I recently put up some kitchen wall cabinets. When screwing in the cabinets one of the studs was more difficult to screw into. I pre-drilled pilot holes for the studs and everything went OK besides one.

The one screw had a high pitch squeal when I tried to screw it in and became difficult to turn, I eventually drilled a little bit bigger of a pilot hole and it went in easier. Is this just hard wood or maybe I hit a knot? Does this sometimes happen?

  • Sounds like probably just a knot, but when it's "hard to drill" carefully inspect the shavings coming out of the hole for metal. Just in case your "hard to drill" spot is a protective plate that's suposed to keep you from drilling into a wire or pipe. But it sounds like it drilled fine and was then hard to screw, which would be a knot, most likely.
    – Ecnerwal
    May 11, 2019 at 14:05

1 Answer 1


Yes, sometimes you may encounter a stud that has a big knot or some really gnarly grain that make it can be really hard to insert a screw. Knots especially can be exceedingly hard. A squeal is also rather common in such instances.

You did the right thing by backing out the screw and drilling a slightly larger pilot hole. Doing so you prevented the possibility of over stressing the screw and either stripping out the head or twisting it off. There are some additional things to consider in such case:

  1. If possible move where the screw is being inserted to try to bypass the knot.
  2. The backed out screw may very well have been over stressed when attempting the install it the first time. It should be discarded and use a new screw on the second trial.
  3. Often it can be useful to lubricate the threads of the screw to allow it to enter the wood with less torque. This can also reduce or eliminate the squeal that you were hearing. A common method to lubricate the threads of the screw is to rub them across a bar of hand soap before driving the screw into the hole.
  • I agree with everything Michael wrote except for discarding the screw. I keep a little box of mildly damaged screws and I always find good uses for them in softer materials. Feb 24, 2021 at 17:21
  • In the bigger picture of things screws are not so expensive that keeping used ones, some of which may have been stressed or abused, makes any sense to me.
    – Michael Karas
    Feb 24, 2021 at 18:06
  • I hear that sort of thing a lot. Not everything is about money. It's the resources and energy required to manufacture, package, and ship the products and the waste generated by unnecessarily throwing away useful materials. Feb 25, 2021 at 3:47

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