How To Fix A Screw Hole That Is Too Big In Wood

Whether you’re assembling furniture or installing plywood subfloors, drilling a screw hole too big for your needs can happen. Now, you don’t have to worry if you have used a drill bit that’s too large. There are various ways to fix the mistake.

The easiest way to fix a screw hole that is too big in wood is by filling it with wood filler and drilling it again. Alternatively, you can fill the hole with various items to tighten it. Solutions include toothpicks, steel wool, and even handmade filler.

9 Things To Do If You Drill A Screw Hole That Is Too Big

Even the experts can make mistakes and drill holes that are too big. Thus, you shouldn’t be too harsh on yourself. Instead of considering yourself a failed DIYer, try out these solutions and show everyone that you’re a DIY master.

Fill the Hole with Wood Filler

Wood putty (or plastic wood) is the best choice when fixing a hole that is too big. This substance is generally used to cover wood imperfections before applying a finish, such as nail holes or dents. It is made up of wood dust combined with a bonding agent and a thinner that makes it easy to apply.

To fill the hole, simply spread the product with a putty knife and let it dry for the time specified on the package. Sand the surface until the filler is flush with the rest of the wood. Once done, you can use the appropriate size drill bit to drill the hole again.

Use a Bigger Screw

Filling the hole with wood filler and drilling it again is an excellent choice when you have no other option but to use that specific screw size. However, if you have larger fasteners at hand (and no reason to use a smaller one), you can solve the issue by using a larger screw that matches the diameter of the hole.

Fill the Gap with Toothpicks

No plastic wood or larger screws? Worry not; you can still fix the problem with items you might already have in your home. Such as toothpicks. Or matches, for that matter.

The method is simple: stuff toothpicks or matches into the hole, making sure each piece fits snugly. Cut the ends and sand the area to get a flush surface, then drive the screw into the repaired hole without drilling another hole.

You can add a bit of strength with liquid glue – if you have it. In this case, fill the hole with glue first, then follow the steps above. Glue or no glue, this solution is only suitable for screws that don’t have to bear a heavy load.

Reduce the Hole Diameter with Rawl Plugs

Rawl plugs are generally used in masonry applications to reinforce fasteners driven in brick, tile, or drywall. But who said that you couldn’t use them for wood, too?

The best thing is that rawl plugs come in a variety of diameters and fit a variety of screw sizes. Pick a plug that fits snugly into the hole, then drive your screw into the plug’s opening.

Use Wooden Dowels

Wooden dowels come as an alternative to plastic wood or toothpicks. They can fill a hole of any diameter – wooden dowels are available in a variety of sizes – and provide the structural strength needed to bear a heavier load.

It is best to use them with wood glue, using the same method you would for filling the hole with toothpicks: fill the hole with glue, then push a dowel in. Cut the excess material and sand until the surface is flush. Let the glue dry, then drill a new hole and drive the fastener.

Use Handmade Filler

In ideal conditions, you should fill the hole with plastic wood. As DIYers, though, we all know that conditions are often less than ideal. And as any DIYer that respects themselves would do, you can use a handmade filler. You only need paper towels or toilet paper and multipurpose glue.

Shred the tissue into tinier pieces and place it in a container. Add about a tablespoon of multipurpose glue and mix until you obtain a whitish paste.

Push this makeshift filler into the hole and let it dry for 30 minutes or so. Drill a pilot hole of the right diameter or slightly smaller than your fastener, then drive the screw into the repaired hole.

Use Nylon Cable Ties

Another DIY solution, if you don’t have toothpicks, is to fill the hole with nylon cable ties. You don’t necessarily need glue for this fix but should only use the method for screws that don’t have to hold a lot of weight.

Cut the ties into small pieces and use them to fill the hole. Don’t worry about any spaces or that they don’t fit as snugly as matches or toothpicks.

When you’ve filled enough to reduce the hole diameter, drive the screw through the middle of the plastic ties. The nylon will provide sufficient grip, while the thickness of the screw will fill any gaps and increase the resistance.

Use Steel Wool

Steel wool is another alternative to the other hole fillers mentioned above. Take a steel wool sponge and rip pieces of it. Stuff the pieces into the hole with a screwdriver.

Don’t worry if you can’t fill the hole completely, but stuff as much steel wool as possible. When done, drive your screw through it.

Relocate the Hole

If you don’t have any of the things above or look for a quicker fix, simply relocate the hole. Sure, this may not be feasible if you’re installing furniture, for example. However, if you have the possibility, drill a new hole that matches the diameter of your fastener.

3 Other Ways To Fix A Screw Hole That Is Too Big In Drywall

All clear about fixing a big screw hole in wood? Accidents can also happen when drilling in drywall. Here are a few quick fixes.

Use Toggle Bolts

If you didn’t know it already, you can’t screw fasteners directly into drywall. You will always have to use a rawl plug to ensure a good grip.

