How to Use a Power Drill for Screws

How to Use a Power Drill for Screws
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How to Use a Power Drill for Screws

Power drills are incredible tools for driving screws, making it faster and easier to attach screws, bolts, and fasteners of all kinds. Today, more people are referring to these versatile tools as “drill/drivers,” because they are so frequently used for both purposes.

Using Screwdriver Bits on a Drill

Whether you have a keyed or keyless chuck on your drill, it is a fairly simple process to replace drill bits with screwdriver bits. Make sure the bits are the correct size for the screws you are using. A magnetic bit holder is a fantastic accessory, not only because it makes changing screwdriver bits faster and easier, but also because the magnet will hold steel screws in place at the end of the bit. This makes driving screws faster and easier, and keeps your hands out of the way in tight spaces.

Assuming you have the correct bits for your screws, a drill is an excellent screwdriver. However, there are a few things to know so that you can properly use a power drill for screws, to avoid overheating your tool and damaging your materials.

Using a Power Drill to Screw Into Wood

When drilling screws into wood, it’s important to avoid splitting the wood. The closer you are to the end of the wood, the more important it is to avoid splits and use the correct technique.

Pre-bore clearance holes

Clearance holes are bored into the top piece of the wood, at a slightly larger diameter than the screw. This allows the screw to pass through the hole with less friction, to avoid splitting the wood, and to bring more durability to the attachment with the wood piece below.

Drill pilot holes

Pilot holes are drilled into the bottom piece of wood, at a slightly smaller diameter than the screw. This prevents splitting, and makes the attachment more secure.

Countersink and counterbore

If you are using a flat-head screw and working with soft wood, it is not usually necessary to pre-drill a countersink hole in order for the screw head to be flush with the surface.

However, if you want the screw head to be flush with the surface of your wood, and are working with hard wood, you need to use a countersink bit to pre-drill a shallow hole into the board.

If you want the screw head to be below the wood surface, you need to use a spade bit or brad-point bit to counterbore a hole to receive the screw head.

Combination countersink bits

If you do a lot of screwing into wood, it may be worth investing in a combination countersink bit set. These bits drill pilot holes and countersinks in a single step, and come in standard sizes to match standard screws. They aren’t as versatile as doing the two-step process manually, but are a fast and simple way to make perfect pilot holes and countersinks over and over again, which will exactly match and receive your screws.

Using a Power Drill to Screw Into Masonry

Using screws with brick, cement, concrete, and other masonry is very different than screwing into wood. You will need a masonry bit, with the hardness and durability to handle these hard materials, and an anchor in order to securely fasten anything to masonry. Different anchors are rated for different tasks, but each will come with recommendations for the correct screws, fasteners, and pilot hole settings.

Difference Between Hammer Drills and Impact Drivers

If you are drilling screws into masonry, it can be helpful to have a power drill with impact driver capability. Note that a hammer drill and an impact driving drill are not the same thing. A hammer drill is excellent for drilling holes into masonry like brick and concrete, but cannot be used for driving screws, because it does not rotate. An impact driver brings extra power for rotational motion, and can be used for driving screws into masonry, but cannot be used for drilling holes.

Pre-drill a pilot hole

Using a hammer drill and a masonry bit, drill a hole that is the same size as your anchor (or follow the instructions that come with your anchor), and at least as deep as the screw will penetrate. Allow for the thickness of the fasteners or whatever you are hanging.

Insert the anchor

Using a hammer, gently tap the anchor into the hole. It should fit snugly but not resist

Screw into the anchor

Attach your fasteners to the masonry and screw into the anchor. If your drill has an impact driver capability, it can help to set heavy screws or bolts in masonry.

Combi drills

If you do a lot of drilling into masonry, you may want to invest in a combi drill, which combines basic drill features with hammer drill features, but cannot be used to drive screws. Or chose an impact drill, which brings enough power to drill into masonry, and can be used to drive screws.

Using a Power Drill to Screw Into Drywall

Drywall screws and drywall screwdrivers are specifically designed to work with that material, and drive screws that are countersunk perfectly level with the surface of the board. Screws that are underdriven show up when painting or finishing drywall, while screws that are overdriven penetrate the paper and damage the structural integrity of drywall. Professionals use drywall screwdrivers for this purpose, but if you only have one home improvement project, you may not want to invest in a specialized tool.

Use a screw setter bit

A drywall screw setter or screw dimpler is a guard that prevents overdriving screws into drywall. The best screw dimplers are spring-loaded, disengaging the clutch when the screw is at the proper depth.

Adjusting the Clutch on Your Power Drill

The clutch is an often misunderstood and underutilized feature on a power drill, but understanding how it works is essential for driving screws with the greatest efficiency for you and for the tool. Proper clutch settings prevent overdriving or underdriving your screws. The clutch controls how much force the drill brings to the task: low numbers represent lower torque, high numbers represent higher torque.

As you drive in a screw, the drill monitors the amount of torque being applied. If the amount of force needed exceeds the setting in the clutch, it will “slip,” or disengage. The drill motor will continue to run, but the chuck will stop turning.

For most jobs, it is best to start with the clutch settings in the middle. If your clutch is slipping or underdriving screws, adjust the clutch to a slightly higher number, until you have the right setting for your current job.

The clutch is particularly essential when you want to keep from overdriving screws. If your fasteners or hardware are delicate and will easily mar, you are working with soft woods and want to hit exact screw depths, or are doing other precision work, the proper use of the clutch is essential.

The best way to use your clutch on a delicate job is to start at the lowest setting and begin to drill your screw. When the bit slips and won’t drive the screw further, turn the clutch up a couple of notches. When the bit slips again and won’t drive the screw further, adjust the clutch up a bit. By making gradual adjustments, you will arrive at the perfect amount of torque for that job, without overdriving any of your screws.


Knowing how and when to drill pilot holes, what kinds of screws to use, and how to use your clutch properly, you know everything you need to know about how to use a power drill to drive screws. A drill is one of the most useful and versatile power tools to have in the home, and with just a few bits you can get even more out of it.


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