How To Drill Through Concrete, Brick or Masonry Using the Right Tools
Drilling through some type of concrete is a task that many people will have to do at some stage if they are taking on any form of DIY. The good news is that you don't need that many things to get the job done. In fact you just need two items:
That is all you need to be able to drill a hole into concrete, brick, mortar or any form of stone work. The biggest problem for most people is knowing what they are drilling into and what exactly they should use. This article should answer those questions.
Types of Masonry Found In a Home
In most UK homes there will be some form of masonry used to build the house. Typically this will be for the majority of people, cement, brick, breeze block and concrete. You will also find in many homes that the internal walls are made from plaster board. Let's have a quick look at each so as you know what you are drilling into.
Drilling through masonry is not a hard thing to do at all. We think it is more important to understand what type of masonry you are drilling into is that is what really matters.
How To Drill Through Brick?
One of the most common forms of masonry in a home is the standard brick. Brick is quite a dense material and as such it is hard to drill into. Bricks are joined together using mortar and that is easier to drill into.
However if you need strength for supporting something like a shelf it is a better idea to drill into the actual brick. That will make a much stronger joint than one that has been drilled through mortar.
You will normally find brick on the outside of houses and many garages also use brick. So for example putting up a hanging plant outside would require some drilling of bricks, or maybe putting up a shelf in your garage.
If we were hanging a small lightweight picture we would go through the mortar. For something like a mirror or shelves we would always drill through the brick. It takes a little experience to be able to make the right decision. However, if in doubt always go for drilling through the brick.
How To Drill Through Masonry Block?
In more modern homes you will find that concrete blocks have been used instead of brick. These blocks are also known as "breeze blocks." Drilling through block is easier than going through brick as it not as dense.
As with bricks you will still need a hammer drill and a masonry bit. The size of the hole you need will of course determine the size of the bit. You can see how it is done in the video below.
So drilling a simple hole into brick or block is pretty straightforward as long as you have a hammer drill and a masonry bit. The harder drilling job is when you have to drill a hole all the way through from the inside to the outside of your home.
Brick and block houses use what is called a cavity wall system, where the outer part of the house is built using bricks and the inner skin is made from blocks. The gap in between those two is called the cavity. These two walls are then held together with ties and the gap can be filled with insulating material. (Normally called cavity wall insulation)
How To Drill Through External Walls?
Drilling external walls is the one of hardest jobs you will have to do. If you are on the outside of the house for example and are trying to drill through to fit something like a TV aerial, an external tap or a washing machine outlet pipe, then there are slightly different drilling requirements.
For a TV aerial cable you will need a smaller masonry drill bit, but it will have to be long enough to get through the outer brick, the cavity and then the block. For an external tap, you would need a long bit also, but it would need to have a bigger diameter, to allow for the wider water pipe.
You need a pretty powerful drill to do this and a much longer bit as well. It is also a good idea to drill from the inside of the house and then through to the outside.
How To Drill Through Internal Walls?
Internal walls can be a little bit more complicated. The majority of homes in the UK (around 70-75%) are made from what is called brick and block. The other method used is called timber frame. For now though we will stick with the more common build that uses both concrete blocks and/or bricks. These are usually held together with cement.
There are different types of internal walls. In the UK there are 2 different types of these. Some of them will bear weight using joists made of wood or a concrete floor. Others are simply there to help divide the home into rooms.
The load bearing walls are normally those around the edge of the house. The walls that divide the home into rooms are normally partition walls, which are a wooden frame covered with plasterboard.
Just be aware though that depending on the design of the home, some partition walls can also be load bearing walls. Never try to knock any wall down without seeking expert advice as that could be a bit of a disaster. Internal walls can be made using one of four methods. That is normally determined by the age of your house.
- Lath and Plaster - You may find this in older houses for internal non-load bearing walls. This is where horizontal strips of wood (laths) were nailed to an upright wooden frame. They had small gaps between them and three coats of plaster were then added on top of those.
- Plasterboard - This is where sheets of plasterboard are fixed to a wooden stud frame using nails. This replaced the method above of using laths. The joints in the plasterboard are filled in or more commonly a plastic tape is used to hide the joints, and then a skim of plaster is applied. This skim has now been replaced with a gypsum sealant which does the same job.
- Plaster on Masonry - Walls made of brick, block or stone are usually finished with plaster. Normally three coats of plaster are used the render, the floating and the setting layers. These days they use a pre-mixed gypsum based render or finishing plaster.
- Dry Lining - This is the modern quick alternative to applying plaster to brick or stone walls. Sheets of plasterboard are held in place by numerous dabs of plaster adhesive. The joints are then covered with a scrim and a thin gypsum sealant is applied, but the surface is not covered with a plaster, hence the name "dry wall."
Drilling Through Stud and Partition Walls
In most cases you never need to drill through an internal wall. If it is a partition wall the chances are it is a stud wall. In other words a wooden frame covered with plasterboard. Rather than drill through that, it is better to find the wooden studs behind the plasterboard, and nail or screw into those.
So if you were hanging a picture or a mirror, it would be easier to screw a couple of screws into the wooden studs.
Internal Load Bearing Wall
Most load bearing internal walls will be block or brick, so the drilling method should be the same as if you were drilling through an external wall.
So Why Are We Telling You All of This?
Electrical Cables & Water Pipes
Well unless you know what you are drilling into around the home, it is hard to know exactly what to do. Hidden behind many of these walls are electrical cables and water pipes. Hit one of those and you have a whole load of trouble on your hands.
Many of the walls around the home are stud walls. This is simply a wooden frame with plasterboard attached to it. If for example you have to fit a picture, hang a mirror or put up some shelves the key is to find the wooden studs behind the plasterboard and nail or screw into those, rather than drill through plasterboard, which is not that strong.
You do however have to find the stud and make 100% certain that no pipes or cable are behind the wall. That is why it is always a great idea to buy and own a stud finder. That will save you ever having to worry about damaging any electrical or plumbing works.
Drilling Through Masonry
So there you go folks and hopefully we have explained this to your satisfaction. You will need to buy or own masonry bits which come in all shapes and sizes. It depends on the job that you are doing. You can buy these as individual bits or in sets of bits. The longer drill masonry bits are better bought as individual items and that will depend on the job you are doing.
In addition to owning the right bit, you will also need a good quality hammer drill. We have also reviewed those and you can read about those hammer drills by clicking here.
You don't need anything heavy duty though for the vast majority of home projects. A good basic hammer drill is all you need and you can pick one of those up between £40-70.
When drilling masonry, always think safety and wear eye protectors as you don't want a piece of brick in your eye. Also, take your time to be sure that no pipes or electric cables are lurking behind a wall. If you hit either of those it can cost you a great deal more than hanging a mirror up.
Masonry Drill Bit Set
A typical set like this costs around £10-12
Longer Masonry Bits
These vary from £4-20 depending on quality
Along with that you will need a drill that has a hammer function. It will need to have enough power to get through the drilling process. Most cordless drills, and certainly those with an 18 Volt battery will handle this no problem.