How to Drill Out a Rivet

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Do you need to know how to remove a rivet? There are many projects where you may need to drill them out, so it helps to understand the process first. The rivet is a fastener and there are likely many of them placed around your home.

We made sure to include everything you need to know here.

What are Rivets?

Rivets are permanent fasteners that can be used to hold together a variety of material, including:

Pop rivets

Rivets are thick pieces of iron that have heads over them. They were heated and placed into metal, allowing them to provide a secure connection between components. The method used to attach these fasteners ensure they are very tight and durable- making them hard to take out using most methods.

Removing these rivets may seem challenging at first, but once you know how to do it, the job goes by quickly.

Types of Rivets

There are at least four different kinds of rivet types. You will most likely find the smaller pop rivet on your home.

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The tubular, blind, solid, and split are the other rivet categories. However, for home projects, you will encounter the pop rivet.

Throughout the rest of this article, we will be referring to the pop rivet specifically.

What You Need

Once you have everything, you are ready to start the project. Keep in mind you will also likely need a ladder to reach the rivets. These fasteners are usually located up high. You want to make sure the ladder is properly grounded before you start climbing it. Don’t start working up high until you feel comfortable and secure in your position.

Removing Pop Rivets With a Drill

The rivets you will find around your home the most are pop rivets. They are commonly used in making residential buildings. They are supposed to be permanent, meaning taking them out is very challenging. You will need to make sure you have the proper tools before you start.

Keep in mind that you will be destroying the rivets. When you take them out, they can not be used again. The simplest way to take out these fasteners is to use a drill. The process involves using a drill bit to cut out the inner part of the rivet, so you can take the head off of the shaft.

We recommend that you use a drill bit made from a strong material to do this job. Titanium is durable enough to withstand the friction from the drill. Avoid a jobbler drill bit as it is too soft.

Plus, always make sure that you are wearing protective equipment on your eyes. When drilling or cutting metal, there could be sparks or dust stirred into the air.

1. Locate Rivets

First, you will want to find all of the rivets that need to be removed. They are usually installed in multiple places to create a sturdy hold. That means you will need to remove more than one at a time.

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Additionally, rivets are often up high. You can find them around fascia under the roof. You will need to be comfortable climbing up high and have a sturdy ladder. You should also have a buddy assisting you throughout the process.

Start by inspecting the area you want to remove the rivets from. You should try to figure out what they are connected to and what each rivet does. They may be connected to different parts.

2. Use the Correct Drill Bit

These types of rivets will have a small hole in the middle. This hole will determine what type of drill bit you need to use to take it out. Luckily, there is an easy way to figure out what size to use.

All you need to do is hold your drill bit up to the hole. If the bit slides inside, it’s too small and you should try another one. The perfect size is a drill bit that is barely larger than the hole. In most cases, an ⅛” is going to be a good choice.

When you have your bit, insert it into the drill and make sure it’s not going to fall out while you use it.

3. Drilling the Rivet

Now you are ready to drill out the rivet! Place the end of the drill bit into the rivet’s hole. When you start the drill, you need to keep the speed very low. Instead of high speed, you want to put a lot of tension onto the rivet.

You don’t want to break the drill bit, which is likely very thin. So, be sure that you take your time and keep the drill straight. After a few seconds, the rivet should start to loosen and the head will come off. When you continue drilling, the bit should dig the rivet through the rest of the way.

Make sure you remove all the rivets at once, then you can take apart the object they were holding together. Having a buddy is good for ensuring nothing suddenly falls while you are working, since there is nothing holding the components together anymore.

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When drilling, you want to take your time. It helps you to stay focused and ensure you are keeping the drill parallel to the surface. If you turn it too much, the drill can meet resistance or stall out. The goal is to make the head loose by applying pressure, but you don’t have to push hard enough to bend the drill bit.

Once you have the rivets out, you might need to replace them. If you are sure you don’t need to refill this space, you can simply skip over the below step.

Hand holding drill bits

4. Switch Out With Gutter Screws

Depending on the job you were doing, you might want to replace the rivets with gutter screws. If you happen to have a pop riveter tool, you can line it up in the holes you just made. Then, you can easily install the new screws.

However, if you don’t have one, that’s okay! You can still accomplish this task. Start by lining up the holes, then insert the gutter screw inside of all the holes. Tighten the gutter screws with your screwdriver and you are all set. There are plenty of options for this:

  • Phillips Head
  • Nut driver
  • Flat-Head

These screws work with a variety of screwdrivers, so we are confident you already have something at home that you can use. As long as all the parts are lining up, the gutter screws will hold everything together securely.

If the old holes are not lining up anymore, you can make new ones using the same drill bit you already have connected to the drill. If you do this process carefully, you can make it look like the original rivets were never taken out.

Gutter screws can blend into almost any surface. They also come in many different colors, allowing you to match them easily to the metal surface. These are another very secure form of fasteners, so you can be confident they hold your projects together well.

Learn how to cut gutters for installing on your home.

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How to Remove Rivets Without a Drill

There are two simple methods you can use if you need to remove a rivet but you don’t have a drill.

Hand Tool Method

What You Need

  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Punch

However, if you do not have a drill, you aren’t completely out of luck! You can also use a hammer or chisel to push the rivets out. You will want to wear safety goggles before hitting metals, so that you don’t risk hurting your eyes.

Put the sharp end of the chisel under the edge of the rivet’s head. Make sure it is secure, then tap the head of the chisel with your hammer. The head should come loose after a few seconds. From there, you can use a punch to push the rest of the rivet through.

This method is harder, especially when you are up high. You will need to be careful and take your time. It helps to have someone with you who can steady the ladder or catch anything that drops while you chisel away.

Using a Grinder

If you don’t have a chisel, you can still remove the rivet using an angle grinder. This tool should be cordless if possible, since you likely need to be up high.

What You Need

  • Punch
  • Hammer
  • Angle Grinder

Start by keeping the grounder level with the surface. Hold it over the rivet’s head, then slowly grind off as much of it as you can. Make sure you come at it from different angles to completely remove it.

Then, use the punch and hammer to remove the rest of the rivet’s body as we covered with the above method.

Summary

Using a drill to remove a rivet is the easiest way to accomplish this task. There are alternative methods, but this way is the fastest. We recommend that you give it a try next time you need to take out some rivets.

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If you don’t have a drill, you can still use those other methods to get the job done. Overall, this task is simple and you should be able to accomplish it with ease.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.