How to fix stripped wood screw threads

Sometimes you just run out of times you can re-tighten a wood screw. Or sometimes you want to move a screw just a tiny bit. And yet other times a screw is just in the wrong place and you need to start over. Fortunately the solution to fix all of the above is simple and quick. Essentially, you’re going to fill in the existing screw hole with new wood so you can start again. (Incidentally, if your particular screw is just a bit loose, you can pop a matchstick/ cocktail stick/ toothpick or two into the hole and reinsert the screw. Oftentimes this is enough to get a half decent tightness on the screw).

gluing a wooden peg into an enlarged or stripped hole

I want  to move some old screws holding a bead tight (or not very actually) up to a rubber glazing seal…

I was replacing screws holding the beads onto the 30 year old rubber seals on some windows I am restoring. Experience tells me that reusing the existing screw holes doesn’t pull the bead tight enough onto the new rubber. I needed the screw to sit a fraction closer to the glass. Impossible to achieve by re-using the existing holes. My choices are, move the screw to the side (which leaves a hole in the bead) or fill in the hole  in the window frame and start over (better). 

Glue a small wooden splinter or peg of wood into the enlarged hole.

Glue a small wooden splinter or peg of wood into the enlarged hole…

Remove the existing stripped screw…

First up you need to remove the existing screw to expose the enlarged, (or wrongly placed) hole. Next up is to find a piece of wood a similar size to the screw you’ve just removed. Most times there are plenty of off-cuts of wood around and you can chip a big ‘splinter’ off one corner with your knife or chisel.

shape a piece of wood to fit the enlarged hole where the screw came out

Shape the wooden splinter to roughly the same shape as the screw you’ve just removed

Shape up the wooden splinter until it resembles the shape of the screw. It’s not super critical, but not too small or it’ll be loose, and not too big or you risk splitting the work piece. Then squirt a little wood glue onto the tip (or into a small receptacle if you’ve got loads to do…), and push it into the hole. A little tap with a small hammer and you’re good to go.

An easier way to fill the hole…

A quick and dirty way to do this is to use matchsticks, cocktail sticks or toothpicks. As above, simply dip the ends in wood glue and push or tap them into the hole until it’s full. You can snap each one off and go in again if you like. I even kept one or two wooden chopsticks in the tool bag as they are a pretty good size for this job (and they are hardwood).

cut the wood plug flush with the hole

I often use an old hacksaw blade to cut off the protruding wood…

Once the glue has set (you mostly don’t need to wait if you’re in a hurry), saw off the bit that’s sticking out and you’re back to a fresh piece of wood with no holes. 

filling in holes of stripped screws

As good as new and ready for new screw positions…

Pilot holes are important!

It’s important to re-drill your pilot holes (read more about pilot holes here…) before you put the screws back in, or you risk splitting the work piece. Incidentally, you should aim for a similar size drill bit to the screws shank (or just a little bigger than half the screws diameter as a very rough guide).

The ‘proper’ way to fix enlarged screw holes…

The method described above is a bastardisation of the ‘proper’ way to do this type of repair, which is to drill out the enlarged screw hole and glue in a section of dowel. i.e. drill a 6mm (1/4″) hole and then glue in a 6mm (1/4″) dowel.  A method which would be a bit tricky so close to the glass in my case above.

There you go, I hope that was useful for you!
Stay well


Comments 6

  1. Love the saw dust idea – thank you. The small nail idea probably wouldn’t work because the bolt still needs to screw inside the collar and the nail would prevent that. Thank you very much! You stay well as well! Cheers!

    1. Post

      Hi Mike, Re the pin: assemble the chair and then drill the hole through the whole leg, threaded insert, bolt and all!I’m thinking it would be like a locking split pin though a hole in a bolt…. It’s probably a bit belt and braces really. A good job with a nice ‘wood’ rich, thick glue/paste usually sets like concrete!

  2. Hello Ian, I came across your article looking for a solution to a problem and I was hoping you had some insight into my particular issue which doesn’t quite work with your solution. I have a dining room chair. The legs are held on by two bolts. One of my legs has the bolt holes stripped. Here’s the complicated part. The legs have wooden threads. Into those threads is screwed a metal collar. The outside of the collar has course matching threads that allows the collar to be screwed into the chair leg. The inside of the collar has matching screw threads to the bolts. Obviously I can’t just plug the hole with fresh wood, and I’m afraid wood glue isn’t going to strong enough. Some of the wooden threads are still there but not enough to make me feel safe enough to screw the collar in and use the chair. Any ideas? Thank you in advance and I love your site!


    1. Post

      Hey Mike,
      Thanks for the kind words. I think I can picture what you have there. I’m assuming that it is the wooden threads which are stripped? Hmm, I think the best way to do it would be to use a two part epoxy glue to glue the metal threaded insert back into place. But; epoxy is blooming evil stuff so the alternative would be to create a thick paste out of regular wood glue and sawdust (not too fine, as you want the mix to have a bit of ‘body etc.).

      Then I’d use a Popsicle stick or other thin wood stick and kind of ‘plaster’ up the edges of the hole, all over what’s left of the wooden threads. Ideally then you’d screw the metal insert back in, trying to fill up any gaps along the way. Then basically once the glue sets, there should be enough friction or bond to the sides of the hole to hold the insert okay.

      Another thing you could do to reinforce the joint is to do the above, and once everything is reassembled, drill a tiny hole through the leg, insert and all and then pop a thin nail or pin through the whole thing, locking it all in place. This depends on the chairs finish of course, if it’s a fine, painted finish then this might not be ideal (but a rustic wooden finish, it’d be hardly noticeable).
      Hope that helps! Let me know if I’ve got hold of the wrong end of the stick!
      Stay well

  3. I love the chopstick/matchstick idea. What works best with porcelain toilet seats that have lost their thread?

    1. Post

      Hi Julia,
      Thanks for the kind words. Any chance of a picture of the damaged threads? What material are the threads in please? (porcelain, plastic, metal etc.). Are the threads in the porcelain seat itself or on the holding mechanism going through the toilet?
      Let me know and I’ll have a think!

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