Construction projects are endlessly rewarding until you come across a problem that you can’t quickly solve. Struggling to understand how to drill concrete can be one of those situations. While concrete is a versatile material with a sought-after industrial aesthetic, its durability can quickly become too much of a good thing if you can’t make it behave.
If you’ve tried to understand how to drill concrete with the tools you had on hand, you likely met with failure within moments of trying. The good news? There are special tools designed just for concrete construction, and they can make a world of difference in how to drill concrete.
We learned this lesson ourselves in the midst of building our own debt free timber frame home (check out the timber frame workshop we did), and we think the lessons we learned are valuable enough to pass on to you. If you’d rather watch our experience, this video shows the process of us learning how to drill concrete the right way.
Hammer Drills: The Best Way to Drill Concrete
The key to success for drilling concrete is relying on a hammer drill (also called a rotary hammer) for the job.
A quality hammer drill can bore down over two inches in solid concrete in just a minute, which is significantly faster than any rotary drill. These tools work by fracturing the material through a rapid hammer action and then scooping out the broken rock and dust through drilling.
If you don’t plan on using one enough to justify owning it, hammer drills can be rented by the day for about $50. When you look for the right one for your needs, pay attention to its power level, whether it has more than one speed, and if it has a stop function for safer drilling.
We bought the Mikita model hr2811F hammer drill for our home build, and couldn’t be happier with the decision because it offers us the flexibility to take advantage of a high powered tool whenever we need it without having to get a rental every time.
Check out our unboxing of this hammer drill below.
Which Drill Bit Length is Best for Hammering Concrete?
Prepare to be shocked by just how large a drill bit is needed to drill concrete. You will need to choose a screw length that can penetrate the material by at least one inch.
We needed to drill through three and a half inches of sill plate, and eight inches in concrete, so our bit was significantly longer than this.
High-quality masonry drill bits work best, and a carbide-tipped bit will better withstand the force of hammering and drilling. Make sure the flutes on each drill but are as long as the hole you plan to drill, as they are responsible for pulling the rock dust out of the hole.
Some rotary hammers require special drill bits that are called SDS, SDS-MAX, or Spline-Shank, so pay close attention to the requirements for your tool.
How to Drill Concrete in Seven Steps
Step 1. Prepare the Drill Bit
Use a pencil to mark on the concrete where you want to drill your hole, and double check every measurement before moving on. This is also a good time to determine how deep you want each drilled hole to go.
If included, you can use the drill’s stop bar to set the exact depth you want each hole to be. Don’t worry if there isn’t a stop bar; just wrap a piece of tape around the drill bit at the desired length instead.
Step 2: Get in Position
Put on safety goggles (and your favorite construction work clothes!) and insert your drill bit into the drill. Get into a safe drilling position by standing upright, with the tool secured in both hands.
The best hand stance is to hold your drill like a handgun and keep a grip on the auxiliary handle for extra control. To ensure you get a straight hole, the drill bit should be perfectly perpendicular to the concrete before you begin.
Step 3. Make a Guide Hole
Turn your drill to the lowest setting, and work in short, controlled bursts to create a guide hole about a ¼ inch deep. This will increase the drill’s stability as you drill the real hole.
Step 4. Start Drilling!
Carefully place the drill into the guide hole and begin drilling down with a steady hand. You can turn the speed up if you feel confident, drilling down into the concrete until you reach the stop bar or scotch tape.
Keep in mind that concrete is filled with air pockets and small pebbles that can quickly change the resistance level of your drill, making it easy to lose control if you aren’t careful. Never force the tool through if you hit obstructions, as it can damage the bit or cause you to lose control and damage the concrete surface.
If you hit pockets that you can’t drill through, set the tool down and use a masonry nail and hammer to carefully chip through the obstruction. Afterwards, you can continue drilling at a slower speed.
Step 5: Remove the Dust
As you drill, you should periodically stop to pull out the tool and brush away the built-up concrete dust. Pausing your progress every twenty seconds is a smart idea, and it also prevents the rotary hammer from overheating.
Step 6: Complete the Hole
Once you’ve reached the right depth for your hole, pull out the drill and blow out any remaining dust with compressed air, following afterward with a vacuum to get everything that falls to the ground.
Wearing your safety goggles is still crucial during this step, as concrete dust is highly irritating to the eyes.
Step 7. Start the Next Hole
You can repeat this process for every hole you need to drill, giving the hammer drill enough time to cool down between holes to prevent problems.
So long as you are careful and make accurate measurements, you’ll be amazed how simple it is to drill concrete when you have tools powerful enough to complete the job.
Drilling Concrete is Easier Than You Think With the Right Tools
Don’t let not knowing how to drill concrete prevent you from moving ahead with your construction process. By acquiring the right tools and following these steps, you’ll be amazed how smoothly the process will go.
We are thrilled with how simple the process was with our Mikita model hr2811F for installing all 38 concrete lag screws in our basement foundation, and we think this tool can work for you, too.
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