Drill buying guide

three yellow drills

Our Power Drill Guide

A high-quality electric power drill is a real DIY essential, capable of taking the time, effort and hassle out of countless home and garden jobs. When it comes to picking a drill, there’s more choice than ever. With loads of different features to choose from, including hammer drill action, variable speed control and a rechargeable battery, it can be difficult to know where to start. At Homebase, you’ll find a wide variety of different cordless and corded drills suitable for a full range of tasks, which is why we’ve created this handy guide designed to help ensure you get the drill that meets your needs exactly.

Corded or cordless

Making the decision on a new drill often comes down to a decision between a corded and cordless model, and there are plenty of benefits for each.

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Cordless

By far the most popular choice on the market, cordless electric drills are powered by rechargeable batteries, instead of needing to rely on a trailing plug for your power. These Lithium-ion batteries are not only safer and more eco-friendly than previous rechargeable version, but they’ve gotten even more efficient over recent years, meaning you can charge them from flat in around an hour –perfect for all sorts of jobs around the house.

From hanging a mirror to putting furniture together, they can speed up your everyday projects quickly and conveniently, especially as they’re simple to store away too. And if it starts to lose power, carrying a spare battery with you can instantly double your drill time. What’s more, they’re not just limited to simple DIY tasks either. With the right attachments, you can drill through wood, metal, masonry and even brick.

TOP TIP: Cordless drill power is measured in volts. Depending on what projects you want to tackle – you may need to check your drill’s voltage. The higher the voltage, the more powerful your drill. Typically ranging from 12 to 20 volts, high-intensive jobs will usually need around an 18V drill.

Cordless Drill
Corded Drills

Corded

As you might expect, corded drills plug directly into the wall, instantly removing the need to worry about charging or replacing the battery for your drill in between or even halfway through an important job.

Not only are corded drills often slightly cheaper than their cordless electric counterparts, but they’re typically more powerful too. Working at higher speeds with greater torque, they can make short work of difficult jobs – like driving home bigger screws and boring large holes too, so they’re especially effective outdoors. Just make sure you’ve got a waterproof cover and RCA adapter to protect your outdoor plugs from surging or blowing a fuse.

TOP TIP: While cordless drills are rated in volts, corded drills are measured in watts. Wattage can range anywhere between 450 watts for day-to-day tasks to 1500 for plaster or masonry-grade hammer drills. Most homes won’t need more than a 550-watt drill.

Types of drill

As you’d expert, choosing the type of drill you need largely depends on what jobs you’ll be tackling with it.

Electric screwdrivers

Usually considered part of the drill family, electric screwdrivers are specially designed to make quick work of any screwdriving work needed around the house. Lightweight and easy to handle, this lightweight tool is an essential part of any toolbox, especially when it comes to putting together flat pack furniture or tightening and untightening screws quickly. The only thing they can’t do is drill holes.

Electric screwdrivers
Drill Driver

Drill drivers

An excellent multi-tasking choice for smaller home projects of all kinds, drill drivers not only power through wood and metal, but have forward or reverse gears so they’re suitable for screwdriving too. Lightweight and often portable, they’re ideal for making short work of shelving, hanging paintings and other smaller DIY jobs.

Combi drills

The best of all worlds for DIY drilling tasks at home, combi drills keep all the same handy features as a drill driver – but take it a step further by adding hammer-action. This pulsing mechanism gives your drill the strength it needs to drill through brick and masonry, so you can tackle both inside and outside jobs too, making them the perfect all-rounder. Just be sure to bring a spare battery, as switching between drill functions can be thirsty work.

Combi Drill
Hammer Drill

Hammer drills

Also known as impact drills, hammer drills are focused almost solely on percussion power, with variable speeds to effortlessly drill through timber, concrete, steel or brick. Hammer action enhances your drilling with a simultaneous striking action, making drilling far quicker and easier.

SDS Hammer drills

A more targeted version of a hammer drill, these drills use an SDS, or Slotted Drive System, function – which channels piston energy back and forth for better fraction, accuracy and strength on your hammer action. Also cutting down on bit slipping, SDS drills are ideal for the strongest of surfaces, like chiselling, chasing and thick masonry.

SDS Hammer drills

How do you know a drill is right for you?

When you pick up a power drill, it’s sensible to check that you can lift it comfortably and that it isn’t too heavy or bulky for you. If it’s on the heavy side you may struggle when drilling overhead, or during extended periods of work.

