How to Drill Large Holes 

By  Enda McLarnon

If you want to know how to drill larger holes in various materials such as wood, metal and concrete, then this article should really help you out. There are plenty of different types of drill bits available that will help you get through the different materials.

Thankfully for most people, this task of drilling larger holes around the home or garden, is not something that you will have to do very often. There will of course be times when you will need to be able to do this. Mainly larger holes are required to help run pipes, cables, drill through drywall and uses of this nature.

When you need to though, it is important to have the right tools for the job, as otherwise it is impossible to get it done. Below I have shown what options are available to be able to drill larger holes in a variety of materials.

Let’s get started with the most popular material that people need to drill large holes through, which is of course wood.

How To Drill Large Holes in Wood?

Drilling through wood is probably the easiest of all the materials to get through and the same with plastic. The material is soft and if you have a good drill and the right bit, it is a pretty simple thing to do. A simple brad point drill bit will do the job nicely.

When it comes to drilling a larger hole, then it is also pretty easy in terms of the actual drilling.

There are a few different type of drill bits available to make larger holes through wood. Just below you will find a useful video on what types of bits are available. Underneath the video I have gone into each type in a lot more detail.

It Will always come down to the size of the hole that you need to drill. The easiest way to determine that is to measure the diameter of the hole required. Larger holes are made by using a special type of drill bit or what is called a hole saw.

These bits and hole saws are always quoted by diameter size, so that is the way you should measure the size of hole required. Let’s have a closer look and see what is available.

Brad Point Drill Bits for Wood 1/6″- 1/2″ in width

I have already mentioned that the brad point drill bit is the most popular, and you can buy these in sets or as stand alone bits. They come in a variety of sizes and some of those can drill quite large holes. They usually have a sharp point that ensures you can get very precise and accurate drilling.

Sizes are anything between 1/6″ – 1/2″ depending on which set that you buy. The most popular buy for this type of drill set is the one from Dewalt shown below.

Auger Drill Bits – For Larger Holes Through Wood 1/2″ to 1-1/2″

The next type for drilling slightly larger holes is called an auger bit. Like the brad point bit it also has a sharp point. The difference here is that these bits are usually wider and that means you can drill larger holes. These bits are mainly used for drilling joists or to drill through thicker wood.

The flutes on these bits are spiralled and that helps remove the wood chippings and saw dust easily and quickly from the drilling area. They are more expensive than brad style bits, but that is because they are used for tougher type of drilling.

Most of these will self feed and that helps pull the bit through the wood. In other words the bit helps with the drilling so less pressure needs to be exerted by the user.

In terms of size of hole these usually are for holes of size between 1/2″- 1-1/2  For this size of hole we recommend this high quality set from the Irwin brand.

Spade Flat Style Wood Drill Bits – For 1/4″ – 1-1/2″ Larger Holes

The most popular drill bit for slightly larger holes is the spade style bit, and these are pretty easy to use. These are called by different names such as flat wood, spade and paddle. They also will work on most drills because they fit easily into the chuck. They are also the cheapest option in most cases.

The disadvantages of using these is that they tend to be a but bumpy and can jerk a lot. They also drill a pretty crude hole and that is especially true of the cheaper versions.

I would recommend that you avoid very cheap sets as the quality is really bad, and they can easily jam during the drilling process. That can also lead to the drill jarring and can cause a potential injury to your hand or arm. You con’t need to buy very expensive versions though, just avoid the cheap and nasty one.

In terms of drilling larger holes, these sets will allow you do drill hole sizes of 1/4″ to 1-1/2″ Again we recommend the set shown below from the Irwin brand.

Forstner Drill Bits for Larger Holes in Wood 1/” – 2″ Size Holes

These are also a good choice for larger holes and ideal for holes such as concealed cupboard door hinges. Their main use is to drill larger flat bottomed holes and they are very popular with cabinet makers, and those working with kitchens.

These are the most expensive choice, but they do offer you more variety, and accurate and smooth holes.

Typical sizes for these range from 1/4″ to 2″ holes, so quite a wide variety. One of the most popular sets is the one shown below from the Porter Cable brand. They are a must for cabinet makers and those interested in woodwork projects.

Personally I think they are a little bit expensive for generally drilling slightly larger holes, and the spade bit shown above would be a better and a cheaper option.

Hole Saw Set for Larger Holes Through Wood 3/4″ – 2-1/2″

If you are looking to drill really large holes into wood, then you will need to opt for something like a hole saw. Once again these come in sets or you can buy these individually. They are also a good choice for thinner boards where you need to cut a larger hole.

