Mounting 106: Starting to Drill

Tasker Nick C. has a whole lot to say about pilot holes! 

Not sure what a “pilot hole” is? It’s a pre-drilled hole made where you’ll be placing your item that helps to ensure a smooth entrance for the screw, prevents any cracking of the wall, and in some cases, helps the mounter actually see into the wall to understand the stud and wall type. Pilot holes should be considered for most hard surfaces, and the pilot hole should be as large as the screw’s minor diameter. For softer wood, the pilot hole may not be mandatory. Drilling a pilot hole is, in some cases, one of the first steps to securely mounting an item to a wall’s surface.

Drilling into Walls

Knowing your wall type is essential in understanding what kind of tools you might need to bring along, and for knowing what to expect throughout the drilling experience. See the Mounting 105: Know Your Wall Types article for more info before you start drilling pilot holes. Here’s a refresher:

  • Drywall: The initial drilling should go straight through and the wall won’t be too flaky.
  • Lathe & Plaster: Will be flaky when drilled into, and creates more dust.
  • Concrete: You’ll need a hammer drill and special drill bits.
  • Brick and Masonry: If you come across brick behind another surface, your pilot hole will tell you instantly. In order to mount on brick and masonry, you should have a concrete drill bit.
  • Cinder Block: Falls into the masonry category, and in some cases, a toggle bolt can be used for this.

If you are ever in doubt about the wall type before drilling, ask your Client. If the Client isn’t sure, you can suggest that they ask the building manager, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble. It’s best practice to be fully confident your wall type before mounting, and also makes prepping your tools more accurate, so don’t be shy about scoping it out!

4 Thoughts

  1. Awesome read. Thank you.

    Here’s a tip to Mounters out there: avoid drilling into something you were NOT planning on drilling into.

    Use a small MASONRY (read: concrete) drill bit for drilling the pilot hole.

    Because if you run into something behind the wall that you weren’t expecting to be there (even after you thoroughly scanned the wall for studs/electrical/plumbing/etc…right? Right!), you’re less at risk of penetrating said unknown foreign object.

    Because the tip of masonry bits are BLUNT…whereas all others are SHARP(er).

    Rule of thumb: if you hit resistance, don’t drill further! Back your drill out and do your best to identify what the object is. If you can’t identify it, mark that spot as a big NO NO and move on!

    Keep your wits and your cool! Rock on.

  2. I use three tools that aid in making holes precisely without causing extra marks or scratches on drywall and plaster walls: a plastic level with measurement markings along the edges, a mechanical pencil with 4H lead, and brad-point bits.

  3. I carry a package of sandwich size paper bags and tape it under the holes I plan to drill. This will collect most/all of the debris and dust from each vertical hole drilled minimizing/eliminating site clean-up.

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