When and How To Drill a Pilot Hole
Should you drill a pilot hole or not? Learn what a pilot hole is, when they're necessary and how to determine adequate hole size.
There’s nothing worse for a DIYer than throwing away a perfectly good piece of wood because you made a drilling mistake. Pilot holes help prevent that. Pilot holes are drilled into a piece of material before fastening that material with a screw. There are a few reasons why it’s smart to drill a pilot hole.
When To Drill a Pilot Hole
Three common reasons to drill a pilot hole are:
- When screwing though the edge or end of material. A pilot hole allows the screw threads to cut directly into the hole, which reduces the risk of splitting wood near an end or edge.
- When you need precise screw locations. Tips of screws don’t always enter material accurately. It’s much easier to drill precise locations with a drill bit than the tip of a screw. Create a pilot hole before inserting the screws for a more reliably accurate screw location.
- When screwing through dense materials, such as hardwood and laminate. Screwing directly into wood and other dense materials requires a lot of force. Drilling a pilot hole reduces the pressure to drive a screw through the material. Drilling a pilot hole into softwoods like pine and spruce typically isn’t required unless it falls under the other categories listed above.
How To Drill a Pilot Hole
Use a drill bit that’s the same diameter as the shank of the screw. Then drill a pilot hole into the material that’s the same depth as the screw you’ll be fastening. Now you’re ready to insert and fasten the screw.