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What are the Codes for Drilling in Studs (Load Bearing)

In this article, you’ll learn about the building codes for drilling in studs.

Drilling in studs comes with many risks. Especially if you are drilling a load-bearing stud, you must be careful. That is why when I am working on contract jobs I always follow the building codes. They help me carry on my work without disturbing the structure’s integrity. So, what are the codes for drilling in load-bearing studs?

In general, follow these building codes for drilling in load-bearing studs.

  • The hole size shouldn’t exceed 40 percent of the stud’s width.
  • For non-bearing wall studs, you can drill holes up to 60 percent of the stud’s width.
  • The hole’s edge should be at least 5/8 inches from the edge of the wall stud.
  • The notches shouldn’t exceed 25 percent of the stud’s width.
  • For non-load bearing wall stud notches, you can go up to 40 percent of the stud’s width.

You’ll get more details from the below article.

Common Code Requirements for Drilling in Studs (Load Bearing)

Drilling in load-bearing and non-load-bearing stud are two completely different tasks. Without a doubt, in the non-bearing stud, you’ll get much more freedom for drilling. But when drilling in load-bearing studs, you must be careful and should follow the building codes. In this section, I hope to explain these codes one by one.

Code for Drilling Holes

code for drilling holes
Video | gregvancom

If you are drilling a hole in a load-bearing wall stud, you shouldn’t drill a hole that exceeds 40 percent of the stud’s width. You’ll get a better idea from the following example.

Example 1

Assume you are using a two-by-four stud. In a two-by-four, stud width is 4 inches. But anyone who has used a two-by-four knows that these studs don’t have the whole 4 inches. Most of the time, it will be 3.5 inches. Hence, all my calculations are made considering the stud’s width is 3.5 inches.


Maximum hole size = 3.5 × 40% = 1.4 inches

For a 2 by 6 stud,

Maximum hole size = 5.5 × 40% = 2.2 inches

Don’t Forget: You should follow this rule for interior and exterior load-bearing studs.

What About the Non-Load Bearing Studs?

As mentioned earlier, when drilling non-load-bearing studs, you have some freedom. You can create a hole that doesn’t exceed 60 percent of the stud’s width.

Example 2

Therefore, a 2 by 4 stud,

Maximum hole size = 3.5 × 60% = 2.1 inches

Is there a Way to Drill a 60 Percent Sized Hole in Load Bearing Stud?

load bearing stud
Video | gregvancom

Yes, there is a way. You’ll have to use two studs together. Check the above image for a better understanding.

The Recommended Distance for Edge of the Hole

codes of notches
Video | gregvancom

Whether drilling in load-bearing or non-load-bearing stud, you should maintain a distance of 5/8 inches from the edge of the hole to the stud’s edge. If you exceed this limit, the structural integrity will be in harm’s way.

Quick Tip: When drilling in a non-load-bearing stud, you can size the hole up to 60% of the stud’s width. However, it would be best if you drilled the dead center of the stud; otherwise, your hole will exceed the 5/8-inch limit.

Codes for Notches

edge of the hole in a stud
Video | gregvancom

When drilling a notch in a load-bearing stud, remember to keep the width of the notch under 25 percent of the stud’s width.

Example 3

Therefore, for a 2 by 4 load bearing stud,

Maximum Notch Width = 3.5 × 25% = 0.875 inches

When drilling a non-load-bearing stud, you can go up to 40 percent.

Therefore, for a 2 by 4 non-load bearing stud,

Maximum Notch Width = 3.5 × 40% = 1.4 inches

Always follow the above building code while drilling holes or notching a wall stud. It will help you keep the wall safe.

What happens When I Don’t Follow the Building Codes?

Not following the above codes might lead to dangerous issues. These rules are designed for two things.

  • To protect the structural integrity
  • To protect electrical wires and pipes

Hence, violation of the above building codes might lead to the following.

  • You might end up damaging pipelines.
  • You might end up damaging electrical wires.
  • Your wall won’t be able to withstand small earthquakes or tornadoes.

Quick Tip: If you live where earthquakes or tornado incidences are high, follow the above common code requirements strictly. (1, 2)

Take a look at some of our related articles below.

(1) earthquakes – https://ourworldindata.org/the-worlds-deadliest-earthquakes
(2) tornado – https://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/tornadoes/

Video References

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About Sam Orlovsky

AvatarCertifications: B.E.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Electric Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Electrical engineering is my passion, and I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. This gives me a unique ability to give you expert home improvement and DIY recommendations. I’m not only an electrician, but I also like machinery and anything to do with carpentry. One of my career paths started as a general handyman, so I also have a lot of experience with home improvement I love to share.

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