How to Fix Loose Screws in Wood

How to Remove Toggle Bolts

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Is a screw spinning around and not biting?

It’s happened to all of us at some point. In fact, if we are honest, it’s happened to all of us quite a lot. Whilst this situation can be extremely frustrating, you don’t need to worry. There are a few techniques that will fix loose screws in wood.

Can Loose Wood Screws Be Fixed Without Replacing?

This really depends on the work you are doing. But in some instances, yes loose wood screws can be fixed without replacing.

Most likely, the reason a screw is spinning is that the thread doesn’t bite in its hole anymore. If you can get the screw to make contact with the material again, you have a good chance of fixing the issue without replacing the screw.

4 Best Ways to Fix Loose Screws in Wood

Below are 4 techniques you should try when fixing loose screws. They are similar to the methods used when fixing stripped screw holes.

1. Tighten

This is the first step and the most simple. It might seem obvious, and you might have tried this already, which is how you know the screw is spinning.

Instead of tightening the screw lightly, put your weight into it and push. You are trying to get the thread to make more contact with the material inside the hole so it bites again.

2. Toothpick or Matchstick

This is an old carpenter’s trick that has got many people out of a frustrating situation. For this technique, you want to make sure the screws don’t need to support a lot of weight.

To use this technique, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Remove the screw from the hole

Step 2: Insert a toothpick or matchstick into the hole, covered in wood glue.

Step 3: Wait for the glue to dry and cut the stick flush with the surface

Step 4: Tighten the screw back in.

3. Drill and Dowel

This technique provides a stronger fixing but can be more time-consuming. You will need a drill bit and a dowel that are the exact same diameter.

Once you have your tools and materials, follow these steps:

Step 1:  To begin, remove the screw and keep it safe.

Step 2:  Attach the drill bit into the drill and carefully drill into the screw-hole. You want to drill as far as the screw went into the material, or as long as your dowel is.

Step 3:  Lightly cover the dowel with glue and insert it into the hole. If it is tight, lightly tap the dowel in with a hammer. Don’t force it.

Step 4: Once the glue has dried, cut the dowel flush with the surface, if it is not already.

Step 5:  Mark where the screw will go and drill a pilot hole 1/32 of an inch into the material.

Step 6:  Drive the screw into the new hole.

4. Replace With a Wider Diameter or Longer Screw

Sometimes, the simplest way of fixing the issue is to use a different type of screw. If a certain screw length has to be used, look at getting a wider diameter screw. Otherwise, you could use a longer screw.

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

Below, we’ve written out some of the common mistakes to avoid, as well as tips and tricks that we’ve learned along the way.

1. Pilot Hole

When drilling into wood, you should always use a pilot hole to get a better finish. A pilot hole will stop the wood from splitting when the screw goes in.

When drilling a pilot hole, it’s important to use the right size bit for the screws that are in use.  The pilot must be a smaller diameter than the screws. If it isn’t, the screws will spin in the hole.

2. Don’t Strip the Head

Stripping the head means that the screw becomes unusable. The part of the screw that the driving bit makes contact with is deformed and the driving bit can’t get enough purchase to turn the screw effectively.

To not strip the head, make sure you use the right driving bit. For example, Phillips, Pozi, flat-head, and hex are shapes that screw heads come in. Once you know the shape to use, you will also want to make sure you use the right size.

Also, keep firm and constant pressure as you tighten the screw to avoid stripping it.

3. Double Check the Length of Your Screws

This is a classic mistake that you will find very annoying. Double check the length of your screws so that they don’t break through the other side of the material.

Similarly, make sure there is enough length on your screws to provide enough strength for the job they are required for.

4. Countersink

For a cleaner, crisp look, countersink your screws. This means drilling out the material with a countersink so the head of the screw can sit neatly into the material. This avoids the screw head poking out above the surface.

The trick is to get the countersink just deep enough so the screw is flush with the surface, whilst not going too deep and exposing a hole around the screw head.

5. Don’t Overtighten

There are a lot of situations where the screw shouldn’t be overtightened. This can cause a few problems, for instance, it could crack or split the material or component the screw is fixing into.

If working with furniture or cabinets, it’s advised to finish the last bit of tightening by hand instead of an electric tool. This way you can feel how tight the screw is and decide when to stop.


Loose screws can be dangerous, so it is important to fix them as soon as possible. Try the easier and quickest techniques first, like tightening and changing the screw.

If they don’t work, move on to a more substantial solution.

While this article talked about screws in wood, you might also want to check out my article about how to fix loose screws in metal.