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Should Deck Screw Holes Be Filled? [And How To]

Every deck project uses screws to fasten pieces of wood. While it is true that screws are very essential to the sturdiness of a deck, they can also leave obvious holes that can make your deck look unpleasant. If you are determining whether those holes should be filled or not, then you are on the right page. We researched this matter and here's what we found.

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It is not necessary to fill deck screw holes as these holes do not significantly affect the structural integrity of your deck. However, for your deck to have a clean finish, the holes should be covered. The easiest way to patch the screw holes is by using a wood filler. You can also use wood putty, wood glue, wood plugs, or wooden scrap.

Filling screw holes is easy. It does not need any expensive materials or special tools. Surprisingly, it can be done in no time too! There are various methods you can use to fill your deck's screw holes. Keep reading to know which one suits your preference.

Screwing metal screws into chipboard, Should Deck Screw Holes Be Filled? [And How To]

How To Fill Deck Screw Holes

The following are the ways to conceal screw holes. Note that it is best to patch the screw holes before staining or painting your deck to avoid obvious marks.

If your deck is already painted, make sure to use the same pigment on the filler to match your deck's color.

Using Wood Filler

Carpenter in work using scraper and wood filler

This is the most common way to patch screw holes. Generally, a wood filler is a mixture of glue and sawdust. Wood fillers dry quickly and give a hard finish that matches the wood.

Wood fillers are very popular in woodworking and are always available at any hardware store. The following are the steps in filling the holes with wood filler.

Step 1

Clean the surface first before starting to fill the holes. You can wipe the surface with a wet cloth but make sure to dry out the surface completely before applying the wood filler.

Step 2

Mix the wood filler and the hardener as instructed by the manufacturer. Continue mixing until the desired texture is achieved.

Step 3

With a putty knife, apply the mixture into the holes. Remember to put only the needed amount of mixture. If you are not sure, apply less first as it spreads and hardens really fast.

You can always add more if the mixture is not enough to cover the entire hole.

Step 4

If you have over-applied the wood filler, remove the excess right away before it becomes hard and difficult to eliminate.

Also, clean up the residue that may have dropped on the surface of the wood before it hardens. Use sandpaper to get an even finish.

Click here to see this Beyotool putty knife set on Amazon.

Using Wood Putty

Worker applying filler to the wood

Wood putty is a mixture of plastic and oil-based solvents and is denser than wood filler. Unlike wood filler, wood putty does not harden when dry.

This is the best option if you want to eliminate the risk of cracking and shrinking fillers. Since it is non-hardening, if you fill in the holes with wood putty, it will adjust to all the changes in the wood.

Here are the steps in patching the screw holes using wood putty.

Step 1

Clean the screw holes as well as the surface of the wood.

Step 2

Make sure that the wood putty's pigment matches the color of the wood. Then, using a putty knife, fill the screw holes with the mixture. 

Step 3

When the filling is completely dry, wipe the surface with a wet cloth to remove any excess putty.

Check out this Winmax Wood Putty on Amazon.

Using Wood Glue

Assembling furniture using wood glue

Wood glue is easy to apply and adheres quickly to the wood. The following are the steps in filling the screw holes with wood glue.

Step 1

It is important that the hole should be free from dust and other particles to eliminate the risk of the glue not sticking tightly to the wood and screw. Use a thin brush or suction the dust with a vacuum cleaner if needed.

Step 2

Apply the wood glue directly to the screw hole. You can use any wood glue depending on your preference.

The most commonly used glue in filling a screw hole is epoxy because it dries fast and provides strong bond even if applied in a relatively small amount.

Step 3

Let the glue set properly. It may take at least 45 minutes for the glue to completely dry out. For the mean time, you may want to fill in the other holes.

Step 4

Sand the excess glue using a fine sandpaper to get a smooth finish.

Click here to see this Gorilla Epoxy glue on Amazon.

Using Plugs

Drill bit make hole for dowel in wooden oak board

Using wood plugs is another way to conceal the screw holes. Wood plugs are wood cuttings that resemble screw heads and come in a wide array of wood types and in various sizes. 

Step 1

Get the plugs ready. You can either make your own plugs using the same type of wood used on your deck so the plugs can easily blend in or purchase a ready-to-install wood plug set at a hardware store. 

Step 2

Clean the screw holes and make sure that the holes are free from extra bits of wood as these may affect the positioning of the plugs. You can use a vacuum cleaner if needed.

Step 3

Fill in the holes with the plugs. Put an adequate amount of glue or filler under each plug to make it adhere to the screw. Make sure that the plug you insert into the hole is the correct size.

Step 4

Sand the surface to achieve an even finish.

Click here to see this General Tools Flat Head Wood Plug pack on Amazon.

Using Wooden Scrap

Scraps of wood left over from utilization

If neither of the materials above is available, you can make your own filler at home using the excess wood scrap from your woodworking project.

Step 1

Gather the wood scrap and soak them in glue.

Step 2

Fill the holes with the scraps and wait until the glue is completely dry.

Step 3

Sand the surface to eliminate excess scraps before applying paint.

Can Wood Filler Be Painted?

Wood filler can be painted. However, before you start painting on the filler, let it dry completely first. It usually takes 30 minutes for fillers to fully dry out. Also, make sure that you have sanded and cleaned the surface before painting in order to achieve a smoothly painted look that blends nicely with your deck.

Click here to see this Elmer's Carpenter Wood Filler on Amazon.

What Wood Filler Do Professionals Use?

The most popular type of filler used by professional woodworkers is the latex wood filler. This filler has a wood-type finish and also comes in a variety of colors to match any wood.

This filler spreads and sets quickly. It can also be sanded, primed, and painted in water-based finishes.

How To Stain On A Wood Filler?

If you plan to stain on a filler, you have to make sure that the wood filler you use is stainable. It is usually indicated in the packaging of the product. 

If the wood filler is water-based or solvent-based, it should hold a stain well. If it is oil-based, staining may not be a good idea.

To stain the fillers, make sure that the surface is flat and free of dust. It's good to test the stain first on a spare wood before applying it to the filler to make sure that the pigment matches your deck's stain.

Then, apply the stain to the filler. For screw hole fillings, you may need a small paintbrush. Apply thin layers until the desired color is achieved.

Can You Paint Over A Wood Putty?

Wood putty is non-hardening, so it is not a good idea to paint over it as the paint will likely peel off. Your best option is to choose a wood putty that matches your deck's finish.

In Closing

Filling your deck screw holes can significantly improve the look of your deck. It makes your deck neat and very professional looking. You just have to pick on a method that is available and can work best for you. 

We hope that through this post you were able to pick up some guidance in choosing a method to fill your deck's screw holes.

For more about deck maintenance, check on these posts too!

Should You Wash Deck After Sanding?

What Color Should I Paint My Deck?