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How to Put a Screw Into Brick (9 Simple Steps)

Photo collage of different people to put a screw into brick.

No screwing around, these tips and tricks will save your time and your hands when trying to install screws in brick.

Exposed brick walls are a sought-after features in homes, adding an original, distressed, and warm feeling to any room. Many of us, however, still want to be able to add art to the wall, or hang things from it. Screwing into brick is a whole different beast than drywall or even wood, so to keep yourself safe and your wall from crumbling, follow these tips and tricks!

There will be many distinguishing factors, whether you want to hold something heavy or light with the screw, whether the brick is old or new, and whether you plan to screw directly into the brick, or into the mortar.  Brick is mainly made of clay, but there is also sand, limestone and concrete mixed in, in varying amounts depending on the brick. In reality, there are so many different kinds of bricks, and their varying structures can mean they need to be handled differently.

For the most part, however, there is one fail-proof way to screw into brick. The oldest discovered bricks, originally made from shaped mud and dating before 7500 BC, were found at Tell Aswad, in the upper Tigris region and in southeast Anatolia close to Diyarbakir. The history of bricks dates back to some of our earliest records of civilization.

During the period of the Roman Empire, the Romans spread the art of brick-making throughout Europe and it continued to dominate during the medieval and Renaissance period. There is everything from very simple brickwork houses, to extremely elaborate church designs using this material. In Victorian London, due to the heavy fog, bright red bricks were chosen which made buildings much more visible.

Although the amount of red pigment was reduced in brick production, red has remained the most desired colour to this day. It’s always so interesting to find the origins of some of the features of our world today! With modern technologies, however, bricks have become more composite structures, and thereby have become even stronger.

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There is a lot you can do with and to a brick, and it will maintain its structure. There are some things that will, however, break the camels back as they say. Let’s go through how to put screws into brick, step by step, so you can keep your walls from crumbling.

Tools needed

1. Hammer Drill

While you can use a regular drill, a hammer drill pulsates to make it easier when drilling in concrete or brick. Hammer drills have a cam-action or percussion hammering mechanism, in which two sets of toothed gears mechanically interact with each other to hammer while rotating the drill bit. As a result, it drills much faster than a regular drill through concrete or brick.

If you choose to go with a regular drill, just buy a carbide-tipped masonry bit from your local hardware

PTS Corded Rotary Hammer Drill 1”26mm 10Amp 110V Combination Rotary Hammer | SDS Plus | 3 Modes | 2x Brushes, Oil Cap Wrench, Grease, 3x Drills, 2x Chisels‚ and Case Set

Learn more about the different types of drills here.

2. Concrete Screws

It’s important to use concrete screws when drilling into brick: Concrete screws have alternating high and low threads. They are manufactured out of stainless or carbon steel and come with or without a corrosion coating. The lead thread on the masonry screw does all the cutting of the masonry material while the screw is being installed.

The lead thread will dull and hit a point where it will no longer be able to cut threads and will stop screw penetration.

CONFAST 1/4" x 1-1/4" Hex Head Concrete Screw Anchor with Drill Bit for Anchoring to Masonry, Block or Brick (100 per Box)

See all the different types of screws here.

3. Masonry Anchors

Especially if using the screw to hold anything with weight, using anchors is vital. It really is vital for most screws, even in drywall. I’ve had many a time where I said, screw it, and just drilling directly into the wall without an anchor.

Almost every time I regretted it later on, as whatever was hanging on that screw eventually tumbled to the ground.  Most masonry anchors work in one of two ways–either by expanding against the sides of the hole and gripping the concrete, or by friction against the sides of the hole.

Screw it Again Masonry Anchor - 10 Pack

Now that you have all your tools, it’s decision making time. Do you really need to drill into the brick? It can be a lot easier to drill into the mortar, and a lot easier to repair if anything does go wrong.

On the other hand, Brick usually holds better and supports more weight than mortar. Take your time and weigh out the ups and downs, and then once you have your decision, let’s get started!

Materials Needed

1. Permanent marker or pencil

To mark the spots where you will be drilling. This step is vital, and ensures you get it right the first time.

2. Tape measure

The tape measure helps if you want to measure the distance between points on the item you’re installing, and use that measurement to space the drill points.

3. Bubble level

A level is an essential tool, especially for any shelving: it makes sure that the line between two points creates an even surface, so nothing will go rolling off your shelf, or no painting will be hanging crooked.

4. Safety glasses

Keeping your eyes protected from the dust is important!

5. Dust mask

It’s been a global pandemic for over a year now, everyone has mask lying around. Just use your best, highest grade protection for this job!

6. Earplugs

This is optional, but could be useful, especially if you’re sensitive to noise.

