Can you screw into wood filler?

There are mixed opinions on the web. Some people are adamant it’s not possible, whereas others are confident with certain wood fillers. I’ve been screwing into wood filler for many years with varying degrees of success.

Here I’ll go into detail on how best to screw into wood filler, and also which fillers are the best. 

In short: 

You can screw into most wood fillers. The process is simple and comes down to three factors: the type of wood filler used, how it’s applied and if it is fully dry. If you want the screw to hold weight, use epoxy or two-part filler which sets harder. Use tape over the filler to prevent shattering and start with a pilot hole.

What is wood filler? 

It’s a putty-like substance and, as the name suggests, is used for filling wood. Typical uses are filling in a nail hole, gauge or crack in wood.  

Wood filler can enable many small repairs around the house. It’s particularly useful where you want to paint or stain the area after filling the hole. Often the user will want to drill into the filler once it sets and so it’s important to select the right type.

Wood Filler

Different types of wood filler

There are many types of wood filler and they all have different attributes. For example, if you’re filling a hole externally you’ll need to ensure it can withstand the elements. 

Consider the intended purpose and therefore which product you need. Some wood fillers are paintable or stainable whereas others are epoxy or water-based. 

Water vs Solvent fillers

Water based fillers are typically more versatile and convenient to use compared to solvent fillers. They can be diluted with water and used in finer projects and will also dry in around 15 minutes. It’s also easy to clean water based filler with soapy water.  

Solvent based fillers are made from vinyl or epoxy. They are smellier, take longer to dry and are more expensive. However they are far stronger compared to water based filler and are well suited to the outdoors. They are a good screwable wood filler for stripped screws given the strength. 

Wood Filler vs Wood Epoxy 

There are many articles that confuse the terminology ‘filler’ and ‘epoxy’. Wood epoxy is a solvent based wood filler. 

Epoxy is made from resin and is one of the toughest, most durable products available. An epoxy wood filler is especially effective where the damage to the wood is particularly significant, if the wood is outside or if you’ll be putting a weight bearing screw into the filler. 

Epoxy is also effective as wood glue. It’s strong, can fill gaps, and can also be sanded. The difference between filler and wood glue is that wood glue can adhere wood together, whereas filler typically isn’t strong enough.

Which wood filler should you use for screwing holes? 

If you are plugging a stripped screw hole, I’d recommend using epoxy for the above reasons. Especially if the screw you’ll be putting into the filler will be holding any type of weight, even if this weight is as light as a picture frame. A water based filler would not be strong enough to bear weight. 

Why screw into wood filler? 

The most common reason for needing to screw into wood filler is after repairing a stripped screw. First though you’ll need to remove the stripped screw. 

Often, you’ll want to replace the stripped screw with a fresh screw, therefore screwing into the hole where the stripped screw used to be. 

Here’s a video on how to fix a stripped screw hole: 

How to screw into wood filler? 

Top tip: stick tape on top of your filler/epoxy before drilling your pilot hole. This will prevent the filler from shattering. 

  1. Make sure the filler is completely dry and set. You should be using an epoxy (solvent) due to the strength it offers.
  2. Make sure the wood filler is completely DRY AND SET. 
  3. Drill a pilot hole using either a drill or an electric screwdriver. Use a small HSS bit
  4. Screw as normal using an impact driver

Closing thoughts

Most wood fillers can be screwed into but the big question is why do you want to do it?

If it’s to hold weight, certainly choose an epoxy wood filler or solvent-based wood filler. Then proceed in drilling with two top tips: use tape over the wood filler, and drill a pilot hole. If you’d like to understand more about which drill bit to use, check out this comprehensive guide to drill bits.

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