How to Drill A Pilot Hole? [Easygoing DIY Steps]

How to Drill a Pilot Hole’ makes you distracted, doesn’t it? Don’t panic! As a professional, I am presenting you with a complete solution to eliminate your tension. Once you follow the steps that I’m going to spell out, you will be as efficient as a professional. So, stick with me until the end of this article.

Before diving into the body, let’s focus on when and why a pilot hole is essential. Drilling pilot holes with woodwork or walls is an inevitable part. It refers to a tiny hole drilled before driving a screw or nail into a piece of wood or wall. 

The hole assists us to impede the screw from splitting, and it makes the tiresome and ticklish installation easy. Besides, it enables the installation straight as It leads the screws to the path of the drilled hole. 

Before doing any woodworking projects or making large drills into the wall strictly, you should know the easy drilling steps presented below. So, let’s start step by step:  

5 Easygoing DIY Steps To Drill A Pilot Hole: Do It Like A Pro

Because of over 15 years of working experience in this profession, I have had the opportunity to work on many massive projects. And from my practical knowledge, here I am presenting you the best easygoing 5 steps to drill a pilot hole:

Step-1: Mark The Location Of Your Destined Hole With A Pencil


At the outset, It is wise to mark the spot with a pencil on the material where you want to install screws or nails. Because this fundamental beginning will allow them to get into the hole straightway. 


To draw the marking precisely, you had better use a ruler to measure your exact location so that you can track along the ruler with a pencil.

Step-2: Make A Hollo Through A Center Punch


A punch is a minor, thin piece of equipment with a sharp finish that enables you to develop a diminutive indentation on the work surface. In the second stage before making a pilot hole, this little dent allows your drill bit to go straight and resist it from slipping and bending.


Now, this is the time to place the slope of the punch at the exact position where you make a blur with a pencil using a ruler. Thereafter, hit the punch lightly with a hammer.

Step-3: Pick Out The Correct Size Of Drill Bit


Selecting the exact drill bit for both the soft and hard wooden work as well as wall fittings to any extent is the gravest step in drilling pilot holes smoothly. The wrong selection of drill bits not only detriments the beauty of any piece of work but also increases the labor two times higher than the actual need. 


Besides wastage of time, It may damage the drill machine due to overheating or even cause fatal accidents. So, it’s very important to use the appropriate bits for drilling a pilot hole, keep in mind that.

Step-4: Drill The Pilot Hole

Once you have satisfactorily chosen the right bit for making your desired pilot hole, it is now time to set it into your drill. And then place the head of the bit into the nick that you designed with the center punch. 

Right away, drive the power trigger of your drill by keeping the bit at the angle you want the screw or nail positioned. And continue drilling to make your measured hole until the bit reaches a depth equal to the screw’s or nail’s length. Immediately after making the expected hole, back the bit out meticulously.

Step-5: Put In The Screw or Nail Into The Pilot Hole

As soon as the desired pilot hole is gouged, you can put the screw or nail into the hole, you developed. Afterward, set your drill with a screwdriver bit and locate the screw’s edge into the pilot hole. Push the screw in, being prudent to angle it to follow the direction of the hole. Get going with the same process for each screw used until you are done with your drilling.

Related Questions: 


Pilot Holes: When You Need Them And When You Don’t

This is reasonably a common question in many minds: are pilot holes essential for every piece of work? If not, when they are needed. 

Here, I’ve come up with the answer to wipe out your such mazes.  As a result, you can make the right decision in need of making pilot holes where necessary with a complete guideline.  

Pilot holes, basically, are requisite if you’re intending to drill into hardwood, laminate, or need a dense drill, or want to install screws or nails accurately located fasteners. As a  professional, I recommend making pilot holes if there is a possibility of cracking of wood or walls while installing screws or nails into them. 

On the contrary, unlike hardwood or while doing a bumpy build with softwood where external outlook doesn’t bear much importance, you can overlook the pilot holes. 

How Deep Do You Need To Drill A Pilot Hole?

