I have a concrete floor and I made two holes to bolt a 1/4"-thick steel plate. The problem is that the steel plates haven't been drilled yet.

How can I determine where the holes will be drilled in the steel plates so they match the holes in the concrete? enter image description here

  • 16
    Given that holes can be drilled or punched much more precisely into steel than concrete (with common tools), you've probably discovered that your order of operations was backward. As I suggested in your other question, using the steel plates as a drilling template for the concrete would have saved you some hassle. Now you have to measure and mark each plate individually to match the holes, leaving you with a less consistent outcome. (I'm not saying it to chastise you, but as a lesson to others.)
    – isherwood
    Mar 13, 2018 at 15:34
  • The other question was for the remaining holes that needed to be drilled. The problem in my case is that a person drilled some of the holes and never completed the project.
    – rbhat
    Mar 13, 2018 at 15:44
  • 2
    drill one hole approximately where it should be .... put a bolt through the plate into the floor .... but first put a short bolt into the other hole in the floor so that it sticks out a bit ... spin the plate around the drilled hole ... the short bolt will scratch an arc on the underside of the plate ... that will give you exact spacing
    – jsotola
    Mar 14, 2018 at 1:07
  • 10
    Put sharpies in the holes. Place steel on top. Drill where the sharpie marks are.
    – user77994
    Mar 14, 2018 at 9:43
  • @Snow Chalk could work too
    – dalearn
    Mar 15, 2018 at 23:49

11 Answers 11


Lay the steel plate on the concrete where you want it. Draw a line around it. Cut a piece of paper to the same size as the steel plate. Place it on the concrete in the same position as the marked outline. Locate the concrete holes by gently pressing down where you think they are (tracing paper makes this even easier). Poke a hole through the paper at the center of each hole. Place the paper on top of the steel plate, and mark the centers of the holes.

  • 2
    I have used this method, quick and easy, I usually have enough grime on my fingers to press and twist a finger at the hole and it leaves an impression of the hole, works great.
    – Ed Beal
    Mar 13, 2018 at 18:48
  • I've done this with just a strip of masking tape in cases where the distance between the holes was more critical than the orientation to the mating part. Mar 15, 2018 at 13:39
  • 1
    I use this method all the time, but I'll lightly shade the area around and over the hole with a pencil and the entire hole will be easily visible on the paper. It is then trivial to find the center of the hole. I'll use this to create templates when wall mounting just about anything with keyhole slots on the back.
    – Gary Bak
    Mar 15, 2018 at 16:26

The usual methods are:

  1. Careful measurement. Really this doesn't need to be that precise, you are not looking for a press-fit between bolts and clearance holes.

    If it goes wrong, just elongate a hole into a slot using whatever tools you have to hand (e.g. a round file, clapped-out old Bridgeport, ...) - Remember: "A grinder file/filler and paint make me the welder machinist I ain't".

  2. Put pointy or painty things into the holes then press the steel plate down in place to mark it. In the dead-tree-carcass world there are things called "dowel pins" used for this kind of thing.

  • 1
    I've used the pointy things for wooden dowels and it works well. Ones for wood may not work, but good suggestion.
    – JPhi1618
    Mar 13, 2018 at 14:39
  • 1
    I vote for option 1, lay the plate on the concrete, trace around it with a pencil, measure where the holes are in relation to traced outline, transfer measurement to steel plate. Mar 13, 2018 at 17:30
  • 2
    In the engineering world, these 'pointy things' are known as Transfer Punches - they're good for marking steel too - though I'm not sure they'd work too well in this situation. Mar 14, 2018 at 3:19
  • 1
    If you lay the punches point up in the holes and lay the plate on top, a couple raps with a soft hammer on top of the plate should get you a pretty unmistakable mark.
    – Tristan
    Mar 14, 2018 at 14:46
  • 1
    @Tristan, just make sure that the piece of metal does not shift between two hits.
    – sleblanc
    Mar 14, 2018 at 21:03

The hole spacing is more important than the location of the holes on the metal plate. Therefore, working off of option 1 from @RedGrittyBrick, this is the approach I would take using a wax pencil or marker and a carpenter's square.

