How to drill into walls

How to drill into walls

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

187 guides

If you want to install a shelf, a frame or a painting, you'll have to know how to drill into a wall. However, drilling into concrete or stone is a very different task to drilling into brick or plasterboard! From hammer drills to hole saws, follow our guide to find out how best to drill into your walls.

Important features

  • Surface material
  • Drill bit type
  • Hammer drill
  • SDS drill
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Drilling into a wall: SDS drill vs. hammer drill


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When it comes to drilling a wall, your choice of tool depends on the material you want to drill into. Any home DIYer will know that all surfaces require the use of different tools whether you're dealing with wood, plasterboard, concrete, stone or granite. The most important point to bear in mind is that most drills will be able to drill through hollow, thin or low-density materials (as long as it offers hammer mode) and that SDS drills are best used for hard to very hard materials.

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Hammer drills

How to drill into different materials

Wood

Composite materials

Plasterboard

Brick

Breezeblock

Concrete

Stone

Reinforced concrete

Drill

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Hammer drill

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SDS drill

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How to drill into concrete

Concrete is a hard material that may also be reinforced with steel bars. You should generally be able to drill through a concrete wall using a hammer drill; however, it is simply easier to do so with a SDS drill. If using a regular drill to drill through concrete, be sure that it is equipped with hammer mode and that is it powerful enough to handle the task; in other words, don't try using your £20 drill!

If you are looking to drill concrete, stone or granite, you will need a masonry drill bit to use with your hammer drill or SDS drill. Once again, you can forget £5 packs of red-tipped drill bits! Instead, go for a tungsten carbide drill bit and be sure to check the size of the wall plug you want to use as well as your chuck type. A hammer drill will usually be fitted with a keyless chuck designed for drill bits with straight shanks while an SDS drill is fitted with an SDS chuck designed for use with grooved shanks.

Drilling into reinforced concrete


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If you are looking to drill a reinforced concrete wall, it's best to use a carbide-tipped drill bit with 3 or 4 cutting edges. Of course you must always drill straight (meaning at a right angle to your surface). Using an in-and-out motion will help to remove dust from your holes as you drill.

If you want to drill a wall without making a mess, you can tape a sheet of folded up paper where you plan to drill or place a sheet of newspaper on the floor beneath your hole. Alternatively, you can get someone to hold up a vacuum as you drill.

Chucks

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Chucks

How to drill into brick

A hammer drill should be able to drill through brick without any great difficulty. Once again, you should use the drill in hammer mode (for solid brick, at least) and ensure the tool is up to the task. It should also be equipped with a variable speed drive

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Go for a tungsten carbide drill bit and be sure to protect your eyes from flying material with safety goggles. If you are drilling into hollow brick you can usually drill without hammer mode.

Drilling through brick is a messier job than most, and you will have to clean up the dust using a vacuum cleaner; do not use a broom as brick residue can leave marks. Finally, if you want to drill into tiles, do not use hammer mode. Instead, use a special spear-shaped drill bit designed for tiles. This type of drill bit will not slip over the surface nor crack your tiles. Start by drilling as slowly as possible and increasing speed as you work.

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Drill bits for glass and tiles

How to drill into plasterboard


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It's fairly easy to drill into plasterboard and you won't have to use hammer mode or equip your drill with a tungsten carbide drill bit. You can even use a low-end tool provided you drill slowly and keep the drill bit straight.

If you don't have a drill and you just want to make a hole in plasterboard to hang a frame or painting, you can go for a self-tapping wall plug (or a self-drilling wall plug). These fixings are designed to pierce through plasterboard and can be simply screwed firmly into place by hand. Otherwise, use a hollow wall anchor and the appropriate drill bit for your surface.

How to drill into wood

There's nothing too complicated about drilling into wood: simply use a wood drill bit! Do not attempt to drill though a wood using a metal or masonry drill bit; you will get through the material but you'll also burn the wood and leave a black mark.

Type of wood drill bit


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There are two different types of drill shank:

  • hex shank;
  • straight shank.

hex shanks (the most commonly found on wood drill bits) and straight shanks (generally used for drilling large holes and into thin materials). Just like drilling through concrete or stone remember to clear the dust from your hole as you drill.

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Metal drill bits

4 tips for drilling into a wall


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From installing home ventilation systems or vents to running cables, there may be any number of reasons that you find yourself needing to drill through a wall. 

  1. While masonry drill bits can be used to drill small holes in concrete, a hole saw will be required for drilling large holes for tasks like running cables or installing vents.
  2. If you don't have a depth guide on your hammer drill or SDS drill, you can apply some tape to the drill bit so you know when to stop drilling – this will help you avoid drilling right through to your neighbours! 
  3. When drilling tile, applying a bit of masking tape or clear tape to your drilling surface can help to prevent the drill bit from slipping and scratching the tile.
  4. To ensure you are drilling straight, it can be a good idea to change your viewing angle. Hold your drill using one hand and check the side angle to ensure that the drill and drill bit are held at a right angle to the surface.

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Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter, 187 guides

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Redo a roof with wooden beams? Check.Advise Mister everybody in the DIY shop? Check.Redo the bathroom plumbing? Check.Fit together, build the walls, paint a partition, throw my hammer in a rage thinking that it will fix the problem? Check. The DIY motto ? Learning is better than delegating… well, it's also a question about your wallet! The satisfaction? The beer at the end of the job! What do the best have in common? The influence of Gyro Gearloose, Mac Gyver and Carol Smiley depending on your generation, a good dose of curiosity, a average hand-eye coordination and a taste for risks… and if it doesn't work, try again! Advise you? I'll do my best!

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