wood putty vs wood filler

Wood Putty vs Wood Filler

Old wood will eventually wear, develop holes, dents and pits and usually, you either use wood putty or wood filler to fix these. But which one is better in wood putty vs wood filler? Will wood putty work better than wood filler or will a filler material look flawless than wood putty? Let’s find out in this article.

What is wood putty?

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Wood putty is a material used to cover up wood imperfections including nail holes, screw holes, and others. Also known as plastic wood, putties are made of plastic or oil-based substances and are used for small imperfections. 

Wood putties are very convenient especially when you want to create a perfect finish on old furniture and in renovating projects. However, the problem lies when you want to match the natural color of the wood. Wood putties should be evenly applied and completely dry before finishing.

There are many brands of wood putties and because of the need to match natural wood colors, different wood putty colors are now available. These products also come with binders with a water or lacquer base. Meanwhile, some carpenters make their wood putty by mixing wood sanding dust and wood glue. Sanding dust with Shellac is also used to create a more natural wood finish.

What is wood filler?

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Wood filler or epoxy wood filler is used to correct ugly openings, cracks, dents, and holes on wood. It is effective for old wood and damaged wood because it does not use solvents or water which can add damage to wood. Wood fillers will not shrink compared to other types of fillers. You can immediately sand the surface and paint it.

Wood filler products are easier to use and apply. You can use it to seal cracks and larger holes. You can use a syringe, spatula, or brush to apply wood fillers on wood. There are some wood filler products mixed with other components like wood flour which improves its strength and durability.

Wood putty vs wood filler

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Wood putty and wood filler may seem similar when it comes to using, but some significant differences affect their application. 


After drying, the wood filler should be sanded until the surface is flat before applying finishing products like paint or stain. You may add another layer of wood filler material on the area, dry it and sand it if you’re not satisfied. 

Meanwhile, you can’t sand wood putty. You must apply wood putty evenly or as flat as possible before it dries. 

The type of wood

Wood putty products are used on finished wood. Wood fillers are used on unfinished wood but some new wood filler products may be used on finished as well as unfinished wood. You must check the instructions on how to use the product before you purchase. 

Outdoor or indoor use

Wood fillers are best for wood that’s found indoors and indoor wooden furniture. Wood fillers won’t stand the elements because of their water-based formulas. Meanwhile, wood putties may be used even on wood and wood furniture found outdoors thanks to its oil-based consistency.

Finishing touches – painting

If you plan to repaint old wood after repairing all the imperfections, you should use wood filler. After the filler material becomes hard, you may now sand it and paint over it. On the other hand, you cannot paint over wood putty until it’s very dry which can take several days. Check the type of wood filler and the wood putty product you wish to use if you’re planning to paint afterward to make sure you’re using the right one. 

The type of material

Wood putty is made from plastic material and thus the name plastic wood. Wood filler is from sawdust or natural wood fibers mixed with glue and thus, will blend well especially on unfinished wooden surfaces. You must stain or finish the wood first before wood filler can properly adhere to the surface. 

Buying and using wood fillers and wood putties

Wood fillers are often used to correct wood surfaces with small imperfections like cracks and holes. Don’t just go with the first product you find at a hardware store or shop. Read instructions and check the properties of the product first. 

Don’t settle for cheap wood filler or wood putty products. If you’re using only a small amount, go for a small-sized container instead of a gallon of product you don’t need. And when it comes to wood filler brands, the best ones have to be DAP and Minwax. Check reviews for these products to get the best one for your project.  

The drying color

Choose the wood filler product that matches the color of the surface of the wood you’re working on. Wood filler products are available in many colors and these make them easier to stain.


Some fillers and putties come with a distinct smell or odor. Sometimes, these can be very strong especially when you’re sanding the material. This is one of the reasons why you should use a face mask before you start using these products. Always work in a well-ventilated area. 

Finishing your work

To work on finished wood, use wood putty. However, some putties are also labeled as wood fillers so it’s best to check on the instructions before buying. Always make sure that the filler product you will use can be sanded or stained on unfinished wood. Mistakes can be costly as you will need to start all over again.

Product drying times

Wood putty products dry longer than wood fillers but it still pays to check the label. Consider this as you may need to wait 24 hours before you finish your project.  Also, sometimes it’s best to wait at least a day before finishing any project right after applying wood putty or wood filler.

When it comes to wood putty vs wood filler, these products may be used interchangeably but there are distinct differences to consider when deciding what to use on wood. Always check the product label and the instructions to find out if it is the best choice for your project. 



One response to “Wood Putty vs Wood Filler”

  1. […] for applying water-based stain, make sure you fill in any cracks, seams, and holes with stainable wood filler to achieve a smooth, flawless finish. This step is important as it guarantees that the stain will […]

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