Drilling into concrete has to be one of my least favourite jobs and I am going to guess that it is, or will be one of yours too. It was the one job that I always tried my hardest to avoid when I was a concrete finisher. Despite trying to avoid it though I still had to face my fears once in a while. When I couldn’t avoid it and had to drill concrete I made damn sure that I had the right tools for the job to help make my life a little easier.

So, can you use an impact drill for concrete?

No, an impact drill is not recommended for drilling concrete. Due to the hard density of concrete you’ll either need a hammer drill or the best tool to use for drilling concrete is a rotary hammer drill.

That is not to say that you absolutely cannot use an impact drill for concrete, but if you do, I would hope that you have lots of time on your hands and some really good hex shank masonry bits.

See the video below for a great demonstration of how much you can expect to struggle by using an impact drill for concrete.


The Difference Between An Impact Drill & A Hammer Drill

Most people think that an impact drill and a hammer drill are very similar in the way that they operate. With that said, these same people would obviously assume that they would work the same to drill a hole into concrete. But unfortunately this is not the case, a hammer drill and an impact drill are very different in the way they deliver their “impact”.

Hammer Drill – A hammer drill is is designed to deliver impact in the same way that you would expect a hammer to deliver impact. It uses a two jagged discs (illustrated below) to drive the drill bit back and forth into the concrete causing the hammer drill to hammer the concrete and pulverize it while it spins.

Hammer drill mechanism workingdemonstration

Impact Drill – An impact drill on the other hand delivers impact in a rotational direction rather than back and forth in the axial direction (as illustrated below). It actually engages and disengages while it is spinning which causes torque, making it the optimal drill for installing screws and bolts, not drilling.

What Is The Best Drill For Concrete?

A regular hammer drill will work perfectly for most people who are looking to drill a handful of holes into concrete. You can typically expect a good hammer drill to be able to drill the occasional hole up to 3/8″ in diameter, but anything more than that will certainly require a rotary hammer drill.

With that said if you are serious about punching some holes through concrete, the best drill to use for concrete is a rotary hammer drill.

Rotary hammer drills are typically larger than your average hammer drill and the hammering mechanisms are actually quite different as well. Where a regular hammer drill uses a disc mechanism, a rotary hammer uses 2 pistons (fly piston & drive piston) paired with a little air pressure to deliver a more powerful force of impact.

Rotary Hammer piston demonstration

Depending on the size of holes that you are looking to drill, rotary hammer drills come in many different shapes and sizes but for most people the Bosch Bulldog 11255VSR would be my #1 pick for sure.

I have used many different brands and sizes of rotary hammers and honestly I can say that I have never found any rotary hammers to work quite like Bosch Bulldog Series. They’re typically smaller and lightweight, compared to their direct competitors. And I’ve also found that they typically outperform their direct competitors as well. If I was to only own one rotary hammer, it would certainly be any of the Bosch Bulldogs.

If you want to see how a regular hammer drill and a rotary hammer drill compare to one another check out the video above.

What Is The Best Drill Bit For Concrete?

As with any other materials such as wood, or metal, concrete also requires a special kind of drill bit in order to be able to punch a hole through it. Using a regular drill bit will not work.

A carbide tipped masonry drill bit is used to drill holes through materials such as concrete. They are also great if you need a drill bit for drilling stone, brick or mortar.

A masonry bit with a carbide tip (aka flute) is designed to be able to put up a good fight while it smashes and pulverizes it’s way through the concrete and other masonry products.

You’ll notice in the picture shown here that the carbide tip is actually a little larger than the drill bits shaft which allows the shaft to move freely while it is clearing all of the concrete dust and debris from the hole.

2 types of concrete drill bits, 2 flute and 4 flute

To expand a little further on the carbide tips there are two different types of flutes that you will find on a concrete drill bit known as the 2-flute and 4-flute tips. In the image to the left you will notice that the 4-flute tip has a plus or cross design on the tip. Whereas the 2-flute is a single line.

