screw holes in maple hardwood floor

I've searched through the Google archives and have found several suggestions on filling holes in hardwood floors such as sawdust mixed with finish and wood filler. Most of the suggestions were for small cracks or for nail holes so I do not know if they apply to my situation.
My dad is refinishing our hardwood for us, it thin (about 1.5" wide and only 3/8" thick) maple. In one of the bedrooms, the previous owner didn't like the squeaks in the floor and screwed about 30 #8 screws into the floor. We removed the screws since they looked like crap and the funny thing is, the floor doesn't squeak any more than it did with the screws in it. Anyhow, squeaks I am not concerned about. What I am concerned about is, the large screw holes left in my floor. My dad has completely sanded the floors down and put on 3 coats of water-based Verethane, they look fantastic so far, other than the screw holes. He can't sand the floors down any further due to the thinness of the wood. He does not want to fill the screw holes as he says that most likely due to their funnel shape (narrow at the bottom, wide at the top), that the filler may pop out over time lifting the finish with it. After searching around on Google, this does seem like a possibility.
He said he will fill them for me before the fourth coat of Verethane if I want, but if it's going to pop out like he says in a few years, I'd rather leave them. They do not look very attractive though.
Thus, my questions are, should I suck it up and just leave all the screw holes, or get my dad to fill them? If he fills them, should he use the maple filler from a local hardwood supplier (they say it is one of the only fillers that actually looks good), or should he mix the sawdust with the Verethane? I also saw suggestions of using dowels to plug holes, but I suspect these could also pop out?
Thanks for any suggestions!
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blue wrote:

If you've already got holes, and you're concerned about the filler popping out, I can think of two suggestions:
- use a drill and drill the holes out to make them clean, straight cylinders; this should keep the filler from popping out
- use a drill and drill the holes out to a standard size, then buy a plug cutter and a piece of maple stock that closely matches the color of your floorboards (if you've got extra boards that would work) and fill the holes with plugs (this would have worked better before any finish went on, but should still be doable)
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blue wrote:

You could drill holes and fill them with plugs of the same size. That would be the most invisible solution that I could think up.
TroyD
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Hmmmm.... If the wood is that thin, couldn't you use an irregular veneer punch to replace the wood around the holes? I've used them to eliminate burns on tabletops invisibly. http://veneersystems.com/supplies_03.html -- Ernie
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<snip>

Hi Ernie,
Thanks for the reply. Do you mean to use this tool after the holes have been plugged to get the plugs to blend in?
Thanks.
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*If* the wood flooring is thin enough, you punch out the wood around the screw hole completely, then punch out a matching piece and fit it in. The irregular shape makes it undetectable. Someone else mentioned using a simple plug-cutter http://tinyurl.com/h4t5 which would do the same thing, although the plug would be round, obviously. Remember that no one is going to be down on the floor looking for these patches. What looks obvious to you will blend in completely once the room is furnished. -- Ernie
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snipped-for-privacy@shaw.ca (blue) wrote:

Go to www.leevalley.com and search for "the plugger". This is a reamer that matches the taper of a pencil. You then sharpen maple dowel in a pencil sharpener and plug the hole. Quick, easy, and cheap.
Ken Muldrew snipped-for-privacy@ucalgary.ca
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If you use tapered plugs, they might work loose. But straight plugs should not. Use one of the portable drill guides [I see one in Woodworker's Supply for $39.99] to make sure the holes are straight, drill them to fit a standard birch dowel, and cut the dowel just a bit short of the hole depth. Put the glue in the hole and spread it around the sides with a nail or wire, then drive the dowel in flush with the surface. Of course, this should have been done before you put the finish on because it would look better if you sanded them flush with the surface, but you can do a good job if you are careful [and the holes are perpendicular to the surface]. If the screws are in an appropriate pattern, I might even consider using walnut dowels for a pegged flooring look. harrym

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<snip>

Harry, the pegged flooring look is an awesome idea. It is too bad the guy who put the screws in wasn't thinking of that. :-) On one slat we have about 9 screw holes screwed in a crooked line, then the same idea on a few more slats randomly throughout the room, except that the number of holes isn't even consistent. The guy really wasn't all that bright.
Does anyone have an idea of how long a job like this might take? Assuming of course the correct tools and a competent individual doing the job. My dad is under the impression it could take him up to 2 days of work to get it done right (he is REALLY fussy!). If he's way out to lunch on his estimate, and it is actually much shorter, I'll get him to go ahead, else I might wait on it, as there are downstairs floors to finish, new sub floor in the hallway to put in, kitchen cabinets to install.....all before the weekend! Yikes!
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Thanks everyone for all the fantastic replies so far. It looks like plugging the holes with a matching wood is the winning way to go. I've got a couple of other ideas, can anyone tell me how they compare?
1. Use some sort of epoxy (sp?) with sawdust from the floor. I heard that boat builder's often use this solution. I assume you'd still have to drill the holes straight and perhaps in the end this still has the chance of popping out?
2. I wondered if screws made out of wood actually exist? I searched the internet and found web sites that tell you how to make wooden screws, but nobody that actually sells them. I thought perhaps for a temporary solution I could simply screw #8 sized wooden screws into the #8 sized holes that already exist there and "ta da" they would be filled until we had time to properly plug them. I realize this idea may be way out to lunch, it just sounds so simple for a temp solution!
Thanks!
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more on the subject of filler popping
Wood floor filler generally loses its bond from movement, a loose board, expansion and contraction, a nail beneath the filler moving, etc. Open stable holes generally will stay. Good filler has good adhesion properties.
M Hamlin

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