Screw helps us hold things in place. They combine with hinges to hold doors to door frames, cabinet doors, chest lids and other places around the house.
When they hold things in common places that witness frequent movement, such as entry doors, their grip on the wall can weaken with time until they eventually fall out.
But they can also loosen when the places they join encounter sudden stress, like when a drawer is dropped accidentally on a hard surface.
All of these can cause wear-and-tear, which simply implies that the screws have lost their strength which usually comes from the way their threads wedge into a surface.
A loose screw and a stripped screw hole can no longer hold anything in place and can even be responsible for some hazards around the house.
It will need fixing, whether a quick or more permanent fix. Luckily, this can be a very simple exercise, but you will need first to learn how to fix stripped screw hole if you intend to do it yourself.
You can go with either of these options; fill the screw hole with toothpicks or matches sticks and re-drive the screw, fill the hole with automotive fillers, re-insert the screw, use a hardwood plug, or simply replace the stripped screw with a larger screw.
We will consider each method shortly but first, let us see what causes stripped screw holes.
What Causes a Stripped Screw Hole?
When screws weaken or completely fall out, it becomes harder or riskier to use the surfaces they join together.
Stripped screw holes can be caused by different problems, with the most common ones including natural wear, low-quality materials and improper screw installations.
The most common reason why most screws wear and tear is often from a long period of use. The longer you use the surface, the wider the screw holes become.
And as this happens over time and the holes get bigger and bigger, the screws are bound to weaken and fall out eventually.
Inferior Quality Materials
We all know how using materials of low quality can affect the durability of any item. With screws, using screws, wood fibre, or other surfaces of inferior quality can cause the surface to tear and the screw to fall off under even the minimal pressure or sooner than you would expect.
Improper Screw Installation
Another very common thing that may cause stripped screws is improper installations. When you exert too much force or pressure while installing the screw, it can cause the surface to tear, thereby making it impossible to hold the screw in place for a long time.
Also, mixing the wrong screw size and the wrong hole size is considered improper installation as it means the screw will not fit the hole.
Accidental or Constant Vibrations
Screws may also loosen due to accidents when a cabinet or drawer is dropped accidentally. They may also get weak when the items they join experience constant vibration over a long time.
How to Fix Stripped Screw Hole
Because of how important fixing a stripped screw hole is, the process should be as simple as possible.
These are the most common methods to fix a loose screw depending on the type of hole and the availability of time and tools.
This is considered a very quick fix for smaller holes. The method may be simple, requiring only minimal effort and tools, yet it is not ineffective.
Step 1: Insert the toothpicks.
Insert the tip of as many toothpicks as you can into the small hole. You can do it by inserting one toothpick at a time, but don’t stop until you have the hole filled up.
Step 2: Apply glue to the toothpicks
Squeeze some drops of glue all over the toothpicks and use your finger or a cotton swab to spread the glue so that it reaches every part of the toothpicks.
You can use any glue you have at home for this or simply purchase from a hardware store or online if you don’t have any.
Step 3: Push the toothpick all the way into the hole
Stick the toothpicks into the hole to lie as deep as possible, then use a hammer to snap off the ends sticking outside.
Step 4: Allow curing for 1 hour.
You can allow the toothpick and glue to sit for at least 1 hour. This will allow for the glue to fuse the toothpicks to the inside of the hole.
Step 5: Sand the surface
Sand the entire surface where the toothpicks went in to make it smooth. Sanding it properly will provide an even surface for the incoming screw.
Step 6: Re-insert the screw.
The final step is to put back the screw. You can do this using a screwdriver or drill to turn the screw clockwise until it enters the hole completely.
The screw should be able to sit well now that it has other material to wedge into.
Using Plastic Wall Plugs as Anchor
This is also considered a very easy fix, especially if some plastic wall plugs are lying around. If you don’t or have some bigger than the screw, you can get some online or from the hardware store.
Just remember to buy and use those that match the same stripped screw to avoid improper installation, as we described earlier.
These are cheap and readily available but be sure that your screws will fit perfectly in them.
Step 2: Make a new hole.
This is only if the plugs are bigger than the stripped holes. However, if the plastic plugs fit into the existing holes, you can skip this step.
