How to Drill into Brick (without Cracking it)?

So, you need to drill into brick and are worried about cracking it? This is a perfectly reasonable concern to have as brick can easily crack if you aren’t using the right tools and technique to bore your hole.

While drilling into brick can result in disaster, this is not normally the case, and the process is actually easier than you might think. Many DIYers think the process is complex and out of reach for them, but the reality is you may already have everything you need to get the job done lying around your toolbox.

Let’s take a closer look at how to drill into brick without cracking it, including detailed step-by-step instructions for how to drill into brick and mortar.

Tools & Materials Needed

hammer drill with masonry bit

  • Hammer drill or rotary hammer (or regular drill for very small holes)
  • Masonry drill bit(s)
  • Eye protection
  • N95 facemask
  • Anchors and mounting hardware
  • Marking tape

How to Drill into Brick Without Cracking It – Guide

Step 1: Mark your Hole Locations

The first thing to do is measure and mark where you want to place your holes. Do this using a pencil, marker, or using a small piece of painter’s tape.

Keep in mind when planning out the drilling locations that you’ll need to avoid any damaged or cracked bricks, as drilling into these has the potential to cause your brick to crack further and crumble.

If you need to mount something in the location where a cracked brick is located, then you also have the option of drilling your hole into the surrounding mortar. This can result in a nice hole and is particularly useful for boring a really deep hole that might compromise the brick.

Step 2: Set the Drilling depth

Drilling to a precise depth can be tricky to do by feel or instinct. This is especially true for drilling in brick where it’s hard to tell exactly how deep you’ve gone by eyeballing it.

If you’re using a hammer drill, which you should for anything but the smallest hole, they often come with a depth adjustment stop that will make drilling to the right depth a whole lot easier. Simply set the stop to your desired drilling depth and the drill will be physically blocked from going any further than the stop position.

If your drill doesn’t have an adjustable stop, then simply wrap a piece of masking tape around your drill bit at the desired drilling depth and stop when the tape contacts the wall.

Step 3: Use Protective Gear

Working with brick is similar to working with other silica-containing products like concrete, cement, and mortar. You’ll want to be careful when drilling or cutting into them, as fine particles of silica will be released, which can potentially cause serious health problems.

Make sure to use an N95 mask at a minimum, as these are specifically designed to trap silica dust in the air from getting inside your lungs. Eye protection is also important to keep any fine particles from getting into your eyes.

Step 4: Start Drilling Pilot Hole

A word about drills and bits:
Unless you’re only drilling one or two very small holes, you’ll want to get your hands on a hammer drill. Hammer drills have a percussive back and forth motion that “hammers” away at the brick chipping away at it rapidly. You’ll be able to create holes in seconds instead of minutes.

If you have to bore larger-sized holes (over a 1/4″) then a typical hammer drill will actually be underpowered. A rotary hammer is much better suited to this task, and you can rent one for the day for about 30$.

Masonry drill bits have a blunt chisel tip that spin and chips away at brick or concrete. The flutes carry away the waste material, but they really act more like chisels than typical drill bits. Using one of these bits in a regular drill will take far longer and wear out the bit much faster.

Now it’s time to start drilling your hole! Hold the drill at a perpendicular angle to the brick wall and start your hole slowly and carefully. Starting a hole in brick is actually more challenging than doing so in wood, as you’ll need to watch out for the bit wandering as you get started.

drill drilling pilot hole into brick
Drilling the pilot hole.

Set the drill’s setting to the lowest speed, as well as a lower torque setting. Low-speed drilling works better for brick and lower torque ensures you won’t demolish your wrists if the drill hits a snag. These settings also ensure you won’t overheat the bit – which can happen at higher speeds.

If your drill comes with an auxiliary handle – use it – as these give you added grip and stability when boring holes.

Step 5: Expand the Hole

Next up, you’ll want to switch your bit over from the pilot bit to your final desired bit diameter. Repeat the process you just went through in the previous step, making sure to drill straight and perpendicular to the wall once again.

Boring the hole in two steps instead of one is preferable for larger holes as it decreases the chances of breaking or cracking as well as makes it easier to drill a perfectly straight hole.

Step 6: Install Mounting Hardware

Now that you’ve got yourself a nice cleanly drilled hole, it’s time to install your mounting hardware into the brick. This process will depend somewhat depending on the type of hardware you’re working with.

tapping the anchor into place
Tapping the anchor into the hole.

In my case, I had a simple plastic anchor, so I inserted it into the hole and tapped it in place with a hammer. Then I fastened the screw into the anchor using the drill.

Step 7: Clean Up the Dust Left Behind

The last thing you want to happen after creating a nice clean hole in brick is for the dust to get everywhere. The process will create a good deal of fine particle dust, which can work its way into every crevice in your home if you don’t clean it up promptly!

Denis Gardner

I've loved tinkering and fixing things for as long as I can remember. So, naturally, I gravitated towards DIY and home improvement when I bought my first home. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or messing around with my newest tool!

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