How to Fill Nail Holes in Wood Trim

Methods and Products for Filling Nail Holes in Wood Trim

By Mark J. Donovan

One of the final steps installing wood trim is to fill the nail holes. There are several methods and products available to the diy homeowner and finished carpenter to fill nail holes in wood trim. However, the right methods and products need to be used depending upon if the trim is to be painted or stained.

Filling Nail Holes in Wood Trim to be Painted

For wood trim that is to be painted you can use caulk, however it is important to use a type that will not shrink over time. Apply the caulk to the nail hole using a caulking gun and then immediately follow behind with a damp paper towel to remove any excess caulk.

Be careful not to remove too much caulk from the filled nail hole as otherwise you’ll create a dimple in it. Allow the caulk to fully dry prior to touching them up with paint.

Minwax and Dap each make a painters putty that is specifically designed for filling nail holes in wood trim. Again, they are best used on wood trim that is to be painted. The only issue with these products is that they take some time to cure and can be rather soft even after a couple of days. Consequently I would suggest limiting their use to small nail holes.

One particular product that I frequently use to fill nail holes in wood trim is shrink free vinyl spackling. You can apply it with either your finger or a putty knife and it dries very quickly. I find it best to overfill the nail holes when applying the spackling.

Filling Nail Holes in Chair Rail Trim.

After the spackling dries I just lightly sand over the nail hole areas and then touch them up with a little paint. Again, I use vinyl spackling on wood trim that I plan to paint.

Filling Nail Holes in Wood Trim to be Stained

For stained wood trim I typically use colored wax pencils to fill nail holes. They are easy to use and the wax dries fairly stiff.

You can wipe off any excess wax with a rag lightly moistened with mineral spirits. Colored wax pencils are also available in a variety of colors so there is typically no issue finding one that will match your particular stain color.

Alternatively you can fill nail holes in stained wood trim using an oil colored wood putty. The only caution when using oil colored putty is that the wood trim should be sealed first prior to applying the putty.

Otherwise you’ll end up staining the wood around the nail holes with the oils in the putty. It’s typically not a pretty sight as the oil stain usually doesn’t match the wood stain color.

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