Fix-It Friday: What To Do If Pilot Holes Are Too Big For Screws Or Anchors

Fix-It FridayHome Improvement 3 Comments

“What should you do if the pilot hole for screws or anchors is too big?” – WYSK Reader Airtas

NV: Thanks for this great question because so many of us will relate to it! A loose shelf, a wobbling curtain rod, a hanging by a thread coat rack – we’ve all been there!

I especially love this question because it reminds me of a repair I’ve been meaning to get to for months! I have a little coat rack next to my side door that’s been increasingly loosening from the wall, and I had better fix it before the next pleasantly plump article I hang sends it crashing to the ground… so I’m off to do it, right now!

So, dear reader, whether it’s your pilot hole that’s been drilled too large or existing anchor holes (in my case) that have loosened over time from weight/yanking, there are a few ways to correct this issue.

Here are your options!

Use Larger Anchors and Screws 

Just use the existing holes, but tap in fatter anchors and accompanying screws. This was the easiest solution for my coat rack.

Note: For my coat rack, I used toggle bolts (see below) – in my opinion the most secure anchor in this application. Also, the holes in the wooden plate of the rack needed to be widened slightly in order to accommodate the larger screws, which was as simple as using a drill bit, and matching the new screw size to make bigger holes.


Pilot hole with original anchor that had come loose and was partially sticking out of the wall


pilothole _fix_2

New toggle bolts going into the existing pilot holes



Newly secured coat rack


Relocate the Hanging Article

If this approach makes sense within the space, just do a quick hole repair with some spackle, then re-drill your pilot holes either above or below (to the left or right) of the original location. To be sure you’re driving into a solid part of the wall/surface, give yourself about an inch distance away from the old hole… if it’s a gapping hole, more than that – use your judgment.

Through Wood, Fill-in With Toothpicks

This toothpick trick has been around forever and you don’t need any special products to get her done.

  • Fill the hole with any liquid glue that can be used on wood (like Elmer’s).
  • Jam in several wood toothpicks until they’re very snug and entirely fill the hole.
  • Allow to dry completely, then snap off toothpick ends so they’re flush with surface.
  • Drive your screw through the repaired hole!

Note: if you’re hanging something heavy, it will be a good idea to use a slightly fatter and/or longer wood screw.

Let us know how it goes!

PS – For information on how to install all types of anchors, check out my previous Fix-it Friday column… “Anchors Aweigh!”

Norma sig

Got A DIY Question? Ask-The-Expert!

If you have a DIY home repair, maintenance or improvement question for Norma, now is your chance to ask-the-expert and have her answer. Your burning question may just be the “star” of an upcoming Fix-It Friday column.

Add your question to the comments section below or email it to Women You Should Know.

Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.


  • John

    Can you use the tooth pick trick with drywall to repair the stud and drywall?
    Is there any product (spackle) that allows the re-use of the same drywall hole?

    • Norma

      Hi John! The toothpick trick through drywall to a stud–I’ve never done it. To me this trick wouldn’t make sense here. But can you? You can try! My solution would be to drive a slightly larger screw through the stud… At that point the drywall repair would be cosmetic, and since you’re likely securing something in front of this hole, you’d never see it, nor would the patch be structural–so any cosmetic fill (with spackle) would work.
      As for using the same drywall hole after a patch–I don’t know of any product that would work here. That said, a full drywall resection–where you replace a section of drywall from stud to stud–then you can put a hole in the same location.
      After all is said and done, it also depends on what you’re hanging, if it’s very light, and the anchor is small, a patch MIGHT work….how’s that for ambiguous.
      John, I may have given you more info here than you expected! Let us know how it goes, and please feel free to reach out again if you have any other questions. Cheers!

      • heavyw8t

        When faced with this problem, and I have been, I drilled out the hole to 1/2″, then glued a piece of 1/2″ dowel into the stud. Patch the drywall with spackle and then prime and paint. Then when you drive that screw you are driving it into a piece of wood dowel.