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What's the difference between self-tapping and self-drilling screws?

Published: 2021-06-04 | Updated: 2023-09-17

Self-tapping or self-drilling screws

Self-tapping and self-drilling screws are some of the most widely used industrial fasteners. However, despite their popularity, people often confuse which type of screw is which, and the terms self-tapping and self-drilling should not be used interchangeably. 

Below we go through some of the differences, similarities, and usages of each type of screw. 

Self-tapping screws

Self-tapping screws are widely popular and come in a range of different sizes and with different tip shapes, such as pointed or flat, to suit their application. Their most important feature is that they remove the need for a tap by having sharp cutting threads that can cut their own thread as the screw is fastened into the material.  

They can be used in a variety of different materials such as wood, metal, plastic, and brick. With some exceptions like soft wood, they are not able to drill their way through materials and therefore require a pre-drill of a pilot hole before fastening. The pilot hole should be smaller than the screw to allow the threads of the self-tapping screw to furrow their way into the material for a secure fixing. 

Some self-tapping screws are also commonly called sheet metal screws, as they are most widely used in this application.


While technically both types of screw are self-tapping because they furrow their own threads, the self-drilling screws are unique. Due to the design of the tip of the screw, the point acts as a drill bit meaning you do not have to create a pilot hole beforehand. This design means that the self-drilling screw is cost-effective and time-saving compared to the self-tapping screw in many applications. Errors can also be reduced as you do not have to worry about drilling the wrong size hole for the pilot hole. 

Self-drilling screws are made from carbon steel or stainless steel. The most popular applications for carbon steel screws are in steel, copper, aluminimum, and materials of similar hardness, whereas stainless steel screws are mostly used in softer materials.  


Self-tapping and self.drilling screw comparison table

Overall, self-drilling screws can be self-tapping, but not all self-tapping can be self-drilling screws. They provide their own benefits and uses and should not be confused. Self-drilling screws maybe more efficient for certain applications as they do not require a pilot hole, however they both provide a precise secure hold for a wide range of fixing applications. 

CELO is proud to offer a wide range of self-tapping and self-drilling screws, you can view them all by clicking on the click below.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

No. You do not need to drill a pilot hole for self-drilling screws. The design of the tip acts as a drill bit. 

Self-drilling screws can be used for wood applications and can be installed without a pilot hole. However if the wood is very soft then the self-drilling screw might not be the best option. 

Self-drilling screws are commonly used in applications such as Steel frames, HVAC, roofing and façades.