How to Drill Holes for Wires

How to Drill Holes for Wires as an Electrician

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This article is from my roughing-in series for electricians.

Today, you will learn how to drill holes for electrical wires. The process may seem straight-forward, but like anything in the electrical field, it’s the LITTLE TRICKS that make all the difference.

The golden rule is YOU ONLY WANT TO DRILL HOLES ONCE.

I’ll teach you that in this article! – Let’s get into the video!

How to Drill Wire Holes as Electricians

What We Cover in this Article:

  • Before Drilling Holes – What to Know
  • How to Drill Holes for Electrical Wires

Before Drilling Holes – What to Know

I’ll first quickly cover some gotchas when drilling wire holes to speed you up, and allow you to work FAST as an electrician.

Prevent Missing Holes When Drilling

The first rule about drilling holes for wires is that you only want to drill holes once. When you miss a stud, it slows you down tremendously, especially in the middle of pulling wire.

You may be on a ladder, realize you missed a hole, and now you have to get down from the ladder, grab a drill, drill the hole, then get back to work.

We prevent this by Planning Routes BEFORE Drilling Holes for Wires.

FACT: You’re ALWAYS going to forget one or two holes. But if you take 5 minutes to figure out the wire route, it helps tremendously in preventing missing holes when drilling!

How Many Wire Holes to Drill

You must count HOW MANY WIRES you’re pulling.. which helps you know How Many Holes to Drill for Wires.

And.. a VERY IMPORTANT GOTCHA… EXTRA-LOW-VOLTAGE WIRES!

Remember, power (120V) must be 1-foot away from data, cable, telephone, fiber optic, and any other extra-low-voltage wire types.

There’s actually a lot to know about drilling holes, because if you don’t think ahead, it will slow you down, it can fail inspection, and things just look sloppy!

Using a Company Drill As Much as Possible

Here’s another one of my golden rules:

DO NOT USE YOUR PERSONAL DRILL FOR LOTS OF HOLES.

Use a company drill as much as possible.

Otherwise, you’ll burn your drill out fast!!

Read: How to Buy a Drill for Electricians

So what do you do then?

Companies often have company drills which you have to share. When it’s your turn with the company drill, make sure to take advantage of it! If you’re waiting on a company drill, then plan your routes for wires and figure how many wire holes to drill while you’re waiting!

When you miss a hole, then use your personal drill. This allows you to work faster, AND protects your tools (especially your drill, as it’s your most expensive tool!)

How to Drill Holes for Electrical Wires

Now, in order to actually drill holes for wires, you are going to need a drill bit, drill driver, and safety equipment.

The most popular drill bit we use is called an Auger Bit.

Auger Wood Drill Bit for Electrical Wires
Auger Bit for Drilling Holes for Wires in a Wood Frame Setting

What makes an auger bit so powerful is that it removes wood as you’re drilling. This allows you to drill through many wood studs, without having to remove the drill bit to clean out the hole.

An auger bit can even go through nails, but you want to avoid that, because it dulls it. However, in some situations, you gotta do what you gotta do 😁

Make sure to view different drill bit types for electricians.

Pro-Tip: An auger bit can be sharpened with a file. However, make sure you file it the right way, otherwise you can damage the auger bit!

Make Sure You’re Drilling Wire Holes Level

A huge shoutout to Bob on this pro-tip for the best way to drill wire holes!

Make sure the holes you drill for wires are the same height.

If holes are drastically different heights, it causes unnecessary friction, and becomes impossible at long-length wire pulls!

It can often force you to pull wire from two places (you have to keep moving back and forth to two locations.. you pull slack, then you go to the other location to pull the wire tight for your wire length).

You don’t need to get a tape measure out for wire hole heights, because remember, it’s all about speed. Keep your wire holes at a similar height for a fast wire pull, and professional look!

What Height to Drill Holes for Wires

This is different from keeping wire hole heights the same.

Before drilling holes, you must think about WHAT HEIGHT to actually drill the wire holes at.

Sometimes an object can be in the way, or make things harder to enter the wires into the box. (This is especially true for bending pipe.. you HAVE to take a quick peek of the whole wire route, and pick the best spot to work).

EXAMPLE: Let’s look at plugs and pulling wire.

  • If you drill too low, it will be hard on your back, and the wire may be too close to the plug box, making it hard to enter the wire into the box, or stapling the wire.
  • If you drill too high, you’ll have to use more staples to get the wire into, which slows you down!

The Process to Drill Holes for Wires:

When drilling holes for wires, we have the top plate, bottom plate, and studs.

Drilling Holes in the Top Plate of a Wall for Wires to Drop Down (Make Sure to Wear Safety Glasses.. or Close Your Eyes!!)
Drilling Holes in the Top Plate of a Wall for Wires to Drop Down (Make Sure to Wear Safety Glasses.. or Close Your Eyes!!)

Whenever drilling through a stud, ALWAYS make sure to double check each side. This includes the top plate, bottom plate, and wall studs.

Do a quick visual check, and often a check with your hand just to ensure nothing is there, especially for the top plate.

NEVER STAPLES WIRES ON THE TOP OR BOTTOM PLATE.

I have even seen a foreman of a jobsite stapling to the top plate of wires near an electrical panel.. I was about to drill through the top plate, but thought to myself, “I should double check this top plate”. Sure enough.. they stapled many wires on the top plate (this is a VERY BIG NO!)

We often use the top plate to transition from the ceiling to enter the wall. We use the bottom plate to often switch between floors (from upstairs to downstairs.. or from level 2 to level 1 of a building).

You may want to learn about Homeruns and Branch Circuitry for pulling wire.

Wrapping Up – Drilling Holes for Wires as Electricians

To conclude..

When we drill our holes as electricians, these are the quick tips:

  • Plan BEFORE Drilling Holes (Where is the wire coming from, where is it going, and are there any obstacles in the way, like a structural beam).
  • Know How Many Wire Holes You’ll Need (You do not want to cram the holes super tight with wire, as they get hot and can cause a house fire [it can also make you fail inspection!]. Also, don’t forget to keep power and extra-low-voltage wires at least 1-foot apart!)
  • Drill Your Holes Level (This makes wire pulling easy, and looks professional).
  • Think About Wire Hole Height (If too low, it can be hard on your body to pull, and be too close to electrical devices like plugs.)

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