If you’ve drilled a hole that’s too large, you can prevent filling it and re-drilling if you decide to use toggle bolts. The bolts work by anchoring themselves to the drywall, allowing you to fasten your screws despite the larger hole diameter.

Fill the Hole with Epoxy Putty

Epoxy putty won’t skip the need for re-drilling, but you can use it to fill an existing hole. Use it as you would use plastic wood – apply the product with a putty knife and let it dry as instructed. Sand the hole when done, then drill a new hole.

Install a rawl plug, then drive your screw into it. The epoxy putty binds to the drywall and provides the same strength.

Use a Drywall Repair Kit

As an alternative to epoxy putty, you can use a drywall repair kit. The kit comprises everything you need to patch the hole and can be epoxy or resin-based. Follow the instructions on the package to mix the product, apply it, and cure properly. Once cured, you can drill a new hole and drive the right size screw into it.

How To Fill Screw Holes In Wood For Reuse

While the methods above show you how to deal with a fresh hole that is too big, you may sometimes want to fill an existing screw hole to drive in a new fastener. Follow the steps below.

Things You Will Need

  • A small brush (an interdental brush or similar)
  • Wood glue
  • Wood peg
  • Hacksaw
  • Utility knife
  • Sandpaper

Step 1 – Clean the hole

When you plan to reuse a hole, you must think of ways to remove any debris that could be stuck inside it. This includes wood dust, rust, or bits and pieces that might have fallen off a corroded screw. The easiest way to do this is with a small brush that you can insert into the hole to remove the debris.

An interdental brush is designed specifically for very narrow and tight spaces (think about how small the space between two teeth is), so this type of tool is perfect for the job.

Insert the brush into the hole and rotate it while pulling it out to remove the debris. Repeat two or three times, then look inside the hole with a flashlight to make sure it is clean.

Step 2 – Prepare a filler

Depending on the hole size, you may find ready-to-use wood pegs or might have to cut one to size. If you have to cut one to dimension, use a wooden peg with a diameter as close as possible to the diameter of the hole and cut until it fits snugly.

Step 3 – Fill and seal the hole

Fill the hole with liquid wood glue, then insert the peg. Don’t worry if some of the glue comes out; you’ll remove it after it dries. Don’t use a cloth or paper towel to wipe it at this stage because the absorbent material could soak up most of the glue.

Let the glue dry and cure for at least a few hours – ideally, you should let it sit overnight.

Step 4 – Remove the excess material

Once the glue is dry and the peg doesn’t budge, cut the excess material with a hacksaw. Make sure to use a wood blade designed for fine cutting rather than a coarse one.

Step 5 – Sand the surface

Use fine-grit sandpaper to sand the surface until the peg is flush with the rest of the wood board. You can now apply a topcoat or drill a new hole to insert a new fastener.

Screw Hole Way Too Big – Find A Right-Sized Screw

One of the solutions above involved using a bigger-sized screw that matches the size of the hole. But how to determine which size you need? There are a few methods.

Method 1 – Measure the hole size with a drill bit

No matter what size the hole has, you have surely drilled it with a drill bit, so you can use a bit to find out the size. Grab the drill bit box and try from the smallest to the largest to see which one fits snugly inside. Once you do, use a screw with the recommended size for that drill bit.

Method 2 – Measure the hole size with alginate

Alginate is a type of plaster used for creating molds. You can also use it to figure out what screw size fits in the hole.

Prepare the mixture and use a putty knife to fill the hole, then insert a toothpick or a piece of wire in the hole and let the alginate dry. Once dry, grab the wire or toothpick and pull it out. Compare the alginate model to the various types of screws to find the right size.

Method 3 – Measure with Vernier caliper

A Vernier caliper is a tool used to measure the diameter of different objects, and you can use it to measure the size of a hole, too.

Because screw holes are generally small, you’ll have to use the smallest size caliper you can find. If you can’t place it inside the hole, measure the diameter by placing the caliper on the surface (in the same way you would use it to measure the diameter of a screw or bolt, for example).

Related Questions

Figuring out how to fix a big hole isn’t hard, but you may still have questions. Check out the answers below.

Is there a wood filler that will hold a screw?

Yes, plastic wood is an excellent wood filler to use if you want a strong bond. The epoxy filler also works for the purpose.

Should you lubricate wood screws?

You don’t have to lubricate wood screws, but doing so can help you drive them without splintering weaker or older wood.

Can you screw into wood glue?

Yes, but you should wait for the glue to dry before drilling a hole and screwing a fastener.

Can you put a drywall anchor in the spackle?

You should never put a drywall anchor in a spackle because the material is not strong enough to hold an anchor for hole reuse.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’ve drilled a bigger hole than needed or want to switch from a larger to a smaller fastener, there are various ways you can use to reduce the diameter of the hole or drill a new one. If you decide to use a filler, such as plastic wood or epoxy, remember to let it dry completely before driving the screw.

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