Types of Drills – Know What Drill to Use and When to Use It

Types Of Drills - Know What Drill To Use And When To Use It

Power drills are one of the most important tools for dedicated DIY-ers and tradespersons alike.

However, with the numerous drill types available in the market, each with its own range of different models, buying one for a given project can turn out to be a rather daunting task.

Drills vary widely depending on factors such as speed, power, torque, and size. Their scope of use is also affected by their working mechanism as well as the types of chuck and drill bits that they accept.

If you want to make the most of your purchase, it is essential to know what each type of drill is used for.

This will not only help you get the job done successfully but also ensure that you don’t end up injuring yourself or cause any other damage because the tool wasn’t suitable for the task.

In this guide, we cover the top ten drill types commonly used in construction and home renovation projects.

If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of the drill types, we got you covered:

Types Of Drills

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Main Types of Drilling Machines

Power vs Bench Drills

However, before we move on to that, let’s take a look at the two major categories of power drills.

Portable Drilling Machines

Also known as hand drilling machines or handheld power drills, portable drilling machines are used for small to medium scale drilling tasks.

These drills are quite efficient as they operate at high speeds, and can be used in different locations including both indoor and outdoor spaces.

Sensitive Drilling Machines

Sensitive drilling machines are also known as bench drilling machines because they need to be mounted on a plane before use.

They consist of a drill head and driving mechanism attached to a column fixed on a sturdy base.

10 Different Drill Types

1. Drill Driver

Driver Drill

A drill driver is by far the most popular type of drill amongst homeowners – and the reason behind that is quite simple.

Drill drivers are a really versatile type of power tool that help users perform a variety of different tasks. This includes drilling holes and driving screws into hard surfaces like wood and metal.

A drill driver is typically powered through a battery. Since these drills double up as a driver, it means that you can easily tighten or loosen screws of different sizes and thickness using this power tool directly.

If you are looking for a simple and sophisticated electric machine that will come in handy on various small-scale home projects, then a drill driver is probably all you need. For example, a drill driver is an ideal tool if you want to install a shelf in your home.

It will also prove to be of great benefit when assembling store-bought, flat pack furniture items, such as those sold at IKEA. It will help you effortlessly drill through the furniture if required, regardless of whether it’s made from timber or iron.

The compatibility of drill drivers with a wide range of drill and screwdriver bits is what makes them suitable for fixing different things.

How It Works

The working mechanism of drill drivers is quite simple.

A drill driver consists of a chuck attached to the drill bit. The bit spins in both, clockwise and counterclockwise direction as the chuck opens and closes around the spindle.

Drill drivers typically have different power levels that can be adjusted according to the needs of the project. Some models also consist of a clutch that allows users to change the amount of driving force mechanically.

Uses of a Drill Driver

Drill drivers are the tool of choice for basic hole drilling.

They can safely pierce through materials of varying levels of hardness. With a drill driver, you can make holes in plastic, wood, metal, and even concrete.

However, the power specifications of your drill driver must be kept in mind when using the tool on harder materials. Also, you might be required to drill a pilot hole in some cases.

2. Impact Driver

Impact Driver Drill

An impact driver is specifically designed for loosening bolts and driving screws into hard surfaces.

An impact driver utilizes the same rotational motion used to operate a power drill.  However, what sets it apart from power drills is the fact that impact drivers combine a hammering action with the rotational movement. 

Impact drivers are sometimes also called impact drills. While the two terms can be used interchangeably, it’s better to avoid referring to impact drivers as impact drills in order to avoid confusion. This is because, in essence, impact drivers are not particularly a ‘drill’ per se.

An impact driver does not use a forward chipping gear like regular drills. Rather, it consists of a rotating hammer and anvil mechanism (the working principle is discussed below).

An important thing to note here is the difference between impact drivers and hammer drills. Impact drivers come close to resembling hammer drills in terms of operation and their screw-driving abilities. However, there are two major factors that differentiate one from the other.

Firstly, hammer drills, as is evident by the name, are capable of making holes and driving through several hard materials. Impact drivers, on the other hand, are not always capable of doing the same except in certain cases (like replacing the drill bit).

Secondly, when powered on, hammer drills provide a constant hammering action. This tends to be overkill in most cases as it strips the screws in the process.

Impact drivers are designed to overcome this problem. Since they apply torque only where is resistance, you can rest assured that your screws won’t be damaged when being hammered down.

Many drill bits hitting the shelves these days are labeled ‘impact ready.’ These consist of quarter-inch hex shanks that enable users to drill holes and drive screws without having to change the bit.

You might not be able to make very precise holes but it’s a cost-effective method to upgrade your impact driver and complete the required task without being forced to buy a separate drill.

