To fill or not fill sunken nail holes?

Q: We recently bought our house, which was built in 1932. The carpets on the stairs and 2nd floor were a mess, so we pulled them up. Pine boards beneath. Very rustic looking. They won’t be perfect, but we don’t need them to be. We like the look. There are a lot of nails though.

They are pretty big and we couldn’t get many of them out so we sunk them in (maybe too far, so the holes are even bigger). We sanded as directed and are now ready to fill nail holes then do a final sanding or NOT fill them and move right onto the polyurethane.

What will happen if we don’t fill the nail holes? Will the polyurethane fill in the holes? Will it look OK or be cloudy? We don’t care if you can see the nails. We experimented by filling some nails holes in a section you can’t see (cubby hole with door) and we can’t match the putty exactly, and besides, we don’t really like the look. Any specific concerns with not filling them?

We are also thinking about not filling in some of the smaller cracks. Please give us advice on this. We are ready to move ahead, but we can’t find anything online about NOT filling in nail holes. Everything says to fill them with putty, but the nail holes are so large that the putty is very noticeable. Although the nail holes are obviously noticeable as well, we like the way that looks better.

A: If you have no problem with the rustic look of countersunk nail holes then just coat the steps. No, the poly won’t fill the holes and you should not apply it so thick in an attempt to do so. Thin coats of finish are best.

Small filled holes would not have any polyurethane

Q imported from our old site, Face Lift Floors: My question is similar to one asked on your site – I am removing wall to wall carpeting from my dining room floor and the hardwood floor beneath it is in excellent condition and does not need refinishing, except for the nail holes close to the walls that had secured the carpeting. I understand that a color matching wood putty would fill the holes, but then those small filled holes would not have any polyurethane finish. What should I do here?

Also, the floor needs a light cleaning as it has been covered by the carpeting for many years (perhaps even for the 35 years the house has existed). It is just dust and some light grit from the carpet. Any suggestions?

A: OK, there are tinted fillers that work quite well for nail holes. You should be able to find something at a local hardwood flooring dealer. There is Dura Seal wood putty that comes in a jar and works quite well. Fill the hole and wipe away any residue left on the floor surface. This filler stays pliable for quite some time. Bruce has its product in tubes. Woodwise has their wood patch in jars which does harden rapidly. I wouldn’t worry about applying finish to any of these. Just make sure not to leave any residue on the floor surface.

For polyurethane finishes, clean with a solution suitable to that product. Flooring and finish manufacturers have their cleaners to offer which leave no residue on the polyurethane.

If there is anything from the underpad stuck to the floor, you may have to at least have the floors lightly buffed and a couple of refresher coats applied.

For waxed finishes, Dura Seal has a product called renovator which really cleans them up nicely. For further information, Another valuable internet resource is

Original / moved link