How to Drill Into Concrete

For projects around the home, it is sometimes necessary to drill into concrete. You might need to do this when installing shelves or hanging heavy mirrors on concrete block walls; installing metal anchors in concrete slabs when building wood-frame walls; installing toilet closet flanges on concrete slabs; or attaching footers for patios, pergolas, and other outdoor structures. You might also need to hammer a concrete nail into concrete or drill pilot holes for masonry screws.

These can be daunting projects because concrete is notoriously difficult to drill. Many do-it-yourselfers may decide against the project or may develop elaborate workarounds. But, with the right tools and a few helpful techniques, you can drill into concrete successfully and with less effort than you may imagine.

The Basics of Drilling Into Concrete

Drilling into concrete is difficult because concrete is dense, is hard, and has embedded aggregate stones that can be obstacles to the drill bit. Drilling can quickly dull drill bits. When the bit encounters aggregate, the bit drags even more. The preferred tool for drilling into concrete is a hammer drill.

Drilling Concrete With a Hammer Drill

A hammer drill is different from an ordinary rotary drill. Like a rotary drill, the hammer drill rotates. Unlike a rotary drill, it hammers while it rotates. Hammering helps to pulverize the concrete, while the rotation forms the hole.

If you anticipate drilling many holes in concrete, it may be beneficial to purchase a hammer drill. Hammer drills are available in both corded and cordless versions. Most hammer drills have two modes: simultaneous hammer/drill mode and drill-only mode.

Drilling Concrete With a Rotary Drill

It is possible to drill into concrete with an ordinary rotary drill. Rotary drills take longer to drill into concrete than hammer drills and more physical effort is required. Excessive heat build-up can break the drill bit.

One way to speed up the process and avoid breaking the drill bit is to keep the bit cool. With cordless drills, you can run a slow, steady stream of water across the surface. With corded drills, holding a shop vacuum nozzle close to the drilling surface both cools the bit and keeps the hole free of debris.

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Safety Considerations

Always use safety gear when drilling into concrete: hearing protection, eye protection, a dust mask or respirator, heavy gloves, boots, and long sleeves.