Tips and tricks for drilling into brick or mortar

Drilling into brick or mortar may seem like a challenging task, whether you’re new to masonry, a skillful expert or a DIY fanatic. Many elements come into play that constitute a safe, smooth and effective hole. Not only can we provide the right tools for the job, but we can also help you understand the best practices when working with brick and mortar materials.

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Brick oThe Right Tools for Brick and Mortar Drillingr Mortar — Deciding Where to Drill

Drilling through brick or mortar is a complex decision that relies on many factors. It’s important to understand the difference between the two materials and how they react to drilling. Brick is a building material that makes walls and other masonry constructions, while mortar acts as the bonding agent between the blocks.

How to decide where to drill in brick or mortar

Drilling into brick vs. mortar depends on several factors such as the type of brick, diameter and depth of the intended hole, age of brick, type of anchor and the amount of weight placed on the fasteners. Brick often holds more weight and provides better support compared to mortar. However, if you’re working with aged and fragile brick, it may not be the best option for deep holes, heavy objects or expansion-style anchors.

Deeper holes and expansion anchors can weaken an already feeble brick. The anchors can form excessive circular stress on the material, causing it to crack. If the brick shows signs of old age through spalling and flaws, drilling into the mortar will be better. It’s also tricky to match the color of your brick when filling holes.

Mortar is easier to drill through because it’s a softer substance than brick and is also easier to patch or repair. Drilling into the mortar with a screw expansion plug or another fastener will cause the anchor’s force to push against the intact bricks instead of expanding the material. Mortar cannot withstand the weight of larger objects, however.

Each option delivers benefits and downfalls that you must consider. Inspect the condition of the brick and mortar, and determine how drilling will relate to your project. Are you hanging a heavy object or a small item with little weight? Is the integrity of the brick sturdy or should you opt for the mortar? Are you drilling regular holes or deep ones?

Choose the Right Drill Size

Working with the right drill and drill bit can prevent cracking or damage to any material. The average woodworking project requires an ordinary drill and bit. But cutting into a brick wall with a regular, lightweight drill won’t be strong enough to penetrate the block or handle the stress of drilling in masonry.

How to choose the right drill size

A hammer drill is ideal for brick and mortar projects — especially those that require bigger cuts. The tool bores holes by using hammer-like movements. Hammer drills are specific for piercing holes in brick and mortar as well as concrete and cinder block.

The tool produces two different actions — hammering, which breaks the aggregate, and drilling, which removes debris. Two types of hammering drills are rotary and standard. If you want to produce half-inch holes or less, a standard drill is your go-to. Use a rotary hammer drill for holes that exceed half an inch. Knowing how to drill into brick with a hammer drill will result in efficient, safe, accurate and smooth holes.

Implementing the right drill bit is also critical. The most common for drilling brick or mortar are masonry bits that include hammer and rotary. You will want to consider the size of the masonry bit for your job and if it’s suited for your hammer drill. Masonry bits have the power to break up masonry and hard-cutting tips made of rougher material than standard bits. They also have an arrow-like shape with tips that are larger than the rest of the bit to cut through dense materials.

Decide on the Location

Whether you decide to drill on brick or mortar, you need to pick the location of the hole. For example, if you’re drilling into brick, select a spot that will minimize cracking for a solid mount. If you are drilling into the mortar, pinpoint a location that’s steadfast and not fragile. Drilling incorrectly can damage the wall and your drill.

How to decide on the location to drill into brick or mortar

Drilling into brick includes the following steps.

  1. Measure the width and length of the securing device to help you find the correct drill bit size and length. You will want to drill a slightly bigger hole than the securing item’s width.
  2. Install the correct size and length masonry drill bit to a hammer drill, such as the Milwaukee® 5376-20 1/2" Hammer Drill, that can handle the density of brick material. Then, set the stopper on the tool to avoid cutting too deep.
  3. Indicate where you want to drill with a pencil or chalk, making sure no electrical wires or other obstacles are in the way.
  4. Put on safety gear such as goggles, gloves and a respirator for protection.
  5. Begin by drilling a pilot hole using a small masonry bit. Then, attach the larger bit and drill again to make a bigger hole. Make sure the drill is perpendicular to the brick wall.
  6. Drilling through brick and mortar places stress on the drill, causing it to heat up. Cool the bit by placing it in cold water, but avoid dipping the tool as well.
  7. If the bit gets stuck while drilling, reverse it. You can also remove excess dust by using compressed air.
  8. After inserting an anchor or fastener into the wall, seal any openings with putty. You can slide or tap the anchors in with a hammer.
  9. Replace the masonry bit with a screwdriver bit and drill a screw into the anchor, leaving enough space to hang an object.
  10. After you complete your installation, go through with a shop vacuum and clean up the dust and broken chips of mortar or brick.

