You’ve mastered drilling a hole into drywall or wood. But what do you do if you want to make a hole in a material that’s harder or denser?
You might need to figure out how to use a hammer drill. While your standard rotary drill might be able to bore into materials such as brick or concrete, a hammer drill will do so and will do the job with a lot less physical exertion on your part.
Here’s everything you need to know about how a hammer drill works and why it’s worth learning how to use a hammer drill.
How Does a Hammer Drill Work?
A hammer drill uses two motions to create holes in durable materials such as brick or concrete. The first motion is similar to that of a regular drill.
The drill bit on a hammer drill spin, boring down into the material to create a hole.
The second motion is that of a chisel or hammer. While it spins, the drill bit also moves up and down.
The hammering motion on the drill is what allows it to break through concrete or masonry with ease.
Hammer drills are sometimes confused with rotary hammers, but there are some subtle differences, according to Family Handyman.
For one thing, rotary hammers typically have more impact force than hammer drills. Another difference between the two is the way you can use them.
Hammer drills typically have two functions. You can use the tool with both the drilling and hammering motion.
You can also switch off the hammering motion and use it as a standard drill.
The same is true for a rotary hammer, with one addition. Along with using it to hammer and drill simultaneously, you can use it just like a drill or just as a powerful hammer (like a jackhammer).
When to Use a Hammer Drill
Part of learning how to use a hammer drill is figuring out when the best time to use one is. If you were to place drills on a spectrum, with low-powered handheld, cordless drills at the weakest end and high-powered rotary hammers at the strongest end, hammer drills would fall somewhere in the middle.
They’re ideal for use on materials such as:
- Concrete blocks
On the other hand, a cordless standard drill is ideal for projects involving drywall or wood. You’d want to use a rotary hammer if you’d be working with poured concrete or if you’re trying to break up and remove tile.
What to Look for in a Hammer Drill
Pay a visit to your local hardware store, and you’re likely to see several different types of hammer drills on the shelves.
Several well-known tool brands make this style of drill. There are also different features available in a hammer drill, which affect its price as well as its functioning.
If money is no object, choose the highest quality hammer drill you can find. If you are on a bit of a budget, here’s what to pay attention to when picking out a drill.
- Functions. Take a look at the functions the drill offers. Can you turn off the hammer feature if you want to use it as a rotary drill?
- Speed. If possible, avoid getting a drill with only one speed. A multi-speed hammer drill offers a better range and more flexibility.
- Handles. If you’ve never used a hammer drill before, you’re likely to be surprised by its force and power. Choose a tool that has a helper handle near the front for better support.
- Power. The more powerful the drill, the easier it will be for you to bore into concrete and the like. Keep in mind that more powerful motors typically mean a higher price tag.
- Depth setting. A depth setting, or depth stop is helpful because it allows you to avoid drilling too deeply into the material.
Choosing Hammer Drill Bits
Hammer drill bits aren’t quite the same as the drill bits you’d use in a standard rotary drill. For one thing, hammer drill bits are typically made of a tougher material and are usually tipped with carbide.
The stronger material is a must both to break through the concrete or brick and to survive the hammering motion of the drill.
Another difference between standard drill bits and hammer drill bits is how they fit into a chuck. While you can technically use a standard drill bit in a hammer drill, ToolsToday points out that you won’t be able to use the hammering function with a standard masonry drill bit.
There’s also a benefit of choosing a hammer drill bit over a standard drill bit. As DoItYourself notes, hammer drill bits tend to be more durable and to have a longer lifespan than standard bits.
Corded vs. Cordless Hammer Drills
Another thing to consider when choosing a hammer drill is the source of its power. Like most types of handheld power tools, hammer drills come in both corded or cordless (battery powered) varieties.
Each option has its benefits, but does one perform better than the other?
One of the benefits of a cordless hammer drill is that you aren’t limited regarding where you can use it. There’s no need to stay close to a power outlet, thanks to the battery.
Another potential benefit of a cordless hammer drill is that it can be less expensive than a corded model, provided you already have a battery pack for it. It’s possible to find cordless hammer drills that work with the battery packs used by other cordless tools.
Unfortunately, in many cases, that’s where the benefits of cordless hammer drills end.
The thing is, you’re just going to get so much more power from a corded drill. You might be limited to using the drill near a power outlet, but hey, that’s what extension cords are for.
Another big benefit of a corded drill is that you don’t have to wait for the batteries charge. And, thanks to the boost in power, you’re likely to find that it’s easier to figure out how to use a hammer drill when you can plug it in.
How to Use a Hammer Drill: A Step by Step Guide
Once you’ve found a hammer drill that feels right for you and you have the right drill bits for it, here’s how to use a hammer drill.
What you need:
- Pencil or marker
- Safety goggles
- Compressed air
- Hammer drill
- Hammer drill bits
What to do:
- Use the pencil or marker to make a mark on the wall or surface where you’ll drill. If needed, use a ruler or level to make sure the marks are evenly spaced and at the appropriate height.
- Put on your safety goggles. You’re about to kick up a lot of dust. If you’re particularly sensitive, you might want to wear a dust mask as well.
- Put the drill bit into the hammer drill. If you’re making a particularly wide hole, start with the smaller drill bit and make a small hole first. You can replace the drill bit with a wider one and re-drill to increase the width of the hole.
- Set the depth. If your hammer drill has a depth stop, set it to the appropriate depth. Otherwise, use a piece of tape to mark on the drill bit how far you want to go in.
- Set the tip of the drill bit on the first mark. Make sure the drill is on the slowest, least powerful function. Start drilling slowly to make a guide hole that’s about 1/4 inch deep.
- Increase the speed (slightly) and the power. The guide hole helps to hold the drill in place. Once you’ve made it, you can boost the speed of the drill to finish making the hole.
- Clean out the hole. As you drill, stop every 15 seconds or so and pull the bit out of the hole. Doing so will remove collected dust and debris.
- Blow compressed air into the hole. After you’ve finished making the hole, spray compressed air (like the stuff you’d use to clean your computer keyboard) into the hole to blast away any remaining dust.
Final Thoughts on How to Use a Hammer Drill
A hammer drill is a powerful tool that can help to make projects that previously seemed impossible do-able for even the least handy of people.
The trick to using a hammer drill is finding the right tool for the job and your needs and making sure you have the appropriate accessories for it, namely the right drill bits.
Once you’ve got the drill, learning how to use a hammer drill shouldn’t be particularly challenging. It might seem loud and super powerful at first, but if you take things slowly, you should be able to master using the tool in no time.