7. Small shop vac

This could also be a dust and broom, or a mop. Whatever cleaning tool you choose, just try to do the most thorough job you can! All of these materials will all come in handy for prepping, executing safely, and cleaning afterwards!

Step-by-step instructions for drilling screws into brick

Now that you have all your tools and materials, it’s decision-making time. Do you really need to drill into the brick? It can be a lot easier to drill into the mortar, and a lot easier to repair if anything does go wrong.

On the other hand, Brick usually holds better and supports more weight than mortar. Take your time and weigh out the ups and downs, and then once you have your decision, let’s get started!

Step 1. Mark the drill holes

Measure and mark the locations of the holes you’ll drill into brick or mortar using a pencil. Then, hold the item that you’re planning to hang up directly over the marks to double-check the hole locations. It’s also important to take this step slow, do it right, and if you do feel it’s even slightly off, to take the time to redo it.

This small attention to detail will truly pay off in the end!

Step 3. Prepare your Tools

Setting yourself up for success, it’s important to gather all your tools in one place, and make sure your screws and anchors are somewhere you won’t lose track of them. This makes the process swift and easy.

Step 4. Put on protective gear

Safety first! While most likely you’d be totally fine, the chance that some small shrapnel may go flying, and being protected in that moment will make the world of difference. First step: goggles, hearing protection, leather gloves, and an N95 respirator.

Brick and mortar dust contains crystalline silica, which will be airborne when you start to drill into brick. Inhaling just a small amount is enough for it to be a health risk. Wearing an N95 respirator during the entire drilling and cleanup process is critical to preventing serious lung scarring and other damage, as this type of product will filter at least 95 percent of airborne particles.

It’s funny, we’ve all become so accustomed to wearing masks that you probably have one lying around your house now. If you’re using a ladder, make sure it’s level and the legs are on a solid surface. Sometimes, just to be extra safe, I like to commission a spot as well.

Never hurts to have someone there to cheer you on as well!

Step 5. Start Drilling! 

Position the pilot drill bit perpendicular to the wall and drill on low speed: First, Insert the pilot drill bit into the hammer drill. For anyone who doesn’t know, “pilot” just means the drill or the hole used before the larger drill is used to create a hole of the desired size: it basically sets you up to get it right, with a small place for the larger drill to enter without shaking or moving.

Then, Set the drill on low speed and hold the drill with two hands, one on the pistol grip and the other on the auxiliary handle. Make sure the drill is level and perfectly perpendicular to the wall. (Drilling at an angle will cause mounting alignment issues and can greatly reduce holding power.) Start drilling the pilot hole using just enough force to start the drill bit.

If the pilot bit starts to jiggle away from the marked location, re-start in the right location. Vary the pushing force until you find the point where the bit bites into the brick. Then drill the pilot hole to the recommended depth using a steady pushing force.

Tip: If the drill has only one speed, drill in short bursts to prevent overheating the bit. If it does start to overheat, give it a rest!

Step 6. Upgrade Size, Drill Again

With a larger masonry bit, drill into the pilot hole created in the previous step. Change the head of the drill for the larger bit, and again, check your drill to make sure it’s level and perpendicular. Place the drill bit into the pilot hole and continue drilling to the specified depth.

Step 7. Clear out the drill hole

If you have it, compressed air will be a  great way to do this, but if you don’t, good old fashioned blowing should do the trick! Try to remove all traces of brick or mortar dust from the hole. Leaving dust in the hole will reduce the holding power of the wall anchors and screws you insert.

Step 8. Install the wall anchor

Insert wall anchors designed to support the full weight of the item, and then it’s time to screw! You may have a piece that you are screwing into the wall, in which case, hold it up in place, and then use either your drill, or just a screwdriver to slowly and evenly twist it into place. If not, just do the same thing without the item.

Step 9. Carefully clean up the work area

There can be dust, shards, and unsafe debris from the work you’ve done, so be sure to clean up thoroughly after. In addition, you really want to enjoy the fruits of your labour, so having a clean area with the finished product makes it all the more satisfying. In addition, washing your clothes that you wore during the work is a good idea, to make sure the silica dust is not remaining.

The tools involved in this process can be an investment, but they can be very worth it in the long term. Learning to do DIY projects like this will set you up to save a lot of money, and be able to make the changes you want to quickly and within your own timeframe. If you’re really a beginner, and don’t have the tools, consider renting them from your local hardware store, or asking a kind friend or neighbour to lend you them.

Drilling into brick may seem daunting, or you may think it’s the same as just any other drilling. With the right information and tools, it can be safe, easy, and quick – but don’t over or underestimate it. Brick walls are really a gem, and you want to highlight that natural feature while adding utility, or integrating other art work.

Take it step by step, and you’ll have a beautiful look and a sense of accomplishment at the end!

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