How to Drill Into Drywall | Tips to Avoid Drilling Into Pipes & Wires

A light switch is installed in new home construction.

How to Drill Into Drywall – From time to time, certain projects require drilling holes into the walls of a home. For example, drywall anchors, commonly used for hanging pictures and other décor, typically require a hole to be predrilled before anchor installation. Drilling holes may also be required to hang heavier items such as TV mounts, surround sound speakers, and mirrors, to name a few, so they can be securely anchored into the framing behind the drywall. Care must be taken when drilling into the walls of a home, as hazards may lie just below the surface. Common in-wall hazards include electrical wiring, hot and cold water lines, drain pipes, and natural gas lines—the following aims to shed light on these potential hazards and how to avoid drilling into them.




Typical Wiring Patterns in New Homes

Electrical wiring exists as the most widespread hazard when it comes to drilling through walls. Every outlet, light switch, wall sconce, etc., has at least one run of wire going to and from it. As a general rule of thumb, wiring for light switches runs vertically up the wall to the ceiling above, where it is routed to the appropriate light fixture. Wiring for outlets around the lower wall section can run either vertically down from the ceiling or horizontally through the studs from one outlet to the next. In multi-level homes, these wiring runs may come from the floor below instead of coming down from the ceiling.

Holes should not be drilled directly above, below, or to the side of any electrical switches or outlets. Per the 2018 International Residential Code, electrical wires should be set back no less than 1-1/4 inches from the edge of the framing lumber.1 Limiting drilling depth to less than 1-1/4 inches is a good start to reducing the risk of damaging wiring behind the drywall.

The 2018 International Residential Code also requires steel plates or sleeves to be installed to protect wiring that is run horizontally through the studs in the wall.1 These plates are applied where the wire passes through to prevent drill bits or fasteners from contacting the wire at stud locations. Therefore, if significant resistance is encountered when drilling through the drywall at a stud location, it may be due to one of these protective plates, and drilling should be stopped.


How Are Pipes Run Through Walls?

Like the electrical wiring running throughout a home, plumbing tubing and pipes are hidden just behind the drywall. Every plumbing fixture in a home, whether a shower, sink, washing machine, or others, has water supply lines and waste drain piping running to and from them. In addition to water lines, HVAC refrigerant lines and natural gas plumbing are also located in many homes’ walls. Therefore, the same care taken to avoid electrical wiring must also be considered to avoid plumbing lines.

Plumbing pipes are installed in new home construction.


In general, plumbing lines run either down from above or up from below to supply fixtures and appliances. There are exceptions, such as multiple fixtures in close proximity on the same wall and restrictive floor plan layout. In some scenarios, the plumbing lines may be run horizontally through the wall framing. Much like the safeties in place for electrical wiring, the 2018 International Residential Code also requires plumbing lines to be protected by steel plates in locations where they pass through framing members and are closer than 1-1/4 inches to the edge of the framing member.2

It is important to remember that plumbing fixtures may not be visible from both sides of a wall.  Prior to any drilling, ensure the wall cavity is free from any plumbing fixtures by inspecting both sides of the wall at the proposed drilling location.  This inspection also extends to exterior walls, as a hose spigot may be located on the exterior of the home.

Helpful Tools

Having a couple of standard tools on hand can significantly reduce the chances of drilling into wiring or plumbing. The first and simplest tools are a tape measure and a piece of masking tape. Generally speaking, the sheetrock used for wall application is ½ inch thick. Therefore, an easy way to limit drilling depth is to measure just over half an inch back from the drill bit’s tip and apply a masking tape “flag.” With a tape flag applied, a consistent, safe drilling depth is achieved efficiently. If you’re installing drywall anchors using a longer screw, it is best to drive it by hand using a screwdriver.

Another great tool to keep on hand is a stud finder. Many of the stud finders on the market today are sensitive enough to register not only the framing lumber behind the drywall but also the signature of electrical wiring and even some plumbing. Of course, a stud finder is not a foolproof way of identifying every electrical or plumbing hazard in the wall. Still, it may pick up a signal strong enough to warrant further investigation.

The type of drill bit being used must also be taken into consideration. Standard twist drills with a 118-degree or 135-degree cutting angle are preferred in most applications. Spade bits and Forstner bits cut more aggressively and can more easily damage wiring and plumbing below the surface of the drywall. Using the tape flag described above on a standard twist drill is a safer choice.

