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I have a column in my kitchen. As far as I can tell this is a decorative column, and doesn't contain anything structural -- I live in a high rise, it really cannot contain anything structural.

Yet, according to my fancy stud detector, it has metal 4 inches from either side, as shown here: Column

This doesn't seem to be a corner bead -- it seems to be an entirely different beast.

If you want to see the stud finder in action: stud finder in action

Can I drill through this? How thick is it? What is it? Can I still drill through this, and use a plastic toggle anchor?

UPDATE So, there's a couple things in here. I bought a Depstech Boroscope (I do not recommend buying one of these, they suck, but then again, there's not really any decent competition for them). First, to answer people what the metal was -- it was just boring studs. Boring Metal Studs

Inside, it gets a lot more interesting, as you can see in the metal studs picture, there's some insulation. That's the hot water pipe. There's also a cold water pipe in there, and some electrical conduit. The column itself is pretty idiot-proofed, but there's no armor on the pipework, instead

Electrical Conduit Cold Water Pipe

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    It could be a pipe chase. – mikes May 24 '18 at 10:23
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    All drywall decorations I've seen were metal skeleton (made of U profiles) and then drywall was fixed to the skeleton with screws. So I'm puzzled why you're not detecting metal all over the thing : D – Agent_L May 24 '18 at 12:01
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    I'm not sure why you think it can't contain anything structural. Do you have the blueprints of the building? If not, you can't really know. – J... May 24 '18 at 12:06
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    You can drill a small hole (just enough to breach the drywall, but no further), big enough to insert a scope probe to see what is inside the column. Other cutting options, if a power drill is too much, would be to use a hand drill or utility knife. – Jim Fell May 24 '18 at 13:48
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    @JimFell I find a gimlet ideal for these probe holes (link as I have a suspicion this is a British term) – Chris H May 25 '18 at 9:10
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The metal that you are detecting is probably the metal studs that are in each corner of the column. From the picture it looks like that column is also sheathed in drywall and so there may very well be a metal corner strip along each vertical edge as well. The metal studs width are typically going to be 3.5 inches. The drywall thickness from the adjoining sides is 0.5 inches and with the metal corner piece it adds up to the 4 inches that you are seeing.

As mentioned in comments this column is most likely a place where some part of the building infrastructure is located. It could be a structural beam, vertical routing space for water or gas piping or electrical wiring.

As to whether you can use conventional drywall anchors to mount light weight things to the living space side it would be best to be certain what is inside this thing before you go drilling holes in it. It could be OK but then again it could be something to be highly discouraged for a variety of reasons.

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    I would say that "highly discouraged for a variety of reasons" is understatement for: DON'T DO ANYTHING TO THIS COLUMN WITHOUT CHECKING WITH THE BUILDING MANAGEMENT. PENETRATING IT TO ANY SIGNIFICANT DEPTH COULD BE DISASTROUS PRACTICALLY, FINANCIALLY, AND LEGALLY. (But leaving hyperbole aside, wouldn't pipes or wires be armored or have a warning notice on them? Could this be a steel support column inside? ) – Jim Stewart May 24 '18 at 11:30
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    @JimStewart in many if not most most places, pipes or wires boxed in like this aren't armoured. The boxing in is all the protection they need. – Chris H May 24 '18 at 12:50
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    @AndyT: Read the question again. The question is about a "decorative" column in a high-rise building. Columns in high-rise buildings are seldom built because people love columns in their kitchens. – Eric Lippert May 24 '18 at 13:12
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    Ah crap, you're right. upon further inspection of the building plumbing plans, there's a Cold Water, Hot Water flowing through that column (although waste water return is mysteriously missing). – Sargun Dhillon May 25 '18 at 0:52
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    @SargunDhillon you should edit that into the question. Also mention what you did to find out. – Nelson May 25 '18 at 15:16
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Can I drill through this?

I wouldn't until you've determined exactly what it is. I can come up with suggestions (see lower down this answer) but you may need to take the drywall off, check what it is, and then if it's not an issue you could reinstate drywall, make good, and then drill.

What is it?

It could be metal pipes. The drainage stack is often located in the kitchen, and it is often convenient to run supply pipes in the column boxed around the drainage stack.

My kitchen drainage stack carries the mains water from the ground floor (first floor for American English speakers) to the first floor (second floor in AmE), and the hot water pipe from the first floor hot water tank to my kitchen sink on the ground floor.

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    I managed to inspect one from the loft (attic) to the extent that I could know it was OK to drill in so long as I stopped before hitting the only pipe in there (which carries waste away from the toilet). Then I could fit network sockets and run CAT5 in the structure – Chris H May 24 '18 at 12:52
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If you hit metal, stop

Regardless of what else it might be, it might be a metal plate placed there on purpose to guard electrical wiring or plastic piping.

Such a plate is required anytime pipes or wiring is within 1.75" of the surface. It is there only to warn.

  • What is this from? (US/EU/somewhere building standards, company practices?) Just out of interest! :) – Wilf May 25 '18 at 8:05
  • @Wilf at least some US building codes do require this in certain circumstances – DaveInCaz May 25 '18 at 11:57
  • @wilf For electrical's part, NEC 300.4d – Harper - Reinstate Monica May 25 '18 at 14:31
  • Yeah... As seen above, the metal conduit IS NOT guarded, nor is the copper pipe. The copper pipe is about 2 inches away, but the conduit sits right off center. – Sargun Dhillon May 31 '18 at 7:47

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