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How to Drill a Pilot Hole

Drilling a pilot hole before using a screw or nail to join parts together makes the process easier and prevents the wood from splitting.


Step 1

Choose the appropriate type and size drill bit for your material and fasteners. For screws, pick a bit that matches the inner diameter of the threaded part, not the diameter of the threads. For nails, use a bit that is slightly smaller in diameter than the shank.

Good to Know

Know the chuck size of your drill so you can purchase bits with the correct shanks size.

Step 2

Mark the location where the fastener will go. Measure across the work piece from one edge to the other and from one end to the other, making short lines at the intersection point. This intersection is the center point for the pilot hole.  

Step 3

Place the bit fully seated in the chuck — the part of the drill that holds the bit in place. Tighten the chuck completely, making sure the bit is centered. Turn the drill/driver’s setting to drill (an icon that looks like a drill bit).


Wear eye protection when using a drill/driver. Follow the tool manufacturer's instructions for use and safety.

Step 4

Set the drill/driver direction to forward and grip the drill/driver with your forefinger on the trigger. Align the drill perpendicular to the surface, using a speed square as a guide. Start slowly by gently pulling the trigger, and then squeeze the trigger harder to accelerate.