(1) On one edge of the plate mark a (rough) centerline.

(2) Align this edge of the plate to the holes in the concrete, with the centerline mark (roughly) centered between the holes, and carefully mark the center of each hole on the edge of the plate. You should now have 3 marks on the edge of the plate.

(3) Carefully transfer the outer marks as two lines across the steel plate using a square.

(4) Mark a line perpendicular to these two lines and (roughly) on center on the plate. You should have three lines on the steel plate. The intersection of the three lines marks the center of the two holes to be drilled.

Repeat the entire procedure if you have multiple pre-drilled locations. Don't assume that other holes in other places in the concrete are equally spaced or centered.

  • 1
    ....and you can practice with a sheet of hardboard first if you're not confident enough to drill the holes in the metal plate yet.
    – rrauenza
    Mar 13, 2018 at 18:22

If you have a laserpointer (or 2) "hang them" (they should not move around of course) above if possible so they point down vertically into the center of the hole(s). Put the steelplate in position and the laser marks the spot(s).


I like Mark's answer best (create a paper template and mark the holes) but another technique came to mind.

Take a straightedge and a construction pencil.
- Mark the centerline of the two holes longer than your steel plate.
- Mark a line perpendicular, on each hole, wider than your plate. - Put the plate down, use your straightedge and the marks to locate the hole centers.

[hmm. similar but different to Stanwoods solution which I did not see at first]


Since nobody else has mentioned it, I'll add another option that I've used in the past for spacing holes.

  1. Put some paint on the floor around the holes.

  2. While the paint is still wet, place the metal plate on the floor.

When you remove the metal plate from the floor, the wet paint will have transferred to the plate but will leave two spots behind where the holes were. Mark those spots, clean up the wet paint, and drill.

This also works great for spacing screw holes for handles on cabinets & drawers although I would usually use lipstick for those instead of paint.


Do you really need to use the holes drilled in the concrete?

If not, pick another pair to be drilled far enough from the original ones. Make the hoes in the metal sheet first, put the sheet in position, secure it from movement and mark the spots or drill through the holes in the concrete.

Another point to be taken is how much the holes shall be coaxial. If the misfit can be in order of milimeters you can measure the position with a scale. If it must fit perfectly, two extra holes are a good tradeoff.

  • Or maybe just one extra hole if the absolute position is not so important: guess where hole 1 will be approximately on the metal, drill it, align it with the hole on the floor and drill a second hole far enough from the others.
    – glglgl
    Mar 15, 2018 at 14:11

An alternative to Mark's idea would be to use plexiglass. Lay that down and mark either the center of the holes or the holes themselves. Drill through the plexiglass, make sure the holes are aligned properly, and then use that as a template to drill holes in the steel.

I would have added this as a comment under his answer but I don't have 50 reputation yet.


You need something with a slot in it, the same width as the bolts intended to go in the holes. Pass one bolt through, run a nut down and finger-tighten in place. Pass other bolt through, run a nut down it and tighten until you can slide the bolt easily along the slot. Now you have a gauge. Put your fixed bolt in one hole, slide the other along a slot until the bolt drops into the other hole. Tighten the nut with your fingers. Now the bolts are the correct distance apart.

Remove gauge from the concrete and use it indicate where to drill on the steel.

  • I like this idea of making an adjustable jig. Especially if you have many holes to gauge and the right parts for it laying around.
    – Stanwood
    Mar 15, 2018 at 3:43

Assuming you need the steel to be located precisely, here's an idea: get two bits of threaded rod (or any steel) the same length as the holes + a smidgin, so it pokes up a few mm. Grind one end sharp, trying to get the sharp point in the centre. Put them in the holes and locate your steel plate where it needs to be. Give it a whack with a hammer. Now you have your centres to drill.


Tape one side of a piece of paper onto the concrete and trace the holes, then put the steel plate under the piece of paper and center punch the holes onto the steel plate.

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