As the foundation of almost every project from home décor and crafty endeavours to larger scale renovation plans, drilling is a skill that you can’t afford not to learn.
For a DIY amateur, a drill is the most versatile tool you can own, and a decent model will take you far.
Drilling sounds relatively straightforward, but decent equipment alone won’t guarantee an excellent finish.
Perfect drilling requires finesse, attention to detail, and perhaps most importantly, a certain amount of patience, which is difficult when you’re anxious to have a job done and dusted!
A rushed or inexperienced drill job will cost you time, materials and drill bits. And let’s face it, who wants to sit staring at a botched tile or crooked picture until the end of days?
Fortunately, our comprehensive guide to drilling will spare you the pain, all you need to do is read on!
This Guides Covers How to Drill Into…
Before You Start
Regardless of the material you intend on drilling through, there are a few safety measures that need to be taken across the board when using a drill.
The rotating action of a drill can become entangled easily in loose clothing and jewellery, so remove anything baggy or dangling before beginning.
Goggles and form-fitting gloves protect your eyes and hands from splinters and flying debris, and a dust mask prevents the inhalation of harmful particles.
As a general rule of thumb, any tool that is loud enough to drown out regular conversation can be harmful to your ears, so ear muffs are also a good idea.
Check Before You Drill
Before drilling into any surface, you should always check what’s on the other side. Obviously, this is easy if you are drilling holes in glass or sheets of metal, but if you are drilling into a cavity wall or stud partition, it complicates matters a bit.
The most common culprits lurking behind walls are pipes, cables and electrical wires, so drilling blindly risks flooding, electrocution, damage to the heating system or (even worse!) severing your cable tv or internet connection.
There are no constants to where these pipes are run, so it’s always important to check before you drill. Thankfully, you don’t need psychic powers to find out what’s behind your walls. A pipe and live wire detector is a handy little gadget that will do all the guessing for you. All you need to do is hold it to the wall and press a button, and it will indicate the presence of anything you shouldn’t drill through.
How to Drilling Into Glass
The thought of drilling into glass conjures up an image of screens shattering into a million pieces, spreading pointed shards across a wide radius. However, with the correct drill bit, making a hole in a mirror or piece of glass is almost as simple as drilling into any old block of wood. It just takes nerves of steel!
It should be noted that you cannot drill into tempered glass.
Carbide bits are necessary for glass drilling. For stronger glass such as wine bottles or glass blocks, a diamond bit is a better option. The glass must sit on a very firm surface.
Mark the spot you want to drill, and begin drilling slowly, using extremely light pressure as you go. Pressing too hard will cause the glass to shatter. When you are almost breaking through, reduce the speed and pressure further.
Hacks for Drilling into Glass
- To minimize the risk of shattering, drill half way through one side, then flip your glass over and drill the rest of the way through from the other side
- Applying coolant to the bit before and during drilling will prevent the bit becoming too hot
How to Drill into Brick
So, you want to mount a railway sleeper on that feature brick fireplace, or you need some fixings to display Christmas decorations on the exterior wall of your house?
Drilling through high density masonry is no mean feat, so a high-powered drill is necessary to complete the job. Hammer drills and rotary hammers are the best type for brick and concrete drilling, as they fracture the surface with a rapid hammer feature, before scooping out the broken material with a drilling action. If your regular drill won’t stand up to the job, you could consider hiring a hammer drill from your local DIY or plant hire store.
Regular drill bits are nowhere near powerful enough to bore through bricks, so you will need to buy specific masonry bits. Masonry bits are identifiable by their triangular tip.
Decide how wide and deep the hole needs to be. Remember, if you put a screw in the wall to hang something on, a wall anchor (also known as a rawlplug) is necessary to secure it. Take the size of the anchor into consideration when planning the width of the hole.
Mark the spot on the wall where you intend to drill. You should always try to go through the mortar in between the bricks, as it is easier to pierce. Drilling directly into the bricks weakens their structure and increases the likelihood of shattering.
Before you begin drilling, make sure you have done your homework. Check for any pipes, wires or cables that may be behind the wall.
