Can an Impact Driver Drill Concrete?

By Tool Scout | Impact Driver Advice

Can an Impact Driver Drill Concrete

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If you have an impact driver, chances are that you want to get the most out of the tool. After all, nobody wants to buy more tools than they need, and nobody wants to invest in a tool for just one or two quick jobs around the house. If you want to drill concrete or masonry, is an impact driver up to the job?

There may also be some confusion about the action of an impact driver and the action of a hammer drill, and when you can use either one, or what's best for drilling concrete. So if you need to drill concrete or masonry, can you use an impact driver to do it?

The short answer is no, but sometimes yes. Let's take a closer look.

The Difference Between Impact Drivers and Hammer Drills

Hammer drills are the preferred tool for drilling into concrete and masonry. They work by combining the rotational torque of a drill with repeated percussion's from behind, forcing the drill bit forward into the work. It's a tool specifically designed for drilling into tough concrete surfaces.

Impact drivers also have a percussive impact, but their impact is rotational, to increase torque, rather than forward motion like a hammer. An impact driver operates like using a hammer to bang on a wrench to loosen a sticky socket, rather than using a hammer to drive a nail. This high rotational force allows impact drivers to drive screws without slipping or stripping, but makes them unsuitable for drilling concrete.

Because of the way that pressure and power are applied differently in these tools, you can't really use an impact driver to drill into thick concrete, even though they produce a high amount of torque and power.

In fact, the ideal tool for drilling into concrete is yet a third tool, called a “rotary hammer.” A rotary hammer drill has more power than a standard hammer drill and can be used in drill mode, hammer drill mode, or hammer-only mode, in which case they work like a small jackhammer.

For those who do a lot of drilling into concrete and masonry, a rotary hammer is the optimal tool to be used and abused. Due to its powerful motor and rotary hammering piston mechanism, it will allow you to chew through solid concrete material with minimal effort.

What's the Difference Between a Rotary Hammer vs Hammer Drill?

If you're wondering what the difference is between a rotary hammer drill vs hammer drill, it comes down to a few different defining attributes and characteristics that separate the two tools:

  • Rotary hammer drills have more power and torque than standard hammer drills
  • Rotary hammer drills have an SDS-plus chuck, while standard hammer drills have a three-jaw chuck
  • A rotary hammer drill operates by engaging a piston that produces a pounding action to create forward force due to the increase in pressure in the cylinder
  • A standard hammer drill creates a drill hammer motion by engaging two irregular shaped discs that rotate creating friction, causing the chuck to slam forward
  • The cost. Rotary hammers are more expensive than hammer drills
What's the Difference Between a Rotary Hammer vs Hammer Drill

Can I Drill With an Impact Driver?

If you're drilling holes at 1/4-inch or under, you'll be able to drill through brick and some concrete with an impact driver. Impact drivers have a freakish amount of torque, but they are not designed to be used like a regular drill or hammer drills.

Impact drivers are best suited to driving screws and fastening nuts and bolts. They're a tool that can be used for a wide range of tasks, including drilling holes, although if you're going to drill holes beyond 1/4-inch in diameter through thick concrete, hammer drills are the only tool to use.

As previously mentioned, where impact drivers really shine, is fastening nuts and bolts, drilling screws at a rapid rate, and a wide range of other tasks that they can be used for, of course, depending on the application.

Will a Hammer Drill Go Through Concrete?

With the right masonry drill bit, you'll be able to drill through concrete fairly easily. Although, in comparison to what a rotary hammer drill can do to a slab of concrete, they're somewhat inferior.

Another vital thing to consider when attempting to effectively drill concrete is the drill bit you intend on using. Masonry bits with a carbide or durium tip will drill through brick, stone or thick concrete much more efficiently than a standard cheaper masonry bit.

While the cheaper bits you come across at your local hardware store seem like a brilliant bargain, they are simply no match when compared with a quality carbide bit that will penetrate hard concrete surfaces at a much faster pace.

The additional cost of these drill bits might seem rather daunting at first, but once you've experienced drilling with a high-quality masonry bit, you will appreciate their true value, no matter what drill that is used.

Will a Hammer Drill Go Through Concrete

Using an Impact Driver to Drill Concrete 

For someone who only wants to drill one or two holes in concrete, and who already has an impact driver, it is possible to do the job. It takes more time and effort, but maybe worth it for a small job where you don't want to buy a whole different tool.

Here's how to use an impact drill to drill into concrete:

  1. Use impact driver masonry bits. Get a whole set of masonry bits that are designed for an impact hammer. Drill bits that are not designed for an impact hammer may break or shatter, and should not be used for this job. You will need to gradually increase the size of your hole up to the desired diameter, so get a set of bits that allows you to increase the hole an eighth of an inch at a time.
  2. Mark the center of your hole, and use your smallest masonry bit to drill, applying gentle but steady pressure. If you feel the drill resist, then reduce pressure.
  3. If you feel the tool bind, then stop. Increase the size of your drill bit by one increment, and drill again to the same depth. If the tool binds again, take a hardened nail, insert it into the hole, and hit it with a hammer to break up the concrete inside.
  4. Continue drilling with that diameter to the desired depth.
  5. Increase drill bits by one-eighth of an inch at a time, until you have the desired depth and diameter. If necessary, repeat the nail and hammer periodically to break up the concrete and allow the drilling to continue.

As you can see, this method is slower, more laborious, and potentially less precise than using a hammer drill or rotary hammer to drill into concrete.

However, if you don't have access to a hammer drill or rotary hammer, it is more affordable alternative and may be worth attempting. If using your impact driver or even drill driver, just remember to use the correct drill bit.

Conclusion

If you only want to drill one or two small holes into masonry with an impact drill, get the right bits, and take your time.

But if you have a larger job to do, that involves a lot of drilling into concrete or masonry, hammer drills are the best option. And if you need to drill into concrete on a regular basis, invest in a rotary hammer, which will make the drilling into concrete faster, easier, and more accurate.

Another option is to consider purchasing a high torque cordless impact drill driver that incorporates a hammer drill feature if you intend on only doing light masonry or drilling through basic brickwork.

Depending on the demands of your work, you can find a versatile drill that will suffice when attempting to drill concrete. But if you're going to be regularly punching holes in concrete, it might be best to consider investing in a quality rotary hammer drill. 

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