Drilling into the right mortar location is like working with brick.

  1. Specify where you want to drill with a pencil or chalk.
  2. Use a precision bit if you’re working with cured mortar or a standard masonry bit for fresh mortar. Put on your safety goggles, gloves and other safety equipment.
  3. Hold the power tool against your mark on the mortar and gently press the trigger to establish a starting point. Increase the pressure on the trigger until you reach a steady drilling pace.
  4. Once you reach the perfect length, stop. Some tools have depth gauges to help you see the depth mark.

You can follow the same steps found in the initial brick drilling procedure. Knowing where drill on either brick or mortar can save you from splitting the surface. Examine the wall for fractures, erosion, holes and weak spots that may affect the drilling process.

Have the Proper Tools on Hand

Depending on the surface you’re working with, the bit size and tool will vary. For example, drilling a small hole in the softer mortar will require different products than when cutting a deep hole into brick.

Tools you need to drill into brick or mortar

The two proper tools to have on hand include a hammer drill and a masonry drill bit. Working with a standard drill may not hold up to the material. By using the appropriate masonry bit and hammer drill kit, like the DeWaltTM DW505K 1/2" (13MM) VSR Dual Range Hammer Drill Kit, it will provide the necessary hammering action for safe and effective results. Make sure a hammer drill is your prime source, or find another type of drill with a hammer function.

Other considerations for the correct drill come down to specific features. Does the tool have a variable speed? Can it produce strong and powerful torque? Is a depth setting available?

Masonry or mortar drill bits are the only type that can penetrate brick or mortar with ease. These bits are designed to deal with particular materials, so the central part of the bit is made of steel, while the tip has tungsten carbide to help it cut through tough walls. The head of the bit hammers against the brick to break it apart.

While a hammer drill and masonry bit are the two main tools you need, you may also require extra tools when drilling.

  • Compressed air
  • Cool water
  • Dustpan
  • Tape
  • Pencil
  • Putty
  • Shop vacuum
  • Tape measure
  • Wall anchor

If you’re wondering how to drill into brick without a hammer drill, it’s not as simple or straightforward, but it is still doable. Drilling into a brick wall with a regular drill requires a high-quality masonry bit at the least. With no hammer action, the tool has to rely on its turning speed. Without a proper hammer drill, the process will take longer. You will also need to remove the drill from the hole more often. To prevent overheating, place the bit in cold water every time you remove it.

Follow the Proper Safety Procedures

Anytime you operate power tools, safety should be your priority. Administering safe practices when drilling can protect you and other workers, as well as forge accurate and well-made holes. To prevent injuries on the worksite, wear goggles, protective earmuffs, gloves and a respirator.

Safety procedures to follow when drilling into brick or mortar

Safety equipment and other tips to think about include the following.

  1. Apply the right pressure: When using a hammer drill, let the power tool do most of the work. You don’t want to apply too little or too much force because it can cause the drill to slip. Choose a medium pressure.
  2. Don't wear saggy clothing: Elements like long hair, loose fabric, dangling straps and jewelry are hazards when operating a power tool. The drill can catch on loose items. Wear short sleeves and other workwear products to remain safe.
  3. Drill pilot holes: Creating pilot holes makes it easier to insert a larger bit and increases the accuracy for a straight drill. Once the pilot hole is in place, you won’t have to apply as much pressure, reducing the chances of a slipped drill bit.
  4. Set the drill bit: Insert the drill bit into the chuck of the drill, making sure it’s tight within the chuck key.
  5. Use a center punch: A center punch creates an indentation to give yourself a target to start drilling.
  6. Work with a drill stand: A stand can guide your tool when drilling hard materials like brick or mortar to create straight holes. It also prevents the drill from slipping.
  7. Work with secured meterial: If needed, clamp the brick or secure it using a vice when drilling, so it doesn’t shift.
  8. Wear protective gear: Safety glasses protect your eyes from brick and mortar particles that fly off the wall. Earmuffs safeguard your ears from loud noises, and tight gloves are great for avoiding brick scuffs. Instead of breathing in the brick and mortar particles, a respirator helps you breathe clean air.

