a better idea to drill the brick, if you are planning on mounting or hanging a heavy object.

What Is Concrete?

Concrete is a mixture of various aggregates like sand, gravel, crushed stone which are bonded together using cement. The older it gets the stronger it gets. Concrete will have about 15% of cement in it and most side walks, floors etc are made from concrete.

This is the toughest of the four to get through. We will bet you are thrilled to hear that news, but worry not.

If you are ever trying to attach something to a brick wall, then try to line it up so as the drill holes have to go through the mortar, rather than the brick as it is so much easier to drill through. Only do this though if you are hanging something light.

What Tools do you Need To Drill Through Concrete?

You need only two things:

  1. A good hammer drill or a drill/driver with a hammer feature
  2. A good masonry drill bit

If you have these, then it is just the technique that you will have to master and it is a lot easier than you may think. Before we look at the technique it is important to have the right tools at hand.

Ideally your drill should have:

  • A hammer function
  • Variable Speed setting
  • A good grip and ideally a side handle for added strength
  • Be strong and powerful enough and
  • A depth setting is really useful

If you haven't got a hammer drill or a drill/driver with a hammer feature, then check out our list of the top 10 cordless drill/drivers by clicking here.

How to Drill Into Concrete With A Regular (Non Hammer)Drill?

This is not an easy thing to do, but it can still be done. In the ideal world you would want to use a hammer drill, but if you have a regular drill, then the only thing you can do is make sure to have the right drill bits attached to the chuck. The only thing that will get through concrete is a good quality masonry bit. Now without the hammer action the only thing you have working for you is the turning speed of the drill itself.

Make sure you have some water available and use that regularly to stop the bit from heating up. That way you will preserve the life of the bit.

Avoid trying to thump the drill up and down into the hole though as that will damage the chuck on your drill. It will take longer to do it this way but that is the price you have to pay. Also remove the drill from the hole on a regular basis to allow the dust to be removed and also keep the flutes of the drill clear.

This will be a very slow and frustrating process. A hammer drill does this very quickly as not only do you have the spinning action of the drill bit, but you also have the hammer action.

Best Type of Drill Bits For Getting Through Concrete

The only type of drill bits that will get through concrete are called masonry bits. These are specifically designed to be able to deal with this tough job. The main part of this drill bit is made from steel.

However the tip will have a tungsten carbide brazed into the tip to provide the tough cutting edge that is required. They are almost always used in conjunction with the hammer drill.

When connected to the drill, this hardened head then continually bumps against the concrete and breaks it down, and the flutes of the drill bit will push the masonry dust out and away from the hole.

In terms of size you can get them anything between 5 mm to 40 mm in diameter and up to about 39" in length.

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Mastering the Drilling Technique For Drilling Concrete Floors, Blocks or Slabs

You need to figure out what size of hole that you need to drill and what depth you need it to be. If you are attaching something to a wall, then in most cases, the wall plugs should come with it. The most common sizes for these are either 10 mm or 12 mm.

In terms of depth, the simplest way is to set the drill head beside the wall plug and measure it. If there is s depth gauge on your drill, then set that. If not just use a piece of tape to measure the depth. Now attach the drill bit into the chuck and tighten. 

Mark the spot on the wall where you need to drill. We usually use a marker or make a dent with an old screwdriver. We actually keep an old screwdriver in our toolbox just for using on jobs like this. You can use it to mark the hole and also to grind out a bit of the concrete, to help give you somewhere to place the point of the drill bit.

Now place the drill bit on the marked spot and start drilling at a low speed. The secret here is applying the right amount of pressure. That comes with practise. It needs to be firm enough to avoid slipping and tight enough to allow the drill to rotate at a slow speed. Go easy at the beginning until the hole starts and then you can apply more pressure.

Once you get the hole started, then turn up the speed and let the drill do the work. This is a tough drill so it may take some time. The more powerful the drill you have and the better quality your masonry bits, then the easier this becomes. Stop, when you have reached the required depth.

It depends a lot on what you are drilling the concrete for, as to what size of hole you need to drill, and what type of anchor or plug you are going to put into it. The bottom line is however, that as long as you have a good hammer drill, a decent quality masonry bit, then all it needs is a little know how and you can get the job done quickly and successfully.

Enda McLarnon

Enda McLarnon is now retired and is now enjoying writing about his love of power tools. All types of these tools are now available and they make working on projects and DIY jobs around the home a great deal of fun

Enda McLarnon

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