Drilling through bricks can be terrifying. Not only are they the cornerstone of your home, but they seem to be fairly fragile if they are especially old.
New bricks can stand up to plenty of punishment, but these old, original bricks in my house seem like they might crumble away. Is it safe to even drill into them?
Calm down, because I’m here to help. Although some especially old and eroded bricks might crumble to dust when put under the pressure of a drill on their own, bricks in your walls will almost certainly not.
Bricks are heavily duty materials that are designed to last a long time. If the bricks that make up your house were at risk of falling apart, you have bigger problems than simply trying to put a few brackets in for a TV.
When working with bricks, you need to be careful. They are more likely to damage your drill or drill bits than fall apart, so you need good technique and an excellent amount of patience.
If you can’t be patient, you’d be better paying someone else to do this. But if you can be, read my guide and you’ll find out everything you need to learn how to drill into brick.
How to Drill Into Brick
Gathering Your Materials
Before you can start making a hole in a brick, you need the right tools. You can’t just use a run-of-the-mill drill. If you have a modern drill, you may be lucky and find that it has a “hammer drill” setting on it. This is the one you have to use.
Hammer drills are designed not only to drill into the things but also act like hammers (or more specifically, jackhammers).
While the bit turns, the drill itself also retracts and plunges the drill against the surface. This means that there are two forms of force acting on the brick which will give you the appropriate pressure to drill through particularly tough materials (like brick).
If you don’t have a drill with a hammer drill setting, you will need to buy a hammer drill. Using a normal drill is asking for broken drill bits and possibly broken drills.
Because brick is quite resilient to damage, you won’t need to use a lubricant. As we already want to be pounding away and drilling at the same time, a little heat won’t cause much damage to the brick that we aren’t already doing. If you want to protect your drill bits for longer, however, you may want to use an easy lubricant like water to make sure that it doesn’t overheat.
You will need:
- A brick to drill into
- A hammer drill
- A masonry drill bit (available at all good DIY and hardware shops)
- A punch
- Dust sheets
- Appropriate safety equipment such as goggles and a dust mask
Make sure you know how to use a hammer drill before you start your job. They can be extremely heavy and powerful. If you go in expecting it to work as a normal drill would, you might get a lot of kickback and find that you have cracked your brick. Avoid this and practice!
Being safe and protecting yourself is always the top priority for a workman or woman. You need your hands and eyes to work, so take the appropriate care to defend them against common sources of injury.
You will also need to protect your face and lungs against whatever is in the bricks you are drilling into. Odds are, regardless of the type of brick in your home or at your project site, that the bricks will contain silica.
Silica is toxic. Toxic to humans. If you have worked in a worksite environment before, you will know why drilling into bricks needs to be treated with respect.
Silica can get into your lungs if you’re not careful. When in your lungs, it is practically impossible to remove.
As you are working with brick and will be hammering away with your hammer drill, there is also a chance for small pieces of brick to become dislodged.
These can be thrown towards you because of the pressure from the drill. Having a small piece of brick land in your eye is not comfortable, so wear goggles. They will protect you and you will have a much longer career because of it.
Starting To Drill
Getting started with brick can be a little difficult. The material isn’t great for simply lining up the drill and starting the job.
If you do this, you will likely cause damage to yourself, your drill, or your brick wall. None of these options are good for a professional who is planning on staying in the trade for any amount of time, so avoid doing that.
You will need to use a punch to get a divet in the way. Now, when using a punch, you need to be careful. Although we are about to drill into the wall, a punch can cause a lot of damage. By using a fine-headed punch and too much pressure, we can crack brick without even realizing it.
Using a moderate amount of pressure, tap the punch against the brick. You want to make a small divet in the brick. This will stop your drill from spinning off the brick surface as you start to drill.
Got your divet? Nice. Now it’s time to start drilling.
Place the drill bit onto the divet. You want to go slow, to begin with. Spin it too fast and your drill will go off course. As you’re using a hammer drill, this could also mean hammering other bricks or finished surfaces accidentally. Don’t do it. Start slow.
As you start to make a hole into the wall, you might feel the drill bit is getting warm. This isn’t a huge problem for the brick. Bricks can stand up to plenty of heat and don’t need you to lubricate them. But what about your drill bit?