It is beyond any shadow of a doubt that a pilot hole allows the screws or nails to get inside into the hole following the drilled path smoothly. It allows straight installation and provides a better appearance on the surfaces. 

But, it often carries confusion when talking about: how deep should a pilot hole be? Don’t panic! Here, I’m with you with all of my practical experiences and knowledge to eradicate your such concern.  

I recommend drilling until your hole reaches the same depth as the length of your screw or nail. If you drill more or less of your screws’ or nails’ height, it will be unable to hold the screw or nail stuck on the surface of the material. Moreover, it won’t give you a better appearance. 

Generally acknowledged that experience is a separate language. This enables the successful completion of many hard tasks by saving time and labor with due satisfaction. 

If you are an expert in drilling, it goes without doubt that you can measure and assume the exact depth of a pilot hole by single triggering on the power button of the drill without precocious measures while driving the drill. On the contrary, if you aren’t yet that much experienced, it is recommended for you that you should use a drill stop to border the appropriate depth.

Should You Drill A Pilot Hole For Wood Screws?

We use wood for different objectives in our day-to-day life. It is important to say that the selection of wood and its thickness depends on the purpose and design that you are intending.

In the above discussion, you have already come to know when you usually need to make a pilot hole for screwing into the wooden appliance. Being a professional in this field, I suggest not making a pilot hole while working with softwood. However, I recommend making a point hole while working with hardwood. 

Without drilling pilot holes, if you drive screws forcefully into the wood, it is clear you’re in essence piercing wood out of the way to create room for the screw. 

The foremost benefit of a pilot hole while working with hardwood and in need of a dense drill is it allows you to drive the screw or nail into the hole with a power drill or a screwdriver smoothly by your guided angel. Besides guiding the screw into the hole, pilot holes protect the material from cracking and staining, and the screw or nails from slipping away or carving. 


What Size Drill Bit Do You Need For Drilling A Pilot Hole?

Let’s have a look at the below chart which shows different sizes of drill bits based on district sizes of screws:

Screw Size
Soft WoodHard Wood
Countersink Size
Tapered BitStraight BitTapered BitStraight Bit

As you can see from the aforesaid tables, the meticulous size of the drill bit depends on the size of the screw or nails you want to insert into the desired whole.


Typically, your pilot hole should be somewhat smaller than the diameter of your screw or nail. This will dispel the material at its best, which will alleviate the chance of splitting, losing, or detouring but will still carry away enough material for the screws’ or nails’ threads to grip into.

What Size Are Nail Drill Bits?

Let’s look at another table for perfect drill bits for various nail sizes:

Nail Gauge
Pilot Hole
Soft WoodHard Wood 

As demonstrated above, you can understand from the chart the exact size of the screws and nails varies according to measurement, designs, materials, and job types. However, the accurate widths of a pilot hole should be as per screws’ or nails’ size.

How Do You Drill An Effective Pilot Hole?

It is widely suggested that first of all, you should point the edge of your punch on the pencil blur or tape mark (typically with the pencil). 

After that, strike the punch lightly either with a hammer or a similar object.  Or, you can do it with your palm to make a tiny hole so that you can drive your drill to the exact point to make your required pilot holes without a hitch. 

After selecting the correct size of the drill bit as per screw or nail size, run your drill into the directed tiny hole that you made with the help of a punch. And then, continue piercing until the tip of the bit reaches the same as your nail or screw size. 

Apart from this, there’s a common saying while making a pilot hole into the hardwood or any hard substances: your pilot hole should be slightly smaller than the diameter of your screws or nails to assure the stickiness of the installed screws or nails on the surface of the material. Not only this, this would provide you with a better appearance and longevity. 

Final Layout: 

To understand how to drill a pilot hole flawlessly, I, with over 15 years of working experience, throughout the article, have put my best effort to provide you with all the needful information, tips, and techniques needed.

I Hope, you are ready now to make a pilot hole on your own, aren’t you,?

If you still have any queries, feel free to ask me by sending a message or commenting below. 

Masud Rana

This is Masud Rana. I run this blog. My Tools Guide is a blog where I share product reviews of different tools. Stay tuned to get more helpful articles!

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