Why Won’t My Screw Go in the Wall?

It might sound like a bit of a silly question, but the reality is, that it can happen to the best of us. If you’re dealing with a screw that just won’t go into the wall – then look no further – I’ll break down how to deal with this in relation to several common DIY scenarios.

There are a few reasons why your screw might not be driving all the way into the wall. You might be drilling into metal studs, a knot in a wood stud, a nail, or a metal drywall guard. If you’re drilling into an exterior facing wall, then there is also the possibility that you’re drilling into plaster or brick – depending on your home’s construction.

It may also be an issue with the particular screw you’re using or even the drill/driver you’re using.

Let’s take a look at these frustrating situations in more detail, so you’ll be able to drive a screw all the way into your wall unhindered.

Troubleshooting – Why Won’t My Screw Go in the Wall?

If your screw just won’t fasten all the way into a wall, then you’ll need to do a little sleuthing to figure out exactly what’s going on.

Stripped Screw

Before you start cutting holes in your drywall to see what’s stopping your screw from going in, it’s a good idea to look at some other issues that can be affecting your performance.

It’s possible that the screw you’re trying to drive has a stripped screw head. This can happen when you’re trying to drill into a material and the driver bit slips enough times to wear out the screw head indents.

Take a close look at your screw head and see if it’s worn out. If it’s completely stripped, then it’s useless, and you won’t be able to drive it into the wall.

stripped screw
Another clue that your screw is stripped is small metal shavings coming off the screw head. [Image source]
Remove the screw with a pair of pliers or vise grips, and insert a new one to see if that works.

Underpowered Drill

You might be surprised to learn that this can actually be the cause of your issue, but I’ve had this happen to me when using an old cheapo black and decker drill. If the drill can drive the screw partway into the wall, but slows down and stops at a certain point, then this is a good indication that the drill is underpowered.

under-powered drill
Believe it or not, this old black and decker drill didn’t have the power to drive a 2 1/2″ wood screw all the way in.

This issue can also come up if your house is old and you have hardwood studs instead of the softwood ones used nowadays. Another potential cause is that you’re drilling into a metal sleeve covering a part of the wall studs.

Either way, you should be able to power through any of these issues with a more powerful drill on a high torque setting. You’ll want at least an 18V drill when doing any tough work, as smaller 12V might not have the muscle to power through.

You can also try using an impact driver if you have access to one, as they are specifically designed for driving fasteners and work incredibly well.

Pilot Hole

Failing to drill a pilot hole in the wall before driving your screw can be another cause for a stalled screw. This should only be an issue if you’re drilling into studs or even brick or plaster.

Ideally, you want your pilot hole diameter to be the same diameter as the screw without its threads. This doesn’t need to be an exact science though, and even if you don’t have the perfect sized drill bit an approximately sized pilot hole should ensure your screw drives all the way in.

drilling pilot hole
Drilling pilot hole for a curtain rod.

Screw Type

If you’re drilling into studs, then you’ll want a decent wood screw and not a drywall screw. Drywall screws are brittle and have a tendency to snap off and break when screwed into wood.

If you’re mounting something on a wall and using a kit, be aware these often come with drywall screws that are really only meant to work with anchors in drywall. Using them to drill into studs is not what they’re designed for.

Also look for screws with a self-tapping tip, which will make drilling through hard materials easier.

Drill Settings

It’s easy to forget that power drills have both speed and torque settings that you may need to play around with. If you’re using an impact driver, there aren’t any clutch settings, so this likely isn’t the problem.

If you’re having trouble with a screw that won’t go into the wall, then your drill’s clutch settings may be set too low. Try increasing the torque-speed on the drill by rotating the clutch up to a higher setting and see if that solves the problem.

Most drills have 2 or 3-speed settings in addition to the clutch. You can typically adjust these with a switch on the top or side of the drill

You want the drill set to the lowest speed when driving screws. The low speed creates more torque than the higher speeds, so it’s the preferred speed for driving screws.

driving screw into wood bedframe
Here you can see both the torque settings on the clutch, and the speed setting switch on top to the drill.

Another thing that could be causing problems is a battery that’s about to die. Try recharging the battery if you suspect that might be the issue.

Hitting Obstacles

If you’re driving the screws into drywall, then there’s a good chance you don’t know exactly what’s going on in the space behind the drywall. There’s a variety of things your screw may be coming into contact with behind the drywall that you can’t see.

If you’ve tried all the above options, and are still having a hard time, then it may be worth cutting a small hole into the drywall and having a peek around. You can repair this later with a little spackle. Don’t do this exactly where you plan to drill through, as the spackle won’t support a screw like actual drywall will.

You can find a number of things that might be behind your drywall that are impeding your screw. Sometimes studs have metal covers over certain sections, which you should be able to drill through with a decent drill.

If you’re coming up against a pipe or gas line, then you’ll need to relocate your screw location to somewhere else. If it’s a nail that’s impeding your path, then relocate the screw a little over to one side.

With an exterior wall, you might be butting up against brick (if your house is brick), plaster, or a concrete lintel. All of these can be drilled through with a decent hammer drill, including normal drills with a hammer drill function.

If you’re not interested in cutting a hole into your drywall to look around, then you can always try again a half-inch over and see if it works there. This is a good trick for mounting curtain rods or anything above windows, as they have a tendency to house metal stud protectors.

Denis Gardner

I've loved tinkering and fixing things for as long as I can remember. So, naturally, I gravitated towards DIY and home improvement when I bought my first home. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or messing around with my newest tool!

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