Disclosure: We may earn commissions at no cost to you from qualifying purchases made via the product links in this article.
Last updated on May 8th, 2021
Screws are arguably the most widely used threaded fasteners for holding objects together. They are common in woodworking for holding things and installing joints such as hinges. Unfortunately, though they provide sturdy fastening, they come loose over time. This can be due to worn threads or stripped screw holes. The latter is more common in wood and you will come across it in many of your home repairs. But is there a way to fix stripped screw holes in wood? I know that is the question in your mind and there is no need to scratch your head for there is more than one way. In this article, I will share with you 6 easy DIY methods for fixing loose screw holes permanently. But before that, let’s first see what causes the screw holes to strip.
What causes wood screw holes to strip
It is always good to try to understand what causes a problem before fixing it. This way, you are able to fix the root cause of the problem to prevent it from happening again at least too soon. In that regard, some of the things make screws come loose in wood include:
- Installing and uninstalling screws repeatedly many times
- Overtightening a wood screw
- Exerting too much stress on a screw
- Installing screws in composite wood material such as particle boards
Methods for Fixing Stripped Screw Holes
Method 1: Install a longer screw
One of the easiest fixes for loose screws is to use a longer screw. Yes. It is that simple. Replacing the screw that came loose with a longer one might solve your problem. The extra threads will bind material further down and provide the holding strength you need.
The caveat, however, is that there must be extra material further down the screw hole for the longer screw to bite. Otherwise, if the original screw had gone all the way through the workpiece, the longer screw will not fix the problem. In such a case, you might have to try a different method.
Method 2: Install a thicker gauge screw
Sometimes going a gauge or two in screw size might be the fix for a screw hole that is too big. A bigger screw will create new threads in the material to provide you the grip you need. This trick works well if the screw hole has not already become too wide.
Method 3: Use wall plugs or plastic anchors
Although wall plugs are meant for masonry works, you can use them to fix a screw hole that is too big for a screw. Just pick the right size for the hole and the matching screw size and follow these steps to install.
How to use wall plugs to fix a stripped screw hole
- Pick the right size of plastic anchor or wall plug. It should barely fit the hole and at least the length of the screw.
- Insert the plug into the stripped screw until the lip is flush with the surface. You can tap it in with a hammer or use a utility knife to scrape off the part above the surface.
- Drive the screw into the plug. Make sure the screw size is what is recommended for your anchor.
If you do everything correctly, your stripped screw hole should be fixed. If not, try these other methods.
Method 4: Insert toothpicks, wooden matchsticks, wooden golf tees, or chopsticks
You can fix the problem by lining the stripped screw hole with strips of wood. The wood pieces make the hole smaller so that the screw can fit more tightly. You can use toothpicks, stick matches, wood golf tees, or chopsticks. This method is great for repairing antique products that must retain original parts and fasteners. Here is how to do it.
How to fix stripped screw hole with toothpick, matchsticks or chopsticks
Tools and supplies
- Toothpicks, chopsticks, wood golf tees or matchsticks
- Wood glue (optional)
- Take a couple of toothpicks or the material of your choice. Cut off the sharp ends of the toothpicks.
- Line them on the wall of the screw hole. This reduces the size of the screw hole. You can cover them with wood glue if you like.
- Cut off extra material so that they are flush with the surface
- Redrive the old screw between the material with a screwdriver. Do not overtighten as it will cause the hole to strip out again. Also if you used wood glue, it needs about 24 hours to dry completely.
- Now the screw has a tighter fit!
This method is perfect for fixing loose wood screws in small furniture, fixtures, and cabinets. I use it to fix rails rails on cabinets whose screws have come loose.
Method 5: Use dowels or wood plugs
Dowels are a genius fix for all loose screw holes. They work like charm in restoring the sturdiness of your installations. You can use them to repair loose door hinge screws, cabinet door hinges, and just about anywhere screws won’t hold tightly. Furthermore, a dowel or wood plug is the ultimate solution for screw problems on particle boards.
You can use hardwood or softwood dowels. The choice is yours. But hardwood dowels are good for fixing screw holes in high-stress points such as door hinges.
How to fix loose screw holes with dowels
Tools and equipment
- Dowel(s) (3/8″)
- Large drill bit (3/8″) or spade bit
- Pilot bit (smaller than the screw)
- Drill driver
- Screwdriver or driver bit
- Wood glue
- Longnose pliers
- Coping saw or any saw
- Remove the old screw using a screwdriver or drill driver and bit. If the screw cannot spin out because the hole is too loose, pull it out with longnose pliers.
- Expand the screw hole with the large drill bit. 3/8″ drill bit will work for many woodscrews.
- Insert a dowel into the new hole. The dowel should be the size of the drill bit. The rule is to match the dowel size with the size of the drill bit you choose for expanding the hole.
- Mark the depth of the hole on the dowel and cut it to size. Cut using a saw with a large TPI to get a smooth square cut.
- Cover the dowel with wood glue and shove it into the hole. Tap the dowel lightly with a hammer so that it sits flush with the surface.
- Wait for about 20 minutes for the dowel to dry.
- If you used a hardwood dowel, predrill a pilot hole before putting back the broken object. Use a drill bit that is smaller than the gauge of the wood screw you want to install. There is no need to pre-drill softwood dowels. They are not too hard to drive in a screw.
- Now you have a permanent sturdy fix to the stripped screw hole.
Method 6: Use auto body filler
You might think auto body filler or putty is only good for fixing dents on cars until you use it to fix screws that will not thread. The resin works magic in fixing wood screws. You only need to know how to do it.
How to use auto body filler to fix screw holes
Tools and equipment
- Large drill bit or spade bit
- Power drill
- Auto body filler and hardener
- Body filler mixing board
- Chisel or utility knife
- WD40 lubricant
- Remove the loose lug screw
- Enlarge the screw hole using the larger drill bit and power drill
- Scoop Bondo auto body filler and mix with hardener on the mixing board
- Fill the hole with the mixture
- Spray the screw with lubricant to prevent the mixture from bonding with it. In other words, lubricant acts as a release agent for the body filler resin. WD40 works perfectly.
- Gently thread in the lug screw into the resin putty and add more filler around it. Ensure the screw is upright.
- Wait for 5 minutes for the filler to dry
- Scrape off excess filler around the cast screw with a scraper or utility knife
- Remove the screw by unthreading it gently by hand. You will see that the threads of the screw have been cast on the resin.
- Give the resin more time to cure before you can actually install the screw.
This method is perfect for large lug screws because they have threads that are more pronounced. You can use wood glue if you don’t have Bondo auto body filler but it will not be as effective especially for fixing screws in high pressure points.
There you have it! Don’t let a loose wood screw due to a stripped hole deny you a good night’s sleep. Try any of the 6 fixes and your problem will be gone.