When I first started Dunn DIY, I really didn't know much about working with power tools. I approached them with so much caution that projects took me twice as long as they should have taken, and I was never getting to use the tool's full potential. In this series, I'm sharing everything you need to know about tools so you can DIY with confidence—from how to use a power drill to what type of drill to buy. In this post, we're starting with one of my favorite tools (and the tool I'd most recommend adding to your toolbox if you don't already have one): a power drill. It's so handy to have around the home, and it makes most projects easier and faster to complete. Today, we're talking when to use a drill. Let's get to it! 

pre-drill power drill

When to Use a Power Drill—And When Not To

For most projects—from hanging a mirror to building a bench—a power drill is going to be your best bet for getting the job done quickly and easily. The short answer for when to use a power drill over a hand-powered tool is: pretty much always.

A power drill is great for pre-drilling holes for nails or screws. I pre-drill holes before hammering nails or driving screws into hard, knotty material (or material that’s prone to splitting). My basic rule is that I pre-drill when I’m building something detailed and long-lasting, and I don't pre-drill when I’m throwing something together quickly. You’ll quickly learn when pre-drilling makes sense for you. After pre-drilling, you can use a driver bit in the drill for driving in screws.

That said, there are instances when you shouldn’t use a power drill, like when you’re working with something delicate and there’s potential for overdriving. For example, you’d never use a power drill for your eyeglasses. You should also steer clear of using a power drill when you’re working with short, small screws or plastic screws—there’s a good chance the drill will spin-out and strip the head of the screw.

You also shouldn’t use a power drill when an impact driver is best suited for the task at hand. An impact driver is made for driving screws into hard surfaces or driving very long screws. Rather than relying on the strength of your arm when you're using a power drill, an impact driver provides downforce. It's good for large timbers, as well as when you have a lot of screws to drive in, and makes jobs like building a deck so much easier. When using an impact driver, make sure you use impact driver–grade bits—otherwise you risk the possibility of them shearing off. Fair warning: An impact driver makes a lot of noise.

when to use a power drill

What to Do if You Don't Have a Power Drill

If you don’t have a power drill, there are workarounds. If you need to drill a hole, use a hand drill. Some are egg beater–style, while other hand drills are push/pull-style. Whichever one you choose will require some elbow grease, so be prepared to work!

For driving screws, use, well, a screwdriver.

Remember: Working with a new power tool can feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. The hardest part is picking one out and getting comfortable as you operate it. Once you have a few reps under your belt, you'll be drilling and driving with confidence in no time!

Stay tuned for part two of this series: how to use a power drill.