How do you drill plaster?

How do you drill plaster? - Fix It Cape Town


Drilling into plaster can be a difficult task, especially if you’re not familiar with the proper techniques and tools to use. But fear not, as this article will guide you through the process of drilling into plaster step-by-step, providing you with the necessary knowledge to successfully complete your project. Whether you’re hanging a picture frame, installing shelves, or mounting a TV, these tips and tricks will ensure a smooth and hassle-free drilling experience.

Understanding Plaster

Before we delve into the drilling process, it’s important to understand the characteristics of plaster. Plaster is a material commonly used in construction for creating smooth and solid walls. It consists of a mixture of gypsum powder, water, and additives, which when dry, forms a hard surface suitable for painting or wallpapering.

However, unlike drilling into wood or drywall, drilling into plaster requires special considerations due to its brittle nature. Plaster is prone to cracking and crumbling if not approached with care. With the right tools and techniques, you can avoid damaging the plaster and create a secure and stable anchor for your fixtures.

Tools You’ll Need

To ensure success, gather the necessary tools before starting your drilling project:

  • Power drill: Choose a drill with variable speed and a hammering function, as this will make drilling into plaster more efficient.
  • Masonry drill bit: Opt for a carbide-tipped drill bit designed for masonry applications. The size of the bit will depend on the size of the anchor or screw you plan to use.
  • Masking tape: Use masking tape to mark the drilling spot and prevent the drill bit from slipping.
  • Safety goggles: Protect your eyes from debris and dust generated during drilling.
  • Dust sheet or vacuum cleaner: Plaster dust can be messy, so it’s essential to prepare a suitable containment method to keep your space clean.
  • Anchors and screws: Choose anchors and screws appropriate for the weight of the object you wish to hang.

Now that you have your tools ready, let’s move on to the drilling process.

Step-by-Step Guide

1. Locate Studs or Use Wall Anchors

Before drilling, identify if there are any studs behind the plaster. Studs provide robust support for heavier objects. Use a stud finder to locate them and mark their position. If studs are not available in the desired location, you’ll need to use wall anchors. Wall anchors distribute the weight across a larger area and provide stability.

2. Mark the Drilling Spot

Using a pencil or marker, mark the spot where you want to drill. For accuracy, measure and level the position before marking. Plaster is prone to chipping, so try placing masking tape over the spot to minimize potential damage.

3. Select the Right Drill Bit

Choose a masonry drill bit appropriate for the size of the anchor or screw you plan to use. The size of the bit should be slightly smaller than the anchor to ensure a snug fit.

4. Prepare Your Workspace

Lay down a dust sheet or use a vacuum cleaner to prevent plaster dust from spreading and making a mess. Safety goggles should also be worn to protect your eyes.

5. Drill with Care

Set your drill to the appropriate drilling mode (hammer or rotary). Start drilling at a slow speed to create a small pilot hole. Apply gentle pressure to the drill and let the bit do the work. Increase speed as you progress, but avoid excessive force or speed to prevent damage.

6. Clean Up and Insert Anchors

Once the hole is drilled, remove any dust and debris using a brush or vacuum cleaner. Insert the anchor into the hole, ensuring it sits flush with the plaster surface.

7. Screw in the Fixture

Finally, screw your fixture into the anchor securely. If using wall anchors, ensure they are tightened according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Verify the stability of the fixture by giving it a gentle tug or shake.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Can I drill directly into plaster without using anchors?
A: It is generally not recommended to drill directly into plaster without anchors, unless the object you’re hanging is extremely light. Anchors provide stability and prevent the plaster from cracking or crumbling under the weight of the fixture.

Q: How can I Repair a cracked plaster after drilling?
A: If you accidentally crack the plaster while drilling, the best course of action is to repair it promptly. Use a lightweight spackling compound or plaster patch kit to fill in the crack, following the instructions provided. Once dry, sand and repaint the patched area to make it blend seamlessly with the surrounding wall.

Q: Are there any alternative methods to drilling into plaster?
A: Yes, there are alternative methods available, such as using adhesive hooks or using a stud finder to mount fixtures directly on studs. However, these methods may have weight limitations and are not suitable for heavy objects.


Drilling into plaster doesn’t have to be a daunting task if you have the right tools, techniques, and knowledge at your disposal. By following the step-by-step guide provided in this article, you can confidently drill into plaster while minimizing the risk of damage. Remember to be patient and take your time, allowing the drill bit to do the work while maintaining control. With practice and care, your projects will be successful, and your fixtures will be securely mounted on your plaster walls.

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