Can You Screw Into Wood Filler?

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When sourcing materials for woodworking projects, it’s not uncommon to encounter wood with uneven textures or minor damages. In such instances, wood filler becomes the go-to solution to mend these imperfections.

But a question that often emerges after these repairs is: can you screw into this wood filler? Let me shed some light on this based on my experience with various wood projects. 

About Wood Fillers

Finding the perfect lumber is the most challenging part of your preparations for your wood projects. Sometimes, cracks and splits can appear where and when you least expect them.

Hence, you will need the best wood filler to fill the gaps and smoothen the surface.

applying wood filler for paint restoration

Most wood fillers work to repair dents and cover cracks on the natural wood surface. This is because it acts as wood binders made of sandable material mixed in a solution of hardening resin. It deepens into the wood and binds wood fibers.

Types of Wood Fillers

There are different wood fillers you can come across– some are sandable and others are stainable. You also have the option to DIY your own wood filler from wood dust combined with lacquer, varnish, or wood glue. 

But depending on your wood material condition, you can choose from either water-based or solvent-based products. Primarily, you can use wood filler to cover the voids or fill holes on the wooden surface but you should know their different characteristics.

Solvent vs Water Fillers

For instance, using water-based wood filler could only take 15 minutes to dry and you will only need water and soap to clean them up. 

The water-based wood filler contains a mixture of cellulose, wood fiber, or gypsum but it is not toxic compared to most formula like epoxy wood fillers. At first, it emits volatile organic compounds or VOC [1]. But after a while, it dissipates immediately.  

person holding a wood filler

Compared to solvent-based fillers like epoxy, water-based wood fillers have the advantage of being easily diluted with water and can be combined with a thinner, if needed, for specific wood projects. However, I’d suggest reserving them primarily for indoor projects

So, once the water-based wood filler dries, it does not contract or expand along with the wood over time.

On the contrary, solvent-based or epoxy based wood filler contains higher toxic compounds or VOC like vinyl and epoxy. Its smell can linger until it dries for an hour. It is also pricier than water-based and requires turpentine or similar removal chemicals to clean it up. 

But, the good thing about epoxy wood filler has resistance to extreme weather and humidity which makes them ideal for your exterior wood projects.

So, is Screwing Into Wood Filler Advisable?

Yes, aside from sanding and staining wood filler, you can definitely screw into it.

applying Elmer's Probond P9890 Interior Wood Filler

However, it’s wise to lean towards epoxy-based wood filler. Many woodworkers prefer this type, especially when screwing into the filled area. It’s not just about screwing, though; epoxy fillers excel when it comes to sanding, painting, and drilling. 

And how do you fill wood cracks with epoxy? Read next.

Can Wood Fillers Hold Screws?

The wood can hold the screws for a limited weight as long as the filler is cured. Also, there are types of screws and possible issues that you will encounter when screwing and drilling on most wood fillers. 

Can You Drill Wood Filler?

Actually, there are drillable wood fillers. But, hardwood and softwood require drilling depth into the wood filler which I listed here:

Wood TypeDrilling Depth of Wood Filler
Hardwood (Oak, Walnut, Mahogany, Ash, Merbau)1/4 inches or 6.5 mm
Semi-hardwood (Fir, Pine)1/2 inches or 13 mm
Semi-hardwood (Cherry, Maple, Birch)5/8 inches or 15 mm
Softwood (Cedar)1 inch or 25 mm

Issues With Screwing Into Wood Filler

drilling on wood

Knowing that you can screw into wood filler, the next step is to anticipate potential challenges that might come your way during your woodworking project. Here are some preventive measures and best practices:

Air Bubbles

The bubbles occur while you set the wood epoxy filler into the wood. You should avoid screwing and drilling where it appears the screw will not hold the wood.

Instead, you must pat down the air bubbles until it disappears in the wood filler or resin. It will ensure that no bubbles are trapped underneath.

Screw Type

Traditionally, some manufacturers placed pit holes on the lumber surface with epoxy wood filler. But, pit holes are non-essential in wood projects presently. There are tools available already for drilling the correct depth and choosing the right screw for the wood filler.

Load Size

If the screws on wood filler hold the lumber, it does not mean that it can hold a large load or hefty size of wood. For instance, if you are screwing door hinges into it, the door hinges will break off. But screws can hold the smaller size of lumber with wood epoxy filler. 

deck screw

Types of Wood Fillers to Use for Screws

From water-based and solvent-based wood filler, there are types of wood filler for your screws.

Multipurpose Wood Fillers

For instance, multipurpose wood filler allow you to nail, screw or drill holes into it without making the wood crack or shrink. It can expand and contract with the wood over time, which makes it suitable indoors and outdoors. You can expect it to dry after two hours.

