If your corded or cordless drill is refusing to drive into the wall, the good news is that there’s likely a simple solution to the problem. So what are the reasons that a drill is unable to go through a wall?
There a several reasons that your drill is not able to drill through the wall. The issue is likely caused by incorrect drill rotation direction, blunt drill bits, dying batteries, metal plates, masonry constructions, or steel studs. Less common are obstructions such as soundproofing or concrete firewalls.
I will now guide you through the above list of issues in order for you to identify why it is that you’re not able to drill through your wall.
1. Wrong direction of rotation
Drills rotate in a clockwise direction when they are in the forward position and anti-clockwise when they are in the backward (reverse) position.
Most drills have a button that you can press to change the direction of the drill, and it’s important to make sure that your drill is in the forward position when trying to drill into drywall as your drill bit will not bite if the drill is rotating in the wrong direction.
2. Blunt drill bit
Plaster dulls or blunts drill bits quite quickly, and they can often become dull after making only a few holes. As drywall is quite a soft material, your drill bit will probably still go through that quite easily even if it is dull, but it won’t go through the stud that is behind it. A dull drill bit will also often struggle to go through wood too.
So, if you’ve been drilling through wood, masonry, or metal, and you then find that it won’t go through the wall, then try replacing it with a newer drill bit, which should sort the problem. It’s sometimes a good idea to use a dull drill bit for plaster and change to a newer one for the lath (wood) behind it.
3. Dying batteries
Budget drills usually have cheap batteries that are not very good quality and don’t last as long as more expensive ones. If you’ve had the drill for a while, the battery could be starting to die. A dying battery often weakens a drill, so if you’re having difficulty drilling, especially through solid material, then it could be the battery causing the issue.
The best thing to do is to charge the battery and see if it will drill something easy like a pilot hole. If it still won’t drill properly, try making a pilot hole with a corded drill if you have one.
If you can make a pilot hole with that drill, then you’ll know that your cordless drill lacks sufficient power to do the job. If this is the case, it’s probably a good idea to buy a new drill. However, make sure to keep the old one as it’s always handy to have a spare just in case the need arises.
Sometimes, however, even a corded drill won’t go through the material, in which case there are a few other reasons why it could be happening.
4. Metal plates
Walls hide a lot of things, such as pipes and electrical wires so that they’re not unsightly to look at, and you don’t need me to tell you that hitting any of these when drilling into a wall is a bad idea.
Pipes and electrical wires are often covered by a metal plate to prevent you from doing just that. So, if you drill into the wall and it seems like you’ve hit an obstruction, then it’s probably a metal plate that is covering something important, and you know that you need to stop drilling immediately.
If you do hit a metal plate after drilling through the drywall, then try drilling again around five inches (13cm) above or below. You’ll likely find a stud, which you should be able to drill through. However, if you still hit an obstruction, then there are a few other reasons why this could be happening.
5. Masonry constructions
Sometimes, depending on where you are working, you could be hitting masonries such as brick or cement. This usually happens when you are trying to drill into an outside wall or chimney.
As horizontal furring strips are used to attach drywall to masonry, you will often go through drywall that is around 5/8″ (16mm) thick. You’ll then find that there is a gap of around 3/4″ (19mm) before you will hit the brick or cement.
Therefore, if you’re able to drill around 1.5 inches (38mm) through the wall before you hit an obstruction, it is likely to be a masonry construction that you have found. A magnetic stud finder will help you to determine if this is the case as you’ll easily be able to locate the furring strips with it by finding the nails that are attached to them.
Once you’ve found a nail, try drilling again a few inches on either side to see if you find wood. If you do, then it is the furring strip. If you find a furring strip, you can be fairly certain that you have found a masonry construction, and you will probably need to change your plan, depending on your reasons for drilling.
6. Steel studs
New constructions often have steel studs, so if you determined that there is no other reason you’re hitting an obstruction and your house is fairly new, then that’s probably the reason why. There are several ways to identify if you’re hitting steel studs.
- You could either contact the contractor who built the house to ask them if the house has steel studs or check the documents from when the house was built if you have them.
- Another way that you could check is by making a hole in the drywall so that you can see what is behind it. However, it’s really not the best idea as it can be an awkward job to patch up the hole, not to mention time-consuming.
- Alternatively, you could remove the cover plate from an electrical outlet and try to look through the gap between the box and the drywall. However, builders try to make the gap as small as possible when they are constructing the house, so there’s a chance you probably won’t be able to see it anyway.
Since none of those methods are really ideal, the best thing to do would be to call a professional and ask them if your house has steel studs.
It’s certainly a far better option than accidentally hitting any pipes or electrical wires when you’re drilling as, not only is there a chance of it causing significant damage, but there is a serious risk to yourself if you were to be electrocuted.
If your house does have steel studs instead of wood studs, then it will be a little bit more difficult to carry out your project as you’ll need metal drill bits that are suitable for drilling into metal and toggle bolts for hanging your project from.
7. Less common obstructions
Although I have mentioned the most likely reasons for encountering difficulty when drilling through a wall, there are a few other reasons too.
Soundproofing – Occasionally, there are products in the walls to make them more soundproof. This is usually in the wall between apartments that are in the same building.
Concrete firewall – If you hit these, then it’s very much like when you hit a masonry construction. They are usually there to stop the uncontrollable spread of a fire.
Nails – Sometimes the lath is nailed to the stud when you have walls that are made of plaster.