Struggling with drilling through brick? Perhaps you’ve already tried and failed, or are about to take on this type of task for the first time.
Here I’m going to show you not just how to drill into brick, but the different types of drills, bricks, and the best type of drill bit to use.
Contents (Jump to Topic)
Brick Vs. Mortar: What’s The Difference?
Ok, let’s talk brick or mortar! Do you drill into the brick itself or the mortar (cement) that surrounds it? And no, it’s actually not a silly question, there are pros and cons for both methods.
Before you start to drill holes, it is important that you know which is right for you, brick or mortar? Some factors to consider are:
- Diameter and depth of the hole you need to drill
- The type of wall anchors being used i.e expansion anchor or rawl plug
- The type of brick
- How old are the bricks and are they in good condition
- What sort of weight is it going to carry?
As a general rule bricks are stronger and are able to support more weight than mortar. They also provide a better bite for anchors and screws compared to mortar. It is for this reason, when drilling into a brick wall I usually drill directly into the brick itself and not the mortar.
However, you will find that there is some debate about this. Larger deeper holes using expansion anchors can put stress on a brick and cause it to split, by drilling into the mortar the stress is placed on the whole intact brick.
That being said, if you are only planning on hanging a lightweight picture frame or small wall clock etc., then drilling into the mortar is perfectly fine. It also has the added advantage of being easier than drilling brick.
What Do You Need To Drill Brick & Concrete?
Unlike when drilling through metal using a pillar drill, drilling into brick or concrete not only requires the correct masonry drill bits but, ideally, the use of a hammer drill or rotary hammer drill.
Ok, you can use any drill with a masonry drill bit fitted, but trust me if you have any number of holes to drill your arm and drill will soon start to feel the effects if you don’t have the hammer feature.
What’s The Best Drill For Brick?
What is a hammer drill and what is an SDS drill I hear you ask? Without getting too bogged down in technicalities I’ll try to explain in brief.
Inside hammer drills, there are two ridged discs. When pressure is applied to the drill bit the discs are pushed together and the ridges ride over each making the drill bit move back and forth, in other words, a hammer motion.
Unlike a combi drill hammer function, the hammer function on a rotary hammer (or SDS hammer drill) is created using a piston. This gives it an advantage over a hammer drill as the piston supplies more impact energy.
Most rotary drills also feature various settings making them a versatile tool. Typically these are drill mode, hammer and drill or just hammer.
But, these are expensive pieces of equipment so if it’s a one-off job you are probably better off renting one from a tool hire shop.
Okay, So What’s The Best Drill Bit For Brick?
So, what’s the best drill bit for brick? The simple answer is a carbide-tipped masonry bit, which is the same type of drill bit you would use to drill into tiles.
Note: When you are purchasing any masonry bits make sure they are suitable for use in your drill of choice, ie, have or don’t have grooves in the base of the drill bit depending on what you need.
They don’t cost a small fortune either. For example, at the time of writing, you can pick up a 6 piece SDS drill bit set for just under £10. These feature an optimised spiral shape ensuring that any brick dust is removed and providing high power transmission throughout drilling.
Alternatively, for the keen DIYer with an SDS drill, a 17 piece SDS Drill and Chisel Set may be a better option.
Offering not just a large selection of different sized masonry bits but chisels as well. So, if you want to use the hammer-only action for removing tiles etc. this is for you.
How To Use A Hammer Drill: Quick Overview
How to use a hammer drill really is no different from using a regular drill, and using one will make struggling to drill larger holes and holes in concrete blocks a thing of the past.
- Check the drill settings are correct i.e that it’s not in reverse, hammer + drill, etc
- Never apply too much pressure
- Always use the correct drill bits for the drill chuck
- Always drill a pilot hole
- Start slow and only increase the speed once the bit bites
- Be sure to keep the drill perpendicular to the surface being drilled
- Stop drilling for a while if the bit starts to get too hot
How To Drill Into Brick & Mortar/Cement
With the right tools from above and following this step-by-step guide on how to drill into brick and mortar or cement, you’ll be done in no time so let’s get to it.
Step 1: Safety First
Typically electrical cables should run horizontally near the floor and vertically to sockets and switches (rather than randomly placed or diagonally), but it depends who installed them!
Plus, be sure to wear protective gear. Ear protection and safety glasses for eye protection and an industrial-grade mask (even a small amount of brick dust breathed in can cause serious health problems).
Step 2: Measure Twice, Drill One
Measure twice, drill once. Once you have marked the brickwork offer up the fixture to double-check it’s the correct position.
Step 3: Pilot Holes Are Your Friend
Make a pilot hole using a smaller pilot drill bit. First set the depth stop attachment, if your drill doesn’t have one you can mark the depth required using tape.
Always hold your drill perfectly level and take it slow. Start off at the slowest possible speed until the bit bites. If your drill does not have speed settings use short bursts to prevent overheating.
Once you feel the bit bite into the brick, while keeping an even pressure, increase the speed.
During drilling occasionally pull the drill out to avoid excess dust clogging the drill bit. Once the desired depth is reached move the drill bit in and out to remove any remaining dust.
Step 4: Finishing Off
If you happen to have a center punch, or a no-hammer required automatic centre punch, using it now will further ensure that your drill bit does not slip from your pilot hole. But, it’s not essential.
Now change over to the larger drill bit chosen for your hole and repeat Step 3. If you are using a wall anchor (or wall plug) the depth of hole and drill bit diameter required will be on the pack. If not, I’ve got a full guide to wall plug sizing in the UK here.
Here’s a video showing the process:
Well, I hope this article has shown you that knowing how to drill brick using the correct technique is actually quite simple.
Always remember, having the right drill and masonry bit is imperative when drilling holes into brick walls. However, knowing how to use them correctly is just as important.
People Also Ask (FAQ)
Now I will answer a few of the most commonly asked questions that are not covered in the article above. Hope they help you further.
What length drill bit to use for a cavity wall?
Although the length of drill bit required to drill through a cavity wall can vary (learn more about cavity walls here), I would recommend that it be at least 40mm. Any shorter and you may find yourself falling short of the mark.
Why can’t I drill into my wall?
Although there are various reasons that you may not be able to drill into your wall. The main reason is that the drill or drill bit is not suitable. Using a drill with hammer action and masonry bit will get you through tougher materials such as brickwork.
How to drill into concrete with a regular drill?
There really is no easy way to drill into concrete using a regular household drill without hammer mode. Yes, it’s possible but the chances are you will damage your drill trying. Use a hammer drill, if you only have a few holes to drill then renting one from a tool hire shop is the best option.
What happens if you drill into a live wire?
If you happen to drill into a live wire, because modern drills are insulated, you should not get an electric shock. However, it can still happen so always use a cable finder and never grip the chuck. You may see smoke or smell burning and the trip or fuse will blow causing the lights, sockets, or both not to work.
Can you drill a screw directly into a brick wall?
Putting a screw directly into a brick wall is all but impossible. Maybe if you have soft masonry you can. However, a screw won’t have much grip in soft mortar holes, therefore drilling a hole first and using a rawl plug is the right course of action.
Can a cordless drill drill into brick?
Over recent years cordless tools have come into their own and nowadays most heavy-duty cordless drills can drill a hole into brick. But, it will need to be powerful i.e 18-20 volt and have a hammer feature.