How to Drill Small Nail Holes in Molding

When attaching molding—such as chair rail, crown, or baseboard—with nails, it’s a good idea to predrill the nail hole first to prevent the molding from splitting. However, the very small (1/16” to 1/8” diameter) drill bits needed to drill nail holes can break easily.

To prevent this from happening, make your own drill bit from one of the finishing nails you’re using to attach the molding by cutting the point of the nail off with lineman’s pliers or nippers.

Cutting point off nail with lineman's pliers to make drill bit.
Cutting point off nail with lineman's pliers to make drill bit.

Chuck the nail in a drill with the cut tip out, and use the nail to drill a hole for the nail in the molding. Be careful not to bend the homemade drill bit by applying too much pressure or by changing the angle of the drill while drilling.

Drilling a hole in chair rail using a drill bit made from a nail.
Drilling a hole in chair rail using a drill bit made from a nail.

Watch this video to find out more.

Further Information

Joe Truini: Decorative moldings provide a great way for do-it-yourselfers to transform the look of a room. The challenge, however, is to not split the molding when you’re driving in the nails.

Danny Lipford: Normally you can drill a pilot hole with a regular drill bit and a drill. But so many times with that small of a drill bit, inevitably it will break on you.

Joe Truini: One technique is to take a finishing nail—the same size nail you’re using to attach the molding—and snip the head off using a pair of nippers or lineman pliers, like these here. Then simply use the nail as the pilot drill bit. Chuck it into a drill, and use the nail to drill the pilot hole.

Just remember not to apply too much pressure, or you might bend the nail. Then simply take a nail and drive it through the pilot hole, and there’s no fear of splitting the molding.

Danny Lipford: Now, this method will work on any type of molding in your house.


  1. I love your radio show and appreciate all the helpful advice.
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    Mary C

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