How It Works

The motor inside an impact driver spins the drill bit while the hammer and anvil assembly not only forces it down into the required surface but also violently strikes it sideways.

This makes driving screws into tough materials as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Uses of an Impact Driver

Impact drivers are hailed for their unmatched power to drive screws into anything.

Since they can tighten, loosen, and install new screws in a matter of a few seconds, they are the go-to option when it comes to screw-driving in the construction industry.

Using the right bit in an impact driver, you can also drill holes into certain materials with this tool. Alternately, you can go for a combo kit that features both drill and impact driver to avoid the hassle of having to frequently switch between different bits working.

3. Hammer Drill

Drills Hammer

A hammer drill, as the name suggests, is a powerful tool that combines the functionality of two different hand tools – a hammer and a drill.

It looks pretty much the same as a drill driver but has a more advanced operation. For this reason, a hammer drill is also commonly called a hammer drill driver.

A good hammer drill will give you the option to choose between regular drilling, hammer drilling, or driving mechanically with the clutch.

If you want to perform screw-driving tasks, all you need to do is switch to conventional drill settings. Therefore, if you are looking for a multipurpose power tool, going for a hammer drill is perhaps your best bet.

Hammer drills are sometimes also called percussion drills due to their ‘percussive’ mechanism. They deliver short but powerful hammer thrusts in rapid succession to break through the material with significantly less effort than required otherwise.

How It Works

The internal assembly of hammer drills is based on the mechanical design of driver drills.

The only difference is the addition of some more electric parts like a motor and motor arm. This provides the added functionality of hammering.

They consist of a cam-action that features two sets of toothed gears.

The gears are mechanically coupled in a way that the bit attached to the chuck not only rotates when the tool is powered on but also vibrates with a tremendous amount of force.

In simple words, a hammer drill works by driving the drill bit in and out of the object at an incredibly high speed.

As the motor spins rapidly, pushing the bit back and forth, it chips away the material just like you would with a regular hammer – except that the drill allows you get the job done a lot faster and without tiring yourself out in the process.

Uses of a Hammer Drill

DIY enthusiasts value hammer drills for their ability to ‘do everything.’ Whether you need to drill a hole or drive a screw through a surface, or perhaps even remove a stuck screw from an object, a hammer drill can do it all.

Hammer drills feature adjustable controls so the same model can be used on several materials ranging from relatively soft polymers like plastic to sturdy objects made of wood or metal.

These tools are also safe for use with concrete although they are usually limited to drilling holes of a maximum size of ¼” wide.

However, keep in mind that drilling into concrete produces silica dust that can cause damage to your lungs if inhaled. So, use a face mask to protect yourself from any possible harm.

4. Rotary Hammer Drill

rotary hammers

Rotary hammer drills are known for their ability to pound dense solids like stone, concrete, bricks and masonry.

Owing to their incredible power for dealing with all types of stone and brickwork, they have also earned the name ‘masonry hammer.’

Other names commonly used to refer to rotary hammer drills include roto hammer, roto hammer drill, and SDS hammer (short for Slotted Driver Shaft hammer).

This power tool is designed to perform heavy-duty tasks like drilling and chiseling sturdy materials.

Roto hammers are similar to hammer drills in the sense that they ‘hammer’ the bit as it spins about its axis. The difference lies in the underlying working principle.

Unlike hammer drills that utilize a special clutch, rotary hammers are based on a piston mechanism. This allows them to pound the bit with tremendous force, ultimately helping you drill large holes in no time.

To simplify the idea, you can think of a rotary hammer drill as the big brother of a regular hammer drill.

They come in various different sizes and can roughly the same size, or a significantly larger than an average hammer drill.

The size of a rotary hammer drill majorly depends on the power specifications and the torque rating of the tool.

How It Works

Rotary drills usually have two different features. These are chipping and rotational hammering. The chipping feature provides a pounding action as you would normally get from the use of a jackhammer.

This helps you form cracks in masonry for demolition purposes. On the other hand, the rotational hammering feature facilitates drilling through concrete and similar hard substances.

Roto drills are created using electro-pneumatic hammering technology.

These tools can deliver much more powerful blows than their counterparts because they instead of a separate air compressor, roto drills use electricity to generate force upon impact.

Uses of a Rotary Hammer Drill

In addition to drilling, you can use a rotary drill for breaking up tough materials such as concrete.

Construction workers commonly use these hand held machines for pounding bricks, smashing stones, and splitting apart rocks.

Rotary hammer drills also have the power to break up asphalt and other masonry thicker than 2 inches.

