metal studs

A Quick Guide to Drilling Through Metal Studs

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For home remodeling and basement support, more and more people are turning to steel studs. They’re often used in commercial and industrial construction and are growing in popularity for residential use as well. Wooden studs used to rule the market, but today, metal studs are king.

Why use metal studs

Metal studs hold many advantages over their wooden cousins. They’re lighter and cheaper, and always straight. Unlike wood, they don’t split or shrink from weather exposure. They’re also resistant to insect damage, fire, and decay. Once they’re set in drywall, you won’t know the difference until you hit one with a screw or nail. Specialized metal stud framing screws are required in that case.

Why drill through metal

We all hang things on the walls: mirrors, picture frames, paintings, even TVs. All that weight needs to be supported by drywall inserts or anchors. Most self-tapping inserts can support objects, but they can’t tap into metal studs. Either you can drill a hole or use framing screws for metal studs.

How to find the metal stud

The fastest way to locate the metal stud is to use a stud finder. They come in a variety of options, with varying effectiveness. Once you’ve found the stud, mark its center. Most methods for metal stud spacing should be 12 to 24 inches on center. Make sure to use a stud finder with the best precision, as metal studs rarely exceed 2-inches wide. Drilling a hole near the edge of the stud can result in structural failure or a damaged hole.

How to find the center

Drill through the drywall on each side of the metal stud to locate the edges. You can use a small drill bit for this task. No one gets it perfect the first time, and it might take you a couple of tries. Just patch the holes after. It’s easier to find the center once you’ve found the sides.

What drill bit to use

You can use specialized metal stud framing screws. If you’re using a drill bit, twist bits tipped with carbide, titanium or cobalt provide the best results. Other drill bits can result in a jagged hole. The proper bits are colored either bright silver and gold and can be used repeatedly with minimal wear.

When hanging drywall

floor plan

Drilling isn’t necessary when hanging drywall. A screw can penetrate as quickly without the help of pilot halls. When hanging drywall on metal studs, use fine screws for a gauge rating of 20 to 25. Anything less, and self-drilling screws are to be used. They often have sharper tips than other types of screws, and finer threads to reduce the risk of metal stripping. The screws should be spaced 8 inches apart along the edges and 12 inches in the center.

Drilling for electrical and plumbing

You can use a metal hole saw for cutting through a steel stud, but a better way is to use a metal stud punch. It works like a paper punch, but for steel.

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