How to Drill Holes in Tight Spaces

Drilling holes in tight spaces can be a challenge for any old house DIY-er, but there are solutions. Here’s a look at the right way and the wrong way to drill holes in small spaces.

Ample space usually exists between floor joists or studs to allow drilling holes for plumbing or wiring. Eventually, however, you will encounter a space that cannot accommodate the drill and the bit. When this happens, consider buying or renting one of these items:

  • First, a short drill bit: Spade bits come in short lengths, or you might simply cut a regular bit to a shorter length.
  • Second, attachments designed to fit into a drill chuck: These hold the bit at a right angle to the drill body.
  • Third, drills designed for just this situation: The chuck is positioned at a 90º angle to the drill body. It’s a more expensive solution, so look to borrow or rent a drill like this unless you do a lot of drilling in tight spaces.
Without the proper bits or drills, boring in tight spaces—and being careful to introduce the hole in the recommended middle third of the joist, etc.—can be daunting. Angled holes, whether directed horizontally or vertically, may work for flexible wire, but are completely unsuited  for water or gas lines. Further, depending on the incline, steeply angled holes can remove a significant amount of wood and consequently should be avoided when possible.
THE RIGHT WAY: If even a short drill bit won’t afford the space you need, opt for a right-angle attachment or even a right-angle drill. These significantly reduce the amount of space required to maneuver and use the drill. If space is still too tight for a standard spade bit, buy several bits and cut them into perhaps three lengths. Drill, using each successively longer length, by fitting each longer bit into the partially drilled hole.

Ray Tschoepe

Tags: OHJ February 2023

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