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Drilling Into Concrete Without a Hammer Drill

Updated
Adapting a regular drill to drill into concrete.

Drilling into concrete requires a tool with extra punch. So, it’s always best to use a hammer drill when attempting to drill into concrete, but what if you don’t have one? Is there another way to do it?

We show you how to drill into concrete without a hammer drill and give you hints and tips along the way.


Can You Use a Regular Drill To Drill Into Concrete?

You can drill into concrete without a hammer drill. It is hard work and takes patience, but you can make progress with the right masonry drill bits and a nail. You should also have some basic knowledge of how a drill works and how to drill. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging your tools and possible injury.

It’s preferable if your regular drill has adjustable torque and speed settings and an interchangeable head because you will need masonry drill bits.

When drilling into concrete, it’s best to use a lower speed and more torque, which is why adjustable speed and torque are essential for efficient results. You can do it without these features, but it would be a lot more difficult.

If you go too fast, you risk damaging the drill bit. Alternating the speed gives you greater control of the process.

The thing to remember is that hammer drills use percussive action and rotary movement, which means the drill bit twists while moving up and down. This is what gives the hammer drill its power.

Can You Drill Into Concrete With a Regular Drill Bit?

The best drill bit to use when drilling into concrete is a masonry bit. Regular drill bits lack the strength and design to bite into such hardened surfaces. Masonry bits are made of tungsten carbide, which is a much more robust material and better suited to withstand the rigors of such a tough material.

Regular drill bits are suited to drywall and wood, along with other softer surfaces. If you tried to use a standard drill bit on concrete, it would overheat, become brittle and lose its cutting edge.

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How To Drill Into Concrete Without a Hammer Drill

So, how do you drill into concrete without the right tools? Before you get started, there are some tools you might find useful.

What You Need

    • A face mask.
    • Goggles.
    • A regular drill.
    • Masonry drill bits.
    • A nail.
    • A hammer.
    • A cup of water or a hose.

1. Safety First

To protect your eyes from loose bits of concrete, put on your goggles. Dust and small shards of material can easily become lodged in your eyes, causing serious medical damage.

Also, put on your face mask because drilling kicks out a lot of dust, which is hazardous when inhaled.

2. Start Small

The only way to break the concrete surface is to start with a smaller masonry drill bit. You will need to apply steady pressure to ensure it gains traction while keeping an eye on the drill motor to keep it from overheating.

Smaller drill bits are sharper, with smaller tips, so they are the best way to cut into the concrete. If you are really stuck, you could always try hitting the nail with the hammer to make a pilot hole.

3. Increase the Size

As the smaller drill bit eats into the concrete, it’s time to scale up the sizes. Slowly increase through the range, making the hole wider each time. Start by redrilling the entire hole.

4. Use the Nail

Concrete contains additional stones and pebbles, and sometimes, as you drill through the material, you strike a hard spot. Normally, a hammer drill does a good job of chewing through these blockages, but you may need additional force with a regular drill.

Grab the hammer and nail and insert it into the hole. Hit the nail with the hammer a couple of times, which is hopefully enough to clear the path for the drill bit to continue.

5. Watch for Overheating

As the drill works overtime trying to penetrate the concrete, it risks overheating. You know when this is happening because you can smell the motor burning before you see the smoke. You also risk burning out the drill bit.

Keep a cup of water handy or a garden hose if you are working outside. Make regular pauses to allow the drill bit to cool naturally, and add a splash of water if you think you need it.

Tips for Drilling Into Concrete Without a Hammer Drill

So, you are about to attempt to drill into concrete without a hammer drill. What are the top tips to make the process smoother? Let’s find out.

Have Multiple Masonry Drill Bit Sizes

The more drill bit sizes you have means, the more flexible you can be when drilling your hole. It’s easier to work in gradients of sizes rather than leaping from small, medium to large. By increasing the size of the hole gradually, you decrease the amount of strain you place on the drill bit.

It also increases the chances of you overheating the bit and the motor.

Take It Slow

Don’t worry about getting the job done in double-quick time. It’s not about speed, but it is about precision, so you can ensure that the job is done accurately by taking it slowly. Maxing out the drill speed will not get you to the end any faster.

You are more likely to burn out the drill bit and the drill motor if you go at it at full speed. Concrete responds better when you apply more torque and less speed so the drill bit can slowly grind its way into the material.

How Old Is the Concrete?

Knowing the age of your concrete is crucial to a successful outcome. Older concrete is far more robust. It is more densely packed with stones and rocks that impede your progress when drilling.

If you have old concrete, it might be simpler to concede defeat and buy or rent a hammer drill for the job.

Newer concrete is much softer, so you stand a fighting chance of a successful conclusion when drilling without a hammer drill.

Adjustable Torque and Speed

Having the ability to change the speed of your drill is invaluable if you want to maintain optimum control. Sometimes you need to go slow, and other times it’s worth going faster.

Likewise, it’s the same with the torque. Torque is a bit like grip. The slower you go, the better the masonry drill bit bites into the concrete. Once you start the hole, you can increase the speed. A drill with adjustable settings is ideal for this task.


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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.