Drilling Pilot Holes

By Robert Robillard on Workshop tips

Drilling Pilot Holes

Pilot Holes

A pilot hole is a smaller hole drilled into any surface prior to and to assist in the installation of a screw, nail or other fastener.

Pilot holes help to:

1. Prevent wood from splitting from large screws or when near the end or edge of
the board.

2. Make installing the screw easier in hard materials.

3. Improve accuracy by providing a path for the screw to follow.

4. To prevent bridging, splitting, and stripped screw heads.

Importance Of Drilling A Pilot Hole

When a screw is driven into a material, it can act as a wedge, generating outward pressure which can cause many materials (such as wood or plastic) to split. By drilling a small pilot hole into the material, into which a screw is then driven, less ‘wedging’ takes place, thereby reducing the likelihood of the material being split.

Drilling Pilot Holes


How To drill a pilot hole

Drilling pilot holes requires you to use a slightly smaller drill bit than the screw you will use for fastening.  If the bit is too big, the screw will not hold and strip out over time. If the bit is too small, you still risk the chance of the wood splitting.

TIP: To minimize splitting and maximize holding power the pilot hole must match the screw shank diameter [not the screw threads] as well as the penetrate to a depth of the screw length.

Specialty counter sink sets are available that drill pilot holes and countersinks in one step. With these bits, creating the proper size pilot holes easy.

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About the author

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor

Rob Robillard is “The Concord Carpenter” Rob is a builder, general contractor, carpenter, woodworker, and editor of Concord Carpenter and ToolBoxBuzz As a General Contractor and carpenter, Rob owns and operates Concord Carpenter LLC. A full-service remodeling and construction company. Rob is a recognized leader in home building best practices and a source for how-to information for building professionals. On this website, Rob covers all aspects of home construction, building science, home improvement, woodworking, remodeling, and some of the best product and tool reviews. Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review series - Concord Carpenter Videos where we post all of our tool reviews and video tutorials. Rob approaches remodeling and building construction with a pragmatic and problem-solving approach. He enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate building professionals as well as DIYers on best practices in the construction and remodeling industry. He's a strong advocate for "raising the bar" in the construction trades and promoting the trades to youth. #BeAMentor #Green2Great Craftsmanship, quality, and pride guide his journey on this channel The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob

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