The 4-flute concrete drill bits are an upgraded design of the 2-flute bits. A 4-flute bit will allow you to drill faster, more efficiently and wear your bit less. The 4-flute design also helps the bit to not get stuck as easily and it is less likely to get hung up on rebar.

With that said, whenever possible it is best to use a masonry drill bit with 4-flutes rather than 2 if you’re drilling concrete. If you are drilling brick or mortar the 2-flute bit will work just fine.

Types Of Concrete Drill Bits Shanks

There are a few different types of concrete drill bit shanks based on the drill that you are going to be using when you’re drilling concrete. It is important to make sure that you know the chuck system that your drill uses in order to pick out the right shank for your drill.

A comparison of the SDS plus and SDS max drill bit shanks

SDS/ SDS Plus – Both of these types of drill bits are actually interchangeable and are only designed to work in an SDS or SDS Plus Rotary Hammer Drill. The only difference between these two types of bits are that the SDS Plus shank is simply an upgraded version of the SDS shank.

SDS Max – The SDS Max are also designed to be used specifically with SDS Max Rotary Hammers. The SDS Max drill bits are very similar to the SDS or SDS Plus Drill bits except for the fact that they are larger in size.

Spline Drive – This is an older system that the SDS Max was designed to replace. Many people, still prefer a spline drive style of drill bit. Again the spline drive is designed for drills with a spline drive type chuck. But unless you are using an older rotary hammer drill you probably won’t run into this type of system.

Hex Shank – This is the type of drill bit shank that you will need if you do decide that you want to proceed with drilling concrete with an impact drill. This type of shank will be compatible in an Impact Drill, Hammer Drill, or Regular drill.

Smooth Shank – A smooth shank concrete drill bit will only work in a regular drill with a regular chuck. It is important to note that this type of bit will not work in any other type of drill.

Can You Drill Concrete Without A Hammer Drill

In short, yes!

It is possible to drill concrete without a hammer drill but as I mentioned earlier in regards to using an impact drill for concrete, you are not going to have a very fun time getting the job done.

However if you just need to drill a couple of small holes, it is probably much cheaper to put in the extra time and effort you’ll need to fight your way through it.

Make sure that you are using a good concrete drill bit and keep an extra or two on hand. It is important to mention though, that with a regular drill you are going to have a hard time finding a 4-flute concrete drill bit. These Dewalt Drill Bits are actually pretty good as far as a 2-flute bit and not too expensive either.

Quick Tips For Drilling Concrete

Any little tip when it comes to drilling concrete with any drill whether it be regular, impact, hammer or rotary is sure to help make your life a little easier at the end of the day.

So here is a list of my top tips that I have learned from drilling concrete during my 11 years as a concrete finisher.

Quick Tip #1: Slower Is Faster – Drilling at a medium speed is actually proven to work faster because it helps keep the bit cooler. This will also help to extend the life of your bits.

Quick Tip # 2: Let The Drill Do The Work – Pushing harder on the drill will not help it drill through the concrete faster. The only thing you will accomplish is, burning yourself out. Simply, apply an even medium pressure throughout the entire drilling process.

Quick Tip #3: Drill A Pilot Hole – Sometimes you will find that you need to a drill a hole that may be a little too much for your drill of choice. The best way to get around not having to upgrade to a bigger, badder drill is to start by drilling a small pilot hole and working your way up.

Quick Tip #4: Use A 4-Flute Bit – Depending on the type of drill that you are using a 4-flute bit may not always be an option. But whenever possible it is well worth the extra couple of dollars to use a 4-flute concrete bit.


Conclusion

No, it is not recommended that you use an impact drill for concrete unless you only have a couple small holes to drill. An impact drill is not designed to deliver the hammering motion needed in order to efficiently drill through concrete.

Your next best option is to use a hammer drill for concrete instead of an impact drill. A hammer drill delivers the hammering motion needed to drill through concrete a little more efficiently.

But, the best way to drill to concrete is to use a rotary hammer drill paired with a 4-flute masonry bit. A rotary hammer drill is designed specifically for drilling holes in concrete, rock, brick or mortar.

See our post where we break down the best rotary hammer drill for concrete! Click Here