Building with Pilot Holes

How to Build your DIY project using pilot holes to keep the wood from splitting.

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Since the beginning I’ve mentioned the importance of pilot holes when building anything.

This little tip can save a project and in this tutorial I’m sharing in detail how the process works and reinforce why this simple step should never be skipped.

Pilot Holes Begin with a Drill

Pilot holes begin by drilling into any type of wood first to keep the wood from splitting while building.

Wood that is soft, like cedar will split quickly so remember to always drill slow every time.

  1.  The first step is to choose a drill bit that is smaller than the nail or screw hardware you’ll be using to connect a project.  I normally use bits that are a tad smaller than the hardware.
  2. Make sure the wood is aligned correctly and hold together while you insert the drill bit in a straight forward motion.
  3. After the holes are made then slowly insert the hardware for a secure split free connection.

What Happens without Pilot Holes

There have been times when I was in a hurry and skipped drilling because it takes time.

Every time I dare skip this step the wood most certainly splits.  In the piece above you can see a small wood split to the left of the bottom screw.

Over time that split will increase and eventually the board will need to be repaired.

If I would have taken the time to just drill first I wouldn’t have to spend additional time cutting new wood to replace this board before moving forward.  Lesson learned… but it took me awhile.

To speed up the process I like to use 2 drills, one for the holes and the other for inserting.  If this is an option I highly recommend using two.


All Types of Wood

All types of wood including plywood should be drilled first because as you notice with this piece the splitting was formed in the way of peeling.

This can be fixed with a little sandpaper and sealed with paint or stain but I should have drilled holes first to begin with.

It didn’t take me long to figure out slowing down was a better way to build because pilot holes are essential to a well done finished project.

This box is an example of a project where pilot holes were incorporated throughout the entire process; as a result the finished piece turned out great.

Later I added stain and wheels and now I use it to store blankets.

No matter how small or large a project, remember drilling pilot holes is a smart thing to do first and never skip this step.


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