Two-Part Epoxy Wood Filler

The two-part wood filler does not shrink or expand with the wood and are resistant to insects. In applying wood filler, you will need to use the two-part method, hence the name of this filler.

Exterior Wood Fillers

You can also use outdoor or exterior wood fillers because they are flexible to extreme heat and cold temperatures and can hold weight significantly. Also, it does not create cracks and burn the paint. You will not be needing a replacement for a couple of years.

Simple Wood Fillers

Do simple wood filler hold the screws? Simple wood filler or wood stopper is not reliable for holding screws and you cannot drill into them. But you can use this easier than the other because it is made of chalk which can easily fill in the chipped area of the surface. 

filling wood gap with wood filler

Bondo Wood Filler

This is a type of two-part wood filler that is permanent and does not shrink. Bondo wood filler cures fast even if it’s a permanent paint repair material for indoor and outdoor wood projects.

Elmer’s Wood Filler

A brand of quality wood filler that is ideal to repair holes and any defects on the wood or wallboard. You can use this either a painted or molded surface. 

Applying Wood Filler To Hold Screws: What to Do

Moving on, you are now prepared to apply wood filler to hold screws. So here are the steps to give your wood projects a professional touch. 

Step #1: Prepare the Surface

Before starting any work on the wood, it’s crucial to prep the surface. Begin by sanding down any rough edges to ensure a smooth foundation. Following that, wipe the area down with a clean cloth to remove any lingering dust or tiny wood particles. 

Step #2: Ready Your Wood Filler

Next, get a mixing bowl to prepare your wood filler into it. The ratio of wood filler should be 16:1 which is equivalent to 16 parts of the filler and one part of the hardener. 

preparing Bondo Home Solutions ‎20082 Wood Filler

After the white hardener mix completely with the wood filler, the ideal time you need to apply it is within 15 minutes. Otherwise, the wood filler will dry and harden which will be difficult to apply. 

Step #3: Start Applying the Wood Filler

Using a putty knife, you can start the application into the gaps and holes on the surface. I recommend putting a little excess amount of wood filler as an allowance after the filler dries and shrinks. 

Step #4: Allow the Wood Filler To Completely Dry

You need to wait for at least 30 minutes to a couple of hours to make sure that the wood filler is applied completely. If the weather is humid, you have to wait for at least 3 hours. Curing time for the wood filler is important so that the wood can hold your screws. 

Step #5: Don’t Forget to Sand the Surface

If wood filler has completely dried up, you need to sand the surface to remove impurities and excess fillers. The sanding will make the surface have a smooth and even texture for your primer paint. 

sanding surface of MDF board

Step #6: Apply Paint Or Finish

Once the surface has been sanded, get your primer paint or stain as the finishing touch of your wood projects. This will hide the wood filler markings and give your wood surface a perfect appearance.

Step #7: Now, Screw!

Finally, after your finishing touches, wait for at least 48 hours before you screw into wood filler. Place a mark where to screw and choose the correct size of drill bit based on the wood type you used.

The appropriate size of the drill bit and screws with the type of wood will prevent damage to wood filler. 

Fixing Stripped Screw Holes in Wood: 5 Methods

While working with your screw into the wood filler, it can be stripped accidentally. So, here’s how to fix stripped out screw holes using the best methods:  

wood on table saw

Method 1: Fill the Hole with Epoxy and Drill it

Your first option is to use epoxy. Use an epoxy based wood fillers to fill the hole. You can double the epoxy coat into it but make sure it gets dry before drilling on it.

Method 2: Fix the Hole with Toothpicks or Matchsticks

Your second option is to use toothpicks or wooden match sticks if only you need a small hole in the wood filler. But this method will not hold a hefty load of wood.

Materials

For this method, you need to prepare the following:

Steps to Follow

After you prepared the materials, here are the simple steps to fix the hole with toothpicks or matchsticks.

toothpick

Step 1: Using the liquid wood glue, fill the hole. 

Step 2: Get some toothpicks or matchsticks and pack the hole. Make sure they fill the hole and the glue set and dried along with them.

Step 3: After making sure that toothpicks and matchsticks are held in place firmly, you can cut them. They should be on the same level as the surface.

Step 4: Lastly, you can screw into it.

Method 3: Filling the hole with dowels of the same wood

Your third option is to fill the hole with dowels of the same wood so it’s invisible after you assembled it. Dowels are used to connect two pieces of wood like a mechanical fastener between two lumbers holding things together. 

joining wood pieces with dowels

Materials

For this method, you need to prepare the following:

Instructions

Once the materials are prepared, here are the steps to fill the hole with dowels.

