How to fix a stripped screw hole

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How to fix a stripped screw hole
Old wooden structures need repair. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

You may have experienced the problem of a screw getting pulled right out of a hole and stripping out the wood that should be holding it. Maybe the kids swung on a gate and pulled the hinge screws out or a cupboard door was swung too wide and the screws pulled right out. However it happened, you now need to fix that stripped out screw hole before you can reattach what has come loose. Here's a few ideas on how you can fix your stripped screw hole.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Larger screws
  • Wooden dowel
  • Carpenter's glue
  • Sandpaper
  • Chisel
  • Drill and drill bit
  • Awl
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Knife
  • Wooden matches
  • Cotton batting

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  1. 1

    Start with the obvious option. Consider using a slightly longer or wider screw. For example, if the stripped out screw was a #6, try replacing it with a #8. If the screw was 3.7 cm (11/2 inches), try using a 5 cm (2 inch) screw to replace it. The longer or wider screw may be able to bite into fresh wood and hold solidly.

  2. 2

    Fill the hole and start all over again. You've got lots of options for filling the hole, but three good (and easy) choices are wooden matches, toothpicks or cotton batting.

  3. 3

    Coat the matches or toothpicks with carpenter's glue and insert enough of them into the hole to fill it up. Allow the glue to dry (a couple of hours), then cut them off flush with the surrounding wood and sand smooth.

  4. 4

    Soak cotton batting in carpenter's glue and stuff as much as you can right into the hole. Pack it in tightly using the tip of a small screwdriver. Let it dry (this one needs to dry overnight) before proceeding. Use an awl or small drill bit to drill a pilot hole in your repair and then install your new screw.

  5. 5

    Use a pencil sharpener to make a point on a wooden dowel. Dip the sharpened tip in carpenter's glue and jam it well into the hole. Cut the dowel off close to the wall, then let the glue dry. Again, use an awl or small drill bit to make a pilot hole and install your new screw.

  6. 6

    Got a large hole? You can repair these with wooden dowels. Drill out the hole to the size of a wooden dowel -- 6 mm, 9 mm, 1.2 cm (1/4 inch, 3/8 inch, 1/2 inch). Dip the end of the dowel into carpenter's glue, then put it into the hole and let it dry overnight.

  7. 7

    Cut the dowel off flush, sand the area smooth, make a pilot hole and install your new screw.

Tips and warnings

  • When trying to make permanent repairs it can be challenging to determine what kind of wood you're fastening into. For example, if you try to repair softwood with a hardwood plug, the surrounding softwood may split when you install your screws. Conversely, a softwood plug in hardwood may not be strong enough to hold when you install your screws. Try to use hardwood dowels when repairing hardwood and softwood (matches, toothpicks) when patching softwood.
  • Wood fillers are designed to fill small holes in a wooden surface. They don't have any structural strength and won't hold a screw. Don't waste your time and money trying to fix a stripped screw hole with them.
  • Some people suggest a product such as "Bondo" for repairing screw holes. The problem with these types of products is once they dry and harden, they don't expand and contract the same way wood does, so they may end up causing more problems than a stripped screw hole.
  • If you use wooden matches to fill your hole, light them before you use them. You don't want to have them flare up from rubbing against each other.

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