Best Practices

  • Before drilling any holes, ensure access is available to the water and gas shut-offs for the home.
  • If applicable, turn off breakers for the electrical circuits feeding the work area (ensure additional lighting is available if required)
  • Do not drill any deeper than is needed (1/2-inch for typical residential drywall)
  • Do not drill directly above, below, left, or right of any switches, outlets, or plumbing fixtures
  • Inspect both sides of the wall for possible hazards prior to drilling

Final Thoughts

Installing a big screen TV, a mirror, décor, or family photos on the wall is a great way to make a house become a home. Many of these items require holes to be drilled into the home’s walls. 

While there is no “one size fits all” rule for drilling holes in the walls of a home, the guidelines presented above should significantly reduce the chances of encountering the hazards that lurk behind the drywall. 






How To Drill A Countersunk Spade Bit Pilot Hole

Drilling a Countersunk Pilot Hole In

spade bits for wood

Today we are going to learn how to make a countersunk pilot hole in wood from our fastener expert, Bob. He told us that he has seen many people attempt to drill this hole and approach it the wrong way. Most people start the same way the would if they were using a standard drill bit. First the pilot hole, then the countersink. This however, does not work with spade bits due to the way the drill bit is engineered.

A countersunk hole is where a secondary larger hole is cut on top of the first hole so that the head of the nut or bolt can sit inside of the material and not be exposed. There are many applications for these types of holes and you probably see them around quite often without even realizing it. Fasteners may be countersunk in furniture, buildings, banisters, decks, etc.

Spade Bits have a triangular tip that digs into the wood before the outer edges of the bit do. This not only acts as a guide for the rest of the bit but as a stabilizing factor as well. Bob told us that if we drill the pilot hole first we would have a hard time drilling the countersunk area and would damage the wood.

drilling a countersunk hole - spade bit

He set out to give us an example by showing us the proper way to install a lag screw into some wood.



The first step when drilling a countersunk hole with a spade bit was to start with the countersink itself. This will allow both the larger spade bit (countersink) and the smaller (pilot hole) to grip the material and prevent “wobbling”.

drilling a pilot hole with a spade bit

So first we drilled the countersunk hole and then we set about drilling the pilot hole inside of the countersunk hole. It was a surprisingly easy task.

We tested this again by doing the process backwards and determined that what our fastener expert had said was true. Not only was it difficult to drill the holes but there was some significant chipping to the surface of the wood. While we were able to drill the hole the result was an unprofessional mess.

Our fastener expert also chose a very large spade bit for the countersink which he later explained was to allow breathing room for the socket that he would use to install the lag screw. Otherwise, it will be difficult to install without the socket getting caught up in the hole.

installing a lag screw with a socket wrench

The Result

using blue tape to prevent chipping in wood during drilling

After comparing the two holes, we determined that the hole we drilled first (properly) was much better. The edges were smoother, barely any chipping on the outside of the wood, everything was in good shape. The second hole was abysmal. With chewed up and chipped edges from the bit bouncing around. Our fastener expert said we can do even better. Pulling out a roll of his trusty blue painters tape, he laid it over the wood and drilled the countersunk pilot hole again. This time there were virtually no chips in the wood at all. The tape re-enforced the edges of the hole being drilled to prevent chipping.

Below are the three drilled holes and the results:

  1. Hole 1 – Left – Was done properly with no tape. Light chipping occurred around the edges but was still a fairly clean.
  2. Hole 2 – Middle – This hole had the pilot hole driven first and as a result has heavy chipping around the external edges. The inside edges also weren’t smooth from so much bouncing around.
  3. Hole 3 – Right – Done by first covering with blue tape, then drilling the countersunk hole and then the pilot hole, this hole is the cleanest of all three with virtually no chipping and clean sides.
    comparison of various ways of drilling countersunk pilot holes with spade bits

How To Drill a Countersunk Pilot Hole With Spade Bits

How To Drill a Countersunk Pilot Hole With Spade Bits Thumbnail
How To Drill a Countersunk Pilot Hole With Spade Bits Transcript

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Bob: Welcome back to Albany County Fasteners – Fasteners 101. I’m Bob and today I’m going to show you how to properly drill a pilot hole, along with a countersink, using a spade bit. So let’s get started.

I have here two Spade bits. I’m going to drill a pilot hole and a countersink with these two Spade bits. These are wood Spade bits and I’m going to drill for this 3/8″ lag screw I have here. I have my ratchet too.

So, what’s key here about the pilot hole, I’m sorry, about the countersink hole is that you need to have enough diameter to be able to use a ratchet to drive the lag screw. It’s important that you get the right size. So for a 3/8” lag screw, I’m using a 5/16” pilot hole and a 9/16” socket. I’m using an 1-1/4” spade bit to basically give me enough room. So if this moves around, it’s not tight. It makes it very hard to get the socket out. It becomes a real issue.

