Metal Behind Drywall (What Is It And Why Is It There?)

The materials you will most likely find behind drywall are wooden studs, insulation made out of fiberglass or foam, window/door headers, wires, and plumbing pipes.

You may also encounter fire blocks and debris. But what if you find metal behind drywall? What could metal be doing behind drywall?

In today’s post, I will explore some of the common reasons why metal is used behind drywall and a couple of more things you need to know about such a drywall setup.

A man working Builder makes a marking on the drywall for electrical wiring. Drywall construction in a house during renovation

What Type of Metal is Used Behind Drywall?

Two main types of metal are often used behind drywall;

• Metal studs – If you thought that drywall studs are only made out of wood, then I have got news for you. Metal studs are an ideal type of wall framing. They are stronger, and more resistant to fire and mold.

Unlike wood, metal studs are also resistant to insect damage. Plus, if you get the steel version, they will never rust. Therefore, if there is metal behind your drywall, there is a good chance that it’s used for the studs.

Please note that metal studs are usually vertical and measure two by four inches. They may be spaced at intervals of sixteen or twenty-four inches apart.

• A metallic protective plate – As you may already know, there are wires and plumbing which run behind drywall. On its own, drywall isn’t strong enough to create a protective barrier.

Therefore, the previous homeowner may have installed a metallic protective plate behind the drywall. If it’s a metallic plate, it should be in the form of a sheet and not studs. It should also run vertically and horizontally across a wider surface.

Why is Metal Used Behind Drywall?

There are also two main reasons why metal can be used behind drywall;

• It can be used as framing to support drywall installation.

Drywall can’t just be screwed into sheathing or insulation. The metal studs exist to hold the pieces of drywall together. That is why they are spaced a couple of inches apart.

• The other reason metal can be used behind drywall is to protect wires or plumbing pipes.

Depending on how your home is set up, there may be electrical wires or pipes running behind the frame. To keep these wires safe, a builder may install a protective metal sheet behind the drywall.

How Can You Tell If There’s Metal Behind Drywall?

It’s pretty easy to figure out if there is metal behind drywall. During drywall repairs, you may spot metal behind the wall.

Alternatively, if you are drilling drywall, you may realize that some parts do not drill easily. Upon further inspection, you should notice the metal behind it.

If you spot metal behind drywall, you shouldn’t force your drill into it as that may damage components like wires and pipes. You need to understand that there is a valid reason why metal is being used behind your drywall.

How Do You Install an Appliance Over Drywall with Metal Behind It?

As mentioned earlier, one of the ways you may discover metal behind drywall is when drilling it. Drilling mainly occurs when you intend to mount an appliance such as a TV, microwave, refrigerator, or dishwasher into your wall.

In case you discover metal behind drywall and you would like to proceed with the installation, this is how you can go about it safely.

First, you must figure out what type of metal is behind the drywall. If they are metal studs, then installation of your electrical appliance should be easier. But if it’s a metal sheet, you need to figure out what it’s protecting.

In the first scenario, you need to identify where the studs are located, and then you can drill directly straight inside them. Then fit your appliance.

Secondly, if it’s a metal sheet, you will have to cut the drywall and also cut the metal sheet. Reposition the wires or pipes before screwing plywood over the studs and installing your appliance.

The latter method is a bit hectic and time-consuming. Therefore, if you spot a protective metal sheet behind drywall, it’s in your best interest not to interfere with it.

Should You Approach Metal Behind Drywall with Caution?

Absolutely. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have discovered metal behind drywall, you need to proceed with caution. Metal behind drywall could be a protective sheet for pipes or electrical cables.

Assume that you throw caution to the wind and keep drilling deeper into the metal sheet only to puncture a water pipe or electrical cable.

Can you imagine how disastrous that would be? The repairs would cost lots of money, and you may even get evicted if you are residing in a rented apartment.

Always approach metal behind drywall with caution. Unless you know why it’s there in the first place, you should not tamper with it.

Is There a Way You Can Identify the Presence of Metal Behind Drywall without Drilling?

You don’t have to puncture through drywall to know that there is metal behind drywall. By running a magnet over drywall, you can easily tell if there is metal behind it. The magnet should feel a stronger attraction to both metal studs and protective metal sheets.

The magnetic attraction will be much stronger than the one for nails or screws. This method is less invasive and does not risk damaging other materials behind your drywall.

Expert technicians may use an electronic wall stud finder to locate metal behind drywall.

How Can You Repair/Replace Metal Behind Drywall?

Due to their nature, metals rarely get damaged or need replacement/repairs, for that matter. Unless the metal starts to rust, you don’t have to worry about issues such as mold or warping. So, it’s very rare for there to be a need for you to repair or replace metal behind drywall.

But in case there is, you will need to remove a piece of the drywall to gain access to the back area. Then you can repair or replace the metal before covering it with drywall.

It’s a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. If you aren’t a DIY enthusiast, I would highly recommend hiring an expert contractor for such a job.

Is It Common to Have Metal Behind Drywall?

Not really. Most builders and homeowners prefer to use wooden studs behind the drywall. Therefore, it’s only on rare occasions that you may find metal studs behind the drywall.

Also, when it comes to protective metal sheets, most modern homes have pipes and wires installed strategically to avoid scenarios where people may drill into them.

I wouldn’t say that metal behind drywall is a common setup. However, before you drill into drywall, you need to find out either from the previous owner or landlord whether there is metal behind it.

In Which Rooms Are You Most Likely Going to Find Metal Behind Drywall?

Most people who have found metal behind the drywall in their homes it’s usually in the living room, kitchen, or bathroom.

In these three rooms, most homeowners usually engage in many projects, such as installing appliances, hanging mirrors, or portraits. As a result, builders may decide to install protective metal sheets behind drywall to safeguard pipes and wires.

In instances where the metal is in the form of drywall studs, you will find it used within the entire house or property.

Was this article helpful?

Leave a Comment