Which Drill Bit To Use On Plasterboard For Quick & Easy Holes?
The quick and easy answer to this question of drilling through plasterboard is that you can use just about any drill bit to get through it. Some people may tell you that you need a masonry drill bit but that is not the case. You also do not need a hammer drill and any type of drill will do.
A wood drill bit, a masonry bit or a general purpose drilling bit will go through a piece of plasterboard with considerable ease. You can very easily push a screwdriver through plasterboard and you can also simply put a nail into plasterboard or screw directly into it.
You only need a hammer drill and a masonry drill bit if you need to drill through brick, block, concrete etc.
It is worth mentioning at this stage hat plasterboard is mostly used on interior stud walls. However some homes may have solid walls and they may have added studs, and then plasterboard on to those studs.
If that is the case you would have to drill through the plasterboard, then a small gap where the stud is, and then through into the solid brick or block wall. If that is the case, then you would need a hammer drill and a masonry bit.
What Is Plasterboard Made Of?
Plasterboard gets called by quite a few different names which include wall board, gypsum, and drywall. In the UK it is used mainly for ceilings and wall coverings. It is usually attached to the wall studs and ceiling joists for a very neat finish.
Plasterboard is cheap to make and easy to install. Almost always the plasterboard is covered with what is known as a skim of plaster to give a very good and uniform finish.
Plasterboard is basically a layer of gypsum that sits between two layers of paper. Depending on the actual quality of the plasterboard, the thickness and quality of paper can vary, as can the quality of the gypsum.
What Is Gypsum?
Gypsum is made up of crystals that contain small amounts of water. This helps to prevent fire from spreading. Gypsum is also good at helping with noise reduction. So if you think about the walls in your home, the internal walls are most likely made using standard plasterboard.
That helps reduce rapid fire growth and helps keep the noise down in the home. Aside from those two key benefits it also helps keep the costs down as plasterboard is not expensive to buy, when compared to other alternatives.
What Sizes Does Plasterboard Come In?
The most common size is 1,200 mm (just shy of 4 fee) and that is to suit the standard wall size stud of 600 mm. You can also get it in 600 mm and 900 mm sizes.
Drilling Into Plasterboard
As this is made from crystals and paper it is extremely easy to cut plasterboard and also to drill through it. Plasterboard is also very easy to break with your hands. Even when the board has been skimmed with plaster it is still very easy to get through. That is because the skim of plaster is not that thick and neither is the plasterboard.
So although there are many good things about using plasterboard, it also has a number of weaknesses. It is not very good for attaching things to it such as shelves, pictures, TVs etc. As plasterboard breaks very easily it is not that strong.
Drilling as such is simple and as I mentioned earlier just about any drill bit can be used. The much more important thing is to how to securely hang or attach something heavy to a plasterboard wall or ceiling.
Try to Find the Wooden Stud
If you are hanging something heavy such as a mirror or a shelf, then ideally try to find a joist behind the plasterboard. You can find out how to do just that in the video below. The easiest way of finding a stud is to use a stud finder and something like the C H Hanson stud finder, available at Amazon UK, is a very good choice.
Ideally if your measurements allow that try and find a couple of joists to hang the mirror or shelf to. Wall studs are usually 16 inches apart, but in older homes may be up to 24" apart.
If you can that makes life a great deal easier as you don't need a drill at all. You can screw directly through the layer of plasterboard and then into the wooden stud using a normal wood screw. That also makes a much stronger and safer way of attaching a bracket, screw and even a nail.
Try never to have to drill and attach anything heavy into plasterboard as it is always a weak way of making a fixing secure. If however you can't find a stud, or are faced with an object that doesn't line up with the studs, then there are a couple of methods for attaching something to plasterboard.
I have shown what is available just below the video.
Plasterboard Wall Fixings
The most common method of attaching anything to a plasterboard wall is to use wall plugs. Many people in the UK refer to these as "Rawl Plugs", but that is just a brand name. Many manufacturers make these so there is always plenty of choice.
There are plenty of choices available but for the most part, there are three main types:
- Standard wall plug
- Self drilling wall plug
- Toggle plasterboard wall fixings
Standard Wall Plugs
You drill a hole through the plasterboard, insert a wall plug, and then drive your screw into the wall plug.
The wall plugs come in different sizes to fit different size screws.
Most good quality wall plugs will also tell you what size of a drill bit to use, to make a perfect fit for the wall plug. The wall plugs designed for plasterboard open out, as the screw is driven into them.
That means that is becomes hard for the wall plug to be removed from the wall, and as such, makes a much better and more secure connection.
Self Drilling Wall Plugs
For many years I used the basic wall plugs shown above. I still do quite a lot, but if I want something very secure I now use the self drilling wall plugs. They are slightly more expensive, but they are easier to use and do a much faster job.
With these there are two parts which are the self drilling wall plug and the screw.
You can use a screwdriver or a drill/driver to screw the wall plug directly into the plasterboard until it is tight and flush to the wall.
You then screw or drive in the screw to the wall plug for a very secure connection. The important thing to remember is that you do need to buy the right size for the particular item that you may be hanging.
These are a very good choice for hanging something from a ceiling.
Toggle Plasterboard Wall Fixings
Some people like using these but personally I am not a huge fan. The principle behind these is that you drill a hole through the plasterboard. You then push the toggle end through, and as you tighten up the screw, then the toggle opens, and grips the back of the plasterboard, making a tight connection.
These work well for plasterboard walls and also for any type of cavity wall. They are also popular for hanging various items for ceilings.
These are only really suitable for light duty fixings. The principle is that they spread the weight over a wider area.
The fixing when finished is pretty strong, but I would not recommend these for something like a TV bracket. You would be better off with either of the other two methods.
FAQ About Drilling and Plasterboard
Q, Can You Drill Directly Into Plasterboard?
Yes that is a very easy thing to do. However if you are hanging something heavy such as a shelf, it is always recommended that you try to find the stud, and drill into that as it is much more secure. Plasterboard is too weak to hold up anything heavy.
If you have no other choice, then always use some form of plasterboard wall plug or fixing.
Q. Do You Need a Hammer Drill to Drill Plasterboard?
A. No. In almost every case it is very easy to drill through plasterboard. You can even simply push a screwdriver through it. With self drilling wall plugs, these can be attached without any drilling at all.
Q. Do You Need a Masonry Drill Bit to Drill Plasterboard?
A. You can use a masonry drill bit for plasterboard, but any general purpose or wood drill bit will do the job very well. Avoid using metal drill bits as it makes those blunt.
Q. Can you wallpaper directly on to plasterboard?
A. Yes you can do that, but it is a better idea to use a drywall sealer first. The reason for that is that if you want to change your wallpaper at some stage, the old wallpaper will come off much easier, if a sealer has been applied at the start.