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The last thing you want to do is damage your lovely brickwork, but that picture isn’t going to hang itself. So is it possible to just screw into brick without a drill? What about screwing into the mortar?
It’s not possible to screw into brick or mortar without the use of a drill. The best way to drill into brick is using a corded hammer drill with a masonry bit attached. Inserting a wall plug (anchor) into the hole will hold your screw in place and provide extra strength.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- What tools you’ll need
- The best type of screws
- When wall plugs are necessary
How to Screw into a Brick Wall
Using the right equipment is key to avoiding cracks in your brickwork. Here is a list of what you’ll need for a professional finish.
The perfect tool for drilling into brick is the hammer drill, which rotates as it pounds the bit into the brick. Hammer drilling is fast, and it reduces the friction on the bit, rather than relying on grinding out the material alone.
If you don’t have access to a hammer drill, then you can use a regular drill so long as it has a hammer function. Using a drill without a hammer mode may leave you with a half-finished job and result in damage to the drill.
Masonry Drill Bits
Your best friend when drilling brick or mortar is a good masonry bit. A standard drill bit may make its way through brick after a lot of pushing, but the friction from the brick will heat up the drill bit. And when a drill bit overheats, it blunts, making it unusable for even drilling softer materials like wood or metal.
A masonry drill bit is deceptive in its width, so you need to go by the number written on the shaft or go on the number of the hole the bit fits into in the box. A high-quality masonry bit will make a far neater job of drilling a hole than a standard drill bit and with less effort.
This type of bit can also drill wider holes much faster than a standard bit can in brick. A masonry bit grinds through mortar and brick with a high-temperature spade tip. This spade shape excavates out material and helps to push rubble back out through the hole.
Mains Power vs Battery Power
There are many excellent battery-powered hammer drills on the market, but you will be paying a premium for one that works as well as a corded drill. Unless you plan to use the drill in a remote location without mains power, go for a corded hammer drill.
What Kind of Screws Screw into Brick?
You should use a screw intended for the material with which you are dealing. Wood and drywall screws do not need to be as tough as other screws, as their threads are closer together to give them a better grip in soft materials.
Also known as ankerbolts or thunderbolts, these concrete screws self-tap and do not need a pre-drilled hole or a wall plug. The screw’s ends are hardened, so you can screw these straight into mortar or brick without plugs.
You will also find that high-end concrete screws will hold better than regular wood screws in wall plugs.
You do not get any wiggle room with masonry screws. This lack of play with ankerbolts can be a problem when trying to line up brackets that need several screw holes.
Do You Need Wall Plugs in Brick?
Masonry screws cover a lot of situations, but if what you are hanging needs several holes close together, you may want to use wall plugs. With wall plugs, you can be more exact about the hole placement, which should prevent holes close together from cracking the brick.
Plastic anchors are the easiest to find and use, with most grocery stores and hypermarkets selling them in their DIY sections.
You want to use the exact recommended bit size to drill the pilot hole. Too small, and you will break the plug; too large, and the plug will pull out. I recommend getting an anchor assortment pack if you’re in doubt.
These types of plugs give you a lot of play when it comes to making small adjustments to the screw head. You can use regular wood screws, and it takes less force to turn the screw, so you can use a regular screwdriver to tighten them.
For larger holes, and when you want to hang heavy items, you should use a metal anchor. These types of anchors often come pre-attached to a bolt, ready for use. Most metal anchors come with a hex head, which you can tighten with a spanner or a wrench.
These anchors put a lot of pressure on the brick or mortar, and there is a danger of splitting the material if you tighten them too much. Therefore, a plastic plug may be a better choice for older brickwork.
Hole Positioning Mistakes
If you drill a hole in the wrong place or change your mind about where you want it, you can fill the hole with a paste of brick powder and mortar putty. Mortar putty may take a long time to harden, so your new hole should be at least a half-inch (13mm) over. After a hole repair, use plastic brick wall anchors to prevent line cracks in the brick.
Should I Screw into Brick or Mortar?
Most of the time, you will want to use a wall plug to give the screw something to anchor against in the hole. But you may also want to try screwing straight into the brick or mortar to save having to buy a box of wall plugs.
How to drill into brick or mortar:
- To screw into brick or mortar, you need to drill a hole two bit sizes smaller than the screw size. This will give the screw a tight fit and enough material for a firm grip.
- Use a pencil, marker, or center punch to pinpoint where to drill.
- Mark the depth of the screw on the drill bit with a marker or if your drill has a depth bar, use that instead.
- Wear what you need to be safe: goggles and earplugs.
- For holes larger than a quarter-inch (6mm), you should start a pilot hole before drilling out the rest of the brick. This pilot hole will make it easier to keep the drill bit inside your mark, and it should also stop the brick from cracking.
- Start on the mark and try to keep the bit perpendicular to the wall.
- If the bit is smoking and not going in, you may want to change the bit for a new one.
- Once you have the hole to the size you need, try to vacuum out any loose rubble left in the hole.
- Insert the screw and use a screwdriver to tighten.
- You can now clean up any debris and mess that made it to the floor.
For more information, check out my full guide on deciding whether it’s best to drill into brick or mortar.