Fixing screw holes in walls isn’t difficult, but it’s a good idea to ascertain whether you are dealing with a brick wall or drywall. The difference is that the hole in a brick wall will penetrate deeper into the wall. A drywall structure is typically not as thick, but you can use exactly the same filler material for both. If you are filling holes in wood cladding or trim, then you will need different filler materials.
5 Best Materials for Filling Screw Holes in Walls
The materials you use to fill screw holes in walls depend largely on the size of the hole. It stands to reason that the smaller the hole, the easier it will be to fix. There are many different product types to choose from, and several are likely to be suitable for your job. Ultimately, it’s likely to boil down to cost and ease of use. If you are filling a small number of little holes, products sold in smaller quantities will usually be the best bet, depending on comparative cost.
Then there’s the question of finish. Internal brick and block walls are commonly plastered with mortar made from a mixture of cement, washed fine-aggregate sand, and water. Drywalls are commonly skimmed with a very thin coat of gypsum plaster. Wood surfaces are typically sealed or varnished. Some hole-filling products are suitable for a variety of finishes, others aren’t.
1. Cellulose Fillers
Cellulose fillers are available ready-mixed and in powder form. Generally, the ready-mixed type is more convenient, but powder types can be mixed to the consistency you want.
Cellulose fillers don’t shrink and, once dry, they are easy to sand smooth. They are suitable for all surfaces including masonry, plaster, plasterboard (skimmed or unskimmed), and wood. The caveat is that, unlike wood filler that is available to match unpainted wood finishes (see below), cellulose fillers are typically white.
Fine-surface cellulose fillers come ready mixed. This type is super-smooth and very easy to spread but must be in a very thin layer to ensure it dries thoroughly. This type is great for finishing repairs made with ordinary cellulose fillers.
2. Ready-Mixed Spackle
Also called Spackling, Spackle is ideal for screw and nail holes in drywall and plastered brick and block walls. Generally made from gypsum plaster mixed with binders, different brands are sold ready-mixed in tubs. It is ideal for filling small nail and screw holes in virtually every type of wall other than unpainted wood (but only because it is white in color).
Often described as a type of putty, spackle is sold in small quantities and is very affordable. It has quite a thick consistency and doesn’t shrink much as it dries. It is easy to top up the surface and skim it to create a nice smooth surface.
Generally, spackling is great for repairing nail and screw holes that are less than 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter. If the holes are bigger, use adhesive-backed fiberglass mesh across the hole to prevent the spackle from dropping into the void of the wall.
There are different types of spackle including:
- Lightweight spackling for very small holes. Intended for quick fixes but doesn’t sand well.
- All-purpose spackling is perfect for repairing cracks and larger holes.
- Vinyl spackling, which as its name suggests contains vinyl, is meant for filling cracks and holes up to an inch deep. It is applied in layers and, when dry, sands well.
- Acrylic spackling is flexible and ideal for filling holes in all wall surfaces.
- Epoxy spackling is quite different because it is an oil-based filler. It is intended for repairing holes and gouges in wood.
Some companies make smooth Spackle products that are intended for use as a wood filler. Like all wood fillers, they are available in different typical wood colors.
3. Latex Caulking
Also known as painter’s caulk, paintable latex caulking comes in different qualities, some a lot cheaper than others. If you opt to use caulking, it pays to spend a little more and buy a product that is more flexible and will shrink less.
Caulking is a good option for exterior surfaces, but, be warned, it’s messier to work with than other fillers. It is also a lot more difficult to sand to a nice smooth finish.
4. Ready-Mixed Repair Plaster
Ready-mixed plaster products are sold in tubs of different sizes. They are popular for DIY repairs, even though they are relatively expensive. They are easy to apply and sand down to a smooth finish once dry.
Most repair plaster will fill holes up to 2 inches (5 cm) in one go, so you won’t have to build up layers as you do with some other products.
Conventional repair plaster and skimming (finishing) plaster are sold in bags and need to be mixed with water. These are comparatively cheap, but you need good basic plastering skills to apply it successfully.
5. Wood Filler
The application of wood filler is basically the same as any other form of filler. However, there are different types, including:
- Multi-purpose wood filler
- Wood filler intended for use on exterior walls and other wooden structures
- Two-part epoxy wood filler, which is stronger and more flexible
How to Fill Screw Holes in Walls
Filling regular screw holes in walls is one of the easiest DIY repair jobs any homeowner can undertake. All you need is a putty knife and fine-grit sandpaper – and mesh if the holes are huge!
- Step 1: Use a scraper or sandpaper to clean around the hole.
- Step 2: Wipe the area around the hole with a damp cloth to remove any dust or dirt.
- Step 3: Use a putty knife to fill the hole by scraping filler over the hole. You can press it into the hole with your finger if it isn’t filling up nicely. Make sure there is no filler on the surface around the hole. It’s easier to add a second layer than to have to sand a lot of excess filler once it has dried.
- Step 4: Allow it to dry thoroughly. Note that different products have different drying times.
- Step 5: Once it is dry, you can smear a bit more filler over the hole if the filler shrinks. Otherwise, dive in with your sandpaper and smooth the surface.
- Step 6: Repaint the area where the hole was.
Mistakes to Avoid, Tips and Tricks
The best tip is to work accurately and to smooth your filler before it dries. Always work with clean tools, and if the filler is thick, spraying it with a little water makes it easier to smooth. When working with wood filler, you will need turpentine and not water, unless it is a water-based product.
Always check the manufacturer’s instructions, and unless they say you can safely fill deep holes, build up the filler gradually, allowing each layer to dry thoroughly.
When filling holes in wood, you can use wood plugs before finishing with a little wood filler. The pros often use sawdust and little bits of wood scrap, mixing it with wood glue.
You can use the same principle for large holes in drywalling, filling them with scraps before adding the filler.
Filling screw holes in walls is a surprisingly easy DIY job that requires minimal tools and no special building skills.
This article provides information about six filler materials that you can use to fix the screw holes in your walls. It also tells you which works best where.
If we have to choose our favorite, it’s undoubtedly spackle, which is relatively inexpensive, ready-mixed, and so easy to apply. Spackle will fill holes up to 2 inches (5 cm) in one go, so you won’t have to build up layers as you do with some other products.