How to Drill Concrete

Usually, there are many things that you can take care off by your own without the need of any workers or other maintenance specialists to carry out simple operations at your home or other places. Drilling holes in the walls, fastening screws onto them, cutting out wooden planks for support, and many such easy DIY operations.

To do that, necessary precautions and proper plan and their execution are required. One of such operation is drilling through concrete. Often, it is easy to drill through the other materials like Wood, Plastic, Metal, Bricks and such but why is it usually termed to be hard to drill through concrete? It requires proper guidance if you are a first timer and if you are an experienced practitioner, the useful tools are necessary to complete the operation within few minutes. In the below article we will discuss concrete and why is it hard to drill, then walk you through simple steps to drill concrete like a perfectionist, also helping you through the necessary measures to be taken to prevent any damages.

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Before going through the steps to drill a concrete, let us first understand different materials where drilling can be done and why drilling through concrete is termed as tough.

  • Wood:
    The easiest material through which drilling can happen instantly without much effort is wood. Comparatively, the wood of less thickness is lighter material and drilling through it is a cakewalk. Drilling through wood requires lighter drills and the drill bits based on the size of the hole which has to be drilled through them.
  • Bricks:
    Bricks made of clay pressed into rectangular blocks and the heated for high temperatures in a kiln. The heating of the blocks makes them stronger but not enough more powerful that can resist heavy pressures. Bricks are used to construct lighter thickness walls and are easy to drill through them without many obstacles.
  • Cement:
    If we go, one level upper to bricks (clay) is then the cement or cement blocks. Cement is also a mixture of mineral powder which when added with water becomes a paste that is used to sticks bricks of a wall. Cement is mostly used in between the blocks to hold them together or even as a layer over the bricks which makes them stay longer.
  • Mortar:
    Cement, when mixed with lime water and new sand and masonry cement to it, becomes a mortar. Mortar are rigid in their structure and are comparatively harder to drill than the cement.
  • Concrete:
    Of all the above, if something is callous to drill is Concrete and the reason behind it the ingredients it is made of. It is made up of sand, gravel, crushed stones, added together to cement which binds them and make it harder and harder. The older the concrete is, the stronger it becomes. Though it has lesser percentage of cement in it, used in construction sites of making floors, walls, etc.

Tools Required While Drilling through Concrete:

Now that you have got an idea about what are the materials against which drilling was done and why drilling through concrete is tough. Let us discuss the materials required to drill through concrete. Definitely, before drilling the concrete directly, you want to make sure you are adequately planning such that you don’t make mistakes and end up paying heavily for that loss.

Rotary Hammer or Hammer drill:

Specially designed tools are helpful in many ways. These drills are conceived in a manner so as to lesser burden on your hands and perform the required operations instantly. One of such tools used for drilling through the concrete is Hammer drill also known as Rotary Hammer. If you are planning to carry out an operation to drill hole of size ½” inch or more than that in diameter and of depth more than 15” inches then you should probably spend some time in choosing a good hammer drill to suit the purpose.

Understanding what you require and then selecting a hammer drill makes your drill works a lot easier as well as save you future costs. If you are not planning to buy a hammer drill just because you don’t see any purpose in owning it, then you should end up renting it. These particular tools fracture the drill into tiny pieces and remove the material as per the drill bit shape used to drill through them. It’s usually worth paying for a good featured drill which can handle operations efficiently and have certain characteristics making it worth paying for.

How to Drill Concrete

A good hammer drill should have the following characteristics:

  • A speed variable motor
  • Should include hammer functionality
  • Superior materials that can withstand pressures
  • Excellent grip to hold the drill and an additional handle during high torque applications
  • Depth setting if possible is a plus

Drill bit:

An essential part of the drill hammer without which owning a drill hammer is of no use is the drill bit. The drill hammer whichever you use should be properly able to hold the drill bit of any minimum size. Now based on the diameter of the drill you want to put on the concrete, selection of drill bit should be made. Most often, drill bits are made up of steel and their tip made of carbide masonry steel. This material allows the drill bit to pierce through the concrete walls quickly as the carbide tips are often solid and can handle higher pressures.

Drill bit set

Large masonry nail:

The purpose of having a masonry nail is often to clear up the drills drilled by the hammer drill. These pins used in case the drill hammers hit any obstacles and running the hammer drill directly through them can cause severe damage. Mostly 3” inch masonry nails will be helpful. These masonry nails should accompany with a hammer which is our next required tool.

masonry nail

Hammer:

Strong hammer is essential based on the number of drills you are drilling and also the concrete’s age. Low weight hammers are available in the market which can support your drilling operations.