Begin drilling in small bursts to form a shallow hole, before increasing the power. Switch on the hammer action (if your drill has one), and gradually add more force.
While working, hold the drill straight at a 90-degree angle to the wall. Take regular breaks to avoid muscle fatigue, which increases the risk of your hand slipping into an incline.
For larger holes, you may need to use a smaller drill bit to drill a pilot hole, before making the hole larger with a bigger drill bit.
If you require a large hole for running a pipe through, you will need a core bit, which is similar to a hole saw that is used with timber. A core bit cuts around the diameter of a hole, rather than boring through it.
Hacks for Drilling into Brick
- Drill too deep and you could end up losing your anchor in the wall. To ensure you get the depth of the hole correct, mark your drill bit 5mm-10mm longer than the length of the screw, and stop drilling when you reach the mark.
- Keep your bits cool! Drilling through mortar is energy intensive, so the drill bit will become hot quickly. Keeping a pot of water nearby to dip it into will save waiting for it to cool down. Be careful not to get the body of the drill wet though!
- Holes drilled in brick can be sealed back up using putty, mortar repair or 100% silicone.
How to Drill into Concrete
Apart from wood, concrete is the most commonly drilled surface in the home. Hang shelves, drill vents or mount that television on the wall.
The process of drilling into concrete is similar to drilling into brick. A hammer drill will make the job infinitely easier. You will need masonry drill bits and wall anchors to hold the screw or fitting.
Decide on the width and depth of the hole you need, and mark the spot on the wall. Double check that there are no pipes, cables or live wires lying in wait behind the concrete.
Begin by drilling a shallow hole on low power, before ramping it up a notch and enabling the hammer action (if your drill has one).
If you are drilling a larger hole, start by making a pilot hole with a smaller bit before finishing it off with a bigger bit. This avoids putting stress on the surrounding concrete.
Hacks for Drilling into Concrete
- While drilling, retract the bit slightly every 10 seconds to remove the dust from the hole
- If you hit an exceptionally hard patch of concrete, you can break through it by hammering a masonry nail into it, before continuing drilling. This will save your drill bits.
- Concrete debris can be removed from the hole using a hoover, or pressurised air in a can.
How to Drill into Metal
Drilling into metal is something that isn’t even on most amateur DIY enthusiast’s radars. However, the day will come when you need to fix a curtain pole to a steel lintel, or install a deadbolt on a steel door, and you’ll wish you had listened during metalwork class all those years ago!
For softer metals such as copper or aluminium, standard metal drill bits will suffice. However, if you are drilling a harder metal such as stainless steel, it’s worth investing in higher grade HSS bits, such as black oxide or cobalt bits. For softer metals, the drill bits should be flat to prevent tearing the metal, whereas harder materials require sharp tipped bits to minimize shavings. For ultimate accuracy in sheet metal, a step bit allows you to create a precise diameter with little effort.
Decide on the size you want the hole to be and get your bits at the ready! Oiling your bit before beginning prevents heat build-up and minimizes friction, which prolongs the life of the drill bit. Any multipurpose oil such as 3-in-1 will suffice, although there are more specialized cutting oils available.
Mark the spot you want to drill into. To prevent the drill wandering once you begin, create a dimple in the metal using a centre punch and a hammer.
Safety first! Any detached metal pieces should be clamped before drilling. Unlike wood, which can be supported by one hand while being drilled by the other, metal is extremely sharp and can be hazardous if not clamped correctly. If the drill bit sticks in an unsupported piece of metal, it could send it spinning, slicing through flesh. Don’t risk injury through laziness!
For larger holes, the metal should be predrilled using a smaller bit. ¼ inch is a good starting point for bigger holes, increasing until you get to the desired diameter.
Drilling as slowly as possible stops the bit overheating. In general terms, the harder the metal, the slower the drill speed should be.
Hacks for Drilling into Metal
- After drilling, smooth the sharp edges of the hole by taking a twist bit that has a wider diameter than the hole, and manually twisting it over the top of the hole.
- To make clean holes in sheet metal, sandwich it between two pieces of wood before clamping. This keeps the metal flat and stops the bit from wandering while drilling.
