How To Drill Through Brick
In this article we are going to explain exactly how to drill through brick. Most houses and garages in the UK are made from brick and concrete blocks. We have been using those for years, and are essentially the building industry standard. They continue to use them for most residential housing in the UK.
Bricks are a popular choice because they look good, they are durable and they hold their colour. They are made from a mixture of clay and shell which are then fired in a kiln. These are all natural resources and they really do not need any maintenance, unlike timber frame housing.
Bricks are also resistant to fire and weather. The only real disadvantage of bricks are that they are expensive, and also a bit of a pain to drill though. Now we can’t change the price of bricks here at the Tool Advice website, but we can show you how to drill through brick.
Tools Required for Drilling Through Bricks.
You only really need two tools and those are:
- A hammer drill
- A masonry bit (or set of different sized bits)
If you have those two tools then you will be able to drill through any type of masonry including brick, block, mortar and concrete. Let’s look at each of these tools in just a little more detail.
The Hammer Drill
We do not want to bore you with a lot of technical detail about which drill to use. However we do need to tell you why a hammer drill is vitally important. First of all, there are two types of drill:
- A corded drill – needs plugged into an electrical socket
- A cordless drill – runs off a battery
Most people these days use a cordless drill which also doubles up as a screwdriver. That gives them the name of a drill/driver. They are really handy to own if you do a lot of DIY or Home Improvement.
However not all drills have a hammer function. All drills will have a drilling function of course, and that rotary function allows normal drilling into materials like wood and metal. You can buy different types of wood bits and different types of metal bits.
With brick though, you also need a hammering function as well as a rotary drilling function. The rotary drilling function is measured in “revolutions per minute” (RPM). The hammer function is measured in “bumps per minute” (BPM).
This hammer function essentially allows the chuck on the drill to move backwards and forwards really quickly. As such it creates a small but rapid firing hammer. That helps the masonry bit to force and crack its way through the brick.
So if you own a drill, check that it has a hammer function. If it doesn’t then it will not be of any use for drilling through any type of concrete or masonry. If you are thinking of buying one, then make sure it has a hammer function.
The Masonry Bit
As I mentioned earlier, there are different types of drill bits, for different types of materials. To drill through masonry including brick, there are specific bits called masonry bits. These are made in a special way, and are quite different to other types of drill bits.
In the image above it shows three types of drill bits. On the left is a metal drill bit, and in the centre a pointed bit used for drilling into wood. On the right is a standard masonry drill bit ideal for drilling through bricks. Many of the masonry bits also have this red tip.
You can buy these in individual bit sizes such as 10 mm, 12 mm etc. More commonly though, those are bought in a set of the most popular sizes. They are useful as they allow you to drill different size holes in the brick.
Most often a hole is drilled in brick to insert a wall plug so as you can hang something up. Shelves are usually put up by drilling holes into walls, and then using wall plugs and screws to hold them in place.
Masonry drill bit sets usually have anything between 5-15 bits in them of different sizes. The set can cost anything between £5-15 depending on the size of the set, and the quality of the actual bits.
You pay more for masonry bits from a good brand like Dewalt or Bosch, but they last a great deal longer. That said, I like and use the Draper 18550 Masonry Drill Bit Set, which is available on Amazon, and is exceptionally good value for money. That is the set pictured above.
Masonry bits have a wide head and a narrower body. The flutes on the body are designed to quickly pass the dust up and out of the wall. Masonry bits are usually made from tungsten carbide.
Long Masonry Drill Bits
Sometimes you need to drill through a double row of brick. For example if you are trying to get a TV aerial or cable from the outside of the house through into the inside of a room.
Then you will need a longer length drill bit. These come in different lengths and in different diameters. They are also slightly more difficult to control as well, but you do get used to them after a little use.
You can also buy these in sets, but it is more practical to find out what size you will need, and just buy the individual bit, as these can get pretty expensive.
Drilling Larger Holes Through Brick
If you are drilling holes for something like an external pipe, then you may need a larger or wider hole. The normal drill bit sets usually only go up to around 10 or 12 mm. Those are fine for the smaller holes needed for something like wall plugs.
For pipes with a larger diameter you will need something much larger.
These are called “core drill bits.” Sometimes you will hear these referred to as “diamond core drill bits.”
Again these vary in price, depending on the quality of the metal used. They can cost anything between £5 at the lower end, and £25 at the higher end. As I don’t use these often, I tend to just buy the size that I need. One that I use for those bigger jobs is the Silverline 349764 TCT Core Drill Bit, which is a 50 mm (2″) ideal for those larger holes.
That one is available at Amazon and is well priced and there may be offers running at the time.
These work along with a standard masonry bit, which is used to centre the drilling hole.
The Brick Drilling Process
So if you have a hammer drill, and the right bit for the type of hole you need, the process is pretty basic. You put the drill bit into the chuck. Most drill bits tighten by hand, and these are known as keyless chucks. Some drills will use a chuck key to tighten the bit into the chuck.
Once tightened, mark out the spot where the hole is to go. Makes sure the drill is set to the hammer function. Push the bit on to the spot, and check that it is level. Then simply pull the trigger and let the masonry bit do its job. There is no need to force this, as the combination of rotation and hammering so all the hard work.
Drill to the required depth, and the job is done. Be careful when removing the bit as it is likely to be hot.
Do You Drill the Brick or the Mortar?
A question we are often asked is to you drill the brick or the mortar. Mortar is the cement like material that holds the bricks together. It usually has a grey/white colour, though colour may be added to this.
Mortar is a lot easier to drill through as it is quite soft. The problem with that is that if you are using the drilled hole to attach something via a wall plug, it is not a very strong substance.
If for example you were hanging a shelf to hold pain pots, then the weight on the shelf would be too much for a wall plug that has been drilled into the mortar. Best practise is to always drill through the brick.
Brick Drilling Tips
Tip 1 – Don’t use old masonry bits. As these take a fair bit of abuse, they really do not last that long. Some of the more expensive ones will, but the standard sets really do not last that long. If the bit is struggling to do the job, it is always best to replace it.
Tip 2 – Hold the drill firmly but don’t squeeze the life out of it. You always want a straight hole to be drilled, and it is worthwhile taking a little time and checking your position.
Tip 3 – Gather the brick dust or most of it by following this tip. Get an old envelope and some tape. Tape the envelope to the wall just below where you are drilling, with the open part of it out. The brick dust will then fall into the envelop and help keep the wall clean.
Tip 4 – Match the drill bit to the wall plug size. With wall plugs you want a nice tight fit. Most wall plugs are 10 mm in size, so use a 10 mm masonry drill bit for the hole. You can check the wall plug size from reading the information on the box or pack.
Tip 5 – Another great tip is to measure the length of the wall plug against the point of the drill bit. Then mark that distance off with a piece of tape by wrapping it around the drill bit. That way you will know how deep to make the hole.