Overhead Drilling in to Concrete

All concrete anchors require holes. So if you want to attach a hanger or secure something to a concrete ceiling overhead, drilling into concrete is a fact of life. Traditional methods include climbing a ladder with a hammer drill, setting up scaffolding or renting a scissor lift. Fatigue and muscle strain from repeatedly drilling overhead can lead to injury to the neck, back and shoulders. Safety should always be a major concern when an operator is performing a strenuous and labor intensive job for long periods of time.

Several patents have been filed dating back to 1984 for machines like “overhead drill jig” and “Jig assembly for drilling vertically upward”. There was even a University of California study funded through national labor and safety grants. As a result, there are several machines being marketed. These machines are designed to drill holes from ¼” to ¾” in diameter for commercial building trades (fire sprinklers, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, suspended ceilings and data communications).

The most expensive of these tools comes with a special drill cradle, a mobile base, a winch system to push the drill against the ceiling and a vacuum system to reduce dust. There is one model that drills two holes at once, a set distance apart. These tools are bulky and require preparation and planning to set up. However, they definitely make the job less onerous. These tools retail from around $2,000 to $3,500.

A less expensive alternative places the hammer drill at the end of a telescoping pole, which is then lifted to the ceiling by hand or with a foot pedal. These tools were designed to fasten suspended ceiling wires to concrete ceilings in Canada on jobs where powder actuated tools are restricted. They have proven to be versatile and commercial grade, able to withstand the punishment of high volume jobs.

The most economical of the telescoping poles uses a ceiling probe to switch the hammer drill on and off. As the probe is depressed against the ceiling, it pushes the trigger of the hammer drill, thereby activating the trigger. This mechanism eliminates the need for a remote switch and allows the operator to hold the tool securely with both hands.

Beware of tools that do not place the hammer drill directly against the ceiling. Hammer drills are engineered to impact and rotate a carbide bit at a speed that drills a hole efficiently in hard concrete. When you put a long extension between the hammer drill and the ceiling, you lose efficiency and will eventually destroy the extension tool.