How to Drill into Lintels?

While putting up blinds or curtain rails you might have experienced some resistance. This resistance is caused by lintels which are a structural support built on windows and doors. While drilling into lintels can be a challenging task, with the right information you can easily accomplish it. In this article I will guide you about the different type of lintels you can come across and how you can drill through each of them.

How to Drill into Lintels? Use a standard drill bit for drilling into a timber lintel. For stone, lintel uses a metal-bonded diamond drill bit. You can drill into the brick lintel, reinforced brick lintel, and reinforced cement concrete lintel using masonry bits until you hit a metal bar. For steel lintel and steel bars inside a brick and concrete lintels use HSS drill bits.

The tools and techniques you need to use vary depending on the material of lintel you are trying to drill into. Let’s discuss in detail the different types of lintel and how you can easily drill into them.

Methods for Drilling into Different Types of Lintel:

A lintel is a beam placed above openings like doors and windows to support the structural load. There are different materials used for lintel beams depending on the design and also location of the building. We will be going through each type and the methods for drilling into it one by one.

Drilling Timber Lintel:

Timber lintels were widely in use in the past; however, they have been replaced by other materials due to their flammability and low durability. You can still find wooden lintels in hilly areas due to their ease of availability. If it is a timber lintel you want to drill into you are actually in luck as they are much easier to drill into as compared to other types of lintel. 

Tools: For drilling into a timber lintel you need a standard cordless drill with standard bits. Standard drills come with a clutch setting for torque control which comes in handy for drilling into wood. You can also use specialized bits based on the size and shape of the hole you need to drill. Forstner bits are useful for drilling holes with flat bottoms, speed bore bits easily remove waste from the hole and spade bits can be used for drilling holes with larger diameter. 

Method:

  • Mark the position of the point where you want to drill a hole.  Also mark the depth of your hole with a tape on the bit. Make sure you are using sharp drill bit to avoid splintering.
  • Start at a slow speed and once your bit has entered the timber increase the speed.
  • Apply as little pressure as possible. Let the drill guide you and not the other way around.

Drilling Stone Lintel:

Stone lintels are also not used very commonly as they can only be used in buildings having stone facing or constructed with stone masonry. Due to their high cost and lack of availability you will find them mostly in areas where stones are found in abundance. While you are in luck if your house is built with stone, you might be in a bit of a trouble if you need to drill into a stone lintel. With the right tools and information you can drill into a stone as well.

Tools: For drilling into stone lintel you will need a hammer drill or SDS rotary drill paired with a metal bonded diamond drill bit.

Method: 

  • Mark the position for your hole carefully as stone lintels are difficult to repair once drilled. Also mark the depth of your hole with a tape. 
  • Keep a water supply for lubricating the drill bit as diamond drill bits should never feel hot to touch. 
  • Enable the drill’s hammer feature and apply gentle and steady pressure as you start drilling.  Start at a slow speed and increase the speed as you go.
  • If you feel the bit is getting hot lubricate it with water.
  • If your bit gets stuck in the stone turn off the drill and reset it to rotate the bit anti-clockwise. Start the drill again and it will be dislodged from the stone. You can now resume your drilling.

Drilling Brick Lintel

Brick lintels are used for small openings with light loads as they have a low bearing capacity. A brick lintel consists of bricks laid on end or bricks laid on edge. For openings of more than a meter and heavier loads, reinforced brick lintels are used. In reinforced brick lintels, steel bars or rods are used to strengthen the lintel. While drilling into a brick lintel is not the most difficult job, you do need to use the right tools and technique.

Tools: As it is not very easy to drill into a brick lintel, you need either a hammer drill or SDS rotary drill. You will need masonry bits specially designed for drilling into bricks and concrete. Tungsten carbide masonry bits are the best suited for a brick lintel. For putting in the screw you will also need a wall plug. For reinforced brick lintels you might need high speed steel (HSS) bit if you hit a steel rod. 