You should be aware though that the depth you can drill with these is restricted. Typically they are about 1″ deep before you hit the limit. That is why these are used mainly for thinner sheets of wood, plastic or thin metal. Typical hole diameters for these are between 3/4″ to 2-1/2″

This one from Drillpro is we believe the best value for money.

So as you can see there is a good range of drill bits that will allow you to drill large holes into wood. Although I have shown sets above you are also able to buy most of these in a single size, rather than buying a full set.

drilling larger holes in wood metal and concrete

How to Drill large Holes in Masonry?

Simply because this material is much tougher than wood or plastic, getting through it is more difficult. It can still be done though with a good heavy powered drill, and good quality masonry drill bits.

Standard masonry drill bits which you can buy as individual bits, or as drill bit sets, are the most popular choice. These work well for hole sizes that are relatively small.

Typically the sizes of holes that you can drill with a standard set of bits is any size between 3/16″ to 1/2″ Now the 1/2″ is a big enough hole, and if you have one of those and a good hammer drill, then you will be well equipped.

We would recommend something like the Dewalt DW5207 set shown below.

There will of course be times when you may need to drill an even bigger hole through masonry. Have a look at the very useful video below.

As the video suggests that could be for boiler flues, sewer pipes, dryer vents etc. For these you will need some type of diamond core bits. The Neiko hole saw drill bit set is a popular choice for those who want very clean holes through concrete and brick.

Be aware though that this set is only good for 5/32″ to 1/2″.

For the really big hole sizes you are probably better off buying just the one size of bit as these can get expensive. For this type of drilling you will need to constantly keep water on the bit to keep friction and heat down and preserve the life of your bit.

Concord blades make a great range of these. Drilling these larger holes does take a bit of time and patience. You also need a pretty heavy duty power drill to get through these.

Click Here to Read About How to Drill Through Masonry

How to Drill Large Holes in Metal?

Like masonry, drilling large holes through metal is a tough enough challenge. It does of course depend on which type of metal you want to drill through, and also the thickness of the metal. Very few homeowners will ever have to do this.

It is however something that anyone working with pipes or sheet metal will do on a regular basis.

Any general purpose drill bit can be used to drill through metal. These bits are designed to get through most materials like wood, plastic and metal (not concrete) The cheaper versions are the High Speed Steel bits (HSS).

If you need to get through harder metals like cast iron or stainless steel then we would recommend getting a black oxide drill bit or a cobalt steel one. These are also a better purchase if you plan on doing a lot of drilling as these will last longer than a HSS drill bit.

For larger holes we think your first choice should be what are called “step drill bits.” These are used mainly by electricians and car restoration, and are also handy for drilling through stainless steel sinks and panels. Step drill bits allow you to drill larger holes from 1/4″- 1-1/2″, depending on the set that you buy.

The most popular and the best selling set is shown below and is called the CO-Z 5 piece Hss Cobalt Multiple Hole 50 Sizes.

We have also completed a couple of other articles on drilling through metal, which you might find interesting.

Click Here to Read About How to Drill Through Metal

Click Here to Read About How to Drill Through Stainless Steel

How to Drill Large Holes in Glass?

Drilling large holes through glass is also a tough thing to do, especially without breaking the glass. Typically the reason you want to drill through glass is to fit something like a vent or a fan. Some people also want to make a hole through something like a glass aquarium.

The last thing you want to do is to shatter the glass. It is often easier to remove the pane of glass and take it to a specialist. Likewise if possible I would also recommend doing that with an aquarium.

The best way to judge this is to balance the cost of replacing the glass if you do break it, against the cost of getting someone to do it for you, and the time that will take to do, assuming you can find the right person.

However if you are going to do this yourself, I have included what I hope is some helpful information.

Drilling Small and Larger Holes in Glass

The best thing for drilling larger holes in glass are diamond drill bits. They can also be used to drill, ceramics, ceramic and porcelain tile, stone such as limestone, slate, marble, and granite. They can also be used to drill larger holes in fiberglass.

These diamond bits can be bought in sizes from as small as 6 mm to 50 mm sizes.

They are also known as hole cutters and sometimes as hollow core drills. The secret to using these is to use a low speed and also to apply a light pressure. This is all about letting the drill and the drill bit do the actual work. It may take a little bit extra time but you won’t break the glass.

A set like the one above is a good choice for drilling through glass bottles or lamps.

You also need to use plenty of water when drilling with these to keep the temperature of the drill bits down. That also helps extend the life of the bits.

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

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