How to Drill into Metal Studs?

Recently metal studs have gained popularity for their use in new residential and commercial construction works due to their high resilience, durability, and better cost-effectiveness. Sometimes, drilling is the only way out when we come across metal studs to hang something onto it or mount a TV.

How to drill into metal studs? Start with locating the stud in your wall using a stud finder. Locate the edges to find the center and mark your drilling spot. Use sharp titanium, cobalt, or carbide-tipped twist drill bit with a medium torque drill for a cleaner hole in the metal stud. Only use toggle bold or drywall screws into the drill holes.

Although wood studs are superior to metal ones aesthetically, a good paint job can make them quite difficult to distinguish. Before we jump into the complete procedure on how to drill into metal studs, let us briefly discuss the pros and cons of metal studs.

Pros of Using Metal Studs

  • They are cost-effective in comparison to wood.
  • Due to their lightweight and hollow nature, they are easy to use and move to construction sites.
  • Owing to termite resistance, they do not need pest control treatments.
  • They are more durable and rust-resistant.
  • They can recyclable and do not emits volatile organic compounds.
Pros and Cons of metal studs
Pros and Cons of metal studs

Cons of Metal Studs

  • They are difficult to work on. Cutting, bending, and structuring require a lot of effort.
  • When working with metal studs, last-minute modifications in dimensions are nearly impossible.
  • Screwing or tapping is quite difficult.
  • It has a major disadvantage of sound echoes.
  • Thermal insulation is poor when using metal studs.

Method to Drill into Metal Studs

Drilling into metal studs is not quite different than drilling through a simple metal. The main difference lies in metal studs’ hollowness (Metal studs are hollow, whereas plain metal isn’t). Below I have discussed a stepwise approach on how to drill into metal studs.

Step 1: Locate the metal stud in your wall

The first step when drilling into metal studs is to locate them. So how to find a metal stud? You can find a metal stud using a magnetic stud finder like StudMark or simply knocking your wall with your middle finger to spot a dull hollow sound. Electronic stud finders are quite accurate. You can also use your smartphone’s built-in magneto meter to locate a metal stud.

I personally prefer two stud finder that is briefly discussed below.

  1. 7310 StudMark Magnetic Stud Finder is very price convenient, and easy to use. It comes with two magnetic studs that can be easily placed on each side. There is no hassle for charging, and so it can be used right away.
  2. Tavool Electronic stud finder 5 in 1 is more accurate and is an industrial-grade product. Besides finding metal studs, it can also find electric wires underneath the wall. The main benefit lies in its center-finding capability.

To use a stud finder, place it on the wall and move it in a Z pattern. Once the stud hits the metal, you will either feel a magnetic pull in the case of a non-electronic stud finder or hear a beep in an electronic one. Mark the place carefully with a pencil.

For the knocking method, you require a lot of experience and sharp ears. Knock the wall with the middle finger’s knuckle and listen for resonance; a dull sound will indicate a stud.

Step 2: Locate the metal stud center for drilling a hole

Finding the stud’s centre

It is important to locate the stud’s center because a wrong hole will compromise its strength. Electronic stud finders come with built-in functionality to find the stud center. You have to move the finder around, and it will show where the stud center is.

Firstly, find the approximate edges on both sides when using a simple stud finder, then mark them with a pencil and drill a pilot hole. The resistance will guide you to the edge ( you may need to drill multiple pilot holes). Then using a scale, find out the center.

Step 2: Use proper drill bit to drill metal stud

Selecting Drill Bit

Conventional twist bits can do the job but can potentially destroy the drill bit or end up with a jagged hole. I personally recommend either using titanium, cobalt, or carbide-tipped drill bits. I have personally shortlisted my favorite bits that you can find online and are best suited for the job.

  • DEWALT Titanium Drill Bit Set DW1361 comes with a set of 21 pieces of different sizes and a plastic case. Price is also very convenient. The best thing about them is the bit’s pilot point. This helps penetrate the metal smoothly.
  • Bosch 7 Piece Carbide-Tipped HCK001 is a set of heavy-duty drill bits for a pro-DIY enthusiast. This set is expensive but has the advantage of high strength and durability. These will drill into metal studs like no other.
  • DEWALT Cobalt Drill Bit Set DWA1240 will do the job nicely. If you are not quite into drilling, then this is for you. It has 14 pieces of different sizes that will most likely meet your demand.

It is better to start with a small sized drill bit and then move to larger ones.

Step 4: Drill at low Speed and avoid hammering while drilling into metal studs

To drill into metal studs, it is better to keep the speed low. This is because high rpm will heat up the bit and hence damage it. The ideal rpm should be between 700 and 1000. It is also recommended not to use the hammering feature when drilling into metal studs (this creates unnecessary dents).

Step 5: Use the Right Screws with metal studs

Every screw is not designed for use in a metal stud. If you are drilling metal studs to hang drywall, you are wrong. Hanging drywall doesn’t require pilot holes. Specially designed fine drywall screws (they are self-drilling) will do the job nicely.

If you are drilling metal studs to hang a heavy object such as a television, always use toggle bolts. They have a self-locking mechanism and are designed to bear the load.

Toggle bolts

Can I use my iPhone as a stud finder?

Yes! You can actually use your iPhone to locate a stud. There are plenty of applications that utilize the iPhone built-in magnetometer to locate a stud. Although they are not foolproof, when used appropriately can do the job.

Can a cordless drill go through metal?

Yes! You can drill into metal using a cordless drill. All you have to do is select the right type of drill bit mainly, cobalt and titanium. Thanks to mechanical gears, cordless drills nowadays have power similar to a wired drill.

How far should a screw go into a stud?

For good results, a screw should ideally pass 2/3rd of its length deep into the stud. This also depends on the strength required and the thickness of the stud.