How to Drill into Wood
If you own a drill, chances are you have drilled into wood at one stage or another. Wood drilling is used in many crafts and carpentry projects, and an act as simple as predrilling pilot holes into wood before bolting screws in reduces the chances of the wood splitting. It also prolongs the life and fastening power of the screw.
Standard drill bits are fine for drilling through wood. Depending on the size, shape, and purpose of the hole you wish to drill, specialized bits are available to make life easier. Spade bits drill holes with a larger diameter, Forstner bits are ideal for creating holes with precise flat bottoms, and speed bore bits have augers which help to remove the waste from the hole.
Before beginning, measure how big you want the hole to be, and mark the position on your wood with a centre punch.
Clamping is a good safety measure that prevents the bit from sticking and spinning the piece. If using a handheld drill, clamping also stops the drill from flying out of your hand if the drill bit catches.
Start drilling slowly, and once the bit has entered the wood, increase the speed. Remember, exert as little pressure as possible. The drill should be guiding you, rather than the other way around.
Once the hole is drilled, the edges can be smoothed by sanding, or by using a deburring tool.
Hacks for Drilling into Wood
- Generally, large wide screws work better when drilled at a higher clutch, whereas smaller thinner screws favour a lower clutch
- Old CD’s make great tools for drilling straight holes! Place the inner hole of the CD over the point you wish to drill through, with the reflective surface facing upwards, and position the drill in line with its reflection to ensure that you are drilling a perfect hole
How to Drill into Plaster
Whether you want to hang something on your plaster wall, or you want to build a stud wall by fixing drywall to a frame, the steps are the same. Plaster and drywall are not as supportive as concrete or brick walls, so if you are mounting something, it is imperative that you first check whether the stud will support the weight of what you want to hang.
When fixing something to a drywall or plaster wall, the hole must be drilled into the stud frame. To locate the stud frame behind the board, you will need a stud finder. Stud finders are available as standalone tools, and also as multi-purpose gadgets that detect cables, wires and pipes.
Once you have found the stud, mark the wall where you wish to drill. Standard wood bits are fine for drilling through plaster.
Begin drilling slowly, increasing the speed as you enter the plaster. Wall anchors will give your screw or nail more support.
Hacks for Drilling into Plaster
- For fixtures that require extra support, such as shelf brackets, nylon toggle fixings are available
- A decent spirit level will help to hang a straight shelf
How to Drill into Tiles
Knowing how to drill into tiles is a handy skill for mounting toilet roll and towel holders in your bathroom, or even cutlery holders on your kitchen backsplash.
As with drilling through glass, tile drilling requires a carbide tipped drill bit. Some diamond bits are also suitable.
The glossy tile surface means that great care must be taken to prevent the bit from slipping and causing injury or damage to the tile. Putting masking tape over the surface of the tile will give traction, making it easier to drill safely.
Mark the spot you want to drill and begin drilling slowly with very little pressure. Drill through the tile and into the drywall behind.
Use a hollow wall anchor to fix your screw in place.
Hacks for Drilling into Tile
- Slow down the drill speed once you hit the drywall behind the tile. Accidentally drilling through it will mean that you can’t fix a wall anchor into the hole, making it useless
- Beware of flying pieces of tile when drilling, as they can cause injury
How to Drill into Stone
Natural stone is an incredibly hard and durable material, meaning you are lucky if your house is built from it, but unlucky if you ever need to drill a hole through it! However, with the right know-how, it can be done.
A metal bonded diamond drill bit is the perfect tool for the job. For larger holes, a diamond core makes the job easier. Using a hammer drill will save a lot of time and effort.
Mark out where you want your hole to be. Stone walls are difficult to repair once drilled, so double check your measurements and positioning.
Apply gentle and steady pressure as you begin to drill. Start slowly, increasing the speed as you go. If your drill has a hammer feature, enable it now.
Hacks for Drilling into Stone
- Diamond drill bits should never feel hot to touch. If they do, it is a sign of inadequate lubrication
- Drill bits sometimes become stuck in natural stone. If this happens, switch your drill off, set to rotate the bit anti-clockwise, and start it up using gentle power. This should dislodge the bit