Can You Drill Holes With an Impact Driver?

Exploring the Drilling Capabilities of an Impact Driver


A question that frequently arises is, “Can you drill holes with an impact driver?” The simple answer is yes, but there’s more to it than just a straightforward yes or no. This article aims to provide a detailed explanation of how and when you can use an impact driver for drilling holes.

Drilling Holes with an Impact Driver

Impact drivers are primarily used for driving screws due to their high torque. However, they can also be used for drilling holes, provided you use hex-shank drill bits designed for impact drivers. There are various types of 1/4-inch hex drill bits available:

  • Regular drill bits: These are common drill bits designed for various materials. If you’re using these with an impact driver, ensure they are high-quality. Cheaper ones often have the hex bit welded to the drill bit, which can snap off.
  • Wood drill bits: Designed specifically for wood, these bits have a sharp point for precise drilling. They are ideal for precision drilling in wood.
  • Masonry drill bits: These are made for drilling through masonry, featuring a spade head tip made from hardened metal. While they can fit in an impact driver, a hammer drill is recommended for optimal results.
  • Flat wood drill bits: These are designed to drill large holes in wood. They resemble a spade with a sharp, pointed tip for drilling large holes.
  • Tile drill bits: Designed for drilling through tiles without cracking them. Diamond tile drill bits are recommended, but using these with an impact driver isn’t advised.

What Type of Hole Can You Drill with an Impact Driver?

When using an impact driver as a drill, it’s crucial to understand the types of holes that can be drilled effectively and safely. Here are some key points to consider:

Small Holes: An impact driver excels at drilling small holes into various materials such as wood, thin metal, or plastic. However, the size of the hole should be limited. A diameter of no more than 4mm is recommended when using an impact driver. Any larger, and the tool might struggle to deliver the required force, potentially damaging both the tool and the material being drilled.

Pilot Holes: Pilot holes are small holes drilled as a guide for screws or nails in woodworking and metalworking. They help ensure that the screw or nail goes in straight and prevents the material from splitting or cracking. An impact driver is perfectly suited for this task due to its high torque and speed control.

Depth of Holes: While an impact driver can drill deep holes, it’s not recommended to do so. This is because the deeper the hole, the more resistance the tool encounters, which can lead to overheating and potential damage to the tool. As the impact driver struggles, the hole dimeter gets bigger and becomes less precise. Therefore, it’s advisable to avoid drilling too deep when using an impact driver. If a deep hole is necessary, it’s best to use a dedicated drill or a rotary hammer, particularly for hard materials like concrete or masonry.

Material Considerations: While an impact driver can handle a variety of materials, it performs best with soft to medium materials like wood, drywall, and soft metals. Harder materials like thick metal, brick, or concrete may prove too challenging for an impact driver and require a more specialized tool, such as a hammer drill or rotary hammer.

While an impact driver can be used to drill holes, it’s essential to consider the type and size of the hole, as well as the material you’re working with. By understanding these factors, you can ensure that you use your impact driver effectively and safely.

Can You Drill Into Brick With an Impact Driver?

Yes, you can drill into brick with an impact driver, but it’s not the ideal tool for the job. While an impact driver delivers high torque and rotational force, it primarily drives screws and can struggle when drilling holes in harder materials like brick and concrete.

To drill into brick, it’s best to use a hammer drill or a rotary hammer specifically designed for masonry work. These tools deliver a powerful hammering action that breaks up the hard surface of the brick, facilitating easier drilling. However, for small holes for screws or anchors, an impact driver can work, but it will take more time and effort than using a specialized masonry HEX bit.

The Drawbacks of Using an Impact Driver as a Drill

The biggest problem with an impact driver is chuck wobble. Where you place the drill bit wobbles because it is surrounded by bearings, this is fine for an impact driver’s intended use to fasten and unfasten. However, when it comes to drilling, chuck wobble can cause issues.

If you require precision drilling, an impact driver should not be used. For example, if you are drilling a 6 mm hole in a brick wall, and you use an impact driver, with the chuck wobble, and the fact that more effort to drill it through the brick when compared with a hammer drill, the hole could end up being 8 mm or 9 mm.

Another issue with an impact driver is that when you encounter friction, the impact driver slows down/stops spinning its chuck, and begins its hammering function/impacts per minute, which makes it extremely hard to drill through stubborn parts of the material. A regular drill will continue to spin its chuck until it gets through the material.

Should You Use Your Impact Driver as a Drill?

Yes, you should use an impact driver as a drill in certain situations, if you are drilling through wood, metal and various other materials that do not require precision holes, and just need a quick hole, an impact driver is great for this.

For example, if you are fixing door handles to a wooden door, you want to avoid driving the screw right into the door as it may cause cracking, and the screw may not sit flush once in. You can use a 2 mm Hex drill bit to drill pilot holes, then use the impact driver to fasten the screws into the hole.

However, when drilling through delicate materials such as glass or tiles, you should not use an impact driver, and use a dedicated drill. You can learn more about the differences between an impact driver and a drill here.

What’s The Difference Between a Hammer Drill and an Impact Driver?

Another common question is, what is the difference between an impact driver, and a hammer drill? Each power tool specializes in different things and below we will have a look… As we already mentioned, when it comes to efficient screwing and unscrewing, the impact driver is king due to its enormous amounts of torque and rotational hammering function, it is built to fasten and unfasten.

Hammer drills specialize in drilling into masonry. Hammer drills also have a hammering function, but very different to what you’ll find in an impact driver. When you are drilling into masonry, not only does this type of drill have a high RPM, it also has an internal mechanism hitting the chuck to help eat away at the masonry you are drilling in to.

Think of it like this: imagine you are using a regular drill, and you encounter some resistance in brickwork, whilst you are drilling, you get a friend to hit the end of the drill with a hammer. This helps to add more force and helps to drill through any stubborn masonry. If you want to learn more, see: what is an impact driver.

In Conclusion

While it’s possible to drill holes with an impact driver, its usage should be limited to specific situations. Understanding the tool’s capabilities and limitations is key to using it effectively and safely.