Step 1: Choose the correct bit that will match the size of the dowels. Make sure you measure the appropriate depth for the wood type before drilling. Use masking tape as your bit marker.

book case joined with dowels

Step 2: After you set the depth, drill the hole and test if the dowels fit into it. The dowels should not be snug and without gaps. Otherwise, squeeze the glue to fill the gaps around the dowels. 

Step 3: Use the clamps to hold the dowels and make sure it goes deeper into the hole. 

Step 4: Once dried, you can finally screw it. 

Tip: Make sure to carefully follow the steps if you want to avoid a wood screw hole that’s too big

Method 4: Use Larger Screws

The fourth method is using large screws. The trick here is you need to use wider anchors for the existing screw hole that’s larger with a screw. For instance, you can use a toggle bolt for the same pilot hole to be consistent in using drilling screws.

Another option you have is to use a drill bit to widen the anchor or screw. Just make sure it is not too long to get through to the other side of the wood.

Method 5: Wooden Dowels

Making wooden dowel require tedious work from making dowel joints to connecting the two boards. You can also choose the thickness of your dowels for specific wood dimensions. 

wooden dowels

But the best and most common size of the dowel is 3/8 inches and you can do this with or without a saw. 

Materials

To make the dowels, here are the tools and materials you need:

Instructions

In making dowels, here are the easiest steps on how you do it using a saw. 

Step 1: Get a hardwood like oak, maple, or walnut as big as a chunk of square or at least with a dimension of 6 inches. Make sure it has enough space to make dowel cuts without ripping the wood.

Step 2: Next clamp the wood to keep it steady before you cut and drill. Using a pencil, you can put markings on the area you cut and drill.

clamp and wood

Step 3: After you clamped the wood, you can cut a hole into the wood. Make sure it is passed through a quarter inch of the wood.  

Step 4: Then use a power drill and a suitable drill bit on the center of the cutting jig. The drilling depth and size of the drill follow the size of the dowels you cut. 

Step 4: Finally you can cut the wooden dowels using the saw. 

Is Reusing Screw Holes in Wood Good?

You can reuse screw holes assuming that there are no indications for the screws are loose while fitting them into the hole. The screw and holes have yield points and the screw can be altered sometimes if you are trying to stabilize it. 

Check out more articles: 

My Top Wood Fillers Recommendations for Screw Holes

Editor’s Pick: Minwax 42853000 Stainable Wood Filler

When it comes to wood fillers that can be screwed into, my top recommendation has to be the Minwax 42853000. This is incredibly versatile and suitable for both indoor and outdoor wood projects.

Whether you’re addressing cracks, holes, gouges, or any other imperfections on a wooden surface, especially with scrap wood, this Minwax filler gets the job done. Plus, it sands smoothly and dries quickly, making it a staple in my toolkit.

Premium Option: Bondo Home Solutions Wood Filler

When it comes to premium wood fillers, the Bondo Home Solutions product takes the cake. With its two-part formula, it promises a lasting bond, ideal for creating enduring repairs on damaged or rotted wood. One of its standout features is its resistance to shrinking.

Budget Option: Elmer's E855 Carpenter's Wood Filler

For those watching their budget, I often recommend Elmer’s E855 Carpenter Wood Filler. Not only is it more affordable than many other fillers on the market, but its quality doesn’t disappoint. You can paint and sand it without worries of shrinking or cracking. Plus, cleanup is a breeze with just water.

FAQ

How long does it take for the wood filler to dry before drilling?

The drying time of wood filler before you can drill into it is for at least 3 to 6 hours for 1/8 inch fills up and up to 3 days if the shallow fill is 1/4 inch. Actually, the wood filler drying depends on the depth of the holes and how much wood filler you used. 

Can you put screws into Ronseal wood fillers?

Similar to other wood fillers, you can put screws on Ronseal wood filler after the curing time. Ronseal is a multi purpose sealant for your wood project that won’t shrink or crack easily. 

Before inserting screws into the filled area, ensure that the filler is completely dry and hardened.

Can you put screws into Dap plastic wood fillers?

Like other wood filler, you can put screws into Dap plastic wood filler. You can also drill, cut, sand, and varnish finish without making any damage to it. 

Are wood fillers in holes stronger?

Although you can drill screws into wood filler, it does not provide serious structural strength. It repairs and fill screw holes and cracks but it does not hold a large load more than 1/2 inch in diameter.

Conclusion

To finally answer if you can screw into wood filler, yes you can. However, it can only hold a small amount of load. Wood filler cannot hold hinges for doors but it is useful for the repair of holes, cracks, and other damages on the wood surfaces. 

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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