Holey Door Damage! Here's How to Repair a Hole in the Door

by James Fitzgerald
interior hollow-core Door with a hole in it

Doors see a lot of use — constantly opened and closed with people and things continually moving through them. With all of this activity and foot traffic, it’s easy for them to become damaged.

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Hollow-core interior doors are especially susceptible to developing hole punctures since they only have a thin layer of wood or fiberboard surrounding their hollow interiors. Exterior-grade or solid wood doors are much sturdier and more difficult to damage, but they’re not completely immune from unsightly holes either.

How to Repair a Hole in a Hollow-core Door

Things You’ll Need

  • Surface protection (tarp, drop cloth or plastic sheeting)
  • Hammer and flathead screwdriver (optional)
  • Sawhorses, worktable or bench (optional)
  • Utility knife
  • Newspaper, cardboard or paper towels
  • Expanding spray foam insulation
  • Filler (auto body filler, wood filler or spackling compound)
  • Plastic putty knife
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • Sanding block or random orbital sander
  • Damp rag
  • Paintbrush
  • Primer
  • Paint

Step 1: Prepare the Area

Slide a tarp or drop cloth underneath the door to protect the floor. Taking the door off its hinges isn’t necessary to repair the hole, but you can remove the door and place it on a set of sawhorses, a workbench or the floor if you find it easier to work on a level surface. In that case, use a hammer and flathead screwdriver to tap the pins out of each hinge, lift the door off the hinges and place it on your desired surface.

Step 2: Clean up the Hole

Use a utility knife to clean up the rough and splintered edges around the hole. Cut at a slight angle and use a slight sawing motion to create a smooth beveled edge around the entire perimeter. If there are any soft areas around the hole where the structural integrity of the wood has been compromised, use your utility knife to cut out the damaged portion back to a solid and intact point.

Step 3: Pack the Hole

Crumple up pieces of paper towels, newspapers or cardboard and insert them into the hole. Push the crumpled material into the door’s hollow cavity so that it surrounds the inside perimeter of the hole. This will form a container for the foam you will apply in the next step so that only the hole is filled instead of the door’s hollow cavity.

Step 4: Spray Insulating Foam

Prepare a can of spray foam insulation by shaking the can vigorously and inserting the included straw onto the nozzle. Place the straw into the hole and press the trigger to begin spraying the foam into the hole. Start at the back of the hole and use a circular motion to equally distribute the foam throughout, and stop spraying when the hole is filled about two-thirds of the way. Wait a few moments for the foam to expand and fill up the rest hole, then spray some more if necessary. Allow the foam to fully cure according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Step 5: Trim the Foam

Use a utility knife to trim off the excess foam protruding out of the hole until it’s flush with the door’s surface, or just below it. This is easiest to do with a utility knife that has extendable snap-off blades, since you can extend the length of the blade to accommodate the entire width of the hole and remove the excess in a single pass. While cutting the foam, keep in mind that it’s okay to remove a little too much foam so that there’s a slight indentation in the hold. However, you don’t want to leave any foam protruding beyond the door’s surface.

Step 6: Spread Filler

On top of the foam insulation, apply a coat of auto body filler, wood filler or spackling compound. Auto body filler will create the strongest and most permanent repair, while spackling compound will be relatively weak but the most affordable option. Wood filler offers a middle ground between strength and affordability.

Spread the filler over the spray foam insulation with a plastic putty knife until it’s flat and flush with the door’s surface, or just above it. Depending on the auto body or wood filler, you may need to mix the base filler with a hardening agent prior to use. Place the recommended amount of filler and hardener together on a piece of cardboard and thoroughly mix them together with your putty knife. Apply it immediately after mixing to prevent it from hardening prematurely.

Allow the filler to fully cure according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Step 7: Sand the Filler

Place 120-grit sandpaper onto a sanding block or random orbital sander and sand the filler until it’s completely smooth and flush with the face of the door. Place extra care and attention on the transition between the filler and the door so that the border blends seamlessly. After you’re done sanding, wipe down the filler with a damp rag to clean off the sanding dust.

Step 8: Paint

Apply a coat of primer to the repair with a paintbrush. Some spackling compounds and wood fillers may not require priming, but auto body filler needs to be primed for proper paint adhesion. Regardless of the filler, a coat of primer will help the paint adhere and will minimize the number of paint coats you will need to fully conceal the repair.

After the primer has dried, paint the patch with a color that matches that on the door. In most cases, repainting the entire door will conceal the repair more effectively than touching up the repair alone. However, if you don’t want to repaint the whole door, two or three light coats will blend more effectively with the surrounding paint than a single, thick coat.

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How to Repair a Hole in a Solid Wood Door

The process of repairing a hole in a solid door is similar to that of repairing a hole in a hollow-core door. The main difference is that you don’t need to fill the hole with a packing material in order to contain the spray foam insulation, since it will be naturally contained by the surrounding wood. Another difference is that you can fill the hole with a wooden dowel instead of spray foam insulation for a more robust repair. However, spray foam insulation can still be used for a more affordable and easily implemented repair.

If using a dowel, find a dowel with a diameter that roughly matches that of the hole you’re repairing. Measure the depth of the hole, transfer that measurement onto the dowel, and cut it to length with a hack saw or miter saw. Apply wood glue to the back of the dowel and place it into the hole. Wait for the glue to dry, then follow the same steps that you would to complete the repair on a hollow-core door:

1. Spread wood filler or auto body filler over the hole and dowel until it’s smooth and flush with the face of the door.

2. Once the filler has dried, sand it with 120-grit sandpaper until it’s completely smooth and flat.

3. Prime and paint the door.