Method:

  • Decide a width and depth for the hole. Since you need to insert a wall plug select a diameter according to the wall plug you want to use. Now mark the position of the hole.
  • Keep a water bowl for cooling the drill bit.
  • Start drilling without the hammer function in small bursts to form a shallow hole before increasing the power. Now switch on hammer mode and start applying more pressure.
  • Make sure that the drill bit does not heat up by dipping in the water bowl. 
  • If you want to drill a larger hole use a smaller bit before enlarging the hole with a bigger bit.
  • If you hit a steel rod during the process you can either choose to move the hole or use a high speed steel bit to drill into the steel.
  • Put in the wall plug and insert the screw in it.

Drilling Concrete Lintel:

Concrete lintels are commonly used in modern constructions due to their low cost and durable nature. There are two types of concrete lintels namely plain concrete lintel and reinforced concrete lintel. Plain concrete lintels are used for smaller openings of up to 1 meter and reinforced concrete lintels are used for larger openings. Drilling into concrete is one tough job and you can do it by following the instructions below.

Tools: Although you can drill into concrete with a hammer drill, using a SDS rotary drill is much recommended as it significantly eases your job. You need to have masonry drill bits from smallest up to the size you need and HSS bit if you are drilling into reinforced steel. You will also need wall plugs for putting in the screws.

Method:

  • Mark the position for the hole and decide on a depth and width based on the size of wall plug. 
  • Begin by drilling a shallow hole on low power before increasing the speed and engaging the hammer feature.
  • Use the smallest bit to drill a pilot hole and work your way up to your required size. 
  • Retract the bit every 10 seconds to remove debris from the hole.
  • Prevent heating of the drill bit by using water.
  • For an exceptionally hard patch use a hammer with masonry nail to prevent your drill bit from getting damaged.
  • If you are drilling into reinforced concrete lintel you can use an HSS bit to drill into the steel. Make sure that the hammer feature is turned off while drilling into the steel rod.

Drilling Steel Lintel:

Steel lintels are made with rolled steel joists embedded in concrete. Due to their high cost and bearing capacity they are reserved for special cases were the openings are large and loads are heavy. Drilling into a steel lintel is probably the toughest as you need to drill through concrete first and then through the steel itself. 

Tools:  For drilling into a steel lintel use a SDS rotary drill paired with masonry bits for the concrete and HSS bit for the steel itself. You can also use multi-purpose oil or a specialized cutting oil to reduce friction and prevent heat-up. Self-tapping screws are the best for using with a steel lintel.

Method:

  • Start by marking the position of your hole and deciding on a diameter as well as depth.
  • For the masonry follow the steps given in above section until you hit the steel.
  • Turn off the hammer feature on the drill and use a HSS drill bit.
  • Make sure your drill bit is sharp to prevent unnecessarily burdening your drill. Also lubricate your drill bit with oil.
  • Start with a small bit at first and move up to larger drill bits. Drill at a slow speed so as to not heat the drill bit.

Fixing into Lintels:

Once you are done drilling into the lintel, now you need to get to fixing. In case of lintel you most probably are going to be fixing a curtain rod to it. Once you have an appropriately sized hole insert your wall plug. Now align the hole in the item to be fixed with the hole in the lintel and use an electric screwdriver/drill for screwing. Fixing into a steel lintel is done using self-tapping screws. Make sure that you have a drill bit that properly fits the screw. Use the electric screwdriver/drill at a low speed to screw into the steel lintel. 

Alternatives to Drilling into Lintels:

As drilling into lintels can be tricky and requires some specialized equipment sometimes people prefer not going through the trouble. If you are one of these people who are overwhelmed with the thought of having to drill into a lintel you can always choose to use a piece of timber. This piece of timber can be glued to the wall using industrial adhesives and you can fix your curtain rod to it. 

Related Questions

Can I use a regular drills to drill into concrete? 

While you can use a standard drill for drilling into concrete, it requires considerably more effort and time. Having an SDS Hammer drill can greatly simplify your job. If you do not own one and do not want to buy a new one, you can always hire an SDS drill for your job.

Is it safe to drill into Lintel?

A common concern among diy enthusiasts regarding drilling into lintels is that it can potentially weaken the lintel. While drilling holes in any material can weaken it, drilling a few small holes in the hole does not significantly affect its strength and is considered safe.