What is an SDS Drill?

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When it comes to heavy-duty drilling and demolition work, there is really only one tool for the job. Drilling into concrete and brick with a regular drill will take a considerable amount of time and can often even wear it out. But with an SDS drill, this is all done with ease.

The first SDS drill was manufactured in the mid 1970’s. Before this, it was remarkably difficult for tradesmen to bore holes into concrete and other similar materials. 

SDS Drills, sometimes known as demolition hammers, are an extremely powerful type of drill suited to drilling through and breaking up the toughest materials like masonry, brick and concrete. What would take a regular drill minutes, an SDS drill can do in seconds. They work twice as hard as regular drills in order to provide the power needed to complete the toughest tasks.

SDS drills aren’t typically a choice for the occasional DIY’er. These tools are built with extreme power in mind for professional job site use.

The chucks on these tools are designed to accept special SDS shanks, which are gripped firmly for greater torque. They have special slots in the shank which lock into the SDS drill chuck mechanism. This means that SDS drills will not accept regular drill bits, but there is an abundance of accessories specifically for these tools available on the market.

What does an SDS Drill do?

The SDS drill combines hammer action from hammer drills with the rotary motion of a regular drill to give them the power and functionality needed to complete these heavy-duty tasks.

Rotary action and rotary with hammer function mean they can effortlessly drill into wood, metal, concrete and other hard surfaces with ease.

Unlike regular hammer drills, SDS drills apply to hammer action through a hammer mechanism in their chuck, allowing the SDS drill bits to move backward and forwards within the chuck for more efficient and effective drilling.

The chuck and the drill bits work in each other’s favour to produce the extra force and torque needed to drill through these materials. For heavy duty drilling, a standard combi drill just won’t suffice. You need power, durability and quality AKA an SDS Drill.

Functions of an SDS Drill

SDS drills typically have 3 modes which can be switched up depending on the task. Those that have 3 modes can be used with hammer and rotary, hammer only, or rotary only.

Rotary function: The chuck turns without any hammering action. This mode is typically used for drilling simple holes in wood and metal.

Hammer function: The drill bit moves backward and forwards, but the chuck does not turn. This mode is ideal for chiseling and breaking concrete, masonry, and other tough materials.

Rotary and hammer function: The chuck spins at the same time that the drill bit moves backwards and forwards. This mode basically combines the two previous modes together. It is used for drilling holes and breaking up tough materials like concrete and masonry, and is the chosen mode for the toughest tasks.

A downside to SDS Drills is that they can be relatively costly. But for those working in the professional trade regularly undertaking heavy-duty drilling and chiseling tasks, are well worth the money and will pay themselves off fairly quickly.

Types of SDS Drill

There are two types of SDS drill; SDS Plus and SDS Max. Both are designed for heavy duty use, though SDS Max drills are typically bigger, capable of chiselling and drilling faster and harder than SDS Plus drills. But due to the power they need to output, they are often only available as corded tools. For extremely heavy-duty drilling in concrete and masonry, SDS Max is the preferred choice, though for most professional tasks, an SDS plus drill will suffice.

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SDS drills are available in both corded and cordless versions. Corded SDS drills provide you with extended power for all day use, but cordless SDS drills give you the freedom and convenience to roam freely around the site without having to worry about any trailing or restrictive cables.

Whilst SDS drills can easily drill through wood and metal, they are predominantly designed for use in the toughest materials.

SDS drills are perfect for demolition work and are used in many trades worldwide. They have changed drilling for the better, making light work of the most vigorous tasks. There are many accessories available for use with SDS drills; SDS plus drill bits for wood, metal, concrete, SDS flat chisels, spade chisels and more. No job is too hard for these tools to complete.

Parts of an SDS drill

The following diagram shows the most important parts of an SDS drill.

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SDS drills often come supplied with a depth stop and side handle included as standard. The depth stop allows you to choose how far you drill into a material in precision drilling tasks and the side handle offers you greater control and stability when the tool is in use.

Pros and Cons of SDS Drills

Pros of SDS Drills:

  • Capable of drilling into the toughest materials with ease that other drills simply could not manage
  • Their range of modes allows you to choose the best one for the application
  • The power supply can be either electric or cordless, depending on your personal preference

Cons of SDS Drills:

  • They are typically a lot heavier than standard drills, though new technology is seeing more lightweight versions being introduced to the market
  • They can be costly (although if you work in the professional trade, they will pay themselves off fairly quickly)
  • They aren’t compatible with standard drill bits

As with any power tool, when operating an SDS drill we always suggest wearing the correct PPE. A good dust extractor, preferably an M Class model, is also essential when drilling through tough materials as the dust can be harmful if breathed in.

Most leading brands like Dewalt, Bosch, and Makita have a great selection of SDS drills available to meet your intended purpose, price range, and preference. These brands are also constantly developing new technology to make these tools more powerful than ever. Look out for features like brushless motors, advanced battery technology, and vibration dampening to reduce the effects of the tool felt by the user.

There’s a huge selection of SDS drills available on the market. Use them to drill holes of all sizes in multiple materials, to lift up and chip off old tiles, for demolition tasks and to carry out other jobs that standard drills are just not capable of.

Why trust Handyman.Guide?

s written by Itamar Ben-Dor, who has 25 years of experience in renovations, carpentry, locks, creation, landscaping, painting, furniture construction, and furniture renovation, works with concrete, plumbing, door repair, and more.

Itamar Ben-Dor has been in the home improvement business for over 25 years. Itamar Ben-Dor is a jack of all trades. He's worked in the renovation field for years, doing everything from locksmithing to carpentry. He's a small repairs specialist. But his true passion lies in furniture construction and renovation - he loves seeing old pieces come back to life with some new woodwork or a fresh coat of paint.

He has taken courses on many topics in these fields at professional colleges in Israel. Over the years, Itamar has also become quite skilled in gardening, carpentry, and renovations. He's worked on projects of all sizes, from massive renovations to small repairs. No job is too big or too small for him!

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Itamar Ben Dor
Itamar Ben Dor

My father is a practical engineer, and as a hobby he was also involved in construction, renovations, carpentry and woodwork at home; So there was always tools, saws, drills and more at home. Already I was a little kid Dad and I would renovate the house. Once we built a shed for garden tools, once we did flooring for the garden, once we renovated the bathroom and that’s the way it is. Long before there was an internet, directories and plans. We would build things, kitchen cabinets, install electrical appliances, do flooring, pour concrete and more ... I in this blog want to pass on to you the experience I have gained over the last 20 plus-minus years since I was a child to this day and give you information about the best tools, project plans, guides and more.