How to Drill Into Concrete Without a Hammer Drill – It’s Easy!

Drilling into hard material is no joke. You need powerful tools and sharp bits. When working with concrete, using a hammer drill will save you some time and effort. The additional blows help you get through the material faster, without having to apply that much pressure. But what if you only have a regular drill? Is it possible to drill into concrete without a hammer drill?

Even if it’s not the optimal way, it’s definitely doable. The key here is to use the correct bit for the job, which is a masonry bit. Its carbide tip will go through hard materials way easier than a common drill bit, and it will wear less fast too. Make sure to use sharp bits for the best results. Take frequent pauses to avoid overheating and prevent the bit from getting dull. Applying water will also help you with that. Try to avoid any obstacles by planning the cut. Start with a small bit and go up in size until you reach the desired diameter.

Getting through concrete without a hammer drill will take longer since there won’t be any longitudinal action. Be patient and let the drill work at its rate.

How to Drill Into Concrete Without a Hammer Drill – Follow These Steps

1) Get Yourself the Proper Bit

As always with this type of activity, the most important thing is using the correct tool for the job. Since we’ll be using a regular drill, which is not the best for this kind of job, it’s even more important to use the correct drill bit. What you need are the so-called masonry bits. These stand out for their tungsten carbide-coated tip, which makes them ideal for hard materials such as concrete. On top of that, it will keep them sharp longer than common steel or cobalt bits.

If you are already own some bits which are suited for the job, make sure they are sharp for the best and quickest results.

Make sure to choose the bit with the correct shank for your drill. Another important thing is to choose the correct bit size for the job. If you need to cut a big hole, it’s better to start with a small bit and work your way up. Consider getting a masonry drill bit set. That way, you could easily swap bits as you go.

One final suggestion: don’t be cheap when getting masonry bits. Get a set of a brand with a solid reputation. When working on hard materials such as concrete, you want a quality bit that won’t wear too quickly. Even more important, you don’t want to risk it breaking in the middle of the job. Failing bits will fly out at high speed, representing a huge danger for you and others near you. Frequently check the bit conditions when drilling, to make sure it’s still good to go.

2) Try to Plan the Job in Advance

Before you get down to drilling, it’s best to do a little bit of planning. For example, try to evaluate the position of possible obstacles, such as rebar. You can test your luck, or get a cheap Wall Scanner that will help you find any barrier. If you happened to find that, well there’s no solution, other than drilling in another spot.

Another important thing to keep into consideration is concrete age. If you are dealing with old concrete, chances are they utilized denser materials, resulting in harder and tougher concrete. If that’s the case, you could still try drilling hit with a regular drill, but you’ll have to start very small and use multiple bits to reach the desired size. You might need to borrow a hammer drill if you can’t work through it.

If you need to drill a big hole, make sure the concrete is in good condition. Putting a hole in concrete might make it fall apart. This can be quite dangerous, especially if you are working overhead. Make sure to take all the precautions needed, such as wearing a helmet and steel-toed boots. If you are not sure about it, check it with a professional.

Talking about safety, since there will be a lot of dust involved, make sure to wear glasses and a face mask. A respirator is even better. If you are working in a closed environment, try to keep it ventilated. On the other hand, you might want to shut the door closed to keep the dust from spreading inside your house.

3) Start Small

This is key, especially when working with aged concrete, which is typically tougher. In order to get through it, it’s advisable to start with a small bit first. Once you have created a pilot hole, you can start moving your way up in size. It might be counterintuitive, but this is the best and quickest way to proceed.

A drill bit works the hardest on the tip; if you start with a small one, the following will have less material to remove in front of them, more on the edges, thus proceeding faster. It also helps preserve your bigger bits from breaking or getting dull, which is nice considering they get quite expensive when increasing in size.

Even if you were to use a hammer drill, the procedure I suggested to you is still advisable. In our case is especially important since we are using a regular drill. If you were to use the bit of the correct diameter as a starter, you would have to apply much more effort to get through, since there’s no hammering motion.

4) Work Smart

If you ever used a hammer drill to get through tough material, you know how effective those things are. You could simply power through it, and you could get the job done without much of an effort. If you were to use the same approach with a regular drill, you would probably end up with a dull or broken bit, an overheated drill, or even worse a burnt motor.

To avoid any of those and save you time and money, you need to work smart. Here are some things to keep into consideration:

  • As mentioned before, you need to be patient when drilling concrete without a hammer drill. Don’t apply too much pressure, let the tool do the job for you. To help it go faster, try to mimic the hammering action by going up and down from time to time. It will also help to remove some concrete debris from the hole.
  • To make sure you don’t overheat your tool and/or bit, take frequent pauses to make the bit and the motor cool down. Alternate small pauses where you dip the bit into water, and longer ones. It’s also a good idea to pour water onto the concrete: it will serve as lubrication, reducing the bit friction. It will also help with dust too.
  • The earlier step will create some downtime. Take advantage of that! Clean some dust while you are at it. The best way to proceed would be using a vacuum.
  • When using a regular drill on concrete, the drill will get stuck frequently because of debris such as small stones. In that case, don’t force the tool on it. You can use a hammer and a nail to break it. Make sure to not hammer too deep, so that you can remove the nail when you are done breaking the obstacle.

How to Drill Large Holes in Concrete Without a Hammer Drill?

“Electric drill and equipment from above.” by Nenad Stojkovic is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Maybe you need to cut a quite large hole, for example to make a pipe pass through. In that scenario, it’s likely you won’t find a big enough bit. What you need is a core bit. It’s similar to the hole saws you see in woodworking if you are familiar with those.

These bits have a cylindrical-shaped body that is made of steel; on top of that, they got either carbide or diamond teeth. They are both good choices. It’s better to use a diamond core bit on concrete with a lot of larger particles: it will cut through them much easier than its carbide counterpart.

The steps to take when using such a bit on concrete are quite similar to what we described earlier. The only difference will be in how you initiate the cut. You can go straight onto the material with a core bit; instead, you want to start at a 45° angle to ease your way into it. Once it starts penetrating, you can slowly move into a vertical position.

Other than that, keep in mind the suggestions I gave you earlier: be patient and let the tool do its thing, take frequent pauses to avoid overheating, apply water on the bit from time to time too.

Ideally, you’d want to use core bits for pass-through holes. Choose a bit that is long enough, so that you won’t need to remove the cut-out portion while in the middle of the cut. The cut-off concrete might come off easily, or not. It will depend on many factors, such as the concrete age. Since it might be a difficult task to perform, it’s better to avoid it if possible.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, you don’t really need a hammer drill to drill into concrete (even if it would be best to do so). If you take the right steps, you can easily use a regular drill to do that.

The most important thing is choosing the correct bit. For small holes, masonry bits are the best, due to their carbide-coated tip. For large holes, use a core bit, which can be either carbide or diamond-based. In any case, make sure to work slowly to avoid damaging the drill. A regular drill isn’t as powerful as a hammer drill, so you need to keep that in mind if you don’t want to waste any money getting a new one. Work hard, but also smart.

A final note about safety. When drilling hard materials, there’s always a chance of the bit chipping or even breaking. A flying piece of a bit can hurt you pretty bad. Make sure to check the bit’s conditions from time to time, to make sure there’s it’s not damaged. Also, make sure to wear safety gear. Glasses and gloves are a must here. Also, a face mask is suggested against that nasty concrete dust.

In my opinion,  the most important thing of them all to prevent incidents is using quality bits from a renowned brand. They are less likely to shatter, and will probably last you longer too.

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