6 Mistakes to Avoid when Drilling Concrete

July 26, 2022

How to avoid mistakes when drilling concrete

Concrete is favoured as a construction material due to being incredibly versatile. The excellent durability of concrete, plus the fact that it is resistant to fire, water and rust means that it is usually used for fence panel bases, foundation walls and flooring to name a few. Concrete is also relatively environmentally friendly, as it strengthens year by year, meaning that there is less need for expensive repairs and further material usage in cases of accidents and poor weather conditions.

Despite the multitude of benefits to using concrete as a construction material, it can be awkward to cut or drill into if you’re not properly prepared for the task. To ensure the safety of yourself and others when cutting concrete, it’s important to understand some of the common mistakes that can occur and how to avoid them. 

So, let’s drill down on 6 mistakes that you need to avoid when drilling or cutting concrete

#1 Wearing the wrong gear 

If you’re working in construction, it’s extremely likely that you have the correct clothing to work on site. No matter your level of experience, before you set out to drill concrete it’s important to make sure that you and your team have got all of the protective clothing you need to ensure the safety of yourself and others around you.

Whether the job is big or small, safety is absolutely paramount. Before starting to work we’d recommend changing out of any loose clothing and removing any jewellery that may get caught to avoid opportunities for injury. The recommended safety gear you and your team should all be wearing includes:

Safety glasses - Cutting and drilling concrete is likely to produce a fair amount of dust and debris. Safety glasses are essential to protect your eyes from any loose materials that may be flying around. 

Hard hat - Key for any construction job big or small, hard hats are an essential to avoid major injuries on site. 

Steel capped boots - Again, steel capped boots are an essential for pretty much any construction job. These are particularly important for drilling and cutting to protect your feet should there be any errors in movement from yourself or another member of your team.

Hearing protection - Due to the strength of the material, cutting and drilling concrete can unfortunately be very loud work. Proper hearing protection will reduce noise energy reaching the inner ear to prevent hearing loss from repeated exposure to loud noises. 

High visibility clothing - A staple part of anyone working in construction’s work wardrobe, high visibility clothing should be worn when drilling concrete to avoid accidents and injuries.

Respirator - As we previously mentioned, concrete cutting and drilling can be very dusty work. A good respirator should be used to prevent dust from entering the lungs and causing any damage. 

Mistakes to avoid while drilling- Wear the correct PPE

#2 Choosing the incorrect tools for the job

Whilst it might be tempting to trial different tools to drill into your concrete, you’ll need to choose wisely in order to get the best results from your project. Before starting to drill into your concrete, you will need to properly assess its properties to choose the right tool for the job.

Is it softer concrete? Or is it older, denser? No two types of concrete are the same, so take the time to check the properties of the concrete before jumping in with your tools.Particularly dense concrete will require tougher cutting tools than your standard concrete disk, so you’ll need to choose stronger tools to avoid any damage to them or your concrete. When choosing your tools, there are a few different options that will work depending on the size of the job. 

Hammer drills combine the twisting action of a standard drill with vibrations to assist with cutting through tougher materials. The combination of the two different movements will evacuate the excess concrete you’re looking to get rid of to create the hole. Whilst effective, these are best suited to smaller jobs. 

Rotary hammers are best for heavy-duty tasks as they generate high impact energy through combining rotating and hammering motions to cut through the concrete. These are heavy-impact hammers that will work well in breaking up the tough surface of concrete. 

However, if it’s a larger hole that you require, it’s likely you will need a non-impact drill operated by a professional to get the job done. 

#3 Using blunt drill bits

Aside from choosing the correct tools to provide the power behind your drilling, it’s also key to ensure you’ve got a drill bit that will actually cut through your concrete. Using unsuitable drill bits can lead to errors that can prove expensive and unnecessarily waste time when you come to fix them. Ultimately, diamond drill bits are the best for cutting through tough surfaces such as concrete due to it being the toughest material available. 

Some of the benefits to using diamond drill bits include:

Speed - Despite the fact that concrete is often incredibly dense, diamond-tipped drill bits are incredibly speedy at cutting through due to being the toughest bits available on the market. This makes the job run more efficiently. 

Noise reduction - Whilst drilling is always going to be a noisy job, the high speed used in the diamond drilling process means that there is less resonance. This reduces the amount of noise produced, and poses less of a risk to workers and people in the surrounding area of hearing damage.

Accuracy - The accuracy of diamond drilling tools means that less debris and dust is produced, ultimately making for a clearer, safer construction site. 

Damage reduction - When using incorrect drill bits, mistakes can occur that lead to damage in the areas surrounding where you’d actually like to create the hole. Diamond drill bits create less chips and cracks that can lead to costly mistakes.

#4 Not using water when required

You might find yourself asking “Do I need to use water to drill concrete?”. Whilst it’s not an essential part of the process, it’s a great idea to use water to assist when needed. The vibrations between the concrete and the drill bit can cause a lot of friction, and water can help to cool the drill bit and prevent overheating, reducing opportunities for errors. Another reason to use water when drilling your concrete is that it will significantly reduce the amount of dust and debris produced from the process. Excessive dust can be hazardous to your health and clog the drill bit, which can make unnecessary extra work and potentially damage your tools. 

Although we do recommend using water when drilling concrete, it’s important to avoid flooding the area as this will make it more difficult. Ideally, use just enough water to dampen the area and reduce dust and adjust this as needed.

Mistakes to avoid when drilling concrete - not using water

#5 Improper dust control 

As mentioned earlier, using water on your concrete is a great way to reduce the amount of dust produced from your drilling job. Proper dust control is something that you should always practise when cutting or drilling concrete, due to the hazardous nature of the dust that’s being produced.

This dust can be incredibly harmful, as concrete often contains crystalline silica which, when inhaled, can cause severe lung damage. Wet cutting and properly vacuuming the area are ways to control the amount of dust produced, and both are particularly important if you’re drilling indoors. 

Mistakes to avoid when drilling concrete - dust control

#6 Not checking what’s underneath the concrete before drilling 

Possibly one of the biggest mistakes you can make when drilling concrete is starting to cut through the material without being sure what might be hiding underneath the concrete. Concrete may be concealing live electrical wires, vital plumbing or rebar, all of which can pose a severe safety risk for yourself and others if accidentally drilled into. Scanning, imaging and construction blueprints can all help indicate what’s underneath concrete, so be sure to have a good look before starting to drill. 

Safety while drilling

No matter how big or small your concrete drilling job may be, it’s key to always take the safety of yourself and others around you seriously. Ensure that you’re taking the proper precautions before starting to work on your concrete, and if you’re unsure then you may find it easier to contact us with your concrete cutting or drilling job.