My house is built like a tank that I can't drill into
April 14, 2019 4:20 PM   Subscribe

I live in a 1950s house and when trying to hang window blinds I have discovered that there is some sort of metal frame around the windows that I can't drill through. I did successfully put up blinds for one pair of windows, but was only able to drill one hole for each mount. I used a standard drill bit, but it took a lot of time on each hole.

On the next window I only made it about 1/4 inch before hitting metal. I tried a masonry drill bit but would not make any further progress. I can see shiny metal in the hole. The side and top edge this window, and all other windows including the one I successfully drilled into is magnetic. This hole is higher than the hole from the successfully drilled window—I was hoping I would be able to avoid the metal frame by going higher. I also tried to drill above the hole and couldn't even penetrate the wall at all at that point. There are some existing holes from the broken blinds that I've removed. I don't know how they were able to drill those.

Mounting blinds on the top inside of the window frame or on something with a bar inside the frame between the sides is not an option as the interior side and top of the window frames are curved.

The walls (plaster I think?) are somewhat brittle, so for example when hanging pictures I had some cracking when hammering a nail into it, and I have broken one of the old blinds by adjusting them which caused the mount to fall off from one of it's screw holes cracking.

How can I hang these blinds?
posted by ridogi to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Yeah, I lived in a house that had metal plaster lath, you should look that up. It was fun when I was wallpapering the bathroom and some of the plaster fell off, and even more fun when hanging pictures.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:00 PM on April 14, 2019

Also, if you are hanging pictures, you can put a piece of tape over the spot, criss-cross, and then drive the nail, if it is a small picture, that will prevent the plaster from cracking. But if you need something anchored, it is more of a project.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:24 PM on April 14, 2019

Apologies if you’ve already tried this, but the trick with drilling metal is to start as small as possible and then progressively step up bit sizes until you get to the size you need. It helps to make a little dent in place first to keep the drill on target.
posted by rodlymight at 5:25 PM on April 14, 2019

Will try increasing bit from smaller to larger.

The hooks to hang curtains are not an option as our kitten would climb up curtains. He is also motivation to replace the existing blinds that are on some windows so we can go cordless for his safety.

By the way the drill is corded so it is not a matter of it being underpowered.
posted by ridogi at 5:40 PM on April 14, 2019

This is the drill equivalent of “try turning it off and back on again,” but have you checked to make sure your drill speed is set to “forward” and not “reverse”?
posted by KathrynT at 5:47 PM on April 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

My last house had walls like this. For anchoring heavy things like blinds, I found that a bit made for drilling through steel and a hammer drill did a better job at getting through and not crumbling the plaster. I would drill pretty big holes to allow for plastic anchors to take the screws.

For pictures I used masonry nails, and the tape method above.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 6:16 PM on April 14, 2019

The difficulty here is that the common twist bits that are good at drilling through steel are quickly dulled by abrasives in the plaster. Masonry bits are good for the plaster, but awful for the steel. Assuming you don’t have both a bench grinder and the desire to learn to sharpen bits by eye, you might just look up some discount eBay seller that offers cheap twist bits by the dozen, and treat them as disposable. Start holes with the masonry bit, then switch to the standard twist bit to get through the steel. If the twist bit only lasts a couple of holes this way, so what?
posted by jon1270 at 6:37 PM on April 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

Jon1270 is correct. This is a 2 drill bit problem. Masonry bits are awesome at masonry. But they literally won't drill into soft wood let alone metal. So once you bottom out thru the plaster at the metal then change to a dead standard metal bit (Literally cheapest most common bits) and then you'll have an Uncle Robert.
posted by chasles at 6:43 PM on April 14, 2019 [6 favorites]

Agreeing on the 2 bit solution. The proper bits make all the difference in the world.
posted by 8dot3 at 6:10 AM on April 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thanks I got them up. Turns out I did accidentally flip the drill to reverse after the first window. It also seems I need to use the just masonry bit and skip the standard bit as that wouldn't start the hole on this window even when drilling the correct direction.
posted by ridogi at 9:05 AM on April 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

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