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Old 06-06-2011, 06:14 PM   #1
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Pilot holes for finishing nails


Is it necessary to drill pilot holes for finishing nails going into MDF baseboards->drywall->stud? I didn't think it was, but then I was reading some articles on the web where they mentioned drilling pilot holes? Now I'm not so sure. Just about to do my first baseboards tonight on a small closet.
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Old 06-06-2011, 06:26 PM   #2
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Pilot holes for finishing nails


Shouldn't be necessary at all. This is done when nailing oak by hand but not MDF.

If you do find it necessary for some weird reason just chuck-up a finishing nail in your drill and burn your way through the material with the nail.
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Old 06-06-2011, 07:57 PM   #3
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Pilot holes for finishing nails


I agree so long as you are using quality nails. I have piloted when hand nailing hardwoods to protect from splitting but that is a non-issue with MDF or drywall.

However, working in a tight space like a closet, I can see where pilot holes might come in handy to a point.

Also, I have worked on antique homes where the framing lumber has dried and hardened to almost a steel like state. In some instances I have found that I had to drill pilot holes into the studs because the nails just kept bending. Even blown nails would not seat and bounce back at the gun.

By the way, wandering a bit off topic but related. Carry an old candle stub from the Holiday tables with you in your tool box/belt and coat nails and screws going into the kind of studs I mention. Makes a big difference.

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Old 06-09-2011, 02:57 AM   #4
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Pilot holes for finishing nails


If you are nailing close to the end of the board you may find it helpful, especially if your trim is thin.

A time saving trick is to blunt the end of the nail a bit to prevent splitting the material, faster than pre-drilling.
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Old 06-09-2011, 09:13 AM   #5
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Pilot holes for finishing nails


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Originally Posted by sdsester View Post
I agree so long as you are using quality nails. I have piloted when hand nailing hardwoods to protect from splitting but that is a non-issue with MDF or drywall.

However, working in a tight space like a closet, I can see where pilot holes might come in handy to a point.

Also, I have worked on antique homes where the framing lumber has dried and hardened to almost a steel like state. In some instances I have found that I had to drill pilot holes into the studs because the nails just kept bending. Even blown nails would not seat and bounce back at the gun.

By the way, wandering a bit off topic but related. Carry an old candle stub from the Holiday tables with you in your tool box/belt and coat nails and screws going into the kind of studs I mention. Makes a big difference.
One thing to watch for is the MDF will usually have a bumped up place where it is nailed most times, all you will need to do is cut or sand the bump off.

I agree with the wax on the nails, it will allow them to go in much easier especially in old hardwood. Some of that wood in the old antique homes is harder than superman's knee caps. One thing to watch out for when using the wax, sometimes it can get on the hammer head and make driving nails pretty tough, I usually won't drive the nail the last lick to keep the wax off then set it with a nail set. Another note is, be careful using the wax in some woods as it will heat and spread and will not stain well over the waxed spot. Same goes for using wax on screws.
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Old 06-09-2011, 11:03 AM   #6
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Pilot holes for finishing nails


There is no need to pre-drill MDF. The main reason you would pre-drill is to keep your wood from splitting. Since MDF (medium density fiberboard) doesn't have the same structure as regular wood you don't need to really worry about splitting.

You might want to have a nail set too so you don't dent the MDF trying to bury the nail deep enough. Like jiju1943 said, it might bump up the wood a little, but that can be sanded down.
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