If you are working on a home renovation project that requires you to drill into bricks, a rotary hammer is the best tool for the job.   

5. Core Drill

Core Drills

Core drills are a really unique type of drill.

They are completely different from all the other types of drills not just in terms of operation, but also from an aesthetic point of view.

If you ever come across a core drill, you will be able to identify it easily with its elongated cylindrical assembly.

While the use of the first core drill dates as far back as 3,000 BC, these tools have a long way since their invention.

Needless to say, modern core drills are nowhere near those used by ancient Egyptians.

A core drill, as we see today, refers to a drill used to make holes in a surface. You must be thinking, ‘Duh, what’s the big deal about that?

Well, to begin with, it’s the size of the holes that these drills are capable of making.

If you consider the cement core drills used in the construction industry or even by professional services like plumbing for that matter, you’d be surprised to see that most of them can drill holes as large as up to five feet in diameter!

Moreover, it’s the style of making these holes that sets core drills apart from their alternatives. These tools feature a core bit that is cylindrical in shape – and hollow in the center.

So, when it turns at a high speed, it results in the removal of a well-cut cylinder from the surface of the material being drilled.

Put simply, core drills work like a ‘hole-cutter.’

How It Works

A core drill comprises a heavy-duty motor mounted on a special frame to keep it steady during operation.

The bit used in this tool, inspired from a hole saw, moves like whirlwind to ‘cut’ a hole. Rather than grinding the material to create a hole, it removes one solid cylinder with each use.

Core drills only make use of the spinning action – there is no driving, chipping, or hammering involved.

Uses of a Core Drill

Do you want to pierce through masonry without making a mess during the process?

If yes, then a core drill is what you need to use for the task.

This exclusive tool lets you chew through concrete in an elegant manner. Homeowners with a spark of creativity often use core drills to produce distinct artwork.

For instance, you can use a core drill to make through-holes in your garden wall or create large openings in the concrete foundation to install fancy marble and the likes.

6. Ground Auger

Auger Drills

A ground auger, also known as an earth auger or simply, auger, is the advanced version of the antique drills that were comprised of a long and thick metal bit attached to a horizontal hardwood handle in the shape of the alphabet T.

Modern augers have the same basic structure but are powered by electricity rather than being driven manually. Some models use gas power instead of AC supply to turn the motor in the tool.

The primary use of an earth auger is to drill holes in the ground. It is ideal for removing dirt and digging holes effectively and more efficiently than employing tools like a shovel for the same purpose.

How It Works

This drill-only tool features a large, rather dramatic looking bit attached to the motor at the top. The motor is installed in a metal frame that not only provides stability but also serves as an ergonomic grip for operating the tool.

A ground auger helps extract dirt and soil through a rotating helical screw blade. It uses the screw conveyor principle, also known as flighting, to pull the material from the hole being drilled, out on the top.

Uses of a Ground Auger

Are you looking for a power drill for digging post holes?

Are you a home gardener looking for a tool that would make it easy for you to dig holes for plantation?

Or perhaps something to help you with the DIY landscaping project?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then a ground auger is the power tool that you need to buy.

Other than setting posts, augers are also used in ice fishing.

Ice fishermen use earth augers to break through the thick layer of ice on lakes. Another interesting use of ground augers is for extracting maple syrup from maple trees.

When it comes to construction, ground augers are the go-to option for drilling for deep foundation posts. 

7. Screwdriver Drill

Screwdriver drills

A screwdriver drill refers to a motor-driven screwdriver that typically generates more torque than an average drill.

These tools are almost always kept cordless not only to increase ease of use but also from a safety point of view.

This makes them ideal for tightening loose screws as well as driving new ones in confined spaces, especially corners where handheld manual screwdrivers can be almost impossible to use.

How It Works

Screwdriver drills work on the basic drilling mechanism – i.e., the motor spins the bit that helps it pierce through the given material.

A power screwdriver has forward as well as reverse settings that enable it to rotate the bit in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions. This, in turn, allows you to insert and remove the screw from an object, respectively.

This type of drill has lesser rotations per minute in order to give the user greater control over the driving action.

Uses of a Screwdriver Drill

A screwdriver drill is suitable for any and all screw-driving jobs you might come across in your home or garage.

They come in handy for light fasteners that do not require a large impact from a regular drill.

Screwdriver drills are also useful for working in hard to reach areas and places that offer limited access such as electrical boxes. They often have a light at the base of the bit near the chuck to improve visibility for the user.

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Power screwdrivers are not meant for drilling holes.

But in some cases, you might be able to use a high power screwdriver drill for drilling materials of medium hardness level such as plastic and wood without the need of making pilot holes.

