How to drill brick without a hammer drill and get Great results
I was recently putting up some shelves in my office to store some of my books and files and create some more space.
This required drilling into the wall to fix the brackets, normally this would be relatively straight forward using a hammer drill to cut into the solid brick wall.
Not today as this was just when my old drill decided to fall apart so I had to use my normal power drill which doesn’t have a hammer action, but would it drill into the hard brick wall? here’s how I did it,
To Drill into brick without a hammer drill you need a power drill and Tungsten carbide drill bit, mark the hole centre with a pencil, drill a pilot hole first and increase the hole size in steps, use water to keep the heat down, remove the drill regularly to clear debris from the hole, use a star drill and lump hammer for hard brick.
I managed to get the holes drilled in to the brick following these steps, here are a few more tips that make the job quicker,
Marking the centre of the holes,
The first thing when drilling holes into any surface is to ensure you have the centers marked correctly; the old adage ‘measure twice cut once’ really does count, as drilling holes in the wrong place, especially in a hard brick wall can be a disaster.
Use a good, sharp pencil or pen to mark the center of the holes, then double-check the position with a tape measure from a suitable datum point.
Fit a sharp tungsten carbide drill bit
Drilling into brick cannot be done with a normal HSS drill bit, the tip will become blunt very quickly, even with a Hammer action power drill.
A tungsten carbide masonry drill will cut into most brick, as it has hardened tips, designed especially for the job, however masonry drills use a crushing force to cut through hard brick and will become blunt when used without hammer action, it’s a good idea to have couple of drills with you to do the job incase they become blunt.
I used these Bosch masonry drill bits which worked really well and are great value, they are available from Amazon
For drilling into engineering bricks or high strength concrete, a normal drill will not have enough power to cut through, and drill bits will need to be higher, professional-grade.
I would suggest avoiding drilling into concrete or engineering bricks unless you have an SDS drill and SDS drill bits.
For DIY projects that need an SDS drill, Bosch drills are really good and I have used mine for years with no issues, they are available here.
Use a pilot drill
To make drilling holes into brick without a hammer drill using a pilot drill to start really helps, as the cutting face of the drill is smaller and needs less force to cut into the brick.
I tend to start drilling holes in brick with a pilot drill without using hammer action on my drill, as this stops the drill from jumping around and it makes starting the hole in the centre much easier.
Drilling large holes into brick
For drilling large holes starting with a small pilot drill and increasing the hole size in small steps makes drilling into brickwork much easier on the downside you need several different diameter drills to get to the size hole you want.
For drilling, really large diameter holes into brick using a diamond core drill will make light work of the job and give clean straight cuts.
Diamond core drill bits are available in lots of diameters and are normally used to drill large holes in brick or concrete for pipework to fit through, Bosch makes a good range and you can buy a set of diamond core drill bits from Amazon.
Use water to keep the heat down
Drilling into brick with a tungsten carbide drill generates a lot of heat, and if this becomes too high the tips will burn out and become blunt.
Using water to help reduce the temperature will avoid burning out the drill bits too quickly, this can be done in a couple of ways.
Firstly a constant supply of cold water to the drilling surface using a pipe and water supply, this is the best way but is often not practical, as the job site might be a long way from any water supply or difficult to run pipe to.
The second method is easier but not quite as effective, and requires a small container of water and regularly removing the drill from the hole and placing the tip in the container to cool down.
Clear debris and dust from the hole
As with any drilling or machining job drilling hole into brick will create debris and dust.
To make drilling holes easier, regularly removing the drill bit from the hole to clear the bits of brick and dust will make things easier and avoid burning out the drill bit too quickly, this is even more important when drilling holes into brick without using a hammer drill.
Using a vacuum cleaner with a small hose attachment makes this easy, I used an old spare nozzle which I attached a piece of flexible 10mm diameter pipe to using duct tape, this can be pushed down into the hole to clear out any dust
For small holes putting the vacuum cleaner hose over the hole works well.
When drilling holes into brick, always wear a dust mask and safety goggles to prevent breathing in and brick dust, as this can be very hazardous to your lungs.
Use a ‘Star head’ Drill
For really hard areas that a tungsten carbide drill won’t cut into, using a star head drill or cold chisel is another way to drill the hole.
A Star drill is a type of chisel that needs to be hit with a lump hammer. Place the drill into the hole then hit it a couple of times with the lump hammer and then turn it about 45 degrees then hit it again.
This is a slow process and can take a while but it works and was how holes were drilled before the invention of the power or hammer drill.
Mankind literally moved mountains like this.
Drill in to the Mortar
Drilling into brick is not an easy task and without the use of a hammer drill, finding other ways makes the task significantly easier.
The mortar between the bricks is usually softer than the brick, this allows for movement during settlement and avoids the bricks cracking.
If you can drill into the mortar between the bricks this will make life much easier and can be repaired if you need to move or hide the hole.
When marking out our holes try to align them with the mortar joints as much as possible this means fewer holes need to be drilled into the brickwork.
What’s the best speed for drilling into brick?
Speeds for drilling holes into Mansory will vary depending on the size of the hole and the type of brickwork or concrete being drilled.
Typically the drill should be run as slowly as possible to reduce heat, between 300 and 750 rpm is good for most masonry.
Most power drills will run at this speed and by setting the trigger at mid-point, you should be fairly close to this.
Some trial and error may be needed to find the optimum speed.
How To sharpen a tungsten carbide drill bit
When you are drilling holes into brick without a hammer drill the drill bits will wear out quickly and to save a ton of money buying new ones drills can be resharpened
Using a bench grinder or a sharpening tool to re-cut the tips, both will grid the surface to give a nice clean cutting edge
Hold the drill in the tips of your fingers and hold it firmly, set the drill at 60 degrees to the face of the grinding wheel, and apply light pressure.
Always wear the correct PPE when using a grinder, gloves, goggles and hearing protection
Have some water in a small open container and dip the drill bit in the water regularly to keep the heat down.
Once you have achieved a clean edge on one side of the drill turn it over and grind the other side.
Make sure that both sides are the same length using a steel rule as a guide.
If you are not confident enough to use a bench grinder to sharpen your drills then you can use a drill sharpening tool like this one Amazon.
Drill sharpening tools can be easier to set-up and use for beginners, normally they require a flat surface to be mounted to and a power supply.
Place the sharpener on your bench and plug it into the power supply, set the drill that needs sharpening into the guide, and tighten it in place.
Switch the sharpener on and then follow the instructions for your machine.
Click here to find out more and read our guide to sharpening drill bits
How to screw into brick
Once you have drilled holes into brick, what do you need to screw into them?
There are lots of different ways to fix and hold things, for small holes in domestic masonry plastic wall plugs will hold screws and fixings secure.
Choose the right size wall plug for the weight you want to hold against the wall, they are available in different diameters and lengths.
Drill a hole the right size for the wall plug, this is normally shown on the side of the plug or on the box it comes in.
Clean out the hole, make sure there is no dust or debris that could stop the wall plug from going all the way in
Gently tap the wall plug home with a hammer making sure it sits flush with the surface of the brick.
Fix the shelf, bracket, cupboard with the correct screw, and using either a combi-drill or screwdriver make sure the fixing is screwed in tight but not too tight.
For more information about using wall plugs check out our detailed guide