Step 3: Insert the plastic plug into each hole
Begin to insert each plug by using your hand to push it into the hole. Try not to exert too much pressure, but if the plug isn’t going in, you can use a hammer to tap gently on the head until it is completely flushed with the hole.
Step 4: Re-insert the screw.
Now that your plastic plugs are in place to give the screws new support to wedge their threads, use a screwdriver or drill to re-insert them back into the holes.
How Do You Fix A Screw Hole That is Too Big?
When the stripped hole has become too big for the screw, you can fix it by using automotive fillers, wood strips, or a larger screw with more aggressive threads.
Using Automotive Fillers
This method is reserved for larger holes that toothpicks and plastic plugs will not work for. Also, it may not be as easy as the above methods but is not complicated either.
Step 1: Purchase some automotive fillers.
These putty-like compounds are not things we generally have within the house, so you may need to buy some from an auto body shop or online. Ask for a description of how to mix if you have never used these before.
Step 2: Drill a new hole over the stripped screw hole
Using a drill an inch larger than the screw, bore a new hole into where the screw was removed.
This is important as it will allow the automotive filler to fill the hole enough to create the support that the screw needs to cast new threads.
Step 3: Mix the automotive fillers.
Pour the compounds according to the instructions into a surface such as a piece of cardboard, then mix properly using a putty knife.
This will allow for the activation of the ingredients contained in the fillers as they start to harden.
Step 4: Fill up the hole you made
Use the mixed fillers to fill the hole you bore earlier. Use the same putty knife and scoop the fillers, then run it over the hole.
Continue to do this until the hole is filled up.
Step 5: Lubricate your screw.
Spread a lubricant all over each screw. This will make it easier to remove the screws once the automotive filler has completely hardened.
Step 6: Insert the screw into the fillers
Gently push the lubricated screw into the wet fillers. While it is still wet, a hardened filler will make it harder to insert the screw. Ensure you position the screw at the canter of the holes before you push them in.
Step 7: Allow standing for about 5 minutes.
Allow the screws remain in the putty for about 5 minutes each before unscrewing them out. This would have allowed the screws to form new threads without the putty getting too hard for the screw to be taken out.
Step 8: Allow the putty with the newly formed threads to dry overnight
Allowing the newly formed hole to sit overnight gives it enough time to solidify to hold the screw in place when you re-insert it.
Step 9: Re-insert the screw into the hole
After the hole has been allowed to dry overnight, you can use a screwdriver or drill to insert the screw into the hole.
Using Strips of Wood
This method also works for larger holes but only when you can lay hands on the same wood species or similar species.
The trick here is to fill the hole with wood strips that will behave the same as the original wooden surface to provide similar support for the screw and prevent faster wear and tear.
Step 1: Get the strips of wood.
Make strips by cutting small strips from the same type of wood. If you don’t have any piece of wood of the same type of lumber, you can purchase some.
Step 2: Dip the strips into some glue
Dip the small strips into wood glue until they are properly saturated with the glue.
Step 3: Fill up the hole with the strips
Put the strips into the stripped screw hole until it is filled. Then allow sitting for 3 – 5 hours so that it dries properly.
Step 4: Sand the surface
Once the wood strips and glue have dried up and attached to the hole, you can sand the surface to provide an even area for the screw.
Step 5: Re-insert the screw.
Use a proper screwdriver or drill to drive back the screw into the hole. The screw should now sit in place.
Using a Larger Screw
This is a final resort for fixing stripped holes that are too big. It works perfectly when you see that the hole has become too large for the old screw or when you have larger screws and not the other materials we mentioned above.
But only use a screw that is just a little bit longer and larger than the previous screw. Using a screw that is too big can cause damage to the surface.
The steps are as simple as pulling out the smaller screw and replacing them with the slightly bigger one with rougher or more aggressive threads.
Stripped screw holes are things that happen all the time, both from natural and accidental causes. Not everyone knows this, but fixing these holes is simple.
Depending on the size of the stripped hole and what materials you have readily available, you can use any of the methods and steps described above.
Regardless of which path you choose, you will be sure to have the screws fully flushed with the holes and the joints usable and working again.