This is a question that I get asked a lot! Will a cordless drill go through concrete? The simple and easy answer is yes. However, I do need to put some caveats around that definite YES. A more honest answer is that most cordless drills, can easily handle cement, brick, mortar and concrete.
Most modern cordless drills are quite close to being on a par with their corded equivalents. For the big tough jobs I still prefer to use my corded drill, but for almost every other job, I use my cordless one.
If you need to know how to drill through concrete, then read this how to guide.
Torque, Hammer Action & Battery Power
The above three things are what is really important to be able to complete the tough task of making your way through various forms of concrete. I will cover each of these below in a lot more detail. These are however features on a cordless drill, that buyers can easily overlook, when buying their cordless drill. Just make sure that you don't.
Understanding the Importance of Torque for Drilling Concrete
Most buyers, and certainly people new to buying drills, do not really understand what the torque settings on a drill are, and how they should be used. The wrong assumption is that the higher the torque rating is, the faster the drill will go. That actually isn't always a true thing to say.
Torque is really about drilling power and not drilling speed. I like to think of torque as the power that can be sent into the chuck as a twisting or turning action. Most cordless drills come with a range of different torque settings. These are usually on a control ring near the chuck and have a set of numbers on them.
For drilling through soft wood a low setting will do nicely. A low torque setting is the perfect one for drilling screws with a Philip's head into wood. This setting ensures you don't strip the head of the screw, or over drive it into the wood.
For concrete drilling though you do want power, so a high torque setting should be used. Make sure that if you are going to buy a cordless drill, that you have a range of torque settings on them.
Understanding the Importance of Hammer Action for Drilling Concrete
Most drills, corded or cordless, have a normal drilling action. Some of those also have the option of what is called a "hammer" action.
As the name would suggest this type of action is about making the masonry drill bit, not only spin and twist, but also behave like a very small hammer.
The speed of the hammer action is measured in bumps per second (bps). When drilling through hard materials like concrete, mortar and brick, this hammering action is essential.
This action basically makes the drill vibrate as well as spinning quickly. That really helps get through the tough materials, and truly speeds up the entire process.
You can drill through concrete without a hammer action if you have a lot of time, and a great deal of patience. My advice is do not buy a cordless drill unless it has a hammer action. This is a must if you plan on drilling through any type of hard surface such as concrete.
Please note cordless drills with a hammer action, are often referred to as "Combi Drills."
Understanding the Importance of Battery Power for Drilling Concrete
When you are doing any type of heavy drilling, then believe me, it will drain your battery very quickly indeed. Most cordless drills, when used for normal drilling or driving functions, will have a decent battery life. You can normally get a few hours out of them at least.
Trying to drill into a brick wall to hang shelves, or though breeze block, is a whole different thing. I am lucky enough to own a large corded drill so I will always use that for this type of job. If you don't own one, and have only a cordless, then just be aware that this type of drilling is hard on the battery life.
Different Sizes of Batteries
You are probably aware that cordless drills can be purchased with different sized batteries. For getting though concrete, bigger is best. Something like an 18 or 20 volt battery, offer you more power than the smaller 12-14 Volt batteries.
In the ideal world if you have a cordless drill with 2 batteries, then always make sure both are charged when starting your concrete drilling job. That way if one runs out, you can recharge it, and use the other one. If it doesn't have two batteries, then try and make sure that the cordless drill you buy, has a fast charge battery charger.
Trust me, there is nothing more frustrating than a battery running out, half way through a drilling job. It drives me nuts anyway.
So there you have it. A good quality cordless drill should have an 18 or 20 volt battery (ideally 2 batteries), a range of torque settings and a hammer action. If you own one like that, then drilling through concrete with a cordless drill will be no problem.
Make Sure You Have a Good Quality Masonry Bit
When drilling through the concrete style materials, the drill is just one part of the drilling process. Your drill bit is the other important part. For this type of drilling you need what is called a masonry drill bit.
My strong advice here is never to buy cheap masonry bits as they are utter rubbish. I don't want to knock people who buy these in pound shops, but they may as well throw their money down the drain.
A good set of masonry drill bits only cost about £5. Brands like Dewalt, Hilka and Bosch make great masonry bits, and I would highly recommend getting set of different sizes for around £5-8.
You can tell a masonry bit from its point. You can see that in the image just above and to the left. It is quite a broad and flat style of tip. If in doubt, just ask at the shop when buying one.
Masonry Bit Sizes
You can buy drill bits in different sizes. Most people drill walls to insert a wall plug. Depending on what you are putting up, will determine the size of screws that you need. The size of the screws then determine the size of wall plug that you need. You then need to have a masonry bit that can drill a big enough hole through the concrete, to cater for the wall plug size.
Popular masonry drill bit sizes are 8, 10 and 12 mm.
You can also buy masonry drill bits that are super tough. These are usually tipped with tungsten carbide for extra strength, and to make them last longer. Brands like Sealey offer this option. As you would expect, these are more expensive and a good set will cost around £12-15