Fixing to Steel, a Metal Lintel

Here's a letter about fixing to steel, that I got from Sarah in the UK.

Hi Bill, I'm trying to drill into a thick metal lintel to put up a curtain pole & blind. I have a high speed drill bit & a cordless drill.  I hardly seem to be making a dent in the metal.  Do you have any tips? I'm also having the same problem under the stairs to put up some coat hooks.  Assuming I can drill a hole, what sort of rawl plugs would you use?
Best regards Sarah
Hi Sarah,
It sounds like you have a tough job there.
If it is a steel lintel over your window, then it is obviously there to do a structural job, so it is quite likely fairly thick, maybe 6mm. Not a casual job for a cordless drill. I suggest you try to borrow an electric drill.  (works off mains power).   Use nice sharp HSS drill bits .

The simple way of fixing to steel, (heavy that is) is to try not to, I try to shift what I am doing, away to somewhere easier.  You might just find that 50mm higher gets you into an easier material, like lighter wall framing or brickwork that is easy the masonry drill.

Sometimes when fixing to steel like this, I like to screw a timber batten, say 75 x 20 over the window head, to the steel with say three screws.  So I would predrill the timber and steel say with a 4.5 (3/16) drill.   Then I would drive in a metal thread tek screw that just about fits the hole, with my electric screwdriver.   Once I have the timber fixed with one screw I level it and drill and screw in a couple of more screws.

The timber batten I then usually paint the same colour as the wall, before starting to fix my curtain tracks.

This give me something soft and easy to screw in those fiddly little screws for the brackets for your curtain rods etc.

If the steel is thin, up to 3mm the metal thread screws should go straight in without the need for predrilling, each one has it's own drill bit on the end.  Of course you need to borrow an electric screwdriver to get the best out of them.

You could try the old method, getting some self tapping screws and then drilling your pre drill hole almost the same size, just a touch less than the self tapper, and then you should be able to screw them in with a hand screwdriver.

So this is fixing to steel, screw straight to it, nothing else needed. The screws themselves bite into the steel.

Quite often when fixing to steel using metal thread screws, I get the speed of the screwdriver and the force I use pushing the screwdriver just right.  The screw goes in quickly.  Other times things don't work as they should and it doesn't want to drill in.  I throw the screw away and and use another. Another time it seems like that particular hole that I have started to drill has work hardened, and even a new screw will not finish it off.  that's when I start a completely new hole.

Rawlplugs are great for masonry, brick walls.   Drill with tungsten tipped masonry drill, correct size for the plugs.  Some times you need a hammer drill if the wall is very hard.   Belt in the plugs with a hammer, cut off any excess with a chisel, then fix whatever with ordinary wood screws through and into the plugs.   Again in a lot of cases it is easier to fix a timber batten to the wall with a couple or three Rawlplugs, then all your fiddly stuff is easy after.   You can never seem to get the same accuracy otherwise.

Best of luck with it.   Bear in mind though that if you get this sort of job done, there could be no stopping you.  You could be wandering around the house looking for something else to fix.


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