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Updated November 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best masonry drill bit sets

For hundreds of DIY and professional jobs, from hanging a shelf to running cable, you often need to drill into or through brick, cinder block, or stone, which means you need a masonry drill bit. While you can get them individually, a set is often more economical and convenient.

The choice of masonry drill bits available today is surprisingly extensive. Not only are there different lengths and diameters, but there are different materials, too. Tip design has advanced, and while standard masonry drill bits are much the same as ever, there are now versatile designs that can drill multiple materials. If you need a really large hole, you might have to consider a masonry core drill.

masonry drill bit set1
Make sure you’ve got a firm grip on the tool when drilling rough concrete or stone walls. Use a second handle if available. If the bit snags, the drill itself can twist violently and potentially cause a nasty sprain.

Key considerations

Design

Most masonry drill bits are designed to be used in a hammer drill. The rapid impact added to rotation makes it the most efficient way to cut through brick, block, concrete, and so on. Heavy-duty versions fit into powerful Slotted Drive System (SDS) and rotary hammer drills. While the bits can be considerably larger — and up to several feet long — the drill bit structure is largely the same.

Tip: Unlike standard drill bits, which have a point and cutting edges along the sides, all the action from a masonry drill bit comes from the broad triangular tip and shoulders, which are noticeably wider than the rest of the bit. The twists — properly called flutes — don’t actually do any cutting. They are for clearing waste, drawing it backward out of the hole. In fact, some masonry drills (typically those used for granite, slate, or natural stone) don’t have flutes at all, just a plain shaft. Manufacturers often claim their flute design is better than those of competitors, but we haven’t been able to detect any major difference.

Shank: The drill bit shank is usually round, though some have three flat sides and some are hexagonal. This allows a standard three-jaw drill chuck to grip them more firmly. Shanks on SDS, SDS Plus, and SDS Max shanks are slotted. This gives the highest grip of all. It’s impossible for the drill bit to slip even under heavy load. Note that it’s vital that you choose the right type of SDS masonry drill bit. SDS and SDS Plus are interchangeable (10-millimeter shank) but SDS Max is not (18-millimeter shank).

Expert tip
Use a spray bottle of water to mist the area of drilling to minimize dust and keep bits cool during drilling.
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Material

High-speed steel: The main body of most masonry drill bits is high-speed steel (HSS), which is relatively low cost and very hard. We’ve seen other steel or carbon alloys mentioned, but these can be a little deceptive. All steel is an alloy of carbon and iron, so the term “alloy” is really just a marketing gimmick. We don’t want to suggest that there’s anything wrong with these bits, but there’s no big advantage either.

Tungsten carbide: What’s certainly not a gimmick is the addition of a tungsten carbide tip (usually just called carbide) bonded to the HSS body. Carbide is an extremely hard ceramic that significantly increases the life of the drill bit. The downsides are that it’s more expensive and more time-consuming to sharpen, but we’d say it’s well worth having. 

You might also see “rock carbide” used to describe some masonry drill bits. It sounds impressive, but it’s just a trade name used by DEWALT. They are good bits, but there’s nothing special about the “rock” aspect.

Titanium: A gold color often indicates a titanium coating, another material that will increase the life of your drill bits. You can find these in a set that includes masonry drill bits, but it will be a combination set that includes some standard drill bits (for wood, plastic, and so forth) and some masonry drill bits. The latter are not the ones that are titanium coated because there are no cutting edges behind the chisel point, and thus no benefit to adding it.

masonry drill bit set2
FOR YOUR SAFETY
Drilling into masonry creates lots of dust, and small chips can fly everywhere. Always wear eye protection and a dust mask.
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Size

The largest masonry drill bits, used in SDS drills and rotary hammers, can get up to about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. That’s a pretty big hole, but sometimes larger ones are required, like for supporting poles or putting in pipework. It’s impractical to have a solid drill for that kind of work. It becomes unmanageably heavy and requires too much energy to rotate. So bigger holes are made by masonry core drills, basically a steel tube with square teeth that are impregnated with industrial diamonds. These are somewhat specialized tools and usually sold individually rather than in sets.