If you want to protect the bits, apply lubricant or allow a short time for the drill to cool down now and again. This doesn’t need to be a long period; just enough for the heat to stop the bit from getting damaged.
Drilling Through The Entire Brick
Right, so you have a hole in the brick. Now what? Well, carry on as you are.
It can be tempting to speed the drill up. It can be very satisfying to have a power drill working at full speed. But, as with most jobs, do you need to be spinning it that fast?
A steady, calm approach to bricks is a lot safer. Bricks are more likely to shatter or lose their rigidity from the inside than they are the edge. They are weaker if you treat them improperly during the process than starting. Take your time, treat the brick well, and you will have no problems.
When you get to the end of your job, you may not be able to tell when the exit hole is coming. Tough call, right? Because we don’t generally need to see both sides of a brick, this doesn’t matter too much. You can leave a fairly rough finish on the opposite side of your brick and no one will know.
If you need to make a brick wall that is only one brick wide, you will need to be more careful. Know the length of your drill bit and try to slow down as you approach the other side of the brick. Just like entering the brick, this will give you a cleaner finish and stop pieces from falling off.
Making Multiple Holes In Brick
This is generally a bad idea. Unless the bricks are specifically designed for it, more holes mean less stability.
This is not a great attribute for a brick, something we want to make walls out of. Because of that, avoid drilling multiple holes in bricks when you can. It’s better to move a picture 3 inches to the right than to replace bricks in your supporting wall.
If you simply have to drill into the same brick twice, keep the holes as far as part as possible without being close to the edge.
This will maintain the integrity of the brick or bricks during the drilling process. Ideally, you also want to use thin drill bits. Using thinner drill bits means smaller holes. Smaller holes mean that there is less pressure on the inside of the brick to stay together.
Don’t put two or more holes right next to each other. They will likely collapse together and leave you with one very large hole. This will probably be useful to you.
Drilling Into Mortar
If you want to cut a corner, you can always drill into the mortar. By design, mortar isn’t as hardy as bricks are. You can drill into them using less pressure and it will put less stress on your drill and drill bits. This is good for you – you’re less likely to get tired and it’s less likely that you will have to buy more bits!
The problem with mortar is that it holds the bricks together. Just like drilling into bricks too close together, too many holes in the mortar can lead to long-term problems. Keep the holes as far apart as possible to maintain the integrity of the mortar. You don’t want to cause structural problems over a picture frame.
Similarly, bad drilling or excessive force can lead to damage. If you aren’t careful, you can crack or shatter the bricks both above and below the mortar line. This could be a real problem if you are working with an old wall. Take your time and don’t get impatient.
Drilling through brick isn’t as bad as it first seems. You can be rough and tumble with it and still get a good finish. You need to get the right materials to do it, but these will be excellent long-term purchases for anyone who is going to be working with bricks a lot.
Make sure that you know how to use your hammer drill before you start. I already pointed out some errors that are caused simply by bad techniques. If you can’t control the drill, you could destroy the bricks or mortar you are trying to drill into.
Take your time and be safe. Don’t get brick dust in your lungs and don’t get pieces of brick in your eyes. Your body is important for having a long and successful career. Don’t make silly mistakes because you can’t be bothered.
FAQs About Drilling Through Bricks
Can I Drill Into Old Bricks?
Yes, but they might not stand up to much punishment, depending on how old they are. If you are working with bricks that are older than 100 years old, expect them to break if you put too much pressure on them. You need to be careful and take your time. Slow and steady approach.
Can I Use a Normal Drill Instead of a Hammer Drill With Bricks?
You can, but you are more likely to break your drill or drill bits. Normal drills only spin, whereas hammer drills, well, hammer too. Spinning alone will wear down the bits and cause the drill to heat up. You could be using two or three drill bits just to get started.
I’m saying that you shouldn’t use a normal drill unless there is no other option.
Can I Use Lubricant With Bricks?
Yes, but try to keep most of it on the drill bit. Bricks don’t like getting wet. It can cause long-term problems for the structure. If you have or need to use a lubricant, give it plenty of time to dry before carrying on.