How do you drill plaster?

How do you drill plaster? - Fix It Cape Town

Drilling into plaster can be a challenging task for many DIY enthusiasts and homeowners. Plaster walls, commonly found in older homes, are delicate and can easily crack or crumble if not approached with care. In this article, we will explore the techniques, tools, and tips you need to successfully drill into plaster without causing unnecessary damage.

Understanding Plaster Walls

Before delving into the drilling process, it is essential to understand the composition of plaster walls. Plaster is a mixture of gypsum or lime, sand, and water. The resulting material is spread over lath strips to create a smooth and sturdy wall surface. Plaster walls are notorious for their brittleness and fragility, making them prone to cracks and chips if mishandled.

Preparing for the Task

To ensure a successful drilling experience, follow these essential preparatory steps:

Gather the Necessary Tools

  • Drill machine: Select a corded drill with a variable speed setting that allows you to control the drilling speed effectively.
  • Drill bits: Use drill bits specifically designed for masonry or plaster. Carbide-tipped or diamond-tipped drill bits are ideal for drilling into plaster walls.
  • Masking tape: Use small pieces of masking tape to mark the drilling spot and prevent the drill from slipping.
  • Dust mask and safety goggles: Protect yourself by wearing a dust mask and safety goggles to avoid inhaling dust or getting particles in your eyes.
  • Drop cloth: Lay down a drop cloth to catch any debris or plaster dust that may fall during the drilling process.

Identify Potential Hazards

Before drilling, there are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • Electrical wires: Be cautious of any hidden electrical wires that may be behind the wall. To avoid damaging the wiring, it is advisable to use a stud finder with a built-in wire detector.
  • Water pipes: Similarly, hidden water pipes can pose a risk. Locate potential areas where pipes may be present before drilling through the plaster.
  • Structural elements: Take note of any studs or beams behind the plaster wall, as penetrating these could weaken the structural integrity of your home.

Test the Wall

Before drilling, it is wise to conduct a small test on an inconspicuous area of the wall to gauge the hardness and brittleness of the plaster. This will give you a better understanding of the drilling technique required.

The Drilling Process

Follow these steps to ensure a successful and damage-free drilling process:

  1. Mark the drilling spot: Use a pencil to mark the exact spot where you want to drill. Then, place a small piece of masking tape over the mark to prevent the drill from slipping.

  2. Choose the right drill bit: Ensure you have the correct drill bit for the job. Use a drill bit specifically designed for masonry or plaster. Carbide-tipped or diamond-tipped bits are recommended due to their durability.

  3. Start with a pilot hole: Begin drilling by creating a pilot hole using a low-speed setting on your drill. This initial hole will guide the drill bit and prevent the plaster from cracking.

  4. Increase the drilling speed gradually: Slowly increase the drill speed as you proceed through the plaster wall. Applying too much pressure or drilling at high speeds can cause the plaster to crack or crumble.

  5. Remove the drill periodically: Throughout the drilling process, periodically withdraw the drill slightly to allow the plaster dust to clear. This prevents clogs and allows for better visibility.

  6. Use a vacuum or damp cloth: After completing the drilling process, use a vacuum cleaner or a damp cloth to remove any plaster dust or debris from the area.


Q: What happens if I accidentally hit a hidden object while drilling into plaster?

A: If you encounter resistance or hit something while drilling, STOP immediately. It is crucial to identify what you have hit before proceeding. If you suspect you hit a pipe or wiring, it is recommended to consult a professional before continuing.

Q: How can I repair a cracked or damaged plaster wall?

A: There are various methods for repairing cracked plaster walls. Using joint compound and mesh tape is a common solution for smaller cracks. For more extensive damage, consider consulting a professional plasterer to ensure a proper repair.

Q: Why is plaster drilling different from drilling into drywall?

A: Plaster walls are considerably harder and more brittle than drywall. The techniques and tools used for drilling into plaster differ to prevent cracking or crumbling.


Drilling into plaster walls can be a delicate task requiring patience and attention to detail. By understanding the composition of plaster, taking proper precautions, and following the correct drilling techniques, you can successfully complete the task without causing unnecessary damage. Remember to always exercise caution, test the wall before drilling, and consult a professional if you encounter any unexpected obstacles. Happy drilling!

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