If you are moving houses, this tool is a must-have because it makes assembling flat-pack furniture a piece of cake.

Side Note: Drywall screwdrivers are a special type of screw gun often confused with a power screwdriver. While the two do share some similarities, there is a major difference that separates them both – unlike screwdriver drills, drywall screwdrivers are primarily meant for installing drywall sheets only.

8. Cordless Drill

Cordless Drills

This should be a no-brainer.

A cordless drill is any power drill that despite being driven by electricity does not contain any cords or electric wires. It instead uses rechargeable batteries to drive the motor in the drill.  

Most of the cordless drills available in the market offer pretty much the same functions as the corded drills.

However, sometimes you cannot rely on these battery-powered drills to help you in certain heavy-duty drilling tasks because they might not offer the high torque that AC mains-powered drills have to offer.

Earlier versions employed a 7.2 V battery pack although today, you can easily find cordless less that operate at 18, 20, 24, 28, and even 36 V. This means they can easily produce high torque equivalent to that produced by their corded counterparts.

How It Works

Different models use different types of batteries for powering the cordless drill. Common battery types for cordless drills include lithium-ion batteries, nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries, and nickel-metal hydride battery (NiMH) batteries.

Uses of a Cordless Drill

Be it wood, metal, plastic, or fiberglass, cordless drills work on almost every type of material you can think of.

The only exception is hard concrete.

The absence of cord and their lightweight makes cordless drills a really convenient power tool for DIY lovers and professional workers alike.

9. Corded Drill

Corded Drills

Corded drills are no doubt the oldest form of drills that are still in use today.

They come in different styles and have different features that make them suitable for use in a variety of different tasks.

It would be stating the obvious to say the cord is the one thing that is common to all.

How It Works

Corded drills usually contain a universal motor that is powered by the mains supply.

The reason why universal motors are preferred over other alternatives is that universal motors provide high power to weight ratio.

They consist of a standard plug attached to drill using a flex wire.

The length of the wire depends on the purpose for which the drill is built but usually is around two meters.

Uses of a Corded Drill

Corded drills are favored over cordless drills where heavy drilling is required.

10. Benchtop Drill

Benchtop Drill

As is evident by the name, a benchtop drill or a bench drill is a drilling machine that is mounted on a table or any other similar surface.

If you are trying to set up a permanent fixture in your garage or workshop for the sole purpose of drilling, a benchtop drill is the perfect way to go about it.

How It Works

A benchtop drill features a thick base with a vertically standing pole to which the motor is attached.

Beneath the motor, there is a surface for placing the object to be drilled.

Some bench drills need to be installed before use whereas others can be carried to different sites when needed.

Uses of a Benchtop Drill

A bench drill is suitable for drilling holes through a wide range of materials including timber, plastic, and metal.

If you are tired of materials slipping as you drill them, consider using a benchtop drill to get rid of the problem.

Common Questions about the Different Drill Types

Still not sure what differentiates a hammer drill from an impact driver?

Or perhaps you are scratching your head wondering whether the right tool for the given task is a hammer drill or a rotary hammer drill.

Whatever the case might be, the following section will help clear out the confusion.

Hammer Drill vs. Impact Driver

Impact Drill vs Hammer Drills

Deciding whether to buy a hammer drill or an impact driver can be quite difficult given the close similarity between the two drills.

Use this quick comparison to decide which one you need to buy.

Hammer Drill

  • Hammers/ pounds the bit in addition to rotating it while drilling
  • Provides a stronger action than a regular drill
  • Helps you drill holes with precision
  • Considerably larger in size in heavier in weight than standard drills
  • The hammering action can strip screws 

Impact Driver

  • Relatively more lightweight than hammer drills
  • It does not strip screws as it especially designed to apply torque only when the bit encounters resistance – i.e., upon ‘impact’
  • It is best suited for light-duty fasteners
  • It is a compact yet effective tool for most jobs
  • Holes drilled with an impact driver might not be very smooth and clean

Hammer Drill vs. Rotary Hammer Drill

Rotary vs Hammer Drills

Hammer drill is best suited for smaller tasks like anchoring bolts in a wall.

But if you need a hammer drill for making holes in concrete foundations or for drilling thicker walls, it’s better to go for a rotary hammer instead.

End Note

Whether you head over to your nearest hardware store to buy a power drill or search for one online, the massive range of options available can make the purchase process extremely confusing.

Hopefully, this detailed guide on all the different drill types and their intended uses would have helped you identify which type of drill is the right pick for your particular needs.

To further decide which power drill you ought to buy, make sure to carefully read through the product specifications and manufacturer’s instructions given on the package.

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