Using wood plugs to fill screw holes in hardwood flooring.  Finish Carpentry:

Using Wood Plugs To
Fill Screw Holes In
Wood Flooring

 

In This Article:

Wood plugs are made with a special plug cutter bit and inserted into holes, then sanded smooth.

Related Articles:

Skill Level: 2-3 (Basic to Moderate)

Time Taken: 5-10 Minutes Per Plug

By , Editor

This short article describes how we plugged the screw holes in a hardwood floor just after installation. This technique is applicable to many other aspects of woodworking, such as furniture building and cabinet making.

When the first and last strips of hardwood flooring were laid, we had to drill holes in the boards so we could fasten them with deck screws.

 

These were 2-part holes:

  1. A small hole just big enough for the shank of the screw. 
  2. A larger 3/8" diameter hole, big enough to allow the screw head to disappear below the surface.

 

The Secret Ingredient:

The key to plugging holes is the tapered plug cutter. We bought a set of four plug cutters from Home Depot for less than $20.

We used the plug cutter in a small drill press. The cutter can also be used in a hand-held drill but it is very tricky to get the cut started because the bit tends to walk around. It helps to keep the cutter bit as close to perpendicular as possible.

This cuts a doughnut-shaped ring from the wood, leaving a round stub in the center.

The plugs end up being slightly tapered, which helps them fit into the hole more easily.

The block of wood is just a short scrap of flooring. We often use several different scraps of flooring to obtain a wide range of color and lightness.

We just pried the plugs out, using a small flat-blade screwdriver.

It helps to force the screwdriver deep into the groove, so the plugs break off at their base. This results in the longest possible plugs.

 

We applied a dab of carpenter's glue around the plug.

 

And set the plug in the hole.

 

A tap of the hammer drives the plug into the hole.

Not all of the plugs were as smooth and flush-looking as this one. (In fact, this plug only looks flush, it's actually quite rough.)

It should be noted that the smooth top end of the plug is the narrowest end, so it goes head-first into the hole. Thus, the bottom of the plug (which is rough because it was broken off the block of wood) is left sticking out of the hole.

The plugs were wiped with a wet sponge to remove the excess glue.

These plugs only look smooth. They still need to be sanded.

 

A close-up of a plug. We try to align the woodgrain, but that does not always work out.

 

Some different lengths of plugs. 

Care must be taken to ensure that the plug cutter goes deep enough, or else the plugs may come out like the one on the left.

 

These plugs were a little longer than the first plug we pictured. All the extra wood has to be sanded down, which is no problem with the right power tool.

 

A very useful tool: 

With the portable belt sander it took only a few seconds to sand down each plug so it was flush with the surface.

An ordinary orbital sander might also work, as would hand sanding.

The finished plugs are hard to see. If done right, the plugs can literally disappear into the surrounding woodgrain. Such a feat requires that the scrap be matched (for color and darkness) to the wood surrounding each hole 

It is very tempting to use a chisel to shear off the plug. We have tried that, and it sometimes peels away the fibers below the level of the surrounding wood, leaving a rough dimple. We have determined that cutting plugs off with a chisel is not worth the time savings.

The last two rows of flooring had numerous plugs, but it only took about five minutes to sand them all flush.

After the floor is sanded, these will barely be visible.

 

The next step is sanding the hardwood floor with a drum sander.

 

 

Tools Used:

  • Plug Cutting Bit
  • Drill Press or Power Drill
  • Belt Sander
  • Basic Carpentry Tools

Materials Used:

  • Scrap Of Wood Flooring
  • Carpenter's Glue

 

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Copyright © 2001-2011  HammerZone.com

Written July 31, 2001 
Revised December 10, 2011