Different size and shape drill bits

Tips & Advice

Choosing the Right Drill Bits

March 04th 2024

You’ve finally got round to that DIY project you have been planning. You may already have your safety goggles on and a drill in your hand, but now you are questioning, “what drill bit do I need?”.

Before you reach for the wrong one, it’s important to understand that the incorrect drill bit can be problematic. Not only can it lead to a job taking longer than necessary, but can also leave you with damaged materials, damaged tools, and it can be a safety hazard.

While you may have heard of a masonry drill bit, countersink drill bit, metal drill bit, HSS drill bit, SDS drill bit, you may not know what they all are and what are they intended for. Our drill bits guide will talk through different types of drill bits and how to select the right one for the job, whether it's putting up a shelf on the living room wall or hanging a mirror on bathroom tiles.

Yellow drill  laying next to plank of wood
Image Credit benjamin-lehman on unsplash

What material are you drilling into? 

One of the main considerations when it comes to selecting the right drill bit is knowing what surface material you are drilling into. You can buy multi-purpose drill bits that can handle a variety of substances, however the quality will diminish more quickly than those designed to tackle specific tasks such as drilling into bricks. Here we look at what drill bit is right for different material types.

What drill bit for brick? 

A drill bit that can tackle a material such as brick, stone or concrete needs to be tough. It also needs to be the right shape to prevent cracks and splits as you drill. A masonry drill bit is perfect for this, and is usually made from High Speed Steel, or HSS, with an incredibly tough carbide tip to allow it to penetrate with ease. 

SDS, or slotted drive system, drill bits are specifically designed for SDS drills as they can be held securely in place during the hammer action. They are for heavy duty drilling so ideal for masonry. 

What drill bit for tiles? 

Tile drill bits need to have a strong carbide tip to penetrate the hard surface and prevent cracking or chipping. They can often be used to drill into glass too, but make sure to check this before you buy. Tile drill bits are often more expensive than non-specialist bits as they feature a more durable tungsten carbide tip. 

Top Tip: when working on tiles place a piece of tape over where you plan to drill to stop the drill bit tip from slipping when you start drilling.

What drill bit for metal?

You’ll need to use a HSS drill bit with a cone shaped tip to drill into metal whether its aluminium, copper or brass. A cobalt drill bit will be needed for drilling through tough stainless steel.

HSS bits are designed to withstand the heat generated from drilling into metal, although it’s still a good idea to use drilling fluid to maintain the drill bit’s longevity. 

What drill bit for plasterboard?

A regular multi-surface or wood drill bit will work well on plasterboard. You shouldn’t use a masonry or metal drill bit as they are too powerful and will damage the plaster.

What drill bit for wood?

Whether you’re fitting hinges in a door frame or putting furniture together you’ll ideally used a wood drill bit. An auger bit has a corkscrew design that easily penetrates through wood leaving a neat finish on the edges of the hole 

If a neat and tidy finish is important you may want to use a countersink drill bit that leaves the flat-head screw sitting flush with the wood.

What size drill bit do I need?

After determining the material you will be drilling into you'll need to work out what size hole you need to make. Making sure to identify the right size drill bit will prevent any slippage when driving the bit or screw. You should look to use a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the screw you intend to use, for example if you are using a 4.5mm screw then use a 4mm drill bit. You can use this quick video guide to picking the right drill bit size if you are not sure on the size of your screw.

If you are looking to anchor a wall plug they are colour coded so you can use this as a general guide to work out what size bit you will need:

For yellow wall plugs use a 4mm bit

For red wall plugs use a 5.5mm bit

For brown wall plugs use a 7mm bit

Top Tip: Hold the wall plug next to the drill bit and mark it using some tape so you know how deep to drill into the wall.

If you are looking to create bigger holes for cabling or pipes you will need a specialist drill bit called a hole saw. Be sure to check the description carefully to see which materials the hole cutter can tackle.

Image of blog author Cat Burke

About the Author

Cat Burke

Cat is a member of the E-commerce team and is passionate about all things product, from power tools and TVs to cushions and curtains. She enjoys tackling basic DIY tasks at home and has taken on jobs such as stripping wallpaper, painting rooms, and upcycling furniture.

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