Can I Use Caulking To Fill Nail Holes?

Caulking is often the default solution for many people to fill cracks and gaps and seal a myriad of fixtures, both dry and wet. It is only natural for anyone to consider caulk to fill a few nail holes, especially when it is all one has handy. However, can you use caulking to fill nail holes?

You can use caulking to fill nail holes, but it isn’t the best option due to the shrinkage issue. Consider using putty or spackling paste for drywalls, plasters, trims, etc. For nail holes in wooden furniture, a filler, glazing compound, or wood putty is a better solution.

Can I Use Caulking To Fill Nail Holes?

Caulking appears to be an all-purpose solution due to its easy application and widespread use. But caulk isn’t a universal remedy for all problems, especially for nail holes that are not suitable for caulking. Read on to know why you can’t use caulking to fill nail holes and what you can.

* This article may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Why You Cannot Use Caulking To Fill Nail Holes

You may have acrylic latex caulk or silicone caulk at your home.

The other types of caulk are polyurethane foam and butyl rubber.

The latter is more of a specialty caulk, so you may not have it lying around.

Besides, specialty caulks aren’t meant for small nail holes.

All types of caulk are essentially flexible polymers.

Polyurethane foam caulk is an expandable spray sealant.

But acrylic latex caulk shrinks as it cures and dries.

If you apply a bit of caulk on small nail holes, the caulking will shrink, leaving behind a visible mark or spot.

This spot may look like a depression or dimple.

Often, caulking doesn’t have anything to hold on to over the nail hole.

So, when the caulk dries completely, you may find the surface over the nail hole appearing jagged and uneven.

Some holes may be partially covered with caulk, with such parts appearing like a bump.

Some nail holes may be completely visible or unmistakably evident as small craters.

Keep in mind that the acrylic latex caulking can shrink further.

Silicone caulk doesn’t shrink as much as acrylic latex.

However, silicone caulking may not cure perfectly in various conditions, such as cool and dry weather.

The longer silicone caulk is in the curing phase, the higher the chances of the material not covering the nail holes flawlessly.

Plus, you cannot sand silicone caulk or paint over it unless you have a paintable variant.

The unpredictability of the outcome of using acrylic latex and silicone caulk makes using caulking to fill nail holes a potentially futile endeavor.

How To Fill Nail Holes Without Caulking

You may use a drywall compound or wall putty to fill nail holes.

Wood filler or putty works well to fill nail holes in furniture.

You may also use an all-purpose painter’s putty to fill nail holes.

Each of these options is better than using caulk.

One of the most reliable solutions for various types of nail holes is spackling paste.

Something like the Dap DryDex (available on is a good option. This spackling paste is suitable for interior and exterior applications. DryDex doesn’t crack or shrink. You don’t need to prime the surface, either. Plus, you can sand and paint on cured DryDex. 

Another solution I can recommend is the Bondo Glazing and Spot Putty (available on The nitrocellulose putty is specifically made to fill nail holes and pinholes. You may also use this glazing and spot putty to cover or fill hairline cracks, minor dings, nicks, or other holes in the following materials:

  • Fiberglass
  • Metal
  • Paint
  • Primer
  • Wood

The Bondo glazing putty takes a couple of minutes to apply and around half an hour to dry.

The material is sandable after drying. Also, the non-staining putty facilitates a consistent finish if you paint the fixture or material you have after filling the nail holes.

If you are looking for something only for nail holes, the best solution is the 3M High Strength Small Hole Repair (available on This spackling paste is an all-in-one applicator tool. You can use this 3M spackling paste to fill nail holes in the following materials or surfaces:

  • Drywall
  • Plaster
  • Stucco
  • Wood

The 3M spackling is formulated specifically to fill and repair nail holes and nicks. The compound is primer-enhanced, and it resists flashing after you finish painting. Also, unlike caulking, the 3M spackling compound won’t crack, sag, or shrink.

Furthermore, the pack itself is an applicator tool. The base serves as the putty knife.

There is a sanding pad atop the cap. And the primer-enhanced spackle is inside the tube.

So all you need is just this all-in-one solution to fill nail holes.


Caulking isn’t as easy or straightforward to use to fill nail holes as those caulk guns may make everyone believe.

Besides, the outcome is rarely perfect.

The solutions I have shared in this post are much better options, especially the 3M spackling compound inside the applicator tool.

Cheers, tools owners!

Hi there! My name is Jack and I write for ToolsOwner. I have a passion for everything related to tools and DIY projects around the house. You often find me in my workshop working on new projects.