Exposure to silica, which is in brick and mortar, can be detrimental to your health. Silica particles ranging from 0.5mm to 5mm don’t expel from your lungs when inhaled. Over time, the buildup can cause fibrosis of the lung. Be vigilant when wearing your protective gear.

Regular inspections and maintenance of your hammer drill are also key. Check the core spring, joints, core case, sure lock and balls, bearings, latch, pins and other components. Clean and lubricate the parts as needed and replace any worn and bent drill bits to maintain the life of the drill and drill bit.

Take Your Time

Knowing how to drill into brick without cracking it is vital for producing functioning holes. Drilling too fast can cause damage to the surface and be a massive safety hazard. With the start of each new hole, align your hammer drill to the marked location. Make sure to firmly hold the tool to keep it from skipping or jolting back. If you don’t hold on, the drill bit can waver out of place and form the wrong size cut.

Take your time drilling into brick or mortar

In the beginning, drill a few seconds at a time to form a suitable size hole. Then, you can increase speed. You will want to apply enough pressure to keep the drill bit in place while letting the drill do the work for you. Too much force can result in a broken or bent drill bit. The more pressure and speed you put on the bit will only cause it to overheat.

Once you make a pilot hole for level drilling, use a bigger bit to perform the next step. Extract the bit from the hole periodically to remove debris and to make sure the bit doesn’t get stuck. Steady and slow drilling will reduce stress on the bit and tool while lessening the number of pullouts. Patience is vital when creating deep holes because mistakes become more prominent and more expensive as the length and width of a hole increase.

Don’t Drill Too Deep

Drilling too deep can cause complications in any material. But when it comes to brick or mortar, creating a hole that’s too deep can affect the anchor and integrity of the screw. Deeper holes are also more challenging to fill if you made a mistake or wish to remove whatever is hanging.

Don't drill too deep into brick or mortar

If you get the drill bit stuck in a more considerable hole, it will take an extended time and effort to remove the bit. Depth restrictions play a role as well. When drilling into brick, mortar or another material, you want to confirm nothing is behind the wall. If there is, how far can you drill before making contact? Avoid hitting electrical wires, pipes, conduit and plumbing. Working with higher crowns when drilling deep holes can boost the bit's life and reduce how many pullouts you perform.

You may even want to use drilling fluid additives to lubricate your tool and lessen the hole vibrations. Work with straight drill rods and deep hole threads for square cutting.

When drilling deep holes, there is a higher chance of deviation, too. Avoid deviation at all costs to prevent difficult, expensive and laborious fixes. The best way to know how far to drill into brick or mortar is by measuring the width of the wall, length of the anchor and screw, and confirming nothing is in your way. Once you know how deep to make the hole, set the depth gauge on the hammer drill. If you’re not using a hammer drill, measure the length of the drill bit and place tape around the area where you need to stop.

Seal Holes With Putty

After drilling, inserting an anchor and installing a screw, you can seal any openings using ready-to-use putty or mortar. Patching up any small areas will help strengthen the hold of whatever you’re hanging on the brick wall.

How to seal holes in brick and mortar with putty

It’s also crucial to cover holes in brick or mortar if you make an incorrect drill or remove the item. Instead of leaving a hole in the material, patch it up to ensure the wall remains sturdy. You will need various materials, such as:

If you’re sealing mortar holes, the following steps will help you make a clean repair.

  1. Brush the inside of the hole and outside surface to remove loose bits of mortar and dust by using a paintbrush, compressed air or wire brush
  2. Mix the mortar and water to create a thick paste
  3. Spray water on the inside of the hole to saturate the material
  4. Spackle the mortar over the hole using a mason trowel, packing it tightly
  5. Shape the mortar with your tool to match the existing style
  6. Once dry, sand down the area to make it even
  7. Apply paint as needed

For holes in bricks, there are eight steps to take.

  1. Remove dust and particles from the hole and surface by using compressed air or a wire brush
  2. Mix the mortar with water and add matching brick color powder
  3. Combine the ingredients until the color matches your wall
  4. If you can’t find the right color, smash a same-colored brick into dust and place it in the mortar
  5. Saturate the hole with water
  6. Apply the mortar to the hole using a mason trowel, making sure to make a complete patch
  7. Scrape the excess mortar away and make the top layer flush with the rest of the brick
  8. Use another brick to press in the mortar patch to create the right texture

For putty, start with step four. Knowing how to seal drill holes will not only deliver a more aesthetic wall but also keep the bricks in place after faulty drilling.

The Right Tools for Brick and Mortar Drilling

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