Now I’m going to use a ratchet to put this in. There’re many other things you can use, such as a pneumatic. They have some cordless drills that you can use today to install the lag screw. This is for demonstration purposes, so I’m just going to do this.

The first thing that you need to do, and what not to do, is you never drill your pilot hole first. If you drill your pilot hole first, which I’m going to demonstrate to you what happens, if you drill your pilot hole first. So using your 5/16” for the 3/8” bolt, when you go to drill your countersink, it’s gonna swash around inside and undo your pilot hole. It won’t guide properly. With a spade bit, this little diamond shaped blade point is what guides the drill bit and holds it in place. If you were to drill this hole with the Spade bit for 5/16”, it’s just gonna be too big. Then this is gonna jump around, and it’s going to jam the drill and you possibly could hurt yourself. So I’m gonna demonstrate this now. I installed my spade bit into the drill, and I’m basically ready to do my countersunk hole. You always have to do your countersunk hole first for the head, and then again for how far you’re gonna go down. Basically, I’m gonna countersink approximately 3/4” to 1” into this wood. Now I have gone down about 3/4”, which will be a nice countersink.

I’m gonna switch out my bit and put my pilot hole in, tighten that up, and put this bit in. I’ll continue drilling until I get through the other side. Always back up to bring the wood shavings out. Well that didn’t work right. Huh. I guess I didn’t tighten it enough. I’ll just tighten it up. I’m gonna take my ratchet and drive it in. There you go. That’s done.

Now I’m gonna demonstrate for you what happens if I drill my pilot hole first. Now this is not a big pilot hole but if you were using a larger size, such as 1/2”, it’s gonna be more severe. I’m gonna drill the pilot hole first. You can see this nicely drills through. No problem. Switch out my bit to do my countersink. As you can see here, this will now wobble around. With that wobbling around, you’re not gonna get a totally centered countersink. It’s gonna want to take off. I have to be cautious. If I go too fast it’s gonna jump around on me and it may wedge the bit in the hole and start to twist at my arm.

You can see already how this is chewing away at the wood. That’s not what we’re looking for. You see how that’s jumping around? You can do it, you can get the countersink done, but it’s not precise. It’s not clean. It doesn’t give you a nice clean finish. So at the end of the day, you really want to drill your countersunk first and then your pilot hole.

Another thing to do, if you wanted to stop the splintering, is to put some blue tape over the area you’re gonna drill. This is very good for marking as well. You can write on blue tape. Let me just find the beginning of this tape…there it is. This will stop splintering from happening when you’re using a spade bit. So I’m going to do another countersink. That gives you a nice clean surface. You can see how nice and smooth that cut is.

I’ve used these bits before. I’m doing this for demonstration. These bits are not brand-new bits. (With) Brand-new bits you would have a nice, sharper point. I think you can see how nice I could drill through here. Then you take off the tape and there you go.

That’s how you properly drill a countersunk with your pilot hole. Thanks for watching.

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How To Use An Auger Drill Bit

Drill Bits for WoodAuger Drill Bits

Auger drill bits are bits used to drill holes into wood. They are commonly used for boring holes into bulkheads and general timber applications. These drill bits come with a spiral drill bit head which, when drilling, is designed to pull the bit into the wood so you do not have to apply excessive pressure.

Lets Begin

Today we wanted to show you how an auger drill bit works. Most of these drill bits have a long stem on the end which attaches to the drill chuck. Then the

Begin Drillingtip of the bit can start “biting” into the wood and pulling the rest of the bit into it. Before beginning your drilling application, you may want to put a piece of painters tape over the hole you plan on drilling into. Auger bits may chip the wood they are drilling into resulting in an unclean look. Painters tape should deter this from happening.

Auger bits are also designed to be run very slowly and with minimal pressure. Remember, the tip of an auger bit will help to pull it into the wood so you don’t need to apply a massive amount of pressure. We recommend about 600 rpm when drilling.

What About Nails?

Auger bits are incredibly durable andDrilling through a deck screw have the strength and cutting power to drill through nails and screws. It is important to maintain a slow speed and let the bit do the work. Once through the nail just continue on and finish the hole you are drilling.

What are the advantages of using an auger bit?

  • Auger bits have the capability
  • Drilling deep.
  • Drilling neat uniform holes.
  • Prevent the clogging of boreholes
  • Auger bits allow for efficient clearing of wood shavings as a result of their wide and deep flighting.
    The completed hole

How To Use Wood Ship Auger Drill Bits

Using Wood Ship Auger Bits
How To User Auger Drill Bits Transcript

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Bob: Welcome back to Albany County Fasteners – Fasteners 101. I’m Bob and today I’m going to demonstrate the use of an auger bit.

