Can You Screw A Bolt Directly Into Wood?

With all the projects to accomplish around the house, it’s desirable to do work as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, when doing essential work like putting together a hardwood fence, you want to ensure you do it correctly the first time. If your project involves screwing bolts into wood, it’s essential to tap the wood first.

You shouldn’t screw a bolt directly into wood; it will wear down the bolt and can split the wood. Instead, tap the wood before applying the bolt. Tapping wood involves drilling a pilot hole and then applying a thread to that hole. This ensures the bolt remains secure and doesn’t damage the wood.

Can You Screw A Bolt Directly Into Wood?

Because carpentry and construction projects last a lifetime, completing them the right way is essential. This article will cover why you should tap wood before applying a bolt with instructions on the best way to do so.

Why You Should Tap Wood Before Applying Bolts

While putting a bolt directly into wood may seem like saving time, it will most likely add time in the long run.

Bolts are designed to bind or support heavy loads and sustain significant torque.

Neglecting to prepare a hole for the bolt by tapping can wear the bolt, preventing it from binding to the wood.

Further, applying a bolt directly can damage or split the wood, depending on the material.

Bolts Displace Wood As They Go In

When any object is screwed into wood, the wood doesn’t go anywhere.

Instead, according to How-to Geek, the wood is displaced, creating significant pressure around the bolt within the wood itself.

This pressure can wear down and even break the bolt.

Further, it compromises the quality of the wood over time.

For harder woods such as cherry, this tension can lead to splitting, especially if the bolt is placed near the end of the wood.

Additionally, bolts screwed directly into fresh lumber are more likely to wear their threads, leading to loose bolts.

Tapping Holes Guides Where Your Bolts Will Go

At this point, you may still be considering the timeliness of tapping wood before applying your bolts.

However, not only does tapping save time in the long run, but it can also boost the efficiency of your woodworking project.

The first step of tapping, drilling pilot holes, allows you to establish the location of each bolt ahead of time and prepare the wood for those bolts.

You won’t need to get out the measuring tape for each bolt because all your holes are ready to go.

The next step involves threading the pilot holes so they can accept the bolt’s threads.

With each hole matching the threads of your bolts, they will go in without resistance and stay secure for years.

Further, applying threads for each bolt allows you to remove the bolts without compromising the integrity of the wood.

How To Tap a Hole Before Screwing in Bolts

Bolts are designed to bind together loads with significant torque while being removable for later maintenance.

This long-term reliability is only possible by first preparing the bolts by tapping the wood.

While tapping each hole may seem like extra time, it’s straightforward with the proper steps.

Further, tapping wood promotes longevity and ensures you only have to do the job once.

Drill a Hole With the Minor Diameter of Your Bolt

Because bolts displace wood as they go in, the most crucial step is to remove the wood where the bolt will go.

This step ensures that the bolt doesn’t split the wood or get snapped by the wood’s pressure.

You don’t want to drill the exact diameter of your bolt because then the threads of the bolt won’t catch on the edges of the wood.

Instead, use the minor diameter of the bolt, which is the diameter of the solid portion without the threads.

To determine the minor diameter of your bolt, you can use an online calculator like this one.

Additionally, most threads you purchase for tapping come with a drill bit in the minor diameter of the thread.

Just ensure that the thread matches the bolt you’re using.

Thread the Pilot Hole

Threading involves using a specific tap for your bolt to drive the bolt’s threads into the wood.

The tap grinds the exact threading of your bolt into the sides of the hole, essentially creating a casing into which the bolt will screw.

Tapping the hole with threads ensures the bolt will stay in the wood without becoming loose.

Additionally, it allows for easy removal of the bolt at a later time.

(Optional) Apply Super Glue Inside the Hole

In situations where you plan on removing the bolt for regular maintenance of the construction project, applying super glue adds structural integrity to the hole, increasing longevity.

A thin coat of super glue encases the fragile wood fibers of the threads, preventing wear and tear over time.

To apply super glue, put a thin layer inside the hole, rotating the wood if necessary to lightly cover all the threads inside.

Only use enough glue to encase the inner circumference of the hole.

After applying the glue, please wait at least one hour for it to dry completely before adding your bolts.

This step is listed as optional because it is time-consuming and is only necessary if you plan on removing the bolt regularly.

However, taking the time to apply glue will add another layer of support to your bolt’s performance.


While it’s tempting to find ways to speed up a construction project, taking the time to do things right can save time in the long run.

When screwing bolts into wood, it’s crucial to properly prepare the wood for your bolts.

Screwing a bolt directly into wood can damage the bolt or split the wood.

The best way to prepare wood for bolts is by tapping it.

To tap wood, you must first drill a pilot hole and thread the wood with a tap.

These steps ensure that the bolt has somewhere to go while keeping it securely in place.

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.