Did you make the mistake of choosing the wrong drill bit and making your screw hole too large?
If so, don’t worry – there are multiple ways, some easier than others, to fix the mistake and either make your hole smaller or fill the existing one completely to be able to make a new hole of the right size.
In this article, you will learn about eight such methods that work mainly with wood. You will also learn what to do in case your hole is in metal or drywall.
1. Using Matches or Toothpicks
The most common – albeit not professional – way to fill screw holes when you need to make them smaller is by using matches or toothpicks as shims. This method has been used for a long time, but should only be used for holes that won’t hold any great weight. Using this method is really simple.
First, fill the hole with any liquid glue that can be used on wood, such as Elmer’s Wood Glue. Note that the glue is helpful, but not always necessary.
Second, jam in several wood toothpicks or matchsticks until they snugly fill the hole. Allow the glue to set and dry completely, which will ensure the toothpicks are firmly held in place.
Third, snap or cut off the toothpick or matchstick ends so that they are flush with the surface.
Finally, drive your screw into the repaired hole.
2. Using Wooden Dowels
Another way you can make a screw hole that is too large usable again is with wooden dowels. Unlike the previous one, this is the method that is nowadays used in professional settings the most. The process is similar to the previous one.
First, drill out the hole with a drill bit that is the exact diameter as or a pinch smaller than the wooden dowel you are planning to use.
Second, dip the dowel into some wood glue and tap it into the hole. Wait for the glue to set.
Third, cut the dowel using a saw in a way for it to be flush with the surface of the wood and drill a small pilot into it before driving the screw. This method results in a strong fixing point that’s almost as good as screwing into the workpiece itself.
3. Using Larger Anchors and Oversize Screws
Perhaps the easiest way – if you have the necessary hardware – to get around the problem of a hole that’s too big for a screw is to just use the existing hole, but use wider anchors and matching screws. Depending on the specific situation, a toggle bolt might be the best choice.
In case the hole needs to be expanded a bit to accommodate the larger screw or anchor, it can be widened slightly using an appropriately sized drill bit. If using a longer screw, make sure it’s not too long or it may pop out of the other side.
4. Using a Rawl Plug
You’ve probably seen a rawl plug – it’s a generally plastic insert that is used to provide grips for screw being driven into concrete walls among other materials. You can also use it if you mistakenly drill too big of a hole into wood or other material.
Simply coat a rawl plug with glue and tap it into the oversized screw hole. After the glue has dried, simply screw the plug into the hole.
5. Use Nylon Cable Ties
If you don’t have a rawl plug handy but happen to have some nylon cable ties, you can use those as well.
To use nylon cable ties to fix an oversized hole, first cut off the length required, then insert it into the hole. More than 1 length of cable ties might be needed, depending on how much support is required.
Once the hole is filled enough (it doesn’t have to be completely filled), you can drive the screw in. You will see the screw cut into the nylon which will provide traction and grip. Don’t use too much nylon to prevent shearing.
Three Alternative Ways to Reduce the Size of a Screw Hole
While you should find a method among the above five that will work for you – both in terms of your use case as well as in terms of materials that you have at home – if you failed to do so for some reason, below are four more alternatives:
- Using steel wool: A method that will only work for light loads. Tightly pack steel wool into the hole using a screwdriver or a similar tool. The compacted steel wool will provide the screw with a tighter grip.
- Using a pinewood shim: For this method, you’ll need some pinewood and a sharp knife to trim it with. Trim the pinewood into a pointed shape, then coat it with wood glue and insert it into the hole. Wait for the glue to dry, then use a chisel or a sharp knife to cut the pine until flush with the wood. Finally, drill a small pilot hole into the fixed spot to guide the screw.
- Using a golf tee: If you have a spare golf tee lying around, it can be useful in fixing a hole that’s too large. First, tap the tee into the hole and mark where it needs to be cut to become flush with the edge, then remove it and cut it to fit. Cover the tee with wood glue, reinsert it into the hole and wait for it to dry. It will then be ready to hold the screw.
How to Make a Screw Hole in Metal Smaller
While some of the ways mentioned above can be used with holes in metal, there’s one more way specific for the material. It’s a cold weld epoxy called JB-Weld.
Simply fill the hole with JB-Weld per the instructions on its cover and make an indentation in the center with a toothpick or a similar sharp object.
Once the material has cured, drill a new hole – this time one that is the right size for your screw.
How to Make a Screw Hole in Drywalls Smaller
When it comes to drywalls, if you want to patch up a hole and drive a screw into it, you need to ensure it has enough grip and support to not let the screw get loose. Using a drywall knife, fill the hole with a setting-type joint compound. Let it cure fully, and fill any dips if required.
Once the above has been done, drill another hole into the center, insert an anchor that can distribute the load behind the drywall, and reinsert the screw.
If you made the mistake of selecting the wrong size drill bit, you have a few options as you can see above. However, in most cases when working with wood, you will do just fine with either using matches or wooden dowels.
While the former uses a more commonly available household item, the latter is more professional.
In the case of metal, you will want to use JB-Weld if possible. Finally, if you are working with drywall, you will need a setting-type joint compound.
One thing worth noting is that some of the above techniques are the same as when dealing with stripped screw holes.