So I have here an auger bit. This is a 5/8″ auger bit. 8 inches long overall. The stem part here which is pretty typical on all ship auger bits (which is what they’re really called here – Ship auger bits).

This part here is about 3 inches and its typical through all sizes. The lengths these come in anywhere from 8 inches to 18 inches long. I think there’s a 12 inch, maybe there’s a 10 inch, but you know you’ll have to decide based upon what you’re doing.

Also, auger bits they have this little screw in the front here. It is to pull the auger bit forward as it drills. These auger bits also will break or cut nails as they go through.

These are very cool bits. Used on ships and many other different applications but I’m going to demonstrate this now on drilling this auger bit into my sample piece of wood here. This is only for demonstration. Also, you should know that you should not run and auger bits more than 600 rpm.

So, slow as you go. It just draws itself right in.

Now it did splinter in the front here a little bit. If you don’t want it to splinter like this you take a piece of tape, blue tape or painters tape, and you put that on the front before you drill and that’ll prevent this from splintering the front face of the wood.

So I want to demonstrate to you an auger bit going through-they say that they can go right through nails, which I know they can, but I have a deck screw here that’s right in the top going down and I want to demonstrate to you an auger bit cutting its way through a deck screw. This would be a stainless steel screw. Let’s give it a shot and see what happens.

I’m up against it right now. Right through. Coming through the other side. Look at that.

So there was some resistance there but it cut through the deck screw. I think that was a number 10 deck screw, number 10 wire. So that would be equal to a like a Ten penny nail or a duplex nail. No problem. Right through with that baby.

Thanks for watching.

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Installing Tapcon Masonry Screws

How To Install Masonry Screwsinstalling masonry screws

Masonry screws are used to fasten materials to different masonry materials (usually concrete). Tapcon is a brand that has become a generic term for these screws over the years, often referred to as tapcon screws.

Tapcon screws can be identified by their blue coloration. Most of them are fully threaded but some longer screws will have a smooth shoulder. This shoulder is designed to disperse the heat built up by the screw. If the shoulder was absent the screw would heat up exponentially and expand it the hole. This expansion plus the heat of the screw can compromise its integrity causing the screw to snap.

Now that we know a bit about masonry screw lets begin installing one.

Getting Started

What you will need:

  • Concrete Drill Bit
  • Drill
  • Painters Tape
  • Tapcon Screws
  • Various Driver Bits depending on which head style you choose
  • Safety Gear!installing tapcon screws

Step 1

The first thing we need to do is take the screw we are going to install and mark the end of the drill bit with painters tape. We do not want to drill an excessive hole in the concrete it only needs to be long enough.

Once we have our drill taped, its time for the most important part of our drilling into concreteinstallation. Putting on our safety gloves and glasses to make sure we protect ourselves.

Step 2

With our safety gear on and drill in gloved hand we can begin drilling our hole into the concrete. Even short concrete screws will hold very well in concrete. These masonry screws cut their own threads and will only need to be installed a little over an inch to have some true holding power. Once you reach the desired depth marked by the tape, you may remove the drill and carefully wipe any extra debris away from the hole.

Step 3

screwing in tapcon masonry screws

This is the home stretch for installing a concrete screw. Find the appropriate bit driver. We decided to use the hex head slotted Tapcon screws due to their popularity. Simply drill the screw into the hole until the head reaches the surface of the concrete and you are done!


finished tapcon screw install


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How to Remove a Rivet

How to Remove a Rivet

remove a rivet

Rivets are very useful tools that are used  to quickly and efficiently connect two materials together. The problem is that they aren’t really designed to be removed.

We already did a post on how to remove a spinning rivet so if your rivets start spinning during this process please hop over to that post.(make this a link to the blog post once that post is live)

What You Will Need

drilling out a rivet

  • A Punch
  • Drill
  • Drill Bit

Remove a Rivet

Now that you have to tools that you need, get your safety gear on (gloves and glasses) and grab your punch.

Locate the center of the rivet with your punch and create an indent into the rivet on the flange(integral washer) side. This hole will provide a seat for the tip of your drill to sit in.

drilling a rivet

Now that you’ve made your hole and have your drill seated start slowly drilling into the rivet. You can use a drill bit that is the same size as you used on the install or smaller if you plan on reusing the hole. Make sure you apply steady pressure to the drill so that it stays in the seat you made for the bit.

You should be able to cut through the rivet very quickly. Once through back the drill out and whats left of the rivet should either fall or slide out with ease. Assuming you drilled with the right size your hole should still be the same size as it was before you installed the first one.

drilled through a rivet           the hole after a rivet is removed

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