Where not to drill in a wall?

Where not to drill in a wall? - Fix It Cape Town

Drilling into walls is often necessary when hanging pictures, installing shelves, or mounting televisions. While it may seem like a simple task, there are important considerations to keep in mind before picking up that drill. Without proper preparation, you run the risk of damaging your walls or even hitting electrical wires hidden within. To ensure a successful outcome and avoid any potential mishaps, here are some essential steps to follow before drilling into walls.

1. Determine the Type of Wall

Before drilling, it’s crucial to understand the type of wall you are dealing with. Common wall types include drywall, plaster, masonry, or concrete. Each wall type requires different techniques and tools for drilling, so it’s essential to know what you’re working with. Here’s how you can identify your wall type:

  • Drywall: Common in most homes, drywall is made of gypsum and covered with paper. It is easy to drill into but can provide less support than other wall types.
  • Plaster: Plaster walls are composed of layers of plaster and lath. They are more challenging to drill into as they are denser and more brittle.
  • Masonry/Concrete: Masonry or concrete walls are found in basements or external walls. They are extremely robust and require specialized tools for drilling.

2. Locate Studs

Studs are vertical wooden or metal frames that provide structural support within the walls. When hanging heavy items or mounting televisions, it’s important to anchor them securely to studs for stability. Here’s how to locate studs:

  • Use a stud finder: These handheld devices are specifically designed to detect studs behind walls. Move the stud finder horizontally until it beeps or lights up, indicating the presence of a stud.
  • Look for clues: Studs are typically placed every 16-24 inches apart. Look for clues such as electrical outlets, light switches, or baseboards as they are often anchored to studs.

3. Avoid Electrical Wires

It is absolutely crucial to avoid drilling into electrical wires within your walls. Not only can this lead to electrical hazards, but it can also be expensive to fix. Follow these precautions to keep yourself safe:

  • Use a cable detector: Cable detectors are handheld devices that can detect live electrical wires. Run the detector along the area you plan to drill to ensure there are no hidden wires.
  • Turn off the power: If you are uncertain about the presence of wires, turn off the power supply to the area you’re working on. This extra precaution ensures your safety.
  • Hire a professional: If you’re unsure about dealing with electrical wires, it’s best to hire a professional electrician who can safely assess and guide you through the process.

4. Measure and Mark

Proper measurement and marking are essential for accurate drilling. Use a tape measure and mark the desired location using a pencil. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Double-check measurements: Measure twice to ensure accuracy before drilling. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
  • Use a level: If you are drilling multiple holes, use a level to ensure they are straight.

5. Prepare the Area

Before drilling, make sure to prepare the area for a smooth and clean drilling process. The following steps can help you minimize dust and make the cleanup easier:

  • Cover furniture and flooring: Use drop cloths or old sheets to protect your furniture and flooring from any debris or dust.
  • Remove wall hangings: Take down any paintings, clocks, or other wall hangings in the immediate vicinity to prevent damage.

6. Select the Right Drill Bit

Different wall types require different drill bits. Using the wrong drill bit can lead to inefficient drilling or even damage. Ensure you select the right drill bit for your wall type:

  • Drywall/Plaster: For these wall types, a general-purpose drill bit will suffice. These are often made of high-speed steel and can drill through wood or plastic with ease.
  • Masonry/Concrete: When drilling into masonry or concrete, use a carbide-tipped masonry bit. This bit is designed to handle the hardness of these materials.

7. Test the Drill Bit

Before drilling into your wall, it’s a good idea to test the drill bit’s sharpness and functionality. Dull or damaged bits can cause the drill to slip or create uneven holes. To test the drill bit:

  • Place the drill bit against a piece of scrap wood.
  • Apply gentle pressure and turn on the drill.
  • If the bit is sharp and functioning properly, it should smoothly enter the wood without slipping.

8. Start Drilling

With everything prepared, it’s time to start drilling. Follow these guidelines for a successful drilling process:

  • Begin with a small pilot hole: Start with a small drill bit to create a pilot hole. This will help guide the larger drill bit and reduce the chances of the wall chipping or cracking.
  • Drill slowly and steadily: Apply gentle pressure on the drill and allow it to do the work. Avoid exerting excessive force as it may cause the drill to slip.
  • Keep the drill level: Maintain a level position to ensure straight and accurate holes.


How do I fill drill holes in walls?

To fill drill holes in walls, follow these steps:

  1. Clean the hole: Remove any debris around the hole using a brush or vacuum cleaner.
  2. Apply filler: Use a filler or spackling compound to fill the hole. Apply it with a putty knife, ensuring the surface is smooth and level.
  3. Allow to dry: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying time.
  4. Sand and paint: Once dry, sand the filled area smooth and apply paint to match the surrounding wall.

Can I drill into a wall without a stud?

Yes, you can drill into a wall without a stud, but it’s important to use appropriate anchors or wall plugs for support. Hollow wall anchors, toggle bolts, or expansion anchors can be used to provide stability when drilling into drywall or plaster.

How deep should I drill into a wall?

The depth will depend on the type of wall and the length of the screw or anchor you are using. As a general rule, the hole should be slightly deeper than the length of the screw or anchor to ensure a secure hold. However, take care not to drill too deep to avoid damaging pipes or wires hidden within the wall.


Drilling into walls can be a simple task if done with adequate preparation and caution. By identifying the wall type, locating studs, avoiding electrical wires, measuring and marking accurately, and using the appropriate drill bit, you can successfully complete your project without any mishaps. Remember to take the necessary precautions, such as using a cable detector or seeking professional assistance when dealing with electrical wires. Following these guidelines will help you achieve the desired outcome while keeping your walls and yourself safe.

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