How to Use a Hammer Drill?

Hammer drills may seem intimidating but in reality, they’re not much more difficult to use than your standard drill/driver. These specialized drills give you the ability to drill holes into concrete, brick, stucco, and other tough materials that would be difficult to drill into using a standard drill.

The hammer drill accomplishes this by employing a rapid back-and-forth hammering motion in addition to the rotary motion of the drill. This motion turns the drill bit into a sort of chisel, which hammers and drills into the material at the same time.

If you have to drill multiple holes through concrete or masonry, then using a hammer drill is a must. You can get away with using a regular drill if you’ve only got one or two holes to drill, but anything more than that and you’ll want to use a hammer drill.

I’ll break down how to use a hammer drill, so you can get to work punching holes through concrete in no time.

Hammer Drill 101

A hammer drill – sometimes called a percussion drill – is a drill used primarily for drilling in hard materials. The percussive mechanism creates a rapid succession of short hammer thrusts to pulverize the material, which makes the drilling process much faster and less difficult.

The hammering action is typically very rapid, and can’t easily be seen with the naked eye. Each hammering blow is of relatively low force, but as the drill creates thousands of these per second, the repetition is enough to break up concrete or brick.

While there are dedicated standalone hammer drills, many hammer drills are multi-functional and can also be used as regular drills and drivers. The dedicated versions are typically made for heavy-duty use and are the better option if you need to drill wide deep holes into concrete, stone, or masonry.

hammer drill settings
A closeup look at a hammer drill/rotary hammer. Notice the various settings for hammer, hammer drilling, drilling, and driving. [Image source]
Many hammer drills feature a second auxiliary handle, which provides extra grip when drilling into particularly tough materials. Another feature you’ll commonly find with hammer drills is a depth gauge which allows you to drill to a preset precise depth.

Another thing to keep in mind is that hammer drills require special masonry drill bits in order to work correctly. These bits need to be able to withstand the repetitive percussive hammering and often feature carbide tips, flat non-slip shanks, and deep flutes for removing material.

Using a Hammer Drill – Guide

Now that you have a basic idea of how a hammer drill works, let’s take a look at how to use one in real life.

Tools & Materials

  • Hammer drill
  • Masonry drill bit
  • Eye and ear protection
  • Dust mask
  • Vacuum cleaner

Step 1: Select a Drill Bit

First up, you’ll want to select the right drill bit for the job. Once again, you’ll want to make sure you’re using masonry bits, as drilling into concrete or masonry with a regular bit is a quick way to ruin your drill bit.

masonry drill bits
Masonry drill bits.

Mount the drill bit inside the chuck, and tighten the chuck so the bit is secure. If you’re using a depth gauge, set the gauge so it will drill to your desired depth. If you don’t have a depth gauge, another way to accomplish this is by wrapping some tape around the bit where you wish the hole to end.

Step 2: Position Yourself to Drill

Standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart, keep a firm grip on the drill with both hands. If your drill has an auxiliary handle, I’d recommend using it as this will give you better control over the drill.

Make sure to position the drill bit perpendicular to the material you’ll be drilling into. This will keep the hole level and ensure you don’t drill at an angle.

Eye protection and a dust mask are both good ideas when drilling into concrete or masonry. Concrete dust is not something you want to breathe into your lungs as it can lead to serious health issues. Concrete can also break apart and create shards while drilling, so wearing goggles makes sense.

Ear protection is also a good idea, as hammer drills are a lot louder than typical drill/drivers.

Step 3: Start Drilling

Makes sure your drill is set to hammer drill mode, set the speed and torque settings, and start drilling.

While you might think you need to apply heavy pressure to the drill in order to drill into concrete, this is not usually the case. Apply steady pressure to the drill but allow the hammering function to do most of the work.

As you drill into the material, you’ll want to retrieve the bit back every 10 seconds or so. This will prevent dust buildup, and help you drill more efficiently.

You’ll notice a lot of dust is created when using a hammer drill. One thing you may wish to consider is using a vacuum while you drill your hole.

Step 4: Finish Drilling

Continue drilling until you reach your desired depth. At this point, you’ll probably have a good deal of fine dust below the drilling location.

Use a vacuum cleaner to clean up this dust, and voila – you’ve got yourself a nice clean hole with a hammer drill.

That’s more or less all there is to using a hammer drill. The process is essentially the same whether you’re drilling into concrete, brick, mortar, or stone.

Featured image source.

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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