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How to Fill in All Those Nails Holes Correctly

Man sanding spackle to prepare for painting.
Thomas Foldes/Shutterstock

Hanging shelving and pictures on your walls help to make a house a home, but when it’s time to move the things (or move out of your home) you’re left with unsightly holes. Here’s how to fill them.

If you’re selling your home, removing nails and filling nail holes will make your home look better potential buyers. If you rent, cleaning up the mess you’ve made of the walls will help you get your deposit back. Even if you’re just rearranging a room, it looks nice to clean up the holes where your artwork used to hang.

When it comes to patching up your mess there are big holes and small holes. Nails and screws leave small holes. Screw anchors and accidents leave big holes. Here’s the best way to fix each kind effectively.

Filling Small Holes

When filling small nail holes, you may have had a family member tell you to put some white toothpaste in there and let it dry. Don’t do that. You’re not fixing anything. Toothpaste is not a proper replacement for spackle, which is what you actually need.

Along with spackle, you’ll need a putty knife and some fine-grit sandpaper. The putty knife is used to remove the spackle from the container and push it into the hole, using the corner. Flatten the spackled out with the putty knife and let it dry. You’ll be using the sandpaper to smooth it out for painting, so don’t worry about getting it perfectly smoothed out during the application phase.

Follow the instructions on your spackle, but at least two hours of dry time is ideal—some spackle even changes color as it dries, which is a neat feature. Once dried sand the surface to smooth using the sandpaper.

Be gentle so you don’t over-sand—it helps to use a sanding block or sponge to avoid pushing too hard and sanding down into the hole. Follow up by painting the area—if you’re patching a lot of holes it might even be time to give the whole room a fresh new look.

Filling Larger Holes

If the hole in your wall, thanks to the bolts or drywall anchors you needed to use, is larger than the tip of your pinky finger, you’ll want to approach patching it in a slightly different way.

You’ll need all of the same supplies for filling larger holes but you’ll also need some fiberglass mesh tape. Fiberglass tape offers a stable surface to smooth the spackle over without excess spackle just oozing into the larger hole.

Start with a smooth wall surface (do some sanding if you need to). Cut a piece of the adhesive-backed mesh tape that is about an inch larger on all sides than the hole you’re covering. Once in place, follow the instructions for filling small holes, but let the spackle sit overnight this time. Take extra care when sanding to feather out the edges and blend it into the existing wall. If need be, you may have to add additional spackle and resand to get a perfect and smooth look.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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