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What are some good solutions for fixing my wooden stairs that have giant holes in them?

I am trying to recondition the stairs and have a carpet runway up the stairs but came across these holes that are for the alarm system, but I am able to redirect these.

It might be worth mentioning, the stairs are approx 90 years old.

Below is a picture of what the problem is (the holes are highlighted in yellow):-

  • Probably more suited for DIY? diy.stackexchange.com – jdv Jan 21 '19 at 19:36
  • That being said, this isn't just about filling holes, which is the least of the problems here. Am I seeing that these cables are installed where normal foot traffic can step on them? – jdv Jan 21 '19 at 19:42
  • @jdv thanks for the suggestion. In regards to the cables, I am able to redirect these under the stairs to stop possible damage by any foot traffic – Jordan Jan 21 '19 at 19:46
  • Oh, I see. this is about fixing the material after the cables are moved. I didn't quite grok your second sentence. – jdv Jan 21 '19 at 19:48
  • Yes the question is about filling the holes. After the cables have been moved – Jordan Jan 21 '19 at 20:50
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The exact species isn't critical but from the centre of the one stair visible it's common softwood, possibly "European redwood" which is another name for Scots pine, pinus silvestris. The dark colour isn't the natural colour of the wood, it's from wood stain or due to age and wear.

You can fill holes in just about any wood in three standard ways, using:

  • commercial wood fillers (of which there are a few types, including oil-based, waterbased and epoxy);
  • homemade wood fillers, which are generally composed of wood dust (sanding dust or fine sawdust) mixed with some adhesive, with PVAs (both white and yellow) and epoxy being the most common glue choices;
  • a solid-wood patch, sometimes referred to as a "Dutchman".

You can read a little more on homemade wood fillers in this previous Answer but given the size and location of the holes I think a commercial wood filler will work fine for you here and will certainly prove to be the easiest option for you if you're not a woodworker.

With most commercial fillers you slightly over-fill the hole to account for a small amount of shrinkage during drying, then you sand flush after the fills have hardened. With epoxy fillers there's no shrinkage so you can make the fill completely flush while the putty is still workable, saving having to sand*.

Your fills will be noticeable unless you paint over the area.


*This is good as epoxy fillers can sometimes set very hard indeed and are difficult to sand flush as the surrounding softer material tends to sand away more easily, leaving the epoxy sitting a little high unless you're very careful (it's often better to file, plane or scrape epoxy fills flush, where possible).

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  • To make epoxy sandable, modify the epoxy with appropriate filler, such as West System 407. I don't see why you couldn't use sawdust to thin it further, but sawdust alone as an epoxy filler would leave too much gap that would fill with solid epoxy, unless the sawdust was very fine. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 19 '19 at 22:43
  • @Harper, thanks. I'm aware you can modify shop-made epoxy fills to make them easier to sand (I refer to this in the previous Answer, using talc) but here I was referring to commercial epoxy wood fillers which that would be used straight from the package. – Graphus Jan 20 '19 at 7:18

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