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Tool Lab | Drilling Into Studs for Electrical Wiring

Master electrician Heath Eastman explains how pros drill through studs for running wires through wood-framed walls.

Master electrician Heath Eastman shows us the trade tricks for drilling holes through studs. Heath shows us the frequently used tools, including his drills, attachments, and drill bits that make drilling accurate and code-compliant holes a breeze.

Drilling a Hole Isn’t Always as Easy as It Seems

It might sound very easy to drill holes through wood, but it can be challenging when that wood is vertical and tightly spaced. And, with codes dictating where those holes can be, there’s more to it than simply drilling.

Drill Bits and Attachments

The most common drill bits used for drilling through studs are auger bits and spade bits. Auger bits look like large twist bits but typically have self-feeding tips and large, heavy-duty flutes that can handle a nail or two. Spade bits have wide, flat tips that quickly remove a lot of material but are a bit less durable.

There are also several attachments that can make the job easier. Drill bit extensions help drill through spaces where a drill can’t reach, as do right-angle attachments. There are also long, flexible drill bits that can pass from floor to floor or through several studs at once.

Drill Choices

While a few different drills can potentially handle the job, most electricians can get by with two: a standard drill and a right-angle drill. Standard drills are great when they fit, but right-angle drills provide a lot of power and leverage, and their heads fit in tighter spaces than most standard drills.

Where to Drill

Note that the holes through which electricians run wires have a specific location requirement. They cannot be within 1 ¼-inch from either edge of the stud. This leaves about 1 inch of space in the dead center of a 2x4. To avoid drilling too close to the edge, use a ¾-inch spade bit. With 2x6s, it’s less of a concern as there is plenty of clearance.

Also, it’s helpful to keep things the same height to make pulling the wire easier and allow for safer drilling. Many electricians rest the drill along the same spot on their thigh to provide leverage and a point of reference for consistent heights.

Corners are Tricky

Drilling into corner stud assemblies can be difficult depending on the position of the other studs on either side of the corner. The best method for these applications is to use a bit extension and drill from the outside of another stud, or use a right-angle attachment to drill through the assembly.

Pulling the Wire is the Easy Part

Pulling the wire is easy if you’ve drilled accurately and evenly. They should pull right through the studs with a little guidance. For the corners, it may be necessary to push the wire against the wall and create a slight curve in the end. Then, pull the wire back slightly to align the tip with the hole and finish snaking it through.

Use Nail Plates Where Spacing is a Challenge

It’s not always possible to drill perfectly in the center of a stud, and the wires may be too close to the edge. Nail plates are ideal for these situations, as they sit on the edge of the stud underneath the sheetrock and prevent someone from driving a nail or screw through the stud and into the wire.