Is there a special technique or tool for consistently placing drywall screws correctly?

I'm using a standard Dewalt variable speed drill DWD115K (with no auto-stop mechanism) so I'm usually paranoid of going too deep with screws... which results in stopping the screw before it's completely set in -- and then having additional trouble properly sinking it after that.

I thought maybe a screw guide might help but it didn't... Is this just something where practice makes perfect?

  • 1
    based on how the question title was phrased, I thought the question was about how to consistently put the screws into the studs, and not into air behind the sheetrock.
    – studiohack
    Dec 20, 2011 at 17:38
  • If my drill didn't have an adjustable clutch I'd buy a separate driver with one. I have one anyway as it is lighter and more convenient to have both at hand without any need for swapping bits. Nov 14, 2014 at 17:09

5 Answers 5


Buy a $5 drywall dimpler, the bit will slip off the screw head when the screw is at the appropriate depth.

enter image description here

  • 1
    +1- this is what I've used in the past. They work great, and set the screw head just below the surface, without breaking the paper.
    – MarkD
    Oct 28, 2010 at 14:51
  • I found these to be remarkably inconsistent, for what it's worth. I never tried the DeWalt brand, so maybe some are better than others. Oct 28, 2010 at 15:11
  • +1 - use these all the time (the dewalt ones) and they work perfectly for me every single time. Oct 28, 2010 at 16:30
  • All of the suggestions on here are outstanding but the dimpler bit was the easiest way to proceed for me.
    – Mike B
    Nov 5, 2010 at 21:53
  • 1
    +1 The entire reason the Phillips screw head was designed was for power tools to slip off the screw instead of breaking the head. This adapter leverages the "spirit" of that design nicely.
    – Edwin Buck
    Nov 14, 2014 at 17:21

Certainly you will get better with practice.

Also, as drywall (plasterboard in the UK) is quite soft you'd have to have the clutch on a low setting anyway. I find that if I don't get the screw at quite the right depth the first go I can usually just add an extra couple of twists by hand to get it bedded in to my satisfaction. Just make sure you get a screwdriver that fits the screw head quite tightly.

Just take it steady and don't worry too much.

  • I got the impression that the DWD115K doesn't have a clutch, it is described as a drill rather than as a drill/driver or combi-drill. Nov 14, 2014 at 17:05

You're doing it just right. The biggest mistake you can make when screwing in drywall is to drive the screw too deeply, tearing the paper outer layer. The paper is what's holding the plaster inside together enough to be screwed down in the first place, so keeping it intact is the key to a secure connection. You want the screw head to be just below the surface, just dimpling the paper so it can be later filled with compound and hidden. A clutch isn't going to help you with this because you'll find each screw will require different torque to get to the right depth. And I've tried the auto-stop drivers that chuck into your drill and found them to be inconsistent at setting the screw to just the right depth, and consequently slower than just using a regular drill driver and my own eyes.

My technique is similar to what you've been doing, stopping the driver at what I think is the right spot, but being careful to err on the side of not going deep enough. Then I run a finger over it to make sure it's dimpled, and if not I'll just use the drill driver as a manual screwdriver, turning the whole thing by hand to get that last 1/4 or 1/2 turn. As a final check before starting my first mud coat, I'll quickly run my 6" knife over all the screws and if I hear any clinks, I know I've got to drive that screw in a little deeper.


The Dimpler® attachment is a good idea if you're doing a small area. If you're doing a whole room or more either rent or buy a screw gun.

enter image description here

It'll make life a lot easier.

  • +1 even though collated screws are a good deal more expensive. I will add that the collated screw gun controls the depth of drive in the same way as the dimpler. i.e. the drive bit disengages/slips when the screw is driven to the pre-set depth. Nov 14, 2014 at 20:59

Practice makes perfect, but I'd recommend a drill with a clutch if you can scrounge one up. It's not fool proof, but it helps.

If you're going to be doing a lot of drywall projects then your wish list should have something like this gun. It's great for decking too. Only a framing nailer is faster in my experience for putting stuff together.

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