If you’re working on horizontal surfaces, a small pool of water around the hole can help prevent the drill bit from overheating, which reduces cutting efficiency. It also helps damp down the dust.

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Features

Specialty bits

Multi-material drill bit sets are a fairly recent introduction and quite an interesting one. Instead of the usual straight-sided triangular tip, they are a curved arrow shape. The idea is that they can drill through both tile (ceramic or glass) and then into the structure of the brick or block wall behind it. Manufacturers suggest using water for lubrication when cutting glass, marble, or granite, which might be a bit of a challenge on vertical surfaces. They’re probably best for light-duty tasks. The maximum size we’ve seen is 1/2 inch.

Cordless drills

Hammer drills have traditionally been corded for more consistent power. Today’s cordless hammer drills now rival that performance, and even some high-powered SDS drills are battery-powered. However, energy drain can be severe when doing even relatively minor masonry work.

Some manufacturers have taken this into account and produced masonry drill bits for standard hammer drills that are claimed to use less energy. At a DIY level, this could be a very convenient feature, and as the bits are no more expensive than any other, they’re certainly worth trying. We have yet to see the same idea applied to SDS drill bits.

masonry drill bit set3
Expert tip
Help drill bits last longer by wiping them down with an oiled rag before storing them. This prevents rust on these specialty bits. 
BestReviews Home Improvment and DIY Expert

Masonry drill bit set prices

Inexpensive

You’ll sometimes see masonry drill bit sets for just a couple of bucks, but they’re made of plain steel and about as useful for drilling holes as a piece of spaghetti! Decent quality starts at around $10.

Mid-range

Between $15 and $40, you’ll find a huge amount of choice, including heavy-duty rotary hammer and SDS bits from big-name brands. Most people will find the masonry drill bit set they’re looking for in this price bracket.

Expensive

Very long masonry drill bits and diamond core drill bits can occasionally top $50, but few people except construction professionals need them.

masonry drill bit set4
It’s nice to have a case for your drill bits. It makes them easy to access and gives quick reference for sizes. Having them rattle around loose in your toolbox soon gets frustrating.

If you’re hanging something off a masonry surface, make sure you use the right fixing. Plastic rawl plugs are fine for many jobs, but if you’re putting up something heavy, you may need wall anchors. If in doubt, get professional advice.

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FAQ

Q. Can I resharpen my masonry drill bits?

A. You can. A bench grinder with the correct wheel will do the job, or you can get a specific drill bit sharpener. The latter makes it easier to maintain the correct angle, but you need to check capabilities carefully. Cheaper models are only made to take standard HSS drill bits and won’t sharpen carbide tips.

Q. Will a masonry drill bit drill tile without cracking it?

A. It depends on the type of tile. Specific tile drill bits are available, usually with a cone-shaped tip. Masonry bits will also do the job, though the hole might not be quite as clean. If it’s ceramic tile, carbide-tipped drill bits are best. If it’s glass or porcelain, you may need a diamond-tipped bit. Before you drill, put a piece of masking tape over the area. It’s easier to mark, and it will give the drill bit some initial grip so it stays in the right place. Drilling slowly also helps avoid cracking. Resist the temptation to lean on the drill.

Expert tip
For best results when using any drill bit, do not bend or flex the bit, let the drill do the work, and take breaks to let the drill and the bit cool during work.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert

Q. Can I use masonry drill bits for wood or metal?

A. You could use the multi-material type, but not standard masonry drill bits. The latter actually use a chipping motion rather than cutting, which is why the drills themselves usually have a hammer action. For wood and metal, it’s much better to use twist drill bits since they slice into the material. They don’t cost very much, so it’s worth investing in the right tool for the job.

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