Can You Drill Through A Load Bearing Top Plate?

It’s time to insert wires in your home, and you need to drill your top plate for easy wiring. But the top plate has a load-bearing wall, and you’re unsure if it is safe or in line with your city’s building codes. Drilling holes on a top plate attached to a load-bearing wall can be challenging because it requires a technical process.

Don’t freak out just yet! From telling you how to know if your top plate is load-bearing to the easy drilling process, this article is well-loaded to respond to your query. 

Can You Drill Through A Load Bearing Top Plate? Answered

You can drill through a load-bearing top plate, especially if it’s in line with your country’s code. But, it can be a bit challenging because you need to ensure that you use a good drill, measure the width of the top plate, and also find a safe spot to drill to avoid drilling into a dangerous spot.

To drill a hole, place the drill on the spot you want to drill the hole. Ensure you flex the drill slightly to go straight up into the wall cavity. Drill through the load-bearing top plate from below. 

As an essential wood fiber, the load-bearing wall also carries the weight of the building components and transfers it to the foundation of the house. With the function of reducing the weight on the building, it makes the drilling process easier when the top plate has a load bearing attached. 

As the perimeter for nailing that provides the structural and insulated sheathing needed for proper wiring, a top plate is a part of your building construction that holds the roof structure together. 

When the load-bearing wall holds the frame together, it connects it with the wall structure, which helps maintain the shape of your house. It is usually a very long, thick wood beam that sits horizontally on the vertical wood beams in the building’s wall.

The top plate may serve a good function of adding extra protection to your home, but the load-bearing wall does a lot more. Aside from additional protection, it requires a double top plate to make it extra secure and durable. It also guarantees the strength and stability of the building from external forces like earthquakes and wind.

How Can You Know If A Top Plate Is Load Bearing?

To know if a top plate is load-bearing, check the angle of the joists. If the joists run perpendicular, the top plate has a load-bearing wall. How you drill holes on a top plate without a load-bearing wall differs from how you drill on a load-bearing wall. So, you must check to ensure you’re following the right step. Here are other ways to know if a top plate is load bearing

  • If The Top Plate Is Single, The Wall Isn’t Load-Bearing
    To get a load-bearing wall, the top plate is usually double. The reason is that a single top plate doesn’t have the capacity to carry the load-bearing wall. For a single top plate, the capacity is usually too small and will be subjected to lots of pressure by the load-bearing wall.
  • Look Out For Studs Too. If The Top Plate Doesn’t Have Studs, The Wall Isn’t Load-Bearing
    Having studs on a top plate is almost like giving choking the load-bearing wall with more than what it needs to function. Studs perform almost the same function as a load-bearing wall. So, if there’s a stud, then the wall isn’t load-bearing. 
  • All Exterior Top Plates Have Load Bearing Walls
    Exterior top plates connect with the load-bearing wall to form the perimeter or outer footprint that holds the foundation of a house. To function properly, each exterior top plate must have a load-bearing wall. 
  • The Top Plate Is Load-Bearing If The Stud Is On One Side
    If the stud is on one side of the wall, it means the top plate is double. Once the top plate is double, it automatically means that the wall is load-bearing.
  • If The Top Plate Was Fixed After The House Was Constructed, It Has No Load Bearing
    Load bearing walls can only function well with double top plates. If the top plate is fixed after the house is constructed, it means it will be single, which automatically means it doesn’t have the capacity to carry a load-bearing wall. 

How To Drill Through The Top Of A Load Bearing Top Plate: Easy Drilling Process

To drill the top of a load-bearing top plate, get the necessary tools like a drill, drill bits, marker, etc. When you’ve gathered the tools, begin the drilling process by flexing the drill, then drill from bottom to top. Here are the easy drilling processes to help you drill the load-bearing top plate without stress. 

Step One: Gather Your Drilling Tools

This process is fundamental because the right tools will determine the success of the drilling. Here are the tools needed: Mansory drill, drill bits, safety goggles, hand gloves, heavy-duty tape, and stud finder with live wire detector.

Step Two: Wear Your Safety Goggles And Hand Gloves 

Before drilling the top plate, ensure that you protect your eyes by wearing safety goggles. Doing this will prevent wood particles from entering your eyes once you start drilling. Hand gloves are optional, but to keep your hands protected, you must wear them. 

Step Three: Begin The Drilling Process

  • Use a stud finder to locate where there’s a stud in the top plate. This is necessary because drilling through the stud can damage the top plate. 
  • Use a marker to mark the spot you want to drill.
  • Use a drill bit to punch a tiny hole on the spot. This pilot hole will serve as a guide to the central hole you want to drill. 
  • Place the tip of your drill bit into the spot you marked and gently press the drill’s trigger, making sure to keep the bit perpendicular.
  • Slowly increase the drill speed until you achieve the desired hole depth. Once you’ve reached that, slow down the drilling speed, but don’t stop. 
  • Keep holding the drill trigger until you completely pull it out of the hole.

What Are the Guidelines For Drilling Into A Top Plate?

If you drill wrongly into a top plate, it can easily damage it and, in extreme cases, require that you replace the entire structure. To drill into a top plate, you must follow the proper guideline to avoid drilling into the wrong place, which may damage the top plate. Here are the guidelines to follow for drilling into a top plate. 

  1. Check the top plate to know if it is attached to a load-bearing wall. 
  2. The drill hole should be at most 2-5 inches. 
  3. Ensure to use a drill for the task. The best type of drill for a top plate is the Mansory drill. 
  4. If drilling a 2 inches hole, you can use a small drill. If the hole is for a large wiring process, consider using a heavy Mansory drill. 
  5. Do not drill anywhere near the light switches or electrical outlets. Drilling around these objects could cause a spark and, in extreme cases, damage the wires. If you must drill around delicate areas like this, do it on top or below. 
  6. If drilling in a bathroom, be careful not to drill close to pipes and areas with radiators. 
  7. Always use a stud finder to locate studs in the top plate. 
  8. Ensure to wear safety goggles to prevent particles from damaging your eyes. 
  9. Always drill from the bottom to the top with your drill flexed slightly. i.e., the tip of your drill should always be slant when drilling. 
  10. Use a marker and drill bit to mark the spot you want to drill to avoid drilling the wrong area. 

How Big Of A Hole Can I Drill Into A Load Bearing Top Plate?

The hole size on the load-bearing top plate should have the same width as the top plate. It shouldn’t be larger than 40 percent of the width of the top plate. To make the hole width equal to the width of the top plate, measure 2 – 5 inches on the top plate before drilling. The hole will become too large and unuseful if you add an extra inch. 

Final Thoughts

Although you can drill through a load-bearing top plate, it isn’t just a pick-and-drill task. It requires a bit of technical process, like using a stud finder to locate the right spot and drilling from the right angle. This article has made the entire process very easy. So, get your drill and get on to fixing the task. 

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