Check if the handle is comfortable (especially if you’re left-handed) – you may find a rubberised or ‘soft grip’ anti-slip handle gives you a better hold. T-shaped handles are usually easier and more comfortable to use because the battery is centred, which makes the drill feel more balanced. Once you’ve chosen your ideal drill, you’ll need the right drill bits for the job too.

Drill bits

Make sure your drill is set up properly for your projects by choosing the correct drill bit.

Twist bit

Often known simply as “drill bits” because they’re the most common, twist bits have a pointed end with a spiral groove behind them.

Designed to carve out holes while funnelling out the leftover waste, they come in a range of strengths, from plain steel to heat-resistant cobalt steel.

TOP TIP: If you’re tackling hammer drill work in walls or strong surfaces, you’ll need toughened tungsten carbide tipped (TCT) masonry bits.

Twist Drill bit

Insert bit

Depending on the design of your drill, it might need an insert bit to smoothly attach your driver bit before drilling.

Spade Bit

Spade bit

Spade bits, or paddle bits, are longer than most bits, with a flat end and a small tip. Designed mainly to carve holes of all sizes in wood, they’re ideal for handheld drills – although you will need plenty of torque.

Driver bit

With tips that match your flat head or cross head screws, driver bits are a fast and accurate way of driving your screws into hard materials.

Driver Bit

Drill controls

Before you start using your electric drill, it’s essential to know exactly what each part of it does, and we’re here to help.

Chuck

Chuck

The front section of the drill that holds the drill bit. Most chucks these days are keyless, meaning you can just twist them to open and swap bits over, instead of needing another tool to unscrew them.

Trigger button

Usually found under your finger in a pistol grip, your trigger button starts up the drill.

Trigger

Reverse switch

These days, many drills offer reverse functions, which turns the drill bit backwards as well as forwards – particularly useful for unscrewing screws or backing your drill bit out of a hole.

Torque control

Torque control

Also known as a clutch, torque setting determines how much drilling force is being used to turn the screw or drill bit. Just make sure you choose the right setting, otherwise you might drive your screws too deep.

TOP TIP: If your drill bit has stopped before the screw’s all the way in, it’s usually a sign that your torque is too low for the material.

Gear speed

Control how fast the drill bit spins for easier drilling. If you need to drill a range of materials of differing toughness, go for a drill with variable speed control, so you can match the speed of the drill to the job and the material you’re working on. Gear speed can also be used to get screws in quickly by spinning them faster.

The speed of a drill (measured in RPM - revolutions per minute) is important for overall performance. For precision jobs, a variable speed drill will enable you to start slowly and gradually increase the speed for more accurate, neater results. Drills with ‘fast stop’ will stop quickly when the trigger is released, giving you extra control and maximum accuracy.

Gear Speed
Depth Stop

Depth stop

Most commonly found on hammer drills, depth stops are an adjustable safety feature that you can set before drilling to make sure you only drill to a certain depth.

Added features

If you want to get the most out of your electric drill, there are some added features some drills may have that can help make your home projects even easier.

Brushless Drill

Brushless motors

A key feature of many modern drills are brushless motors, which means they’re built in a way that reduces heat generation and friction – offering higher speeds and better torque as a result. Best of all, it means your drill will last longer too.

Single battery tools

One of the most convenient recent breakthroughs when buying a new drill has been the introduction of “single battery” tools. One battery is able to power multiple tools by swapping it between them. From drills to work lights and even leaf blowers, single battery tools can help save money on batteries and chargers, while helping you add to your tool shed too.

Battery
Second Handle

Second handle

Most commonly found on hammer and masonry drills, a secondary (or auxiliary) handle means you can hold your drill with two hands, offering better stability, safety and accuracy than a single handle alone.

Light

Planning on working in dark spaces or outdoors at night? Some drill models come with an LED light on the front, which is activated when the trigger is pulled to help you see where you’re drilling.

Drill Light
Carry Case

Carry case

One you’ve found the perfect drill, keeping it safe should be high on your priorities list. So, if it doesn’t come with a sturdy carrying case, you might want to think about buying one to protect it from any bumps or scrapes.

Last but not least, before you buy your next electric drill, you may also want to think about your drill package as a whole – mainly to make sure that it has everything you need to complete the tasks you want it to do, now and in the future.

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