Vacuum cleaner:

A vacuum cleaner would be essential once you put the drill and you face some obstacles through the concrete. Then with the help of masonry nails and vacuum cleaner, you can clear them out and continue drilling holes through them.

Masking tapes:

If you purchase the premium drill hammer which comes with a depth measuring unit, then masking tapes wouldn’t be required. If not, then having masking tapes can directly benefit you to measure the required depth by just using them on the drill bit.

Pencil or marker:

Proper instrument for effective planning is pencil or a marker. A good craftsman usually carries a pen or marker along with them always to get the precision in whatever the operations they take.

Goggles:

These are definitely required to protect your eyes from the concrete flakes or pieces that pop out from the concrete when you drill through them. As you already know, they prevent your eyes from damaging.

Protective Anti-Fog Safety Goggles

Earbuds:

If you are working at a noisy place or carrying out an operation with the loud drill, then earbuds are must to prevent from the huge noise that comes out from the drill.

Process of Drilling Through Concrete:

When you are ready with all the above materials, you can go ahead with the drilling through concrete. Below are the simple steps which let you drill through layers of concrete efficiently and instantly.

Setting up the drill hammer:

Now drilling through the concrete can also be done through the standard drill, however, if you have a drill hammer then it makes the process simpler. If you have the regular drill, then it all mainly depends on the drill bit you are using and the experience you have in drilling. If you are a first time user, then it is recommended to buy better or rent a hammer drill.

After getting the rotary hammer, setting up it is the most vital thing. Read out the instruction manual that comes along with it which helps you understand how it works. The materials against which it is best used for and other safety precautions that are to be taken. If it a cordless hammer drill, then make sure you charge the batteries completely before starting to drill.

You can simply trigger the drill and understand its speed settings which will give you an idea about at what rate it will drill through the concrete. If your drill comes along with an extra handle to support, then add it. It is advised that you are wearing proper glasses and gloves to protect yourself from any damage.

Setting up the drill bit to hammer drill:

The drill bit plays a major part in the drilling process. Usually, the hammer drills are provided with one or two drill bits, if not then purchase them based on the hole size you want. Always remember that drilling through concrete requires special masonry drill bits which are made of steel with the carbide tip and are intended to withstand high pressures. Depending on the size of the hole, you can select the drill bit which are typically in 5mm to 40mm in diameter and 30 to 40 inches in length.

Now loosen up the chuck of the hammer drill and insert the drill bit. Make sure you are tightening it completing using the tightener and chuck settings on the hammer drill. Make sure that the drill bit doesn’t fall off from the chuck.

Setting up the depth:

If your hammer drill comes with a depth gauge, then set it up based on the depth you require else as suggested earlier you can use a masking tape to identify the depth you want.

If you are not sure on how much depth you should set then you can follow these below steps.

  • Since concrete is hard and dense, screws embedded for 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep will be sufficient for hanging light weight objects. If you are planning to use hanging heavier weight objects, then it might require a concrete anchor or longer screws whose embedment will list on the package
  • If you are planning to drill through the concrete and not remove the dust (which ideally you should not), you can add up ½” inch of extra depth that will hold on the dust when drilling through the concrete.
  • For hollow concrete blocks or thin surfaces, check the fastener specifications as they fall off if the plastic anchors do not support the drill for solid backing.

Mark the positions:

Whether you are drilling a single hole through concrete or multiple holes, it is essential that you mark the position of the drill using a pencil or a marker. This will help you understand the exact position where you have to drill and eventually bring good results.

Make the guide hole first:

After marking the spot, now it’s time to make a guide hole. This guide hole can be as simple as ⅛” thick or ½” inch thick. The guide hole is made to guide you through the entire hole properly.

Setup the hammer drill at low-speed setting, then hold it at the marked position firm and straightly. Now as you would have understood the speed of the drill hammer, try running the hammer drill and make a guide hole through the concrete wall for ½” inch or ⅛” inch based on your hole diameter required. You can also use a smaller drill bit first to make a guide hole if your project requires large holes to drill through concrete.

Drill through the concrete:

Now after making a guide hole, the next step is to drill continuously through the concrete. So with your hammer drill placed rigidly in perpendicular position, continue drilling through the concrete without moving the drill upper or lower. Remember, concrete is made up of gravels, stones, and cement, so you should apply optimum pressure against it holding the hammer drill firmly though lightly.

Since there could be air spaces or voids in between, there are chances that the concrete wall can create resistance against drilling. Hence in such cases, you can take out the drill for a while and then continue drilling again.

Pull the drill periodically and pour water over it:

If you are trying to drill through the concrete continuously, then there are chances that the drill bit will become very hot and even there are chances that the drill bit may wear out. To avoid this happening, it is recommended to pull out the drill periodically and allow it to cool down for a while.

You can also sprinkle water on the drill bit that can help to cool the drill bit instantly thereby improving the tool life.

  • Using masonry nail:
    When you are drilling through the concrete wall, certainly there are chances that you may hit obstacles at the joints of the walls or even at other portions of wall. In such cases, do not continue to apply extra pressure to work against the obstacles as this may damage the drill bit.

    Instead, take out the hammer drill from the drill and use the large masonry nails and hammer to hit through the obstacles. Remember, the masonry nails will be sharp at their ends, hence it makes easier to overcome the obstacles.
  • Blow the dust off:
    After drilling through the concrete till desired depth, the last step will be to remove the dust that accumulated through the hole. The most efficient manner to do that is by using a canned air and spraying it at the hole. This will obliterate the dust else you can also blow air through the mouth but just make sure you are blowing only when the drill is complete. If not, the dust may reverse back and hit your eyes.
    Dust-Off Disposable Compressed Gas Duster
  • Repeat the procedure:
    For multiple drills through the concrete, you can only repeat the above procedure to make the holes through it.

So these are the above steps to effectively drill through the concrete. By following these steps you can make the drill through concrete efficiently and effectively.

Tips and precautions while drilling:

Drilling through concrete might not be an easy job. However, by following the proper instructions and taking enough safety precautions, you can complete the operation quickly without causing any damage to the wall or yourself. Below are some tips and precautions that you can follow while drilling.

  • The older the concrete is, the more difficult is drilling through it. So if you are a owner then understand how old the concrete is and accordingly apply pressure while drilling
  • Some carbide tipped drill bits may shatter when contacted with water. So before sprinkling the water over the bit in order to cool it down, read the manual that comes with the drill bits or you can consider asking to retailer from where you have purchased the drill bits.
  • Do not apply excess of pressure while drilling on the drill hammer, this may eventually damage the drill bit.
  • Some workmen instead of carbide masonry drill bit, use diamond core rig to drill through the concrete. If you are drilling hole larger than the diameter of the drill bit, then diamond core rig will help you in achieving that. Also, the choice of diamond bit depends on the concrete characteristics, size and hardness of the aggregate, age of the concrete and the reinforcing material used for that.
  • If you are having an extra man just to remove the dust when you take out the drill periodically can save your time.
  • Always wear gloves on your hands, protect your eyes using glasses to prevent dust flying into your eyes and if the drill is too noisy (ideally shouldn’t be) or if you’re working at a noisy place, use earbuds to cover ears. These safety precautions are much required while performing such operations.

Video Guide:

How to Drill Into Concrete

Drilling through Walls

Conclusion

Drilling is indeed a widespread practice which is carried out at many places including home, offices or any the other main areas. It can be done for various reasons like for electrical wiring through walls, to insert anchors, to insert fasteners to hold, and any other such purposes. Drilling through regular brick walls or mortar is easily comparable to concrete. Drilling through concrete is tough because of the materials used in to make concrete. It is a mixture of clay, cement, water, gravel, crushed stones that make the concrete rigid and sturdy. Drilling through concrete requires some serious tips and care to prevent any damage that might happen to you or the wall itself.

To drill through the concrete, you should need special tools like the drill or rotary hammers, drill bits, masonry nails, dust cleaners and other safety objects. Initially, for the first time, you may find the process to be tedious, however, with the experience, you may find it dull and understand its importance as you take more and more drilling tasks. Proper planning and setting up the tools required for drilling can help you in drilling through the walls efficiently without any damage.

Identifying how old the concrete is, can help you understand what kind of effort you are going to put through it. Drilling holes through the wall joints would be rather easy as they are usually held by the mortar so wherever possible, try drilling through the joints. Marking the positions, making a proper guiding hole (⅛” inch or ½” inch based on the diameter of hole required) can help you in making the hole in much efficient manner.

After making the guiding hole, it is important that you propagate through the hole with firm hands such that you get a proper straight hole as required in concrete. Cleaning out the dust at appropriate times, can save you lot of effort and also get the best-desired hole of accurate dimensions. Throughout the process of drilling through concrete, don’t forget to use the safety precautions like wearing gloves, covering eyes with safety glasses, avoid wearing loose clothes and holding the drill firmly with both hands or even with the additional handle that comes with most of the drill hammers. All of the above, your life is precious, and you should take enough care to protect that.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 1 comments
Frank Everett - September 18, 2017

Great article review about how to drill into the concrete. The concrete on the opposite hand looks to be another story. The directions suggest a 1/8″ pilot hole, and that I got to drill concerning three.5″ thick for these 1/4″ diameter screws. Thus far, I feel my best one is around 2″ deep once concerning 2 hours of drilling and burning through 2 bits within the method.

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