So You Drilled in the Wrong Spot





Introduction: So You Drilled in the Wrong Spot

It happens to everyone - you line everything up, look down for two seconds to pick up your drill/sneeze/answer the phone/etc. and, without knowing it, you slip a fraction and end up drilling just off where you wanted to. You could have also just been an idiot and marked it out wrong.

The problem now is that the hole you just made is too close to where it should be. This could mean that the drill just slips into the existing hole, making it difficult to put it where it is supposed to and/or it creates a weak point so your project will crumble under its own weight!

The solution is quite simple - plug the hole so it's like the hole was never there!

Step 1: Materials and Tools

The following list will have to be varied to suit you individual application, but this will give you an idea of what I do.

Drill bit that matches your dowel

Dowel (either same size or bigger than the hole you are plugging) - make sure to match the parent material, e.g. Pine dowel for pine, oak dowel for oak wood.
Filler if there is plasterboard as well (and the hole is not being covered with something else)

Step 2: Drill, Cut and Plug - So Easy I've Made It a Single Step!

I have added some shots of a mock-up I did to demonstrate what is going on This has a piece of pine with a piece of ply stuck to the top (I didn't have any plasterboard, but this lets you get the idea). In this case, I have marked out holes I want and then drilled just off centre.

The holes are then plugged with a piece of dowel and cleaned up, then the hole re-drilled where it was supposed to be. In this example I was rushing and re-drilled at an angle so the bottom of the dowel is missing in the cross-section, but I hope this gives you a good idea of what is going on under the surface. The hole on the right has the plug set below the top layer so that this space can be filled before re-drilling (as this was just an example, I skipped this step to save time).

Next is the real-world example I wrote originally.

If you have screwed into the hole, or the sides of it aren't smooth, you need to drill it out so there will be good contact between the parent material and the dowel.

It's great to use a drill bit with a depth gauge on it, but you could use the depth gauge of your drill (if it has one), or mark out the depth on the bit itself with some tape.

This will give you consistent holes and let you know how long to cut your pieces of dowel.

I'm putting up shelves directly over the hole in this example, so my dowel will be cut to the same depth as the drill bit.

If the patch was going to be visible and need painting over, I would cut the dowel to the depth of the hole minus the thickness of the plasterboard/drywall/Giprock (usually 12mm).

Fill the hole with glue and smear some on the dowel then hammer it in. Use an offcut of dowel to drive it in without the hammer damaging your wall and to push it in past the plasterboard.

Wipe up the excess glue and wait for it to dry and cure before drilling again or finishing the top with filler (to be painted over later).



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    17 Discussions

    Thanks so much. Seems simple enough solution! I was going to use a router to extend the hole, then attempt to plug in the remaining area. I'm new to this ... so much fun (and frustration esp. as I measured incorrectly ).

    If this happens to a brick wall simply fill the hole back up with chemical anchor (epoxy cement) or actual cement and give it enough time to dry. Make your new marks and this time for safety use a smaller drill bit to create a pilot hole before using your required bit size.

    Thanks for the Instructable! Any tips for fixing this scenario in a plastered brick wall?

    3 replies

    If you're not going to see it then rawlplug with a screw in it works

    I did that once and drilled another hole in a scrap brick, used the dust that was drilled out, mixed it with elmers glue and used it like spackle. The brick was reclaimed, so it already had defects.

    Thanks NicloasGoosen! Sorry to hear about your mishap - brick is a lot harder to deal with! I'm not a engineer or otherwise qualified so take anything I say with grain of salt, but I would strongly recommend repositioning the hole into another brick altogether, which is probably not what you want to hear :( The key with this method is to fill the hole with like material, but no filler will match the brick.

    If strength is not an issue, there are fillers for screwing into brick that may be worth a try, but these are just acting like those little coloured star plugs to help set the screw rather than hold anything in place. If you figure it out, it would be great to see you put up an Instructable about it!

    (unless of course, you are referring to drilling a hole in the mortar between bricks - which is not really recommended, but if thats the case then jam some more mortar in there and try again in a few days!)

    Thank you! This helps me a lot!

    For a misaligned nail hole, I have used a wooden match (leaving the striking end out of the mix.)

    3 replies

    Or barbeque sticks, bit stronger than matches.

    Most fillers are strong enough to be drilled, but in plasterboard, try to get a good dollop of PVA right round the edges of the hole to get a better key. You can even add a few drops to your filler mix to toughen it up. Also can mix in some glass fiibre (loft insulation) to get a very strong mix. Personally, I never use plastic wall plugs in plasterboard - the best and strongest fixings are Rawl Intersets.

    Never heard of a Rawl interset. Had to Google it. It's simply a hollow wall anchor or moly plug. From that I learned there is a setting tool with a lever that pulls the screw to set the wings against the back. Could have used one of those many times to save the tedious screwing the screw until the wings gripped against the back, and especially for those times when it slipped and the whole thing turned in the hole instead of clamping against the back side of the wall.

    Interset is just Rawl's name for it, there are many others.

    Simplest, most secure fixing for plasterboard. I use them for kitchen wall units etc. Get some firm fixings into the plasterboard where the studs are - if nailed, find the nails with a magnet, pull the nails out and get a line of screws in.

    You can "set" them with a screwdriver by screwing them tight, but the setting tool is a breeze. Drill slightly smaller than you need, tap the Interset in flush, get the end of the setting tool under the Interset screw head and gently squeeze.

    The beauty is that you have a fixing that cannot come adrift and if you need to remove, just drill the the flange off. The setting tool just pulls, so you don't mess the hole up.

    For those really big jobs, try a chemical anchor.

    "You could have also just been an idiot and marked it out wrong."

    I read that and just about fell on the floor laughing! Thanks for this. Even the best of us screw up on occasion. And sometimes, even WE are just idiots, too!

    And don't forget that drilling a pilot hole with a smaller drill bit, or using pilot-point bits, helps to get that hole just where you marked it.

    Thanks for the instructable. Good job. I've done this with a variety of fillers, depending on the job, ranging from toothpicks on up.

    Ah! Good catch bluesea8 - I should have made it clear that I was drilling into the framework (joists, studs, or whatever) behind the drywall and it is this hole that the dowel is filling in. This can also apply to any solid wood repair, not just walls. The patching of the drywall is only relevant if it is going to be visible afterwards.

    The biggest benefit of filling the hole is that you can now reposition the new hole so that is partially overlaps without losing any strength (which is not what I had to do and I didn't want to drill extra holes in my wall). It would have been good to demonstrate this more clearly - I'll try to mock up a demonstration on some scrap wood to upload over the weekend.

    If you only have a hole in the drywall, you are totally correct in that it just needs to be patched over (unless it is a particularly large hole, then you need to add some support behind it).

    I am confused on what you are doing. Why would you put a wooden dowel rod into drywall instead of just patching the drywall?

    1 reply

    That makes 2 of us confused! I thought exactly the same thing, why go to all this bother instead of just patching?